Caught by the River

Shadows & Reflections – John Henderson

26th December 2008

In which, as the year comes to it’s end, our friends and collaborators look back and share their moments;

I guess in a word, fatherhood would sum it up for me. I’ve loved every minute of it. Ok forget that cliche, the first 3 or 4 months of little sleep were hard, but since then what a little darling she’s become. Everyday moments make everything else seem ordinary. We have been truly blessed.

Fishing time this year has been a little curtailed. More social than specimen angling I suppose. On reflection, I’ve probably caught more bankside friendships than fish, but that’s fine with me. Piscatorial highlights of 2008 included Churchill’s tench, wild Devonshire trout, giving an angling hero an unexpected lift home, and finally a historic carp at the third time of asking. No leviathans this year it has to be said, but many fine memories all the same. If I had to pick just one, it would probably be those June tench…

Punts when combined with wine, strong winds, 14ft glass Milbro float rods, oversized swimfeeders and a gathering of good friends are a recipe for carnage. Being a fairly floppy hatted gathering, I’d started off with a MKIV Avon and Altex, but then the traditional angler thing done, by lunchtime I’d ditched the Altex for a reel with a handle that didn’t feel so much like a wind up toy jack in the box. I know that will be sacrilege to some…respectful apologies to Mr Hardy and all that. Cane rods are lovely things, lovelier still when paired with reels that let you enjoy them fully. Reels that remove the worry whether the sodding clutch is going to give, or RSI is going to set in from reeling in like you’re using a miniature hand whisk. This year I’ve been really taken with old Abu Cardinals as it happens.

Though I remember catching some good fish that day, in all honesty we were all put in the shade by OldSpot’s almost historic haul of tench. Even a comical punt armada going through his swim, failed to knock him off his stride. If we were still in the sixties or seventies, then you would’ve seen one of those ‘catch spread out, angler lying beside sporting folded down waders and facial hair’ pictures in the Angling Times the following week. Fear not, in these times of fish welfare, each was returned without the unnecessary indignity of gracing the insides of a keepnet, or the Angling Times for that matter.


I’m always a bit behind everyone else it seems, hence my favourite written discovery of the year has been Neil Patterson’s ‘Chalkstream Chronicle’. A lovely book, where the humour flows right along with his river. Other notable reads this year have come from John Gierach (another late discovery), Micky Gray, Mike Winter and of course the continued writings of those fine gentleman of the PP. Rather shamefully I think every book I’ve read this year has been angling related…what am I saying, I’ve forgotten those literary classics ‘Dear Zoo’ and ‘Peekaboo Park’. Both well worth their price tags several times over.

As for shadows, well I guess it’s happened to us all at one time or another, that sad, angling cliche… discovering the bankside ‘tidying’ of a favourite lake. It’s a hard thing to accept, but I guess for every angler that likes a more natural surrounding, there are two or three that can’t keep their tackle from the trees any other way. We certainly are a diverse bunch aren’t we us anglers.

I don’t know whether it’s a low or not, but again I failed to catch an Avon barbel this year. I think I made 3 trips in total and they all resulted in a blank. I don’t know whether I’ve just gone during difficult times of weather (yes it must be that), or I’m just a lousy barbel angler, but they don’t seem to like me those Avon barbel. Even an Arcadian bait box failed to move them.

There was a washed out, late summer family holiday. The little Garron Brook high and over the fields, awash with red mire. It wouldn’t have surprised me to find Donald’s legacy swimming with the sheep. Upstream dry fly only you say….I suppose that rules out the 4oz feeder approach conditions suggest then. Undeterred, each day I still walked optimistically down across the fields, a little fibatube 4wt tucked under my arm. You know, just in case things looked better up close. They didn’t. Perhaps it was also a bit naive to expect those Hay-on-Wye dealers to be unaware of the market value of various angling classics. It wasn’t all bad though, Symmonds Yat in full flood was a sight to remember, and we still had fun at ping pong.

In fact thinking about it, the whole summer was a bit of a wash out to be honest. The shoreline was undeservedly neglected again. Mostly due to the weather of course, summer never really got going over here. Winter’s hoard of new plugs and painstakingly tied bass flies were hardly touched, never mind depleted as planned. It’s a recurring theme, every year I regret not making more time for the shore, but those fat ladies of the lake always seem to draw me away. This year will be different (he says..)


There hasn’t been much in the way of music either this year, unless you can count the ‘In the Night Garden’ CD. Yes my name is Iggle Piggle… our sound of summer. The Isle of Wight Festival came and went again of course, and it was ok, if not a bit more commercialised again. I spent most of this year’s wondering what the little one was getting up to at Nana’s. How things change. Of course there was the Bestival too, but for the first time, for all sorts of reasons, we didn’t get tickets this year. At least we missed out on all that mud I suppose. Despite a spirited campaign by internet musos everywhere, I’ve just heard that ‘X Factor’ pop has once again become our Christmas No 1. Poor old Jeff (Buckley not Barrett…though perhaps he would agree) for a moment there I really thought we could be singing genuine Hallelujahs.

As I finish up these reflections, it seems apt that my daughter’s first birthday party has just finished. The giggles and laughter have faded, the pitter patter of party feet have just tottered out the door. The house is strewn in toys and cake crumbs, but we’ve had a lovely day, and a lovely year.

Pure Piscator