Thank you kindly for your letter of last week, delivered promptly across the frozen eastern wastes by a Rasputin look-a-like who lives in a silver birch hut on the West Heath and has taken over the running of the Royal Mail in North London since the winter uprising. The snow made fugitives of us all, running from modern life to the top of Parliament Hill with a recycling bin lid under one arm and childhood dreams under the other. The ponds went white and the rivers turned black. Ale choked in freezing taps and waxwings dined in Camden Town. All the while the rods went unused lurking in the corner whilst we put another log on the fire and made some Georgian coffee.
The first fish of the year did not come from under the ice of Number 2 pond but from the roots of a dead nettlebed, flooded out on the Whitewater, a greedy chub, an off course Ivan if ever there was one, gorged on bread and taken moments after John Richardson performed the circus act of landing a 15lb pike on a single worm and 2lb line. The birds in the trees singing as if Spring had come at last but the water running colder than the blood in a dead Tzar’s cellar.
On our last sortie the river had dropped another foot and grown colder. We fished until dark but only the smoke from the house clearance fire disturbed the air. An owl flew low across the fields on the walk back and roosted on a fencepost. We are not clear of it yet, the ponds freeze here even when a frost is not forecast.
Russian Backwoods Magic on the Birdtable