Caught by the River


10th September 2009

by Harry Dann.

I’ve always loved going fishing. From the age of eight, I spent most of my spare time either going fishing, digging worms to go fishing or doing some task or other to pay for fishing equipment. I lived by the sea, loved being outdoors and loved nature. Though I didn’t realise it at the time, I think I found it spiritually fulfilling as well. I learned about the cycle of the tides, the influence of the moon on the tides and effect the seasons have on each species of fish. I never had much interest in school or teachers and so never did well at school but where nature was concerned, I took it all in. A psychologist may point out that hunting and fishing stimulate the primitive parts of the brain. While I am now happy to shake hands with my inner caveman, all I knew at the time was that I loved fishing.

I was actually away fishing when I first realised I was addicted to heroin. I must have been using for at least three to four months and through naivety and denial, I never had a clue what was going on until I went into withdrawal at 2am on a beach in Anglesey. I was so ill that we abandoned the trip and while my friends had no idea I was using, let alone addicted, I knew by the end of the long drive home exactly what was going on.

In the lift up to my flat on the twelfth floor, I was dripping with sweat and willing the lift to go faster. I left the flat door open as I burst in, dropping my rods and reels in the hallway as I sped off into the kitchen to get the foil out and the heroin into my system. Even though my aches and pains went away, the heroin couldn’t help with the rush of emotions that hit me as I realised the grave situation I was in.

During the 23 years of my addiction, I would go fishing from time to time, mostly for something to do rather than take heroin. It was never the same though. I only seemed to be going through the motions. Then last Friday I went to see a few mates regarding a fishing trip we’d had planned for the next day. One by one they all dropped out, all bar Scotty.

Scotty is a simple soul. Not in a bad way, he’s just uncomplicated. When we were kids we all teased him and were cruel to him. Now he’s just a good mate, someone you can count on. Physically he’s quite imposing. He’s only five foot eight, but he must weigh fifteen stone. He’s got huge shoulders and forearms. The thing is though he’s a real gentle, happy bloke and just being in his company lifts me. Even though he can speak, he seems to manage fine with grunts and growls. He’s also good at digging lugworms.

We met up on the beach at eleven o’clock the next morning and had dug enough worms in thirty minutes. We were hoping to catch bass so we went to the rocks to find the soft crabs they are fond of. You can go to a shop and buy your bait but gathering it yourself is part of the event. We left the beach about one and went home for something to eat and put our feet up. Then we came back at five o’clock to fish as the tide flooded in.

On the way back it felt like I was going out on my first date, such was my sense of excitement and anticipation. Conditions were not really good for fishing, it was still and the tide was too small. I managed to catch two fish for my troubles and consoled myself in the fact that it was such a beautiful night. The fishing would be better next time and me and Scotty agreed to give it fifteen more minutes.

The sky to the north had darkened, when Scotty drew my attention to something to the north west of us. A sunbeam had broke through the blackness and was centred on a row of five wind turbines far out to sea. It was magnificent, as if God was nodding his approval of natural energy. Then Scotty added to my sense of amazement by laughing and saying,

“…and all them cunts are down the pub missing out on this.”

He was right. They were missing out. I hugged Scotty and he pulled away in mock horror and said,

“Gerrof you queer” and giggled.

We just sat back and enjoyed the sight. As the sunlight was swallowed up by the clouds, I scanned around the rest of the horizon, breathed deeply and recognised the smells and tastes to be the same ones from when I first went fishing. I could hear skylarks above the sand hills behind me, the waves crashing as the tide ebbed out. I realised the only reason I could appreciate this night this way was because I was no longer an addict.


(eds note: thanks to Phil Thornton for sending this in. It arrived unannounced at the end of last week and the three of us here were on the phone to each other in the time it took to read it. This is the note that came with it: “think you might like this from our ex-addict project’s collection of poems/stories -‘Content’ – a story of angling and addiction. see – showcase section for pdf versions”