Caught by the River

Chelmer Ghosts

14th November 2009

Halloween on the Chelmer by Dean Hassell.

Picture 1331

The River Chelmer was washed in a thin grey haze and the sourrounding countryside was wearing her autumn coat of gold and brown. She had changed considerably since my last visit on a sun bleached August day. There was a sense of the countyside looking tired, ready for a nap on a Sunday afternoon after a big roast dinner. The trees were showing their ribs, leaves gently falling into the river, slowly moving east towards the North Sea. My favourite swim had simply overgrown in the last couple of months, the reeds had closed shop and there was no acccess for me, no one had cast a bait in the spot since August. I moved fifty yards down where the reeds parted and gave me access to cast a waggler. As I threaded the line throught the Avon rod rings a tawny owl greeted me with a hoot in the ancient oak behind me, it was 7.30am and the sun was trying hard to pierce the low grey cloud. It was fighting a losing battle.

A loud plop and the waggler settled in the lazy drift of the river, beneath it six feet of line and a brandling fished hard on the bottom, a small handful of white maggots, hemp and sweetcorn, corn flakes for the Tench. I settled myself into the river bank, attempting to make myself oblivious to everything. A dart of tourquise and orange shot in front of me, a mere two feet above the water on the far bank as fast as an exocet missile, a kingfisher ready for its breakfast. A moorhen, a mere three feet away from me, unaware, pecking away at the remaining insect life in the reeds, its tail flicking constatntly, I braced myself for its alarm call but it never came. Neither did the tench I pursued.

Tiny concentric circles appeared on the skin of the river, a light shower, and then large raindrops, the river was covered in a carpet of bubbles as I sat without an umbrella as the clouds emptied themselves. I was soaked after thirty minutes of constant rain. The float remained unstirred. I remained focused. Hours passed. I saw no one. Everone was out buying pumpkins or starting their christmas shopping early. I felt smug.

There was only one sure way to make the fish bite. Out with the flask and a cup of metallic tea with one of Mr Kiplings finest. Still nothing. By mid afternoon the sun at last pierced the grey gloom and illiuminated the red of my waggler against the inky darkness of the river, and just then a gentle pull on the float, a tiny dip and then the float was gone, I lifted the rod out of its rests and a gentle bend pulled on the tip. A brief fight with a small but welcome Perch. I laid her on the reeds and marvelled at her beauty, I was grateful for her presence. She would be my only fish of the day.

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As the sun sank behind the wood a mist appeared from nowhere, like a ghost, enveloping the valley. The reeds around me, standing tall and bitten by the wind looked erie against the gathering gloom, the carcass of a scarecrow. High above some forty or fifty redwings, or perhaps fieldfares, made their way south, a migrant visitor from cooler climates. I turned back and looked at the river once more as I departed, she had given me so much, but so little.