Originally published in the London ES magazine on the 6th of February, 1998.
The alarm goes off at 4.30am and I dress with care; the forecast has promised Siberian winds and snow. I meet Marco Pierre White in Knightsbridge, we pick up David Profumo outside Barkers, and head off down the M3; we were aiming to reach the Royalty fishery on the Hampshire Avon by dawn. The first snow hits the windscreen just beyond the M25, and soon we are driving through a blizzard. We pass flashing emergency-services vehicles and two overturned cars, and by the time we reach Chistchurch, the temperature is well below zero, with a sleet-laden wind roaring upriver from the sea.
With fingers frozen to slow-motion, we assemble the rods on the bank, cast out into the swirling blackness of the river, and settle down to wait. For the next two hours nothing happens; the windward side of Marco’s body turns completely white, and ice forms on David’s hat. We share a Thermos of tea. The fish are testing us, we agree, but this is no more than one would expect on a river that has produced some of England’s hugest pike. In four hours or so we will be on the motorway again, subject to the usual chaos and delays and domestic recriminations, but for the moment we are removed from all that. Pike angling is not about patience, it is about an intense, taut-wired expectancy, about a connection with the primeval. Marco flicks the last of the tea from the cup and we resume our positions.