Caught by the River

Lost In A Quiet World.

1st April 2011

by Paul Cook.

“Memory is a loving filter of past experience. On so much that is old and past and half-forgotten it sheds a mellow light that is perpetually like afternoon sunshine in October. All that lived-out time could not have been really like that of course, so serenely sweet, so free of flaws. No doubt it was really much like the present – though the world does undoubtedly become less fit for placid spirits. Inevitably it is the fishing experience that lies most gently in the memory. What better material for nostalgia could there be? Yesterday’s fishing has a glow about it by today, so what of the further past? Right back into early childhood, if you have fished so long, the soft light of recollection will pick out the odd days, even hours. Far beyond the range of normal memory the inward eye will discern the glow of small fragments of time.”
Bernard Venables

How long ago was it that I stumbled across the above narrative, penned by the inimitable hand of Bernard Venables concerning the delights of yesterday in a compilation of articles from the early years of Angling Times? Rather too many years, I fear, but, even so, the prose of B.V. moved me not only by its simple beauty, but the sentiment of his theme also stayed with me, to strike a chord from time to time when tantalising images of my own childhood experiences drifted back, not as faded, indistinct scenes, but sharply crisp in detail and every bit as haunting in memory. The trouble was, were my own recollections of precious childhood fishing experiences wholly accurate, I wondered, or had time skewed them through rose tinted glasses? I would return to my collection of old diaries and find out.

So it was that I set about re-reading the pages of long-ago fishing adventures, and soon learned that for every well-remembered event, numerous others lay just below the surface awaiting re-discovery, much like the big fish that featured in my juvenile scribblings. Recounting to an acquaintance the joy of unearthing this material detailing not only the source of my angling affliction but also of a time perhaps never to be repeated by the present generation of anglers, he suggested that something might perhaps be done with it, especially if the text was supported with artwork of my own creation. Initially I gave the matter little credence, but when fate subsequently took a hand in the proceedings and allowed me to re-visit the old estate lake that featured high in my journals, I was persuaded otherwise by one or two other friends who also thought it might have some merit.

As the reader will discover, the principal subject matter of the book concerns carp fishing, and not surprisingly, perhaps, for a volume pertaining to times past, there is precious little to be found by those seeking any modern form of instruction in this field. That said, the early lessons of watercraft I learned at Old School have stood me in good stead, and never have I been hindered in the catching of big carp by the use of sound split-cane allied to a favourite centrepin reel when margin fishing. Most important of all, perhaps, was the decision taken early on in my angling career to study my quarry by way of observation; a discipline that is still overlooked by many but is immensely rewarding in every possible sense to those who embrace the practice.

Almost certainly, the identity of the estate lake I refer to as Old School will be readily identifiable to some, but not, I hope, to too many. In places I have slightly adjusted one or two details the better to disguise its location, but for the most part the pool I describe is accurately portrayed. Sadly, change is inevitable, and since my time there came to an end much has altered. Hopefully, however, the dear place will remain special not just to me but to those that followed in my footsteps with rod and line, and despite there being some fading to the notes and amateurish drawings of my diary entries, the water itself, when last I saw it, remained as vibrant and alluring as ever. With a little luck and careful management, the future of the pool should be assured not only to serve as a playground for future generations of anglers that seek to uncover its secrets but also to act as a fitting tribute to the many others who also lived by, worked by, or simply loved the lake and its setting in earlier times.

Lost In A Quiet World will be published by Harper Angling books in the Summer. Click here for details.
Paul Cook: The Art of Angling.