Malcolm Anderson with a fine and timely reminder of our original inspiration
June 16th. A date of consequence to a river angler such as myself. A day of eagerly anticipated opening and promise. It is (of course) the first day of the coarse fishing season on rivers following a nerve-jangling, tackle-purchasing break of 93 days since the season ended in March. That’s 8,035,200 seconds to the piscatorially obsessed.
The closed season was imposed in 1867 to give fish time to spawn and recover successfully and although now sadly (to my mind at least) not in place on still waters, is still in place on the rivers and gives us as anglers time to pause, time to re-connect to the seasons changing. A chance to reorganise filthy angling bags and to throw away last season’s sandwiches. Enough time to build up false hope and optimism, for us to tell ourselves those little white lies: “this will be the year I target the big chub in that hole”, “this year I’ll fish more”, “this year I’m going to catch a barbel”, “this year…”
So, I sort school uniform, breakfast, packed lunch. I drive Joe to hospital appointment and then on to school. Impatient to be under a cloud studded sky and near running water but for now, I’m just dad.
I shut the car door at eleven, and push my way through the nettles and the gloriously lace-like cow parsley flowers. I stop in the shade of an old split chestnut tree and watch the river flow unhurriedly past my feet. The water crowfoot dances in the clear current and there, just against the bank I see a gang of big chub coalesce out of the shadows.
Desperately trying to slow myself I thread the line through the rod rings. I’m fly-fishing today rather than drowning maggots or worms, so tie on the biggest, ugliest, rubber-legged hopper pattern I have in my box.
One flick of the line and the fly lands with a plop, rings form around the fallen insect and one of the shadows detaches itself from the pack and slowly rises towards this new food source that has presented itself.
There’s a tortuously slow ‘gloop’ as the chub sucks in my fly and I strike. The fly sticks and I’m into the first fish of a new season, a fish that obviously has no idea how important this is to me as he darts away towards the roots and snags on the bank. Easing him out and away from the snags I manage to coax him towards me and get the net under him. Gently, I hold him in the current, and angle him just so that the sunlight catches his grey-golden sides and reflects his magic into the non water-borne world.
He slips away quietly and unhurriedly as I let go, back into the shadows and for a good long while I just sit watching and listening to the world around me. At peace. Happy. With a smile that the modern world can’t shift I snip off my fly, take down my rod and wander back to the car.
One fish is enough for me today and sitting here, back at home I can still feel his magic on me as I work.