A short story of a capture that should never have happened... make a tea and sit back and enjoy.
“Have you got your Nectar card, love?” said the guy behind the counter at Budgens.
“Oh yes, thank you dear. I’d forgotten about that. It’s in here somewhere I think, every little helps” she replied.
Cue a few painstaking minutes of the old lady searching impossibly slowly through the depths of her floral, gold-clasped handbag. She’d already bought a selection of lottery scratch cards which had been thoroughly deliberated over; Lucky Doubler, Rich for Life, Super 7’s…? it was clearly a tough choice. 20 Mayfair were added to the bag of delights, some matches as ‘she wasn’t sure she had any at home’, and then she packed the groceries, one by one, into her rattan bag with the precision of an 85-year-old brain surgeon.
'Lucky Doubler, Rich for Life, Super 7’s…? it was clearly a tough choice'
I kicked my heels impatiently, staring out of the window at the fading evening sunlight, knowing that the Ivy Bank was the place to be and that time was running out. I felt bad about wanting to bash her over the head with my pint of milk and tell her to hurry up, but I just couldn’t help it. It had been a beautiful, warm summer’s day, and I knew they would be all over the Chesil bank and down in Blanko; they’d been spending a lot of time down there so far that season. Marcus had left that morning and as far as I was aware it was still free.
I pulled up into the well-worn, gravel lay-by on Ivy Lane to see a rod propped in the tree and some bits of kit strewn across the swim. My heart sank. Rule one of fishing on the circuit; never get your hopes up or your heart set on a swim, it’s a dead cert for disappointment. I hopped the fence to find the kit belonged to Trev Cooke, of course it did … Trev is someone I always seem to bump into in the right place at the right time - ‘Fancy seeing you here!’ He chuckled, knowing full well I knew they’d be here too.
'My heart sank. Rule one of fishing on the circuit; never get your hopes up or your heart set on a swim, it’s a dead cert for disappointment'
He’d literally only just arrived, and hadn’t even cast out yet. Just a few pouches of floating trouties had gone out to see if they were up for it. We chatted for a while and Trev suggested enthusiastically that I go and get my floater kit and have a go too. It was clear there were a few in evidence in the corner and it looked prime for a bite, but ‘37’ is a tight area and I didn’t think there was room for two without hampering his chances, so I declined, and settled for eating my sandwich and watching the scenario unfold in front of me.
As the sun started to sink through the July sky, the few carp in the corner started to take a few more chances and I was just happy to be alive. At least I’d get the night in here once Trev had left, and I was pretty sure they’d be back in the morning or during the night, even if they did do the off this evening.
We sat and watched as the scum-covered surface film rocked and swayed and the mirrors gave away their presence, occasionally lifting through and delicately sipping another of the trouties down. Enough to get you excited, but not enough to give themselves up. I’d got involved by now, and while Trev played out a game of cat and mouse with the ones tucked away in the corner, I kept the gulls occupied further out in the pit with as many as they could eat via a spod, and every so often a big vortex would rock the calm as the gulls spooked one out there.
'while Trev played out a game of cat and mouse with the ones tucked away in the corner, I kept the gulls occupied further out in the pit with as many as they could eat via a spod'
Meanwhile, at closer quarters, the scum in the corner wasn’t helping matters with presentation; bits of weed, feathers, May fluff and other flotsam was making it tricky to get the hookbait sitting pretty. Being a gent, Trev offered again.
“Go and get your rod, mate. Seriously, floater fishing is more fun with two. Get involved!”
“No mate, honestly; I’m cool just watching! I’ll wait ‘til you’ve had one,” I chuckled back, knowing that Roach Pit floater captures were as rare as hens teeth and Trev’s frustrations with the weed and cagey fish were peaking. In fact, I couldn’t even remember when the last floater capture had been.
An hour had passed by now. Marcus had arrived and joined the fray and we sat and soaked up the glorious evening calm of the pit, excitedly talking about the year ahead and the prospects of big, fat, old mirrors and scaly, three-feet long males.
The bait I’d been putting further out into the pit had done the trick of keeping the gulls occupied and they’d had their fill by now it seemed, drifting off to digest their bellies full of fishmeal and leaving us in peace. The uneaten, swollen remnants drifted in on the intermittent gentle breeze pushing into the swim a little further down to our left, and we’d noticed one or two takers, and with the lack of weed and scum, it looked a better proposition for a chance.
Trev suggested that I get my rod, for what must’ve been the fifth time now, and I finally cracked. The sight of those trouties disappearing into vortexes and mirrors’ mouths proved to be just too much of a temptation eventually. I’d done my bit to help out with the gulls, I told myself, trying to justify it in my head as I hopped the fence and fumbled with my keys trying to get the van door open as quickly as I could.
'I’d done my bit to help out with the gulls, I told myself, trying to justify it in my head'
Within a few minutes, my rod was ready to go and propped in the tree, fresh hookbait rigged up and point checked. We’d moved up into ‘35’ now, and it was looking like a dead cert for a bite. The few from the corner had moved along and been joined by another small group from the right, they were taking much more confidently and the gentle ripple was ruffling the calm just enough to help hide the obviousness of the hooklink and controller. I joined Trev at the end of the platform as he ‘pulted out a few more pouches of trouties, just upwind of his controller to the left of the swim.
The lack of any weed or features out in the open water in front of 35 meant that they were feeding erratically, appearing at random and taking a few, before disappearing, only to reappear 20 yards away. While Trev had been occupied with the fish to the left, I’d seen a couple over to the right, and even though they’d only taken a few, they had gone down without hesitation.
Eventually, the activity to the left peaked as three or four created enough competition for a chance. We could see it coming, approaching from the left, and confidently taking the hookbait before turning with a deep swirl. Trev’s strike connected, for a split second, and then the hookbait came hurtling back toward us as it pulled out. Two hours of effort had culminated in that chance. I bit my lip, winced and looked away. Trev had worked hard for that chance. So close.
“It’s all yours, mate. Get it out there,” said Trev, as he retrieved his rod from the bushes.
“Yeah? You sure?”
“Yes mate, get it out there.”
I didn’t really need asking twice this time. I unhooked the little size 10 from the keeper, ran my fingers down the hooklink a few times, checked the alignment of the hookbait and assessed the situation. I decided to punch the little controller out to the right where I’d seen a few take earlier, the disturbance from the one Trev had pricked having obviously spooked the group to the left. The little 5gr controller sailed out into the mozzie-filled evening sky and I feathered it down, laying the link out at full stretch behind the float and plopping it in perfectly about 40 yards out, with barely a sound.
Barely 30 seconds had passed, when from nowhere a big set of steely shoulders rose up behind the hookbait. The surface had now returned to its glassy calm and the inky reflections glistened off the thick, brown head as it sunk back down with an audible ‘slosh’, the line flicking tight and the red tip on the float sinking away, all in one fluid motion. I struck, and the surface erupted, shattering the evening calm and bringing an end to the culmination of tensions.
'the inky reflections glistened off the thick, brown head as it sunk back down with an audible ‘slosh’, the line flicking tight and the red tip on the float sinking away'
Trev turned around, aghast that I’d somehow hooked one so quickly. I was as astounded as he was, and after 20 nerve-filled minutes, a big mirror was circling in the deep margins. With her scum-encrusted shoulders glowing white in the clear water and the distinctive crinkled tail we knew exactly which one it was; Orange Scale, one of the pit’s prized A-team and as chance would have it, one of only two of the big fish Trev hadn’t caught from Roach over the years. As it wallowed into the net, all I could think to do was apologise! I knew I didn’t deserve that one, and so did Trev, but he still shared in the buzz as he clicked away behind the SLR with a big smile in the fading light and captured a rare moment for me, and the lake. That, for me, summed up the spirit of why I fish the lakes that I do. What goes around come around, and I hope I’ll get the opportunity to pay that one back, but for now - I owe you one mate, big time!
'after 20 nerve-filled minutes, a big mirror was circling in the deep margins. With her scum-encrusted shoulders glowing white in the clear water and the distinctive crinkled tail we knew exactly which one it was'