..."So that's one prawn vindaloo, two chicken tikka masala, a meat samosa, four poppadoms, an aloo gobi, a couple of garlic nan breads and more lagers all round then please" I said to the waiter who was hurriedly scribbling away like some demented Speedy Gonzales on amphetamines whilst trying to keep his cheesy grin and subservient bowing gestures in harmony.
God I loved fishing this lake! The chicken and the egg scenario comes to mind here 'cause I don't know if the carp lake was there first or the Indian restaurant - but I did know the combination of the two side by side was as close to heaven on earth as you could possibly hope to find. The nightly ritual of the curry house, it could be argued, detracted from the fishing (it certainly detracted from the catching,) but in other ways it lent so much more. The friendships formed, the ideas shared and the general good times had by all contribute as much to my memories as the fish I caught from the lake.
When I want to catch, I mean REALLY want to catch, I fish alone. If there are two of you fishing together there are bound to be compromises. Maybe they are very small ones, but they're compromises all the same and when I'm taking it all seriously I don't want any distractions. I can be single-minded to the point of obsession when it comes to putting a carp on the bank. Finances, relationships, responsibilities all count for nothing when I'm 'on a mission' but however strange it may sound I don't always go fishing to catch fish - there is more to life, honest!
Angling is ultimately about enjoying yourselves, whether that entails sitting solitarily until you've caught your dream fish or having a barbeque with ten of your closest pals whilst reciting old rugby songs. It doesn't matter, I've fished both extremes and loved both equally.
I had a week in Gran Canaria once with eight like-minded souls where the laughs out numbered the carp by at least a hundred to one but I couldn't begin to tell you about it - it was all far too rude!. And I've just had three hard months blanking in sub-zero temperatures in an attempt to land a winter twenty that I keep equally quiet about (that's far too boring!) but I've enjoyed each experience similarly because of what I've wanted at the time.
I was walking my dog around a lake recently when I came across a couple of acne-enhanced teenagers. I casually enquired as to how their luck was running, the first one replied that they had caught an immaculate common carp of 8lbs 6ozs the night before. He then proceeded to tell me how it had screamed off, then kited this way and that, got stuck in the lilies once before finally succumbing to the out-stretched net his mate was holding at the second attempt. Wow, I was drowning in a sea of enthusiasm and loving every moment of their tale. It didn't matter if those lads went on in life to catch twenties, thirties or nothing ever again, the joy of that moment together would be indelibly etched on their minds for they had cracked it between them.
Similarly, some of my favourite recollections involve small fish and sometimes no fish at all. That should make things tricky for me as an angling writer because I'm led to believe by the powers that be that unless the last paragraph involves landing something akin in weight and size to a transit van, people won't be interested in reading about it. I think that is untrue, so with two fingers waving towards the editor I'll tell you a story I think you'll enjoy regardless of the fish weights...
...Regular www.fishing.co.uk readers will know all about Geoff Maynard, (whacker-catching extraordinaire, web-master guru cross globetrotting entrepreneur and all round nice guy). Well you all know his version, allow me to explode the myth!
Geoff and my father had been involved in a very serious car accident which had left them both in a bad way, sort of shaken not stirred, walking around robot-like with whip-lash injuries and matching neck braces. This was not all bad news though because they had pre-paid tickets to fish Bough Beech reservoir, home of big trout and big, big pike. Because of my father's injuries I had to take his place (every cloud and all that...). Now, the fishery owners were getting slightly miffed with spending tens of thousands of pounds on trout each year just for the pike to burp and say thanks. A cunning plan was called for. With the backing of the Pike Anglers Club it was agreed to allow a certain select few (those that could afford it!) to fish for these monstrous great predators with the view to removing them to new locations, thus enabling all the trout to be eaten by fly fishermen and their wives rather than by their green flanked cousins.
I was at an extremely tough stage of my life, between a honeymoon and a divorce. A time when I was fishing too much, too hard, at a pit that really wasn't worth the effort - but the alternative, going home, really didn't appeal. It was a welcome relief to hopefully put a bend in the rod at a new venue that could offer something a bit special.
My first wife was a fearsome woman, never scared to tell a bouncer he stank of B.O or scared to 'do him' if he disagreed. Housework was a chore that other wives did and woe be tied anyone who should question her (lack of) standards. She also couldn't understand fishing, but I do concede this may have been my fault. The first time I ever took her fishing was to Duncan Kay's Mid-Northants carp fishery where the first fish she ever saw caught was Two-Tone at around forty-pound and consequently felt everything I'd banked since was a bit on the small side.
With this in mind I gingerly told her of my un-planned trip to the Mecca of snapper-land and added that a packed lunch was required. She duly obliged with two slices of three-day-old 'Happy Shopper' bread, no marge and a smattering of peanut butter in a used carrier bag at the bottom of my tackle box; it was more of a weapon than a form of sustenance.
I had a fifteen-year-old Ford Granada at the time with no starter motor or M.O.T, and a decidedly dodgy water pump that could not be trusted more than two minutes let alone fifty miles but, never one to be discouraged, armed with my tackle (and my sandwich) I set forth.
I didn't know Geoff too well at this point and when we met at the lake I was struck immediately with his enthusiasm. Whilst buying 6" trout live-baits at 50p a time the serf netted a three-pound bream, duly impressed Geoff felt compelled to part with his ten bob on such a beast.
Now to say I was skint at the time would be akin to asking, "Do priests b****r young choirboys?" or to be more politically correct " Is the pope Catholic?"
We were offered a boat with oars at a tenner or a boat with a motor at eleven quid. Needless to say with Geoff's inequitable business sense coupled with his incapacity to row we went for the cheaper option (Tight wad!). Fortunately for us he also had inside information on where all the big pike were being caught. Unfortunately for me it was about two miles rowing away. Geoff took on the air of an experienced coxswain urging me on ever faster.
"Come on, I've got to go to work on Saturday, it'd be nice to get there before then!" coupled with the occasional "Bit more on the left oar, mate." It was just as well he did have a bloody neck brace on.
After finally reaching the 'hot-spot' and slinging the anchor overboard to discover we were in about two foot of water, Geoff conceded he may have misinterpreted the directions. Either that or he had the map upside-down. Not to worry, another bracing row of forty minutes or so led us to a likely looking spot. The fact I was a gibbering, sweaty mess unable to summon the strength to light a cigarette let alone tackle up was beside the point. Geoff on the other hand seemed quite relaxed, even commenting on what a nice day it was.
He duly set up with the large bream and three pike floats to keep it all buoyant. (Straight out of 'Jaws' this - "She'll never take three barrels down!"). With knots checked he duly threw it all overboard, no chance of casting that lot. He sat back contentedly; this was 'shit-or-bust' fishing as only Geoff can do.
After I had composed myself, I set-up with a more modest approach, 6" trout live baits and more conventional end tackle, you know, just the one float.
After an hour or so with one little jack falling to my rod I got the chance of my revenge on Geoff for all the rowing he had made me do earlier.
Now I wouldn't say Geoff is a stroke-puller (not to his face anyway) but I'd suggest he is fairly well clued up and doesn't get too much wool pulled over his eyes and, to be fair, it was sweet revenge of his own making, for it was he who suggested we shared his packed lunch now and then shared mine later in the day. I did my utmost to hide my sadistic grin as I tucked into his honey roast ham with cheese and chives in fresh French bread. I stifled my glee at his jaffa cakes, apple, crisps, yoghurt and other delights all the time knowing about the botulism laden sandwich-from-hell festering away menacingly between the rusty hooks and furry boilies in the bottom of my tackle box.
After lunch we were sharing all the usual bullshit and banter customary to fishing trips when IT happened. Geoff suddenly froze. In hushed tones, almost scarcely able to believe what he was saying, he declared "The bream's been taken" and sure enough, I looked across to see the line slowly peeling from the spool of his Shimano.
This was it, the life changing moment, the fifteen minutes of fame (and the chance to earn a few bob!) Re-write the record books for here comes the man from the East end, the barrow boy made good!
Reality check, "Don't mess this up" I said sharing the possibilities of this situation. Geoff waited what seemed an age before striking, even asking for my opinion as to when to 'hit it'.
I thought back to those two young lads and their excitement at their 8lb carp. The great thing about angling is, the goals may change but the 'buzz' never does. Geoff was back to a teenager again as he clicked over the bail arm and lent back in excited anticipation. "She's on!" he screamed. "Get those other rods in and the anchor up now!"
Now this is the anti-climax, the cruel twist of fate to deprive a genuinely nice bloke of his moment of glory. For to cut a short fight shorter, the outcome resulted in a pike of about 12lbs, it didn't even have the decency to swallow the bloody live bait!
Neither of us admitted to the other what we thought might have been as that run developed but we both instinctively knew what the other one was thinking. "Nice fish" I said consolingly. "Thanks" he replied.
After ten minutes of silence Geoff pulled himself together, smiled and said, "How about some of your lunch then?"