The telephone shrilled loudly across the darkened room. I struggled to pull myself from the living room chair that had been my bed for the night in the attempt answer it. Another figure lay slumped half on, half off the sofa, male by the look of it. I breathed in stale tobacco ridden air as I stumbled on some crushed beer cans strewn across the floor and still that bloody 'phone kept ringing; cutting through the last few remaining brain cells I had intact, like Yoko Ono screeching along to a chorus of fingernails down a blackboard. I reached the table and picked up the receiver.
"Umgho" I said. It was meant to sound like 'hello' but the alcoholic fur had stuck my tongue to the roof of my mouth.
"Just checking you're up, I know what you're like after a Saturday night" came the irritatingly cheery response.
"Yeah, yeah, I'm up now" I replied.
"Great! See you in half an hour then." Mr. Cheerful continued.
"Just one thing - who the ***k is this?"
They say opposites attract and this does seem the case with Andrew and I. Whilst I cannot understand what possible enjoyment he gets from staying sober on a Saturday night, practising tying knots or polishing his tackle(!) or whatever it is he does, he likewise cannot understand the simple pleasures I derive from drinking and smoking myself to death whilst trying to pull the very attractive young barmaid who'd seemed like an overweight moose with bad breath and B.O less than seven pints earlier. Still, there is hope for him yet!
I climbed into Andrew's transit van at 6.30a.m My head was throbbing like only a fellow party animal could ever know. "You're pathetic" was the all encompassing welcome. I was beyond any witty retort as the hangover was really beginning to show its true colours now.
Why I kept agreeing to these Sunday morning sorties was a bafflement my brain could not cope with. Andrew's enthusiasm threatened to spoil over.
"I've got a good feeling about today," he continued excitedly.
"Please let me sleep" was a reply I could only muster mentally, I would need at least another hour before I could lament vocally.
Joy of joys, as we pulled into the lake's car park the frozen expanse before me was a sight to behold.
"Looks like we'll have to go back" I said, trying to stifle my obvious happiness at the prospect of a warm bed in less than twenty minutes.
"It doesn't look too thick, we could probably make a small hole and get a bait or two in" Andrew kept on. From experience I knew it was better to humour him. I should still be back home in bed within the hour so let's go through the motions.
We tackled up with a couple of large lead weights and proceeded to break a couple of holes in the ice. Andrew, almost impossible to contain himself, set about tying a popped-up, critically balanced, pre-soaked, oily fish-meal boilie on a double reversed cobra helicopter with PVA bag filled with trout pellets
I slung out a deadbait.
Andrew sat back smugly, he was fishing one of the south-east's premier carp waters with a winning method; happy in the knowledge that any one of the hundred or so winter-weight carp that even thought they might be hungry would be in jeopardy with his baited traps. I was happy too, there were only five known pike in this water and the chances of my slumber being disturbed were akin to scooping the lottery jackpot whilst simultaneously opening the Readers' Digest prize-winning envelope.
"I really don't know why you persevere on those pike," said Andrew innocently. I lay back in my Fox bed-chair and pulled the hood up on my Hutchie jacket, smiling inwardly. "No, I don't suppose you do Goodnight!"
Gradually the horizon released its grip on the January sun and it clawed its way skyward. After a couple of black coffees, four cigarettes and forty winks I began to feel almost human again. I stood up and surveyed the scene with renewed interest.
The positioning of my baits was not ideal, the one along the margin probably having the edge on the one hanging from the branch of the copper beech. I reeled in, checked the rigs, re-baited and cast out beneath the tree, the other rod lay idle as the ice was worsening and any attempts to present the other bait satisfactorily would have been futile. Andrew had detected little movement from any species through the early morning gloom but remained confident. I must point out however, Andrew could sit at roadside drain with confidence. The funny thing is, even in that instance it would be foolish to bet against him catching something. He's a rare breed of modern angler that fishes from the fish's perspective, always questioning everything and striving to be innovative enough to stay one step ahead.
The morning had become a nice crisp wintry scene. A Christmas card scenario with all sorts of variations of mother natures finest; out foraging for their families tucked snugly away in all manner of nests, burrows, warrens and sets, secretly tucked away amongst the bankside undergrowth. As I looked around, savouring the exquisiteness surrounding me I realised why I came out each Sunday. You can admire Pamela Anderson all you like but nature is the only perfection in beauty.
"I'm having a slash" said Andrew - which put a slightly different perspective on things.
We whiled away the next hour or so with the usual mixture of banter, jokes and putting the world to rights when the line on my rod twitched into life - just the one twitch mind.
"Liner?" I suggested, hoping for Andrew to disagree. He didn't get the opportunity to reply, the line slowly started to tighten up, then two bleeps in quick succession from the ageing optonics, then nothing. We gave each other a knowing look, we had been in this situation it seemed a million times before but the raw energy and tension was as alive and as bright as that first time.
"Shall I hit it?" I asked, waiting for Andrew's endorsement.
"Hang on a mo'," came the reply. The line twitched once more, "Now!" screamed Andrew, about one nano-second after I began the strike. Twelve foot of slow taper arced round to the butt as the initial lethargy of the leviathan burst angrily into life, the noise of the ice cracking against the frailty of the monofilament brought a panicky moment of impending doom. I tightened up as much as I dared, bringing the fish high in the water, hoping the eighteen inches of wire trace would be more resilient against the glacial surface.
"Get the net quick, I'm going to have to bully this bugger double-quick or it's a goner!" I enthused, knowing the urgency of the situation. I had fished with Andrew enough over the years to know he would be fully aware of the situation and react accordingly. What happens next still baffles me. I turned in amazement, as Andrew was franticly setting up his camera!
"What the f*** are you playing at! Get the f***ing net, you tw*t!" I screamed bordering on the insane.
"You'll thank me for this" came the almost unbelievably calm reply.
"NET!!!" I screamed.
"You'll thank me for this," came the reply,
"NET, YOU BASTARD, NET!!!"
"Just a couple more photo's, you'll thank me, honest,"
Now, this situation can obviously be viewed from two perspectives
On the one hand you have the artistic viewpoint, a once in a lifetime opportunity to capture on film a three foot long pike smashing through the ice in a desperate bid for freedom; on the other hand, you had my viewpointto capture a three foot long pike.
Finally, in his own time I might add, Andrew expertly slid the landing net under my prize.
"Told you not to panic" he said, though with a sense of relief I suspect. "Looks like a twenty," he added, probably trying to pacify my aggression. No need, it had turned to elation in the blink of an eye as only fishing can manage.
We excitedly stumbled up the bank for the customary weigh-in.
"19lb 12oz. You should have used a bigger dead-bait" he joked. It was my third 19lb pike and a personal best.
I hadn't cracked the 'twenty' but it was a funny sense of relief, that goal was still there. I had caught a twenty carp, then a thirty carp, as had Andrew, and it felt good that we still had targets left to aim for. My brother, Simon, caught a carp of 31lb 8ozs when he was just fourteen; twenty-four years later he has still to better it. I had lost a near thirty-pound pike at the net at a similar age. I'd cried at the time but with hindsight maybe the gods had served me a great favour. We all need goals to keep us sharp.
Andrew and I continue to chase our goals, a three-pound perch is the latest target. If either he or I catch it, the enjoyment will be the same. There's more to fishing than catching fish and, as the great Rod Hutchinson said, "Don't forget to smell the roses on the way."