I turned to my left and gazed in awe at the beauty lying beside me. It must be said that even though I have never been to bed with an ugly woman I have woken up with a few. This was different. She looked up to me and smiled sweetly. This naked goddess lit a fire inside of me that I had never before known.
Why, today of all days, had I arranged to go fishing with Andrew? I could lay here basking in this inner glow for a thousand years and not get bored. Were the gods having a laugh at my expense? How was I to know I'd meet my soul mate and hopefully life partner the evening before? I now had to explain to this heavenly creature that she was going to have to leave because I was going fishing!
I weighed up the options of calling Andrew to cancel but he would have already left and I wouldn't have the heart to disappoint him face to face. I turned towards the still smiling vision of loveliness, I was still intoxicated by her sweet perfume (and Stella Artois) and tried to explain as tactfully as I could.
"Last night was so special Sharon," I started
"It's Julie!" she barked out frostily and she stormed from the bedroom. C'est la vie.
I climbed wearily into Andrew's van.
"You should have seen the gorgeous bit of stuff that was walking down the road when I turned up. Mini-skirt, legs to kill for, looked a bit moody though" Andrew enthused. "Looks like you had a rough night, where did you get that black-eye?" he continued.
"Drive on" I said. Andrew knows I'm not a morning person.
Second call of the day was to a countryside mansion belonging to Geoff Porter, a mutual friend of ours, or at least he had been a friend until he started joining us on our fishing adventures and, completely unprovoked, started to beat all of our previous bests at every venue. Now Geoff is a giant of a man in every sense of the word, physically, mentally and ideologically, he is the kind of man we all aspire to be; the fact he is also my employer is irrelevant!
The Sussex lake Andrew and I had recently had our 'Red letter day' at, was to be the venue. Even Geoff couldn't eclipse our results there, could he?
We pulled in at the lodge, filled in the forms and handed over our respective fees (or monthly maintenance dues, depending on your perspective!) and set off for the lake. The ever-colourful fishery owner stopped us in our tracks.
"Who the kinell is 'C. Porter'" he enquired eloquently.
"It's G. Porter" said Geoff almost apologetically.
"We don't have any initials here. What does 'C' stand for Chris? Colin?" he continued.
"It's Geoff" Geoff interjected.
"Geoff! That doesn't even start with a 'kin 'C'!"
Our genial host exasperated, we continued on to the swims!
Normally I think 'two is company but three's a lot more fun' but in the absence of any female company I decided to go it alone. I set up in a small bay at the opposite end of the lake to Andrew and Geoff. It felt really 'carpy', all shallows and lilies and two small islands in front. Confidence was beyond sky high; I was in orbit. A large crash to my right set me into 'all haste, no pace' mode.
You may have realised by now, I am not the world's most organised person. I now almost wished I had stayed in last night like Andrew and pre-tied all these hooks, beads, swivels, leads, tubing and other sundry items the books tell you is vital to catch a bloody fish! Then I thought back to Tina (or was it Jane?) and wondered what the hell we ever saw in fishing? Another huge crash suddenly reminded me.
I searched frantically through the empty cigarette packets and spent pot noodle tubs in the bottom of the box that was laughingly called (by Andrew) my tackle. There must be some bloody hooks in here somewhereplease! Another great crash, head and shoulders of a twenty plus mirror rolling over the spot I would like to put a bait. Where the hell were those hooks? I cursed my disorganisation and thought back to those days of trying to fish with no rod rests (rods laid in the rushes), no bait (I used my sandwiches) and to a nice mid-double common I had lost due to having no landing net handle with me. But I hadn't learnt my lesson and probably never would. Only one thing for it, a quick walk around the lake to the ever-dependable Andrew and his 'mobile tackle shop'he didn't drive a transit van without reason.
I duly 'borrowed' a couple of pre-tied, combined, genetically refined, in-line rigs. Brilliant, once out of sight I could cut the hooks off, perfect.
I set up two simple paternosters and on the fourth attempt managed to cast them within six foot of where I wanted them. Nothing to do now but to sit and wait.
Barely, half an hour had gone by when I spied through a gap in the trees Geoff leaning into a fish, the huge swirls in front of him visible from a good 100yds away suggested it wasn't a roach. I reeled in and set off around the lake for the second time. I didn't have a kettle with me (surprise, surprise) and didn't want to miss out on a celebratory cuppa.
On rounding the final bend I could hear Andrew in stentorian voice.
"He's only gone and done it again, old 'golden whatsits' here."
I looked firstly at the grin beaming across Geoff's face then as the landing net was unfolded to reveal the inhabitant, I too took on the same dumbfounded expression that Andrew was still sporting. For there on the mat lay the same fish that Andrew had caught at 29lbs 14ozs on our previous trip a month earlier. We all knew Geoff didn't catch fish that ended in 14ozs, that was Andrews forte, so I set off to get the fishery owner. The lake had just yielded its first thirty-pound carp.
The official weigh-in confirmed our worst fears, 30lbs 10ozs. Geoff had done us again!
"Enjoy the rest of your last trip with us" Andrew joked I was toying with the idea of negotiating a pay rise, (come on, I'd never get him in a better mood!) All joking aside, it was a fantastic fish, well deserved and appreciated by all.
Later on that afternoon Andrew got his turn to shine. A blistering run was met by a full blooded strike that led to a deep and determined fight, never straying more than two feet away from the edge of the vast lily-bed. I set off on the long walk again with fingers crossed for Andrew; I know how much effort he puts in for his fish, but doesn't always get the same good fortune as Geoff and I. Even Einstein would struggle to come up with a time/skill/effort/results equation regarding fishing. I arrived just as the net was being lifted, Andrew's smile said it all. Nice one mate. The scales revealed a super common of nearly 24lbs.
Ever get the feeling you've got it wrong? My swim now looked decidedly empty, the other two had caught and however friendly and good-natured the mickey taking was, it would be a long trip back to Kent in the morning if I did not do something. Afternoon turned to evening that was quickly followed by night. I sat up until midnight, the night was still and eerie, no fish were moving and it looked like all my chances were vanishing into the darkness.
Tiredness took over as my head hit the pillow and I wondered if I could at least better Geoff in my dreams!
At 6 o'clock my sleep was shattered by the optonic singing continuously the only song it knew (with the obvious exception of the 'Sound of silence'!) I knew I had to react fast, sliding headlong down the bank with the sleeping bag tied tight around my ankles seemed the logical choice. I struck and felt the satisfying bump of a solid fish. This is where the luck element I wrote of earlier comes into play - with two small islands and a lily bed in front of me, where would you expect the carp to be heading, desperately seeking a route for freedom? That's right, in the clear, open water to my left!
It was quite an uneventful fight as the fish just held its position, just powerfully refusing to budge an inch but seemingly confused by the vast array of options open to it. The netting went perfectly first time and I lifted the net clear of the water with a grunt. This was another 'whacker'. With the huge mirror secured, I set off around the lake at a pace that would have Linford Christie impressed. On approaching their bivvy I became intrigued by the strange noise emanating from it, a cross between cows being driven home and a large wildcat in considerable pain. It turned out to be Geoff snoring contentedly, job well done and all that.
I have rarely heard Andrew swear but his version of the tumultuous noise of Geoff's sleeping habits would have made your average sailor blush with embarrassment. Andrew refused point-blank to come around to my swim to weigh or photograph my capture. He hadn't slept for twenty-four hours and had lost his usual genial mood a good few hours ago. Geoff, fully refreshed from a good night's sleep, offered his services. I was very grateful at the time but had I known his inability with a camera (see picture!) I would have persisted in my efforts to arouse Andrews's interest. As an aside, I wonder if www.fishing.co.uk could run a piss-poor photo competition? I'm sure Geoff has a full portfolio to offer!
My fish was lifted onto the scales28lbs 10ozs Result!
The morning sun came upon me too soon, time to head back to the real world. As I packed away my tackle I noticed another friend pulling into the car-park. Geoff Maynard turned up. He set-up, caught a 38lb catfish - and left. (Like he does!)
Trying to explain fishing to the uninitiated is a thankless task, but memories were made here, friendships were scored indelibly. Fishing is a way of life, not a pastime. If you're lucky enough to be struck with the drug, enjoy it, you are the chosen one!