Speak proper like what posh people do. Discuss Damien Hirst's latest work over a peppered steak whilst savouring the 'earthy dry fruitiness' of a bottle Chateau neuf du pape '84 before the port was brought around. But to me, stilton is a cheese that has gone off. And badminton is a game for Dalmatian owners who were too politically correct to appreciate two boxers toe-to-toe hammering the living daylights out of one another. What I am trying to say is, but Popeye put it better, "I yam what I yam ". If enjoying Beethoven's 3rd symphony as a backdrop to your whist drive lights your candle, then that's great but with me it just doesn't quite cut the mustard.
Entering the chippie at 7.30 that Saturday night, determined to line my stomach with grease for the on-coming deluge of lager, I realised I was one of the masses and was grateful for it. Lucinda and Helen were working that night, both gorgeous, both unobtainable, an extra large portion of chips was all I could hope for. Anyway, I was meeting Andrew in 12 hours for another fishing 'adventure'.
At 11.30 the landlord was asking the age-old question "Haven't you any homes to go to?" I was determined to be 'good' get an early-ish night and be up on time with a clear head for the morning. "Are we going up the club? " one of my friends enquired. Well, maybe just half an hour wouldn't hurt.
I pulled the duvet around my ears at three o'clock, alone and broke and cursed my weak resolve. The hammering on my front door four hours later signalled Andrew's arrival.
"I think I've got a touch of flu," I offered apologetically. Andrew gave me a knowing look; he had seen my 'flu bouts' a hundred times before.
"I'll load your gear in the van whilst you get ready" he said with undeserved sympathy.
During the forty-minute drive to our destination, a small featureless reservoir in east-Kent, I pondered on what it must be like being Andrew. He had probably spent the previous evening helping old ladies across the road or something equally noble whilst I had selfishly been out with the sole intention of carnal pleasures. Surely there must be some way I could help him see sense!
Our first view of the lake that bitterly cold morning was not exactly inspiring. No wind, ground frost, clear blue skies and an air temperature bordering on the brass monkey.
"I've got a good feeling about today" Andrew enthused.
God give me strength, he is a hopeless case.
Fishmeals had been doing the business all season and everybody on the syndicate had been on them. Now there are two trains of thought on this, on the one hand, go with the flow, as fifty other people had in effect been prebaiting for you. On the other hand, try something different; it may give you an edge.
Andrew had developed a very excellent fishmeal boilie that he had supreme confidence in, but decided on pre-soaking them in a maple syrup to give a touch of 'je ne sais quois' about them. I opted for a high protein milk based bait, flavoured with cream but boiled in milk rather than water. They had a texture not dissimilar to a child's 'power-ball' and likewise I had a lot of confidence in them, but only as winter bait. Just over a month earlier I had taken carp of fourteen pounds and sixteen pounds respectively as the lake froze (while everybody else were doing their gnome impressions) so I thought, even in the face of the adversities we were confronted with today, I might be in with a shout.
I offered Andrew some of my bait and he offered me some of his; we both declined. It never fails to amaze me on how little we agree on when faced with how to put a fish on the bank. The diversity of our bait and tactics, but we consistently come up fifty-fifty on results. Maybe Richard Walker was right, about the only thing you need is watercraft, just fish where the fish are.
An uneventful few hours passed with little signs of anything, let alone feeding fish, but I didn't care. I fish for a variety of reasons, sometimes to escape the hurly-burly of life, just to be alone to put my life in perspective, sometimes just to have a laugh with like-minded people and sometimes because I really want a bend in the rod. Today I was almost pleased by the inactivity. I had just been through a messy divorce (it had been a mixed marriage - I was human, she was a blood-sucking leach) and sitting there talking was good therapy.
Completely out of the blue Andrews's indicator pulled slowly skyward, to those of you who started fishing after the invention of the bolt-rig this may come as a surprise but bobbins do sometimes inch there way up! Andrew waited for the line to tighten, clicked the bail arm over and swept majestically over into a solid resistance; the rod locked firm like he had snagged the bottom. But this man-made lake didn't have any snags. The 'snag' moved slowly to its left; curious. The lake record stood at around twenty-two pounds of hardfighting carp so this was quite inexplicable.
"I don't think this is a carp" said Andrew.
"It must be one hell of a bream then!" I joked.
"I'm serious" he replied "It's just doesn't feel right, maybe she's foul-hooked or something".
A full fifteen minutes went by with the fish just holding in the deep water, slowly mooching around, seemingly unaware of its predicament or how to escape it. Then all hell broke loose as, with a sudden burst of power, it took off. And I mean took off! The water erupted as a huge pike emerged trying to make its colossal frame tail-walk in a way it might of done in the days when he was known as 'Jack'. The reel's clutch screamed out excitedly as more of the line was robbed from it's spool, again the head came from the water shaking furiously from side to side in a defiant gesture, as if to say "You ain't having me pal". It's not very often I'm struck dumb by things but this was one such occasion. My mind was going ten to the dozen with words of encouragement, advice and profanities (not necessarily in that order) but my mouth didn't seem to work in tandem.
Finally the beast started to tire, a couple of last gasp flicks of the tail then into the net at the first attempt. Andrew set the Avons up, zeroing them with the wet weigh sling, whilst I carefully removed the size 6 hook from the big girl's scissors (text book stuff eh?) Andrew hoisted his prize aloft - 27lbs 8oz. Yahoo!!
Now there must be a moral here somewhere. Even when all looks cold and bleak, persevere. It may not have been the carp we were after but it was another glorious specimen thrown our way in the rich tapestry we call fishing. A great result for a great mate. Who says good guys never win?