Tuesday, 23 September 2008

The Misery of the Unprepared

There's no taking trout with dry breeches. ~ Miguel de Cervantes

It would be a reasonable day. It looked hopeful, not wet, high grey cloud cover, not threatening. So, as it was convenient, I decided to go fish. A couple of hours later on the riverbank it had changed. The weather was now as moody as a rebellious teenager
, sulking, but not yet spitting teeth. It was warm enough, close even and I'd worn warm weather clothing, shorts and shirt, risking the odd spot of rain or two in return for comfort.

I walked along the fringe of the wheat stubble toward my first swim of the day and en-route came to a swathe where the farmer had disked the soil and here and there I spied fat lobworms slowly squirming to death. I proceeded to collect them up, for immediate use. In the first swim I trotted a worm far downstream, got bites and duly caught a roach. I thought I'd try for more but then spots of rain began to fall and the swim fell quite dead. I soldiered on as the rain was light and the worms plentiful but not another bite came. I tired of it and moved along upstream to a swim beneath willows that afforded shelter. On the way I had to move through dense nettles that the weight of water had begun to drag over and across the path. I got stung across the shins and because the nettles and my legs were wet, the sting smarted worse than is usual.

Here fishy things were dead from the outset. An hour later my clothes were beginning to dampen noticeably, the nettle stings had raised the skin in reddening welts and itched far too much for comfort and so I upped sticks once again. I headed for the stump swim thinking the thick canopy would avert the increasingly persistent rain.

It was moody and murky in the swim and the air was thick with moisture. A pall of despondent air borne misery began to fill the river and seep into my soul. The rain had by now saturated the canopy and though it was not heavy rain, it was persistent and the spots that began to fall from the trees above were the size of marbles. The bank became sticky, then mucky, then slippery and then treacherous.

I fished the worm regardless and caught another roach and then a tiny gudgeon for my sins, but they were no comfort at all as found myself unable to resist the temptation to scratch at my blistering legs. It was against all reason. I could not help myself. Dark and desperate thoughts possessed me. I was sliding inexorably down the greasy bank and inching into the ghastly dark waters of an awful, dreadful, fitful malaise.

And then the clouds broke open and the rain petered away. A weak beam of sunlight streamed into the pool and as it slowly intensified, dissipated the gloom. For half an hour the sun shone into the swim and the banks steamed. My legs dried and the itching ceased to bother me. All the misery passed away and I began, for the first time in the whole day, to enjoy myself. I struck at a solid bite that pulled the rod tip round in a quivering arc and connected with a fish of some size, but the hook pulled after only a few seconds.

Cocky and confident once more, I rebaited and cast again, but just as things settled the damnable rain started, but now with a vengeance, a torrential downpour and I was soaked through in minutes. I packed up utterly defeated, feeling angry with my stupid self. As I trudged back through the nettles, which had closed over the path with the weight of water, I was stung over and over, despite my best efforts to avoid more pain. All I wanted right now was to avoid a disaster in the mud, a trip, a slide, a prat fall into utter ignominy. I was desperate for basic comforts; a warm dry house, a scalding fresh brew and a prolonged soak in a steaming bath, all of which were an hour away.

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