Monday, 23 March 2009

Dies Atrox...

“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.”

I rose to a lovely Sunday morning and decided to go back to Ansty after the perch. It would be just the kind of spring day I needed, warm and balmy
, a relief after many months of frozen feet and fingers, and as I walked (its quite a hike!) to Ansty I imagined the day ahead, the sun on my back and the fish a' bitin, a quarter bottle of Rioja at lunch time and a lump or two in the net by the serene calm of a rose tinted evening.

"Bollocks" said the wind, "thou shalt suffer, and suffer again"

It was not quite how I had imagined it would be. The open bowl in which the Ansty stretch sits funneled squall after squall of sharp northerly wind directly into my face, robbing my body of heat, and my art of finesse. It was the worst possible place to hope to cast light float tackle on light line from a centrepin. I tangled and knotted, hooked myself, the rod, the bushes and the reeds, cast short, wide and wild, line spilling from the spool, thrashing myself into a fury of inadequate misery.

The boats, oh dear God, the boats! Someone somewhere must have sounded a gong that sent all the Sunday afternoon boat people off on an unholy quest for canal side pub lunch heaven at once. Ten came through in half an hour, thirty in the hour, two abreast, three in a row, all at once. It was mayhem, my canal side hell, the swim churned into a boiling brown maelstrom that dragged everything into its vortex, including my bait, float and sanity. One solo American Sunday noon navigator maam dutifully slowed and cruised through the peg only to hit the gas and motor on full blast immediately after the customary exchange of pleasantries, creating a massive whirlpool of foaming, churning silt and weed. A fart in the face. I cursed her, invoking the gods of British Waterways to hole her hull as she slept, and flood her galley ...

Then, I spied, coming around the corner, a proper trouble maker. I could see - a thousand yard stare - that this was the archetype, the daddy, the bastard boater from marina hell, carved from bog oak, decorated in gaudy carnivalesque war paint, obdurate and indomitable, the Ahab of the cut, doomed to ride the canals forever in search of his own personal Moby Dick...

I was helpless, couldn't stop his coming, his wake flooding over the towpath and troubling the reeds as he approached. I motioned him to cut the engine, drawing an index finger sideways across the wind, and then when all was lost, across my throat...

As his foul black prow entered my pitch, finally he cut the engine and passed sedately by, monarch of the tiller, pronouncing in an eardrum perforating middlebrow, middle-class, Middle-England, middle-everything whine, that 'he', nay 'we' were licensed, and thus had acquired the inalienable right to thrash these waters to foam with impunity. I was lost for apt words, a state of being unusual for me, staring into the middle-distance, muttering...

I cast. A minute later. Into the furious wind, and against all hope. The float buried, and I struck, into a roach! Just half a pound on the scales but a minor miracle after what had thus far been - THE WORST FISHING EXPERIENCE OF MY ENTIRE LIFE! I wanted to kiss this glimmering creature (sent by the gods of BW no doubt) but didn't. I took its snap, and blessed its future life, before returning it to the brown broth called home. Suddenly, the shit storm abated. The wind died, the waters becalmed, the boat people secured tables at their various hostelries, the sun shone and the skylarks soared skyward.

It couldn't last. My weather eye told me that this calm was just an interlude, a brief hiatus, and that soon, the dread wind would return with force. My weather eye was not wrong, but before it was proved right, and in flat calm water, my peacock quill did a merry little dance, and disappeared. Up came a silver bream, the prettiest little fish that swims. All perfect silver sheen and innocent bulbous eye, it was a charming fish to meet on this 'dies atrox'. It was also, and I'm serious, a personal best! At a whole half pound it beats my previous set just a month ago, by a couple of ounces. A few years ago this would have been ranked a specimen, but no longer.

The wind returned with a few face slapping squalls and then body blows of vengeance. I had had quite enough of this beating, but stuck it out for another hour, before cutting and running for home.


  1. Boy can I relate to that. The minds eye's a proper bugger when it comes to predicting fishing conditions.

    The night before the trip you can almost feel the warmth of the sun on your face and the float solidly disappearing.

    The day of the trip you're caked in mud with the wind blasting right at you with no 'brolly on earth capable of keeping the rain off!!!

    Ha Ha! glad it's not just me then.....

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