Saturday, 16 May 2009

The moving shadow

The gallery is currently hosting a student event over two nights. The trouble with students is that they live in a bubble of the university's making; everyone says yes, nothing is negotiable, and the student comes first, always. The trouble is with the real world is that the university rules are inverted
; everyone says no, everything is negotiable, and the one in control comes first, always.

It has happened twice. Both times that we have hosted student shows I have had to perform the verbal rottweiler in order to shake them clear out of their muddy mindset and make them see things the way they truly are. It only takes a few minutes of harsh pointed words to do the trick, but it works and afterwards, though they become upset and their little flutterings hearts are now pounding, they get the message and we get the professionally presented, properly appointed, well attended show that we must have each and every time we open.

The show opened at seven, I savaged them at three, Judy would be home at four to mop up the spilt blood. That meant I had to be far away, and so I went fishing!

Earlier in the day I'd seen some big fish making waves under some overhanging bushes on the canal that I thought could be large bream so I tackled up an avon rod with eight pound line, chose a big net to land them with, and went after them. After using light lines for months on end it felt like threading washing line through the rings, and hitching a size ten with a palomar knot, a knot that requires you pass the line twice through the hook eye, almost impossible until I cut the line at a sharp angle with scissors to get a point on it. The float required three AA shot to cock it but that is not enough weight to pull eight pound line through the eyes on the cast and so every chuck was having to be as hard as I dare, but I got the bait to where the big bream were and proceeded to catch, well, small bream...

I thought the bow waves and swirls that were emanating from the bushes were far too big to be caused by pound plus fish, more like the big heavy movements associated with large carp, or large slab sided bream, but the small bream came one after the other. Good sport, but frustrating. Then I saw two tiny roach flip clean out of the water and took this as a clear sign that there was a big perch around, and so I loaded a big worm on the hook and chucked it right on the very spot, just as I had done just a few days previously, and caught the perch causing the trouble on that occasion.

The float sank sideways and I struck into a fair fish, but it was only another bream, easily the best of the day but at two pounds not exactly a specimen. I cast again and whilst watching the float I saw a curious elongated yellow shadow in the green reflections of the bushes, that I thought was some curious effect of the sun, but was drifting slowly and deliberately to my left. For some time I couldn't really see what it was, or make out if it was merely a light effect or something more concrete and actually in the water, but then at once I saw 'fish', my jaw dropped to my chest, and my eyes popped right out on stalks!

A fifty, sixty, seventy pound carp.....drifting slowly toward my worm................!

My entire being froze solid in horror and wonder, and terrible anticipation, as the monstrous fish approached the bait - three feet - two feet - one foot - I made strange little noises, strangled screams, and then when the cavernous mouth was right on the bait I reached a such a tremendous pitch of horrifying, soul stretching fear, that I thought I would burst open at the seams at the slightest touch. The float bobbled and swayed, and I readied myself for the strike, all was silent, the world stopped turning, in the tiniest part of a second my brain processed an entire checklist of important detail, the tackle strength, the net position, the battlefield, the opponent, and my own capabilities, but then, the float sat still once more, and the great yellow shadow passed by.

I cast again, ten feet in front of its ponderous route down the canal bank, and waited once more for its approach, ready to go through the entire process once more, but then the yellow shadow came up in the water and then I saw what it really was; not a leviathan carp at all, but actually a great pike! I'd gauged the size the 'carps' back from the normal length of a pike that was perhaps, thirty pounds...

What a fish! In a canal!

Would it take a worm? Would it then bite through the line?

I pulled the worm in and settled for just admiring his progressing majesty, but then I remembered that the last time I'd fished for pike, just a week ago, I had used the same bag as I'd brought today, and that the bag contained a jointed floating plug, a spinner, and a wire trace...

I have never retackled so quickly in my life. I had the float bitten off and the trace tied in seconds, I mounted the plug on the clip and set off with the net to catch this monster fish. I cast perfectly, jigged the plug to entice, or provoke a take, but the big boy was having none of it. I cast again and again, over him, back of him, and bang on his nose, but he was having none of that either, and just carried on regardless of my efforts to take him.

Eventually he stopped in a little hole in the bushes and lay up to rest. This I thought, was my best chance. I rested the casting for a time then after a while cast just perfectly, so that the plug would pass right in front of his eyes, and, as it passed him he moved toward it, and followed. Again, the world stopped, as the big fish approached the lure, and just as he did, and was about to do engulf it...

A f@£&ing boat appeared, just twenty yards distant, round the sharp bend...


I tugged the lure sharply away.

There is no way anyone in their right mind wants to hook a large pike, or any other fish for that matter, when there is no time to stop a boat in its tracks, because you see the majority of boat owners are both deaf and blind (they are also dumb) to anglers and will plough straight on through, even if it means you having your tackle snapped, and a big fish left trailing hook, line and sinker, because, as I have learned, the canal is, so far as they are concerned, their private domain, their own little sharply circumscribed world of pleasure, and you do not figure in it.

I really had no choice, and now, had no chance...

The giant dissapeared in the filthy wake of the boat, and I doubt very much if I'll ever see him again.

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