Yesterday should have been such a great day's fishing, my best laid plan was sound as a pound and the day ahead long and full of fish, my bait was prepared, gear fettled and all loaded in the car and ready for the off by nine. Well, you know what they say about plans don't you?
You see my fabulous optimism was predicated upon the certain knowledge that the river would be in the best condition it had enjoyed for months and the coincidence of an 'early' shopping trip to Stratford that the girls had 'planned' meant that I could hitch a lift to the Saxon Mill and exploit this ideal state before mother nature would once again praecipitate upon on the angler's chips.
It was all so clear cut, so simple, so perfectly right, but when we finally got in the jam jar around 11:30 I found that we were not yet going to Stratford, but travelling miles in the opposite direction to a girlfriends house to deliver a coat that she'd left at our house and that needed to be dropped off urgently so that the poor thing could wear it out the coming night...
Surely the woman has alternative apparel...?!
And then as we began our perambulations I noticed that the dog had sneaked into the back seat with Zena.
"Judy, are you taking Molly shopping with you, or something?" I ask, incredulously.
"No, she's going fishing with you..." she replies, as if it really were that simple!
I glanced around, our Molly staring out the window with the crazed look that dogs get when they hope they're going fishing, and indeed, it seemed, she was...
"Yeah, but, if Molly is going fishing with me, then that means, that I'm not really going fishing, at all...! " I implored, hopelessly.
"Oh, she'll love it, don't be so mean" says Zena, leaning over my shoulder as she twiddles about with the radio to find the unfeasibly chipper Emma Bunton on Heart FM. "
And besides, WE'RE GOING SHOPPING !!
....so she really can't come with us now, can she Jeff?"
There's a strange wailing sound that a man makes at such times that cannot be easily turned into the written word because it contains all the vowels and no consonants. I made it, and I made it last.
The first thing that a dog like Molly teaches an angler like me is how very quiet I usually am when I fish. The first swim tried was a long walk upstream into the wilderness, a lot of water had fallen out of the river and it was low and clear, perhaps the worse conditions in which to attempt to fish whilst a springer, a dog that famously loves water, frolics joyously at, in, and often under the waters edge. The bankside was a shallow and sloping mix of mud, detritus and dead reeds, a solidified raft of accumulated rubbish really with, unbelievably, two dogs balls and a rubber duck partly buried in it - now such a bank has be treated with due care and attention because the sound of every movement is amplified considerably due to the fact that there is little beneath it but water, so Molly's scampering must have sounded like Renegade Snares deep down. No wonder that I got no bites on my breadflake.
I tried and failed at three consecutive pegs up in the wilderness before making the decision to move all the way down below the weir and try to find a nice high bank of solid earth to fish from, keep the dog occupied somehow, and as far from the water as caninely possible.
I managed to find just the spot. I cast a line into the deep green waters and threw the ball that Molly had found backwards into the scrub, fooling her into running off in the wrong direction first so that I could earn as much quality fishing time as possible as she relentlessly quartered the ground behind to find it.
I had a bite and connected with a small chub. I recast the rod, and rethrew the ball. I had another bite and missed it. I rethrew the ball. I recast. Had a bite. Rethrew the ball. Had a bite and hooked a roach. The ball fell in the water. I recast. Molly dived into the water after the ball. The bank was too steep for her to clamber up. I had a bite. Fetched the dog out of the water. Hit the same bite and had another roach that got off at the net...
"How's it going?" asked a voice from over my shoulder...
Another angler, I supposed, from the cut of his jib.
"Not too bad, a few fish, bit of dog trouble," say's I.
Transpires he was fishing a match on the stretch on Sunday morning and was taking a gander at the river. We had a pleasant conversation during which I pumped for information concerning fish stocks and specimen potential thereof him being a long term club member. Seems that the stretch contains some "very large perch indeed". It'll be worms next time out then: I fancy trashing my personal best for perch by the end of the season.
I have a half decent roach in the fading light, and then, as always seems to happen on this stretch, the roach turn off just at the time when it seems that the biggest fish in the shoal should fall, and before long it's time to rendevous with our pickup ...
We return to the car park at the agreed time and I just plain fail to remember that Molly might be just a bit mucky as I absent-mindedly open the passenger door and allow her to greet the long forgotten female members of her pack, calmly busying myself with the job of tackle stowage at the boot end, chuckling lightly amongst the rising screams...