Purveyor of Bollocks to the Crowned Heads of Europe
Sunday, 21 April 2013
It's almost time for the first Mayfly hatch, and for me to ignore the rods, flies and nets in the cupboard as I have done for all the years it has been since I first bought them.
"Let's go fishing for Brown Trout", a friend of mine said some years ago, and that very afternoon, I found myself sitting in a country pub, getting mildly drunk and taking drugs before setting out into the woods to a quite stretch of private brook where he produced a child's telescopic coarse-rod, a chisel and a small spinner from an innocent looking tool-bag. He was a 'handyman' by day and a ne're-do-well by night. It wasn't what I had in mind, but being a weak sort of character, I went along with it.
The Isaac Walton idyl I envisaged when I bought the fly-kit was more to do with a contemplative and solitary few hours spent in peaceful meditation, and if no fish were caught during that time, then the sport of it would suffice - a bit like hunting for mushrooms in the Autumn.
The trip with the handyman was far from this ideal - in absolutely every respect. For a start, there were two of us. A combination of drink, drugs and the ever present fear of being caught by a river-warden (or worse - a group of river bailiffs) made the trip one of the most tense and fearful I have ever experienced in such a beautiful setting.
It had not helped that the handyman had told me - in detail - what the bailiffs would do to us if we were caught. They don't bother with police, he said, preferring to give poachers such a beating that they wouldn't even dare show their faces in the pub, let alone jump over fences onto private land. Legs have been known to be broken.
We found a small and secluded stretch of open bank next to the little stream, and he assembled the rod, tying the bright little spinner to the end of the line.
"Nobody will see us here", he said, and I pointed to a large group of houses about a quarter of a mile away, in full view of the stream. I was convinced that at least one warden must live in at least one of these houses.
"Don't be silly", said the handyman, "They couldn't possibly spot us from that distance." I asked him if he had ever heard of things called 'binoculars'.
He explained that the reason why he went poaching with a tool bag and used the handle of a wood-chisel to bludgeon the fish once caught, was so that he could always say that he was a simple carpenter on his way home from work. He didn't say how he planned to explain away the rod, line and fish, though.
He gave the toy rod a little flick, throwing the spinner a few feet into the middle of the stream, then drew it along toward the bank. Almost instantly, a fat brown trout was thrashing away on the end of the line, and he pulled it in without a net before quickly whacking it with the chisel and thrusting it into the tool-bag. He did this three times in quick succession, then handed the rod to me to do the same.
Instantly, I got my first trout, but it was so feisty that it broke the flimsy rod, and I found myself trying to grapple with three components instead of one rod and one fish. We got it in quickly, and it joined it's mates in the bag.
"Right," he said, "Let's get out of here before we're seen. Mustn't be too greedy." With hearts pounding through a mixture of fear, effort and chemicals, we made our way back through beautiful summer woodland, and went home without further incident.
I'm not proud of this little expedition, but the fish tasted just as good as if I had coaxed it out of the water with a little sprig of feathers hiding a hook just as effective as the one fixed to the back of the spinner in full view. I don't think I will ever do it again though. The experience felt as though it had taken a year off my life.