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The two Sams

It was an hour into the trip - more of a quick raid really - that I realised I'd been fishing with someone called Sam before. I took my nephew Sam fishing a few years back and we both froze to death on the shores of a bleak Sussex day ticket water while all around us caught fish. It was a difficult day to explain.

This occasion sees me with an older Sam who's been on at me to take him coarse fishing. He's a sea angler and during the course of the afternoon will repeatedly point up the contrast between the two styles of fishing, finding each mis-match more hilarious than the last. He says he can barely see the hook, let alone put bait on it.

Still, the important thing was history did not repeat itself and not only did we get a few bites, but we both caught fish. The pond is incredibly reliable during the spring and summer but around October something happens and the fish become pernickity. Sometimes they don't show up at all. I thought this was going to be one of those afternoons, despite the fact that it's extraordinarly warm for November, and with only about half an hour of daylight left, there was still nothing happening. Then Sam caught a rudd, and then I caught a tench and a bigger rudd. We both got a few more bites and then then sun set - for about 20 minutes it looked at though the sky was on fire. Fantastic.

The return is already being planned. A 14' beachcaster, line as thick as my wrist, and apparently I'll definitely be able to see the hook...

The kettle and the trout

Regular readers will recall my conundrum - how to balance a powerful desire to go fishing with an equally strong conviction that the close season should be observed, even if it doesn't exist on still waters any more. I'm happy to report that, thanks to a fly fishing friend I was able to wet a line with a clear conscience.

It also gave me the opportunity to try out my Kelly Kettle for the first time on the bank. I've been fascinated by this thing since I first saw Yates use one in A Passion For Angling and with every sour mouthful of stewed thermos tea since, have wanted to send my own smoke signals up from the bank side. I pursued one across the Internet on and off for a couple of years before eventually convincing my wife that it would make the perfect Christmas present. Two Christmases ago, it arrived.

So why the long delay? A combination of things. My dodgy knee, a nervousness about those smoke signals, visions of red-faced farmers shaking sticks at me for setting fires on their property, releasing the hounds Mr Burns-style from the top of the field. Then there's the whole business of lighting the things. Just a few twigs and bits of paper. Yeah, right.

Then, as she often does, my wife solved the problem. A packet of 24 mini fuel tablets, designed for a disposable camping stove. Three quid. That's one per brew up. At that rate, they'll not only last for ages but they'll also guarantee that each kettle will combust, exactly as it should.

And so it did. I won't bore you with the ingenious design of the kettle itself (if you're interested you can find out more here); suffice to say it was a complete success and resulted in two perfect cups of tea during this short evening session - one of which can be seen here.

And the fishing? Just fine. And to prove it's possible to learn a new skill and catch a different kind of fish during the old close season, I give you this pretty little rainbow trout, caught in the early evening with a yellow duster. See? I told you I could do it.


The fact that I am once again officially licensed up makes it difficult to resist going fishing. I haven't wet a line since January and I'm now very twitchy about the whole thing. Ian sent me a link to a video about where he lives in British Columbia and although there was a bit too much fish porn for me, it's got the synapses in my brain that look after angling a-firing.

The weather's not too bad. It's warmed up a bit, though staying below the 18 degrees my mum promised when I spoke to her earlier in the week. Maybe that's what the temperature's going to be inland, in balmy Bucks.

But now there's a fly in the ointment. The school has phoned. Our youngest daughter has been horsing around at school and the horse has given her a kick. There's talk of ambulances. The missus is on the way there in the car now. If it's a hospital visit, then my fishing trip will be scuppered. If that happens, then as soon as she's recovered there's a big dog house here with her name on it.


Finally after - literally - years of trying, I've had a proper paid-for article accepted by Waterlog, the world's most peculiar fishing magazine. Should you be inclined to seek it out, it's in the Spring 2006 edition, somewhere near the back, and it's called Ray and the Needle.

Meantime, Sean has phoned. There may be a way out of my close season dilemma. It has something to do with flies and trout. And I think there may have been in a boat in there somewhere...More news when we have it.

The end of an earhole

Or at least the season. I know that many anglers don't observe the close season anymore, that they think it's an anachronism. I'm not sure how it came about. I remember the first year Ray and I joined a local club it was still common practice on still waters and there was a fantastic sense of anticipation as anglers gathered together for the first cast of a new season. (We didn't know the etiquette back then and drove too close to the water, got shouted at).

Part of it's to do with fishery owners of course. There's a lot of money in fishing and their Excel spreadsheets would probably start beeping if they just shut up shop for three months of the year. But they wouldn't get any trade if anglers weren't happy to go and fish and that's something else entirely.

Now, don't get me wrong. I love to fish. I love everything about fishing. I even love packing up. But it seems to me that part of the joy of anything is in looking forward to it - and if you can do it whenever you like, at the drop of a hat, then it loses some of its resonance. At least it does for me.

There's a rhythm to a season's fishing that should incorporate a break. The fish need it, the bankside needs it, the paths need it, other water users need it. People walking their dogs used to notice when the anglers disappeared, they wondered where we'd gone (perhaps our partners hung us up in garden sheds to sleep away those early spring months). Now we're there all the time, gluttons in a fishy Burger King, just scoffing away, instantly gratified but always wanting more.

So I won't be doing any fishing in the close season, then. Of course I will.

I've rationalised it already. The club's still waters close in rotation for a week or two and since I rarely fish them, it's nice to pop along once a month and have a go. But the river can wait. It's been a shadow of its former self in the last couple of seasons but it's still a lovely spot and we still love a challenge. Maybe next season we should explore further downstream. never had much luck there but the guys who fish the opposite bank (different club) say there are good roach down there, and we've seen big carp sunning themselves down by the footbridge.

But that's for another season. For now, the rods are packed away and the geared is stowed in its various bags. I shall do some angel maintenance in April and May and sort a few things out, practice with my Kelly Kettle which will get some serious outings next season and look forward to more adventures.

Anticipation it turns out, is a wonderful thing.

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