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Better to be lucky...

On recent trips to this stretch of the river it's fair to say that luck has deserted me. Well, not so much deserted, as changed its name, appearance and upped sticks to a completely different county without leaving so much as a forwarding address.

But never let it be said that I'm not a sucker for punishment, especially when there's a new centrepin reel - a Young's Purist II no less - to try out; as well as maggots in my seat basket, and a bag of liquidised bread. As I puff down the field towards where the river sits concealed by a fold in the flood plain, I'm aware that all over the land there clocks that have yet to go back, so there's daylight aplenty ahead of us.

Initially it looks as though I'll need all the daylight I can get, since my early attempts to tackle up my 15' float road are hampered by hands and fingers that behave as if stuffed into boxing gloves. The float rubbers both crack, the float says it needs 9BB (9! I don't know if I even have that many...) and even when it only takes a measly five is still miles too heavy. Its replacement - an old quill - is delicately balanced but due to a faded tip, almost invisible - so I break the line and start again, replacing everything with a small stick float that takes a single BB and a No4. A few minutes later and there's a size 16 hook and a couple of red maggots, the liquidised bread making tempting clouds in front of me, and a float that just peeks out of the water right in front of me. I'm ready.

As it happens, so too are the fish. It's a still afternoon, warm for the time of year, and I immediately begin to get bites from small roach. The float, while behaving impeccably (by which I mean it spends a lot of the time underwater) is still too difficult to see, so lazily I cast into the water downstream, nearest the bank, where the light makes everything stand out in contrast. The float disappears almost straight away and I'm into something a bit more substantial. That thump-thump fight indicates a perch and sure enough, here comes a half pound 'sergeant' into the net. He's followed by three more, after which the roach re-appear and I catch several of those.

Then, the float meanders off as if browsing in a particularly interesting bookshop...not in a hurry, pausing here and there to eye up an ancient tome or check for an author's signature...until suddenly it's gone. The absence of float is swiftly replaced by the presence of a fish on the end of the line, and it's a good one. After a meaty scrap, here's a perch of probably 2lbs, big shoulders but an oddly small tail. As always with perch, I'd grateful that it's lip-hooked.

I'm returning all the fish straight away (I haven't owned a keepnet for 30 years) and I'm convinced that's what helps to keep the swim going, when everything sort of stops. There's a dull feeling in the air where before the river was alive, crackling with electricity. The float slips away firmly and I'm into something heavier - and certainly angrier - which turns out to be a jack pike of about 3lbs which I just manage to land before it gives a final flip, bites through the line and slithers down the wet bank and back into the river. That signals the end to the evening's fishing pretty much, though I catch another couple of small roach before packing up and trudging back up the field, ruminating on how the afternoon started so cack-handedly and ended up being something rather special - at least for me.

It feels good to get my fishing - and writing legs - moving again.


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