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Spit or swallow?

It's good to be fishing with Ray again, even if we don't arrive at the same time and don't even sit together, and it feels to get re-acquainted here, at the little lake where we started fishing at this club all those years ago. June the 16th it was, when there was still a close season on the lake and everyone arrived the evening before so they could start fishing on the last stroke of midnight, even if it was just with one symbolic cast. I caught 17 tench that day. Seventeen. That's more than I've caught in 10 trips to Blenheim Palace lake.

I got there early, while Ray was still working out the kinks by doing his yoga routine (and shaking off the effects of Yvonne's birthday party the night before). Despite the forecast, there was no sign of the sun, only a damp mist that hung over the fields, broken by the necks of dozens of bright-eyed alpacas, as the car bounced down the track to the bottom. Not a soul about (unless alpacas have souls) and a wonderful time to be out and about in the world. I wandered over to my favourite corner and baited up with the last embers of my opening day maggots (they'll only last a couple of days indeed - take that, tackle shop owner) then opened the plastic bag of casters to be greeted by a smell so foul, so sweet and mealy that it swept me back to the days when we holidayed with auntie Margaret in the little house next to the piggery. Strewth. I smelled my fingers. How am I going to eat my Ginsters?

Now I've watched my share of John Wilson videos where he cooks up a ground bait concoction of maggots, caster, bran, beer, corn, all the kind of stuff and then balls it up for the fish, but smelling my fingers again and looking at my static float, I just can't see it. No fish is going to want to put that in its mouth.

The float sails away twice in two casts. Both times I strike perfectly and completely miss the fish. It's as if they're trying to eat the bait and spit it out at the same time. After a while I give up and switch to luncheon meat. After the casters, this smells like little pieces of chopped and shaped and mechanically reclaimed heaven. The fish think so too and in quick succession I catch silver bream, roach, rudd and then a couple of nice tench. I've got a set of digital scales my daughter bought me and they're pressed into service for the first time today on the largest of the bream - a good 2lbs 1oz. Lovely.

I fish until the midday sun gets uncomfortable and then pack up. The vile maggots and caster are flung into the pond (interestingly, the little dark frogs that hopped round my feet all morning have gone to town on the luncheon meat but steered clear of the casters - and they say youngsters will eat anything) and I walk round to where Ray's fishing in the opposite corner just in time to see him catch a lovely little tench.
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