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Safety Net

I'm painfully aware of a pattern that has developed over the last few seasons, whereby I indulge in plenty of fishing-related razzle-dazzle from the 16th to the end of the month, only to tail off badly by the beginning of July. I'm thus determined to go fishing.

However, the weather's been so repellant recently that I haven't felt like wetting a line, so when Sunday dawns bright and cheerful, I reckon I can make a break for it at around tea time. I go off vacation house hunting with my friend George for a few hours in the morning and we pass right by the little lane that curls down towards the farm where the club has one of its lakes. I narrow my eyes meaningfully as we hum by in his Fiat Cordoba - I shall return later and lay waste to your tench.

After lunch I fall asleep reading Sheringham's Fly Fishing Memories and Morals, a wonderful book bought for me by my brother and then set aside because it was about trout fishing. Which goes to show how much I know. I picked it up a week or two back and have been enthralled ever since; what a writer. So, when my wife raises me from my snooze I decide to go - after all, that's what HTS would do. Out with the old cane rod and centrepin reel, grab a few floats, some fuel for the kettle, water, a cup and spoon and - to prove my modernising credentials - a couple of sachets of Nescafe Cappuccino, a fiendish froth introduced to me by my mum. It saves taking any milk you see.

I grab the landing net which has been drying outside, furl it up, and lean it next to the kitchen door while I get my little bait box from the outside window sill. I load up with luncheon meat, get everything together - including a new camera, more of which next time - and almost trip off to the car.

It's an easy drive, past Lewes prison and then down country lanes until I reach the farm. There's a slight moment of panic when I remember that they've put a padlock on the gate, but I've got my club card and that turns out to have the number on the front, so I ease down the track (the 323 seems to sit lower in the field than my old 626) and then coast down to the water's edge. There are plenty of cars there but most will be here to fish the larger of the two lakes, which is where the carp are. I climb out, open the boot, pull out the rod and landing net handle, get my shirt and waistcoat, sling the creel over one shoulder, grab the kettle in the same hand, and reach down for the landing net - which is still leaning by the kitchen door.

I think about it for fully five minutes, but there are beautiful tench here and lovely little crucian carp and they deserve better than me trying to fumble them to the bank with my hand. So I put everything back in the car, connect the iPod again, turn the car round and head on up the field. I wonder whether my fellow anglers noticed me arrive and then depart. I undo the padlock and drive through the open gate, stop the car, close the gate, snap the padlock shut and give the combination a nasty twirl. On the podcast, Melvyn Bragg is talking about Siegfried Sassoon and I'm going home.

Which is why I'm sitting here typing this with a can of Strongbow by my side, instead of enjoying the early evening in the company of tench and crucian carp and a cappuccino. Am I pissed off? Yes. Did I do the right thing? Absolutely.


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