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The River Where?

Well, we've been here before, scrambling through eyebrow-high stinging nettles and strange rhubarby plants with big pink flowers on them trying to find the river. I know it's over here somewhere because even a river can't change its spots that much. Mind you, I didn't manage to fish here at all last season, so you never know.

These boots don't help much. By the time I've slogged over the weir (must fish that this season) I've got a humming feeling on my left heel and right ankle as whatever ingredients that go to make a blister (baby soft flesh and unforgiving rubber methinks) begin to mix a-fatefully. Still, the river's here somewhere and eventually I find it, emerging not where I wanted to be, but about ten feet further downstream. My original target swim doesn't exist any more. It's gawn. The result is that there's not so much space to work with so I struggle back up the bank a bit and tackle up. Nice big lead, 12lb line - looks a bit weedy - and a size 4 hook. Bait will be a piece of luncheon meat the size of a baby's fist.

First cast is lobbed into the middle of the swim and I settle down on the mat. Everything's in position. I've taken my shirt and am using it as a foot rest, the wretched boots are off and my toes are wriggling in the summer heat. I'm about to take a swig of water when the rod thumps left hard, stops, then thumps again. I strike and feel a heavy resistance. There's a flash of gold just under the surface and then everything goes slack. I reel in the empty hook. Arse, as we anglers say, that's probably bollocksed the swim. Although I know better, I still fish on for another hour without a bite.

After that I move downstream and after trying several paths down to the river that just peter out, arrive below what used to be the sandbank swim. The bank is long gone, the fallen tree that used to dominate the swim has been swept by the current away to the far bank where it's become an irrevelance. Shame - it was a great feature.

The water in front of me is shallow but then goes dark, indicating depth, so I try the same tactics and cast the bait to the far edge of the deeper water and then twitch it round carefully. I get half a dozen hit-and-run bites of the kind you associate with teenage chub...all flash and gobby impatience. Can't hit a single one.

With forty minutes of light left, I wander back upstream (by now my feet are killing me) and return to the original swim. First cast gets this lovely little three pounder. Second cast a smooth, dark jack pike of about the same size. He slips back down the bank and into the water before I can take his photograph. This is a shame because limping back across the weir I realise that he's the biggest pike I've ever caught. No kidding.

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