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Back on the horse...

I nearly bottled it. Driving back from Bucks through sheets of rain (and only a poncho in the boot because the brolly's still under Marion's bed) I just thought I'd leave it. I'd get soaked, the banks would be beyond treacherous - and recalling my last visit, well... But as my brother had joked earlier: "Back on the horse," and as I drove south the skies cleared, my mood lifted and I thought - why not? I'd return to the same swim, fish the same way with the same bait (some things will never change) and hopefully, catch some nice roach and rudd.

What a difference five weeks makes. Last time I was here I could barely get in the car my knee was so knackered (plump actually, like a strange knotted fungus) yet here I am, almost tripping gaily down the hill to the lake - which despite expectations is empty - and then opening the gate before stepping gingerly onto the bank proper and looking around suspiciously.

Hmm.This doesn't look slippery at all. In fact, it's just like any other bank that gets wet from time to time so that when some eejit...etc.

There's been talk that the unpredictable weather ("it's hot!" "it's cold!") has confused the silver fish so that they might either feed like the fury or be off spawning, but I'm hopeful because it's warm, overcast and there's no-one here to see me fail. On such an evening, what could go wrong? Well, there are no bites for a start. I remember to feed little and often, I move the float around the swim, I lift it and let the bait drop, but there's nothng happening here. The Canada geese are having fun though. It's really hard to tell if they're fighting or asking each other out - but whichever it is, there's a lot of screeching and flapping about, flying off as if they don't care, then wheeling back to renew hostilities. Of course it doesn't help that to a human they all look the same, so there are probably all sorts of subtleties that are escaping me.

But what's this? I get one of those lovely deliberate bites that looks as though someone's leaned in and rubbed part of the float out really quickly - and then clicked 'Undo' so it pops up again. Then there's amother nudge and the float wanders off. It's a smashing little rudd. not as golden as the one I caught last time, but very welcome. I re-bait and re-cast. After a few minutes there's a similar bite, though if anything it's more deliberate. I strike and things start to occur.

First, it's clear that this is a much bigger fish. Second, it's clear that it's half-asleep, because it feels like a wet bream in washing machine and third - crikey-heck - it's woken up.

Now I've never been one to trouble myself too much with the technicalities of reel drag, but for some reason I remember setting up properly this time - probably because I recall colliding with a carp some years ago in almost the same spot. So blow me down if the reel isn't set almost correctly when chummie wakes up and starts parading round the swim as if he's serious about getting off. And he nearly does. It's like real fishing this - the sound of the drag, the reel being wound fast and hard in short bursts, the grabbing of the landing net to shoot it forward into the water ready for the moment when the fish is coaxed towards the bank, hooking the rod butt under the arm slightly to relieve the strain on the elbow before - bugger me - he's off again, haring over to the left towards the reeds, then back again towards the lilies on the other side. All the while the rod - all 15' of it - is thumping up and down and up and down. Then I see it - a big common carp - and I sneak a look at the landing net, then back at the carp, then back to the net again. Oh, oh. Expecting silver fish I've bought my Adur landing net and as I eventually ease the fish over the edge I watch as it keeps coming and coming until there's no more net left to hold it. Fortunately, right at that point, there's no more fish either and the tail folds neatly into the net.

Up on the bank I unhook and photograph it. I don't possess any scales (there's never been much point) so I estimate the weight. More than 10lbs and less than 15lbs. I give myself 12lbs, which makes it my joint biggest fish ever. He goes back and I fish on, but my heart's no longer in it. There's no point anymore. The lake has given me more than I could have hoped for so I pack up and ride my horse slowly up the field and back to the car, stopping at the top to feed him an apple. Then everything goes into the car, the gate opens, I drive out, stop, close and re-lock the gate and return to the car. Minutes later I'm back in the world.



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