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Spoke too soon

So I'm driving my mum home after a very nice weekend when she's come down to see my daughter's musical and we've generally had fun. We're talking about fishing because I've just finished a book and anyway, after dropping her home I'm going to turn straight round and see if I can't prise a chub or two out of the river in Surrey on my return trip.

"Nope, I haven't blanked this season." I look half-heartedly around the car for something wooden to touch but being a modern Japanese thing, there's nothing, so I smile and touch the plastic dashboard instead. Can't mean anything, can it? Five hours later, as I squelch back across the the weir - fishless of course - I am of a different opinion, and I won't make that mistake again.

I've never seen so much mud. The trees were covered in it. Even the passersby were mud spattered. even the German woman and her ridiculous child who stood next to one of England's prettiest stretches of canal and shouted at each other because one of them could see something and the other could not, were covered in mud. (Though some in their mouths wouldn't have gone amiss).

Anyway. No Wellingtons for me. A pair of stout Doc Martins instead, which turned out to be about as much use skates on a frozen pond. Add to that the fact that the path pixies had been out in force creating trails that disappear or wind round in huge loops to deposit you inches from where you started except now you're sweating, scratched to bits and - yes - covered in mud.

It took me an hour to find somewhere to fish. By then I'd negotiated half a dozen 'paths' nearly been run down twice by cyclists on the towpath and almost put my own eye out. I'd also struck up a conversation with a fellow angler with the most bizarre hat I've ever seen (think Multi Coloured Swapshop) and a dog that didn't so much run up and down the banks as stand there vibrating at enormous speed. I thought it was actually going to explode at one point.

Anyway, I found a spot that was marginally less muddy than the rest of the river - i.e. only swimming in mud as opposed to being part of an actual mudslide - and settled down. The usual. Luncheon meat, size four, 8lb line, Arlsey bomb, short trail, 12' Lake Specialist. No bites in swim one (pictured here with the rod) but one or two good knocks further downstream (I'd caught a barbel there about three years previous). A guy turned up, scouting swims and he looked so much more comfortable than I felt - decent wellies, long socks, just neat and tidy, looking like he could sit down on the mud and it wouldn't touch him, but sort of slide off somewhow.

Anyway, I made the mistake of moving on and didn't get another bite until it was almost too dark to see the rod. I felt the fish for a second and then the hook came out. I took it as a sign and packed up.

When I got home the bannisters and radiators were covered in washing so there was nowhere to lay out my rubber cushion which was caked in you-know-what. So I put it over the back of my office chair and forgot about it until this morning when I finished this entry and leaned back in satisfaction. Now my hair is also covered in mud.


The two Sams

It was an hour into the trip - more of a quick raid really - that I realised I'd been fishing with someone called Sam before. I took my nephew Sam fishing a few years back and we both froze to death on the shores of a bleak Sussex day ticket water while all around us caught fish. It was a difficult day to explain.

This occasion sees me with an older Sam who's been on at me to take him coarse fishing. He's a sea angler and during the course of the afternoon will repeatedly point up the contrast between the two styles of fishing, finding each mis-match more hilarious than the last. He says he can barely see the hook, let alone put bait on it.

Still, the important thing was history did not repeat itself and not only did we get a few bites, but we both caught fish. The pond is incredibly reliable during the spring and summer but around October something happens and the fish become pernickity. Sometimes they don't show up at all. I thought this was going to be one of those afternoons, despite the fact that it's extraordinarly warm for November, and with only about half an hour of daylight left, there was still nothing happening. Then Sam caught a rudd, and then I caught a tench and a bigger rudd. We both got a few more bites and then then sun set - for about 20 minutes it looked at though the sky was on fire. Fantastic.

The return is already being planned. A 14' beachcaster, line as thick as my wrist, and apparently I'll definitely be able to see the hook...

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