The last time I went to the river Test, I caught a monster roach - 2.5lbs. Now that's a behemoth of a roach by anyone's standards, but for a river roach, it's even more exceptional. Thus, with hope in my heart, I set out again, this time for a different stretch.
I was in the company of some fine fellows, chaps I knew from the days when we used to fish a small 2.5 acre (there's that number again) lake in deepest Sussex and we'd not all been together since then. Not to say we're fast friends, but we share a simple, happy companionship borne from a shared love of fishing - brothers of the angle in a very true sense.
I'd decided to trot in the morning with maggots and then quiver tip in the afternoon with cheesepaste, the assumption being that my morning would be filled with grayling - and the occasional annoying trout - and my evening with chub until last cast a final, monster roach would make an appearance.
It was almost impossible to float fish on the main river because of geography. Yes, bloody geography. The position of the bright sun, the time of the year, the direction of the flow, all these conspired to make trotting a singularly blinding exercise. The float bobbed merrily down the river, the 4lb line stripped off the centrepin as it should, but after a foot or two, everything disappeared in a shimmering mess of sunlight. Impossible.
Defeated I retired to a side stream where conditions were much friendlier and almost immediately began to get bites. (By now my companions had caught some grayling and lost many more - including a decent chub. I meanwhile, caught three minnows, one after the other. I'm not being figurative here, either. These were not small fish of some other species, these were actual minnows; of the kind I haven't caught since I last ledgered for chub on the Stour (but that's a story for another day).
We repaired to the pub for lunch and the returned to the river quite refreshed. A short reccy to the quagmire of a 'car park' confirmed that yes, my car was mired in the deep mud and that yes too, I'd driven in the wrong way. Stu and Rich stood to one side, shouting instructions and encouragement as I eased the old girl out backwards. Amazingly, she came free first time. A good omen, I thought.
Back at the side stream I hooked a grayling. Not a big one, but definitely a grayling, which then came off on a gravel bank on the far side of the stream. Bugger.
Three casts later, there was another knock on the float and this little beauty appeared. He'd have made a lovely grayling, but I was nevertheless delighted (and relived he was lip hooked). No blank for me.
Almost last cast Rich lost a decent pike in the main river, to go with the various fish that had evaded Stu and we all wandered off to the car park for sausage rolls and chocolate.
Not a red letter day then, but a nice reminder of why we do it. See you soon chaps.
Rob Beattie is the author of several popular fishing books. He's also a regular contributor to Waterlog magazine.