It's fair to say that I've been pretty stressed out recently. First there was a book to finish on a very tight deadline and then some other stuff in my life that seemed to ratchet everything up a few extra notches. Add to this the fact that I've not been by the water since January, and you have a recipe for a very unhappy angler.
Yet I almost didn't go again. I knocked off early from work, came home, took some bait out of the freezer and then went upstairs to lay on the bed for 20 minutes - a quick power nap. (My naps are becoming things of legend - I can't seem to sleep at night but can nap to an Olympic standard...). But the weather - though overly windy for my liking - was warm and overcast and I know a little pond nearby which has plenty of tree cover, and can usually provide a sheltered spot, no matter which direction the hoolie is blowing from. It's also a really easy venue - car park right next to the pond, platforms in each swim - in fact so easy that it's the pond my friend Ray had in mind when he described going for a 'pensioner fish'. Just nice and easy.
There was one other angler there when I arrived and he'd done well, catching seven tench since 1.00pm and getting plenty of bites. He was tucked into the corner so I went one swim round on the other side of the big tree and loose fed some bits of prawns into the margins by the lilies. I tackled up with the John Wilson travel rod, Youngs Purist II centrepin, 4lb line, and handmade float from Benson Mallard. I knicked a bit of prawn onto a size 12 and flicked the bait out. The float settled in the water - a bit low for my liking but I could soon fix that - and then disappeared. I struck. Nothing.
This happened several more times until I replace a BB with a No. 6 shot so a bit more of the float was showing. After that, the float rode in the water as pretty as a picture. Lilies on the right, reeds on the left, an overhanging tree and suddenly, a speedster tench on the hook. This was the first of eight fish caught over the next three hours, along with two handfuls of tiny perch. The tench fought like demons, haring this way and that - they certainly knew all about the snags on my left - and I lost two quite large fish. The JW isn't quite pokey enough for these kind of close quarters battles and I think next time I might try an alternative.
But the main lesson learned tonight was an old one. When in doubt, go fishing. As I sat beneath the tree and watched the sun go down, staring at the float and listening to the sheep in the field behind me, I felt the pressures and stresses of everyday life begin to melt away, and at the end of the session - biggest fish about 3.5lbs - I felt more refreshed than if I'd had a full night's sleep. Fishing'll do that for you. If you let it.
Rob Beattie is the author of several popular fishing books. He's also a regular contributor to Waterlog magazine.