Before moving on to the main business of this entry - that lovely looking common further down the page - indulge me for a moment and turn your attention to the first photograph. Not to the lake shimmering in the April sunlight (though that is a fine sight) nor to the rod (a 12ft Conoflex as it happens, swapped for a Psion Series 5 with the angling writer and photographer Henry Gilbey) nor the reel (out of sight, but a solid TFG Gear centrepin, stocked with Maxima 6lb line) but to the rod rest. We've been constant companions for over 20 years. Miraculously never abandoned by mistake still stuck in the bank, its charmingly-named thumbscrew replaced at least once, forever there at the bottom of the creel when needed. Solid, dependable, and now lost forever.
Everywhere's fishing slowly at the moment it seems, probably the water is still too cold and the fish haven't started to liven up. This was my sixth trip in recent months - three bites, one fish - but this lake has done well for me in the past, so I arrive full of hope. The first angler I talk to puts a stop to that. He's had nothing all day he moans. Neither has anyone else. 'Well that bloke up the far end got one just now. I've tried everything,' he says gloomily, surveying a tackleshop's worth of bait laid out around him car-boot style.
Of course, he doesn't know that I carry a secret weapon - miniature Patagonian scallops, recommended by my brother as a true delicacy but to my palate tasting of nothing less than a dose of hideous halitosis. Seriously, I ate about three and threw the rest away; here's hoping the fish aren't as fussy.
I tackle up as you see in the picture, chop up a few scallops and lob them in under the tree to my right. I use a tiny float, cocked by two No 6 shot and a size 10 hook - you know, for the scallop. The float settles, sits prettily in the water, I adjust my trousers and look back up again to see the float disappear enthusiastically, tugged under with gusto by some scallop-loving fish. It turns out to be nice little perch of about 10oz. I return it to the water, thinking to myself - this is a doddle. Don't know what everyone's moaning about.
Of course, nothing happens for the next two hours. Absolutely nothing. No fish move, no bites, nothing at all. I wander up and down the bank listlessly, thinking of that old football saying: "I can't take the despair - it's the hope I can't stand."
I switch to a prawn and immediately get a huge bite which turns out to be a feisty 7lb common. As I strike, the line becomes tangled around the rod rest which is jerked into the air and bobs around in front of me like a Walt Disney cartoon magic wand. It's utterly distracting me from playing the fish, so give the rod a jerk and watch as it plops into the water, never to be seen again. Returning to the carp, this thing is fighting really hard and is a good test for the 12 footer and the 'pin. Twenty minutes or so later, the same thing happens - except this time I can't get the fish's head up for about five minutes and it circles sullenly round the swim before rousing itself to make a few deep runs. In the end I slide the net under this 11lb beauty.
After that I catch another even bigger carp of 13lbs which I neglect to photograph. Packing up, I take a last look in the water, but the rod rest has gone forever, sunk into the bottom of the lake. Briefly I picture the lake at dawn, the surface stirs, and an arm emerges, holding the rod rest high, like Excalibur, trumpets blare, Vaughan Williams strings surge. It's a beautiful sight. Back home l buy a replacement (two for a tenner off eBay)...oh fickle fisherman.
Rob Beattie is the author of several popular fishing books. He's also a regular contributor to Waterlog magazine.