Last year the fishing closed season passed with a numbing slowness. This year it hasn’t felt the same. I think the reason for this is that the back end of last season was pretty hopeless. The rivers were so high with all the rain we had and were almost entirely unfishable.
I went fishing only a handful of times in the first three months of 2013
and indeed can only recall two of those trips . One was in mid-February and because of either rain or snow it had been a month since I’d travelled to the river. The mundanities of life had also got in the way of this, as had a rather extended physical impediment (I couldn’t walk properly and wonky legs are not a good idea at the water-side).
But at last the opportunity to go was clear of obstacles even if the weather looked decidedly shakey. The day dawned and though it was somewhat soggy I had plenty of appropriate clothing.
I had recently received an angling T-shirt and since it had been accompanied by a note hoping it would bring me luck, that too seemed to be appropriate clothing.
So I set off early, not as early as I’d initially planned, because I decided to delay whilst I waited to see just how the weather was going to shape up. Until I realised that it wasn’t and set off anyway cold, but optimistic.
Clomping along to the bankside I spotted a penny in the grass. Another portent of luck surely? I picked it up and slipped it in my pocket. It had been drizzling all the way there, so the first thing I did was get all Ray Mears and use a poncho and a stick to rig up a waterproof covering for my gear to stop it getting sodden.
I fished through the drizzle and then through the snow that replaced it. I’ve never been fishing whilst it was snowing before and to be honest it wasn’t too bad. Quite atmospheric. Certainly better than the drizzle. I caught five fish all bar one a good size for the stretch.
There was no wind and so no wind-chill, which meant I could fish without gloves (always preferable), but nevertheless I began to notice that my core temperature was dropping.
At this point I realised that I was probably in the fringe area of angling where it starts to merge into the hinterlands of mental illness and so, somewhat reluctantly, set off home.
The second trip that sticks in my mind was actually the last day of the season. After leaving work early I made for the river nearest to home.
Last year I hadn’t noticed any other anglers about, but this year there were a few. No doubt they hoped that as it hadn’t rained for a spell the river might be low enough to provide a last chance of a fish.
Arriving at around four I planned to fish on till it got dark. It was pretty cold and the water was running high and fast, so I was not hopeful.
I had one bite.
I missed it.
It was freezing.
I wanted to give up.
But it was the last day of the season.
A quick root around in my bag produced a very small bottle of brandy that I’d bought in a chav-haunted convenience store on the way home from my last trip. It had warmed me up then and did so again as I took a nip from time to time. Dusk was falling and I was staring dumbly at the vermillion tip of my float, that had just begin to glow in the half-light and was pondering how as light fades some colours appear for a short while to become more intense.
At this point I looked up.
Through the open woodland on the opposite bank I saw a white shape. At no more than six feet off the ground a barn owl was heading straight towards me. Halfway across the water it banked to my right, rising slightly to hover over a patch of rough grass and dead nettle stalks a few yards down the footpath. It hung there as I stared mesmerised and continued to do as it flew off and away across the fields, rapidly, but at the same time somehow, in slow motion.
This was a magical encounter with amazing creature that flew and hovered in complete silence and it seemed to be a good omen to mark the end of the season.
So after one last cast with my body warmed with a last nip and my soul cheered by a sublime avian encounter I packed up and made for home.
As I say unlike last year this closed season has flown by. As swiftly and as silently as that owl in fact.
But now, with really just a matter of hours till I head off once more to the water, I feel the excitement surging within me and I can only hope for some of last season’s magic and madness.
The weather though may make it tend towards the latter