Far Bank Too late at clas­sic fishery...

Have you ever ar­rived at a clas­sic fishery too late for the party? Re­gard­less of the present, it never hurts to dream, says Dom Gar­nett

Angling Times (UK) - - WELCOME -

WHAT is it with an­glers and past glo­ries? For what­ever rea­son, the fish­ing is in­evitably never as good as it was 20 years ago.

Whether it’s over­fish­ing, cor­morants or im­mi­grants (ba­si­cally, delete as ap­pli­ca­ble), ev­ery­thing ap­pears to be go­ing down­hill. And yet the sto­ries, along with our hopes, sur­vive.

There is al­ways a keen sense of ‘what if?’ sur­round­ing any wa­ter that ap­pears in the his­tory books. Such is the case with Cas­tle Howard, which pro­duced a Bri­tish record pike of over 40lb back in 1988. Lo­cals will tell you it is a des­o­late shadow of its for­mer self – but they al­ways do, don’t they?

I had been on the road re­cently to at­tend a kayak­ing event and, in spite of the usual re­ports, had felt a gen­uine ex­cite­ment to cast at the cas­tle and meet up with pike ex­pert Steve Row­ley – a plea­sure in it­self.

It’s not every day you get to fish a vast coun­try es­tate, com­plete with bleed­ing great man­sion. To this day on such wa­ters I half ex­pect to hear a warn­ing shot or ap­proach­ing dogs at any mo­ment.

The place is in­sanely deca­dent, to put it mildly. Amid the hordes of tourists tak­ing self­ies are Greek stat­ues, gush­ing foun­tains, and fol­lies that look like they were made by the Il­lu­mi­nati.

And then there is the leg­endary lake. It is weedy, beau­ti­ful and these days avail­able only to those us­ing the camp site.

The stocks of fancy trout and the vast bream shoals are gone. And yet both Steve and I had that twitch­ing sort of ex­cite­ment usu­ally re­served for small chil­dren and dogs. Could there still be a mon­ster in the lake? Only one way to find out.

It was the sort of place you would fish just for the hell of it, even if you knew it only held jacks. But there we were, throw­ing lures, com­par­ing notes and giv­ing way to wild spec­u­la­tion. Be­cause wa­ter does this to an­glers, even those as ex­pe­ri­enced as Steve Row­ley.

The pike in our minds were very dif­fer­ent to those will­ing to hit our lures, ad­mit­tedly.

Steve had three jacks that went air­borne and gave us that mag­i­cal an­tic­i­pa­tion – the one that tried to de­mol­ish my lure wasn’t 43 cen­time­tres, let alone 43 pounds. But in that mo­ment of con­tact, the mind races.

Need­less to say, we didn’t bank a new record. But places such as Cas­tle Howard do lead me to think we should ex­pect a lit­tle less and dream a lit­tle more. Be­cause be­low the sur­face, so lit­tle of our fish­ing is truly about land­ing mon­sters or writ­ing his­tory.

The dream it­self is the thing, even where fact trumps fan­tasy.

Cast­ing in hope at Cas­tle Howard.

No records to­day, but fish sel­dom sim­ply dis­ap­pear... or so we like to imag­ine.

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