Countryfile Magazine - - Mackenzie Crook -

I can’t really call my­self a metal de­tec­torist. Metal de­tect­ing, like fish­ing, is what my wife calls one of my ‘imag­i­nary hob­bies’. That is to say, I have all the equip­ment and know-how but I hardly ever go and when I do I hardly ever find/catch any­thing. But I cer­tainly do a lot of think­ing about my imag­i­nary hob­bies. If ever I re­mem­ber a dream, it al­most al­ways in­volves fish. Not colour­ful, shim­mery fish but large, mud-brown fresh­wa­ter fish, usu­ally seen from above at the bot­tom of a deep pool. This comes from a child­hood spent star­ing from bridges and banks into the river Dar­ent in Kent.

To this day I can’t pass close to a river with­out stop­ping for a bit and gaz­ing in.

A break­down of my life’s sta­tis­tics would show a quite un­set­tling num­ber of hours – days even – star­ing at rivers. I find them hyp­no­tis­ing. And I can spot fish where other peo­ple can only see shad­ows.

I knew ev­ery inch of about a mile stretch of the Dar­ent when I was grow­ing up. I knew the shal­low, peb­bly stretches where you could catch cray­fish and miller’s thumbs, the mys­te­ri­ous dark pools where the chub would lurk and I knew where the wa­ter voles and king­fish­ers nested.

But what I was al­ways hop­ing to see was a pike. And when I oc­ca­sion­ally did it was thrilling.

There was a leg­endary mon­ster of a pike, which lived in an in­ac­ces­si­ble reedy stretch of the river un­der the viaduct. I only saw it once, when it ven­tured up­stream. It was im­mense, four foot long, a dark tor­pedo slic­ing through the wa­ter. Over the years, as I’ve grown, I’ve ex­ag­ger­ated the size of the pike to keep the story ex­cit­ing. To be hon­est, I’m not even con­vinced I did see it. It might have been one of my fish dreams. Ig­nore this bit.

ABOVE A stretch of the River Dar­ent in Kent, where Macken­zie Crook whiled away the hours as a child LEFT Did a mon­strous pike in­habit the wa­ters there?

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