Jeff Prest finds himself alone at a fishery and craves someone to talk to! No one cares!
I‘VE been to other fisheries that wouldn’t do wonders for anyone with isolophobia – the fear of being alone – but there was always someone. Another angler, a mere speck on the far side of the lake, maybe, or an old gent sat behind a dusty counter, looking like he wasn’t entirely sure that the War was over, but there was always someone. Today, for the first time in my angling life, there was absolutely no-one. I pulled into a deserted fishery car park, beheld a deserted lake and stepped through the open door of a deserted lodge. And all the while, an autumnal wind raced among the trees and one side of a corrugated metal outbuilding roof, blown free from the rock holding it down, clattered intermittently against the walls beneath. If you, too, are old enough to remember being scared witless by TV’s TheFlaxtonBoys, 50 years ago, you’ll be familiar with the images flashing through my mind at this point. I stood in the lodge and waited for normality to re-assert itself. Any second now, there would be a barking dog, followed by the trudging footsteps of authority. A hand full of discarded leader would appear through the doorway, closely followed by a head voicing the opinion that running a fishery would be a great job if it wasn’t for the fishermen. I’d be offered a cup of tea, opinions on the flies of the week and the earth would once again revolve on its axis. Instead, there remained just wind and a clattering roof. No-one was coming.
Glancing around to make sure I hadn’t overlooked a ‘Closed’ sign somewhere, I noted the honesty box on the table, alongside a small heap of brown envelopes. It’s not the first one I’ve ever encountered; but it is the first one I’ve ever had to use, and its transformation from a quaint artefact of better times into a shrine to conscience, was alarming. They say character is how you behave when no-one’s watching but I now know you can have too much of a good thing. As if God was stood behind me, brandishing a hammer, I stared at the envelope for several seconds before I was satisfied that I had placed not one penny less than the required amount therein. Half-way through putting my details on the front of the envelope, I realised that I was actually striving to use my best handwriting. Much as we moan about referees, there was a lesson here, I think, that football and life generally are rather more awkward when the refereeing is left to us. I began to work my way along the bank, platform by platform, gradually tuning out the sound of the occasional approaching car on the nearby road, each one just a sharp turn away from putting a stop to the strange, MarieCeleste ambience in which I’d immersed myself, made all the more marked by the fact I’d fished here before. A livelier time, that one. Early summer and a full house on hand, to help out with what was a working visit. Lush greenery, animated chatter and a barbecue, if I remember rightly. I fell in love with the place that day and I find myself wrestling with a daft inner romantic upon my return, as my line shoots through falling leaves, towards a jaded panorama of balding branches on the far bank.
No, I had to tell myself, this is not a metaphor for advancing years; you are not symbolically trudging through the ashes of a long-lost romance, wondering what became of her: you are fishing a deserted trout lake, and it might just be starting to get to you. “All right...?” “All right...?” That was it. My one human interaction in three hours. He’d come rumbling down the hill behind me on a quad bike, a dog perched happily behind its handlebars. He’ll either check I’ve paid or demand to know what I’ve done with the bodies, I reckoned. Instead, he made do with that most cursory of pleasantries, before zipping back up the hill, possibly even faster than he descended it. With the stiffening wind, loneliness and gathering dusk taking a genuine toll by now, I imagined him screeching to a halt in the courtyard of some nearby manor house. “THE LAKE, MASTER! THERE’S SOMEONE AT THE LAKE...!!!” A curtain stirs in an upstairs window. “The lake? There’s been no-one at the lake for 30 years. Igor, release the hounds...” It does get to you like that, eventually. The hard-core outdoor type might thrive on glorious solitude but when there are dark, mysterious waters involved, I now realise there’s something reassuring about the distant whirr of another man’s reel, or wind-borne laughter from a lodge. You Stocks regulars, irked by my unease at having to spend a night there alone ( Wadingin TF482) will be rolling your eyes all over again right now, but what can I say? Clearly, where fishing’s concerned, I am more of a social animal than I knew. After an afternoon with just a flapping sheet of corrugated metal for company, I was ready for the road; leaving just one question in my wake. If an angler blanks in the woods and there’s no-one around to see it, does he really blank at all?
“I now realise there’s something reassuring about the distant whirr of another man’s reel, or wind-borne laughter from a lodge.”
A place of my own, viewed through the lodge window.