Wad­ing in

Jeff Prest finds him­self alone at a fish­ery and craves some­one to talk to! No one cares!

Trout Fisherman (UK) - - Contents - Jeffrey Prest: The TF Fea­tures Edi­tor on what’s caught his at­ten­tion this month.

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.

Hon­esty

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.

Metaphor

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.

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