Tuesday, 8 August 2017

ghost fish

It's not supposed to be raining
and it's coming down in stair rods. I've reached that saturation point when you can't really get any wetter. It sounds weird but it's almost a cosy kind of feeling. 

The rain drops are such pretty ornamentation, bejeweling the rocks and the leaves and the rim of my cap. They change the atmosphere of this place, dampening the other sounds of the river and releasing the heady scents of soil and  vegetation.  A still closer intimacy is brought to the tiny little stream as we huddle under a drooping canopy of willow and alder in summer leaf. 

Big raindrops now, splatting down on the surface, breaking up the glassy glides so that I think we may become less visible to the trout, otherwise easily spooked in the low, clear August flow. 

There is a low distant rumble. We listen intently and figure that it's just a farm wagon passing over a steel cattle grid in the lane a mile away behind us. 

So we fish on, hoping for a take. We're fishing the River Arrow on the Welsh border. It's a new river for me and it's E's first time ever with tenkara, so for her everything is new. We arrive with high expectations which seem at first borne out, when on her first cast, E connects with a real lunker. We watch the trout twisting and diving for the near tree roots, and I'm laying on my stomach reaching down with my scoop net from the high bank. The fish is a mere foot away but E can't quite angle back the rod which tangles in the low branches. I manage to grasp the tippet to draw the fish to the net, but too soon. He is strong and as he  lunges away from the net we part company. 

When the line goes limp there is moment of bewilderment. As if, by staring with slack jawed incredulity at the space once occupied by the fish, time will somehow reverse and the fish will be reconnected to our line.  

This is rapidly replaced by the sickening realisation of a good fish lost, all the more painful because it belonged to my daughter and I blame my self. And the loss becomes more acute the longer we fish on without even a take. 


Sometimes I think we remember most those fish we lose and I sure have plenty of those memories. They grow in the retelling, both in size and in drama. But every angler must have one fish I think, whose bitter loss stands out, burning bright in the memory.  

In 'Blood Knots' Luke Jennings calls them ghost fish. After forty years my own personal spectre haunts me still and as we talk and fish I begin to wonder how long E's will stay. I see her determination as we fish on through the rain and I see my self there too. 

There is another of those low rumbles, this time it's nearer. It's not a farm vehicle, it's thunder, moving closer. Rods put down, it's time to retreat. There is always tomorrow says E.    

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