The aim tonight is to catch a brown trout of legally takeable size – and eat it.
The stretch of river is challenging and small. It does not belong to any angling club and it is bordered by bracken covered common land on one side and the paddock of an expensive country house on the other. All is at the bottom of a steep valley and the banks are densely covered with alder trees and all manner of spiky bushes.
It is a little known stretch of freewater and the fish are all born and bred here. Food is hard won, the water is acidic and the fish do not reach trophy sizes.
The freewater is only about half a mile long then it un-obligingly crosses into the expensive country house grounds. At this point the obligatory ‘No Fishing’ and ‘No Trespassing’ signs are erected to deter anyone who has been brave enough to get this far.
The river (or should I call it a large stream.) is approximately twenty feet wide at this point and generally straight. Depth varies between three feet at the deepest pools to mere inches at the rapidly flowing shallows that form most of the runs.
There are only two or three gaps in the in-penetrable greenery of the banks. The late summer sun shines through these onto the gin clear water.
This is no easy path. I try to keep away from the fish’s skyline and disturb man eating midges from the bracken and tufted grasses. Blue bottles buzz irritatingly towards me from old sheep droppings. This is no sit down, flask and sandwich fishing but comes from ancient stalking and hunting origins.
My rod was made from an aerial off a Second World War tank and is therefore telescopic. I unclip the small hook from the reel and impale a small red brandling worm from the manure heap. The only other attachment is a small lead shot about a foot from the hook.
No float is necessary and I crouch low in the greenery and midges and extend the old tank aerial through a gap in the alder tress above the chuckling waters.
The lowering sun shines onto the water at the point where the pool tails away to the shallows just upstream of me. Midges have worked themselves into a strange ritual over the pool and are flying en masse in an endless belt shape. Occasionally house martins from the colony nesting in the large country house out buildings will come barrelling down the length of the stream plucking the flying insects with delight.
I cast the lively worm upstream into the tail of the pool where it lands with the smallest ripple. The worm drifts back to me in the current in a lifelike manner. It swills around the rocks and pebbles.
The line twitches and the slack rockets tight. Pulse quickens. I lift the old tank aerial in a strike. I feel the wriggle of the fish and see the exciting flash of its silver side as it turns and twists away from me.
The line goes slack. Lost it!
The fish intelligence network for this pool now has all its alarm bells ringing. It is pointless trying here again for at least an hour. I move on.
Eventually I reach the extent of the free water and turn to fish my way back to the start, which is an old packhorse bridge.
With fast fading light and a couple of worms left I cast upstream at my very first location. Wallop! This time the hook strikes properly home and I have him on. I wonder if it is the same fish I touched earlier. He heads straight for the tree roots but has not the body weight or pull to get there. A few seconds later he is in my folding landing net. What a beautiful fish. Glittering in my eye and etched into my memory banks for ever.
Back at home the dog, which had to be left behind as she thinks the stream is utopia, stares longingly out of the window. She dashes around in a frenzy of welcome. “Why, oh why did you leave me?”
The fish is cleaned and put straight under the grill.
In five minutes it is ready. No sauces or seasoning are added. They would spoil the moment.