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Memories by the netful as yet another fishing year slips away

06:30 22 October 2014

Sarah catches the last Wye barbel of another happy year.

Sarah catches the last Wye barbel of another happy year.

Archant

Just last night I left the River Wye for probably the last time in 2014.

The colours of this magnificent valley were breathtaking in the low-slanting autumn sunlight. The river, too, still sparkled with all its sheen of summer and I’d just returned a splendid eight-pound barbel for one of my guided guests. It, too, glowed, crimson-finned, chestnut-bodied, a reflection of the autumnal world around it.

I was saddened, deep in thought, amazed to think how the months have slipped by since June 16 and my first, bright morning on the river there.

Every angler of a certain age will know exactly where I’m coming from. They will know how time slips by, faster than line off a spool when a barbel begins its charge.

I’ve lost good angling friends this fishing year and their premature end reinforces how precious our time is here on earth and how every moment, every fishing moment especially, is dusted with gold, never to be repeated exactly and never to be forgotten certainly.

My tench fishing is over. I probably won’t see a big rudd on my hook this calendar year. I doubt whether carp will feature again either and there will be no more wild river browns until the spring coming. Sad days, but happy days, too.

True, as I get older, the aches and pains seem intensified by cold winter mornings, but I don’t think for a moment that my spirit is in the least bit dimmed when it comes to days after big river chub and the promise of monstrous winter pike. A door closes, a door opens.

On the weary 200-mile journey home from the Wye, I thought about what I’ve learned over the summer and autumn just gone. About how spooky chub can be in crystal water and how, since the advent of otters, they’re scared of their own shadows. I’ve been amazed, too, how roach have managed to survive in the face of everything and how they realistically offer serious sport these coming winter months.

I’ve been astonished by tench and their ability to learn, their growing suspicion of any method used more than once or twice in their swim. I’ve been constantly confounded by carp, aware that they know what I’m about to try next before I’ve even dreamed it up myself.

It’s been a good year. The conservation front has never looked better. I’ve talked about the Environment Agency and its river restoration plans, which are nothing short of revolutionary.

In a week or two I want to talk a lot more about the River Glaven and the wonders that have been created along it. And I use that word advisedly.

And what about Dr Carl Sayer and his Crucian Project and the success that it is already showing?

And what of James Harrold down at Rockland, throwing his cap into the crucian ring and showing how a commercial water can be sensitively managed to the good of fish and fishermen alike? These are just a handful of examples of how people are taking water seriously once again, just when many of us were thinking that no one actually cared a jot.

This is disjointed, I know, but it is a diary and it does reflect a stream of thoughts as they flow into my consciousness.

And perhaps the best memory was one of the last ones of these warm months.

Just the other morning, hidden with a guest, deep in the Wye jungle, a kingfisher darted upstream and settled on the middle section of his rod for a full 25 seconds. It bobbed its head, it shuffled its feet, it cocked an eye straight at us, yawned and said goodbye in a startling flash of blue.

The kingfisher on the angler’s rod is an old cliché but, in all my years waterside, it’s only the third time I’ve ever seen it happen.

My guy got it. He was enraptured. Even a barbel half an hour later could not surpass the ecstasy of that kingfisher moment.

Happy days? You’re joking. More brilliant than I can begin to describe.

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