John Bailey: Always look on the brighter side of life
There aren't many days I walk the streets of Holt without someone from my past bumping into me, eager to say my Renowned Angler's Diary piece of this or that week is or was a load of one thing or another.
It seems my old mates revel in reading my every word, punching the air when they find something that doesn't tally with their recollection of some event deep in our murky piscatorial past.
I can imagine their Wednesday phone calls. 'Seen today's EDP? Old Bingo (goodness knows how I got that nickname forty years back) is at it again. Bloomin' rubbish. It never happened like that.'
Once upon a time (seeing as we're telling a tale) I taught history at the Norwich School and it seemed to me then that there was never a more unreliable discipline. It's not just that history is written by the victors that distorts actuality.
Our memories play us false on a regular basis as well. When I taught, for example, no textbook seemed to know exactly how many ships were involved in the Battle of Trafalgar though I'm sure there will be some hotshot in Holt to prove me wrong there, too!
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But this is about fishing so I'll get back to the quick of it. In the mid 90s I fished for beluga sturgeon on the Ural Delta in Kazakhstan. This was a completely extraordinary experience in an extraordinary place. In some ways, the Delta was not unlike a massive River Thurne system but in a much more lost, dramatic and lonely way.
The huge difference is, of course, that beluga grow to over three thousand pounds which would be one hell of a pike. I was fishing there with great mate, Johnny Jensen from Copenhagen. Now, he swears that one afternoon I was pulled overboard by a fish the size of a planet and that I had to be snatched from the jaws of death. I, personally, have absolutely no recollection whatsoever or even the dimmest memory of this happening at all. So, I try to analyse the areas of my memory that even I realize are blurred.
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How big was my lost Letheringsett eel, for instance, nearly 50 years back? Was it really 10 pounds or so, or was I simply just an excitable kid? When I was worm digging, did it really take me six months or more before I bucketed a thousand lugs on a single tide?
When I played soccer for Blakeney once a year at Great Massingham in the 70s, was I really tussling with a carp in the village pond 10 minutes before kick-off and did I really have to be hauled protesting to the dressing room?
That massive perch Joe Read and I caught one Christmas in the 1970s at Bayfield Lake still baffles me. Who actually was holding the rod? Do you know, I just can't seem to remember that one either.
Or how about Roger Miller's 39-pound pike that he snitched out on my rod in front of my very nose on the 18th December, 1989 at what is now the Kingfisher Lake?
You see, I can remember the date and the weight but not much else. Was I really 30 yards off in the dusky gloom as he always said, or five yards away as I seem to remember?
Did he call to me as my float went under as he maintained or was he silent as the grave as my recollection of the event tells me?
I suppose in the end I'm a writer as much as a fisherman. I have a tale to tell and I never consciously distort a truth but I don't want to bore any reader to death – more than I do already, of course.
I like to dig up memories and stories and give them a bit of a sparkle. In my experience, it always pays to look on the bright and the shiny side of life. And don't forget, you can always read more of my fantasies – not – at www.kingfisherapartments.co.uk.