Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Fishing In The Company Of Epiphany Proudfoot


the road to wales is a cosmic highway, littered with giant pumpkins and louis cyphre filling stations. my soundtrack for the way home was 'angel-heart' with the immortal line, "so you know johnny favourite after all?", "yes, he was my father". but before that was the morning after where i felt like harry angel being warned off with the dogs, "you listen and you listen good mister". i took myself off to gromain. a faster stretch than llanstephan with deep pools and boulders everywhere. i was looking for wyndham-barnes' seat, a piece of rock with an arthurian throne carved into it. its magical powers give you a grayling every cast. it wasn't hard to find, the water was up and the seat half submerged, but i managed a grayling on a john richardson float and a piece of flake. the day grew darker with each hour, the hills in the distance encased in rolling mist. when your caravan is on the royal military mine will be in the hills. i went down to the tail of the pool under stephen marsh-smith's house and trotted off the boards. at dusk a chub which took off like a salmon and brought stephen out of his house and down the steps in expectation. it was the fish i lost on the kennet, in fact it was the one i've been losing all summer, mine at last. a holy grail of sorts, the turning of the season in more senses than one. i fished onto dusk and met up again with terry thomas. he'd had a 4lb chub, too. we struck our rods and drove back through the mountains past smoking chimneys, barking dogs and brooding peaks to the nine quid curry house on the outskirts of newport.

north wind all week, flocks of starlings on the chimney pots.

and a chicken from the woods on the birdtable


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Half - Time & Bare Spools


ah, that road to wales, beetroot 66. all that's missing from round here is that iron bridge...and maybe the wye going under it. but it's october brings wales and normandy into line, like the final eclipse, when the moon's like that dace in your hand, when we wish we'd all been taught by clive gammon.
i've had no fishing for a week, grounded with dipswitch and horn failure, not a disease, the landrover, got no lights. last blank on penelope pit and i was bricoling two hours with the mechanism at midnight, trying to get just the low beam on without indicators, trying to whittle sticks the right shape to poke into the switches. i did get home, seeing the world like a magic lantern show on a ghost train. always the only vehicle, and for once i only lit up half the badger's eyes and the bats didn't go for the headlamps.

in spring i baited a bare patch down the garden with pumpkin seed. peered over the cabbages the other day and saw a few bigguns, rolling on their stems, orange bellied, big as cinderella's midnight carriage. rushed to the barn to get the gear. had this one out first cut, 42lbs it went, a right plumber's halloweaner:

night rains are cold now, moon like merlin's scythe slashing off leaves. any mud and it won't dry before april. you'll be piking soon down sunbury weir, and we're all left wondering about that monster chub you lost under david jones oak. i'll go back to writing my novel once the clocks change, thermometer watching, rods at the ready. new dipswitch tomorrow, back fishing by monday. planning the snow carp, rumours of frost

and there'll be birds on the bird table


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Bridge Over The River Wye


to the far off shire, over the severn bridge and through the brecon beacons to builth for the angling writers weekend. super furries 'mountain people' on the stereo. memories and mushrooms everywhere, the unicorn's caravan over the next ridge. rumours of bob's brother and wild carp at llandrindod. dual language signs, dark skies at noon, your welsh novel on every shelf, small towns with methodist halls full of brechtian auctions. pints of brains. the next morning an early escape to the wye, stretching away into infinity, a tree lined river vanishing into mist, the longest aisle, each swim the oldest pew. autumn rain filling salmon pools, trees dripping in ancient woods and the calls of wrens, woodpeckers and jays. the water from the deepest springs, to wade in it is enough, to put a float through it is overwhelming. james of ealing never made coarse rods for the wye, it was a salmon river until only a few years ago and now it is being opened up like the midwest. so its the kennet perfection, my battered rapidex and a john richardson avon. shoals of dace, each fish touching a pound, like a silver hoard from under the stones.

a voice in the trees, and terry thomas arrives, the king of caerleon,

the man who was taught at school by clive gammon and is now his closest friend. we fish for chub in the dusk and lose a monster in the roots of a magic tree.

merlin on the birdtable


Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Tomb Of The Unknown Angler


your photos always peel like churchbells from a far-off shire, pasties and mackeson, "the last of england". your market town tackle-shops are worth their weight in practical nostalgia. france, for all its backwardness, has managed to lose its high street tackleshops. post-war shame, uprooting all signs of working class culture from the grande rue. stick in a coiffeuse and a flower shop. they call that modernity and think it's chic. most french anglers buy generic tackle from supermarkets. this is the gross devaluation of a culture doomed to welcome the coming of the jacques-the- knife asbos. the french are losing home-pride, throwing it away. they eat shit now, the kids are running on pre-crack E-numbers and porsche envy and are hungry for power; this is france on the tilt: from right to wrong in one sarkozy leap. in 10 yrs time i'll be beaten up by a girl gang outside the boulangerie. count on it. france is going to the chiens. i hate to sound like the mock invader but i have to say you can't buy much of any quality in france now and no one seems to care as egality & fraternity gives way to greed. angling follows suit: the old brands have lost out to the hypermarket, cheap and chancy, breaks first go. ill-equipped anglers with bubble-pack pre-loaded reels and telescopic rods i wouldn't even use for runner beans, actions like an oscilator wave. the tackle shops you do find in the major cities and medium towns are chains, franchised clones without character or tradition, or windowless warehouses on industrial estates selling bankrupt stock and job lots by ex brassiere salesman who've only ever tied a knot in a shoelace and a kipper tie. your "the creel" is a cutty sark, a stonehenge, the tomb of the unknown angler. every june 16 the frank barlow pie&mash legion should lay wreaths at its door, lest we forget.
here it's mushrooms and hunters and bellowing bulls, 3 blanks last week, driving home in scotch mist thicker than a plank of rain. saturday was mushrooming under fire, scrambling up a mossy hillock as the gun dogs sniffed me out, bells clanking round their necks. i stank like a wild pig after a week of old dirt and it put them in a yelp as i filled my basket with pieds de moutons (hedgehog mushrooms). just made the vehicule as the shots cracked through the bracken. it was worth it, they're in the freezer:

monday, back to penelope pit, no ideas. just look for the mushroom in the swim and fish there(it's under the right hand buzzer):

both runs came to the mushroom rod. first one dumped the hook, second tore strips off me this side of midnight, a catamaran with auxilliary boosters, a hunting carp:

beetroot soup tonight as rain thrashes the leaves off trees.
service revolver on the birdtable

Sunday, October 7, 2007

The Creel


it is the desolate diana and the scene from the planet of the carps in the photo, they are one and the same. the barren wastes of crown land in the winter stalked by teenage prescription drug asbos in reebok classics with no laces, the original midnight baitrunners. your hat trick of full moons was like the great escape, i was waiting for the baliff to say good morning to the big one as he boarded the last train out of hampton court. had my own 36 this week, not a common but a shopfront, the greatest shopfront in the world, 36 station road, aldershot, the address of the creel. the tackle shop i visited with my dad after my first day at secondary school, twenty nine years ago. half a pint of maggots, a plummet and amo, amas, an unhooking mat. unhooking mats as unheard of then as latin is now. on the old strip by the station, past the old southern hotel. the smell of ammonia and giant leneys in their cases on shelves high above the counter, all found dead at frensham small, original stockings from after the war after they'd refilled the ponds from their war draining. renewed my farnham permit for winter days on the wey and trips to frensham. was going to go yesterday morning after i found the following entry in the fishing gazette:

october 14th 1905

'mr george griffiths of frensham pond writes, 'our perch are feeding well, within a fortnight with only 3 rods, six have been grassed over 1lb and up to 1 3/4lb and last saturday one of just 2lb'.

last saturday a century on would have been yesterday but put off by the likelihood of yachts on the pond and nagged by my empty pockets i chose the race track at wimbledon for dawn where i knocked out boxes of auction surplus to thames start-ups. tea in the garden today, bulb planting under the magnolia later.

tackle shopfront archive on the birdtable

swifty's in vauxhall is next


Monday, October 1, 2007

Blue Hearts, Lonely Moons


peter sarstedt stole your baitbox. sandy denny just put him up to it. is that the desolate diana in the photo, or the last scene from planet of the carps? it sent the shivers through me, carp with glass eyes swim in there don't they? bob's mate had a 26, (or was it a 19 common?) with anal fin syndrome out of there last week. summer was dead on arrival here, and now its carcass is heaped in the fields and burning under a moon like a blood orange. i've piped a new stove into the caravan and fish with the LL bean mittens on soon as that sun plunges like the last R101, well before the french shopkeepers lock up now. the air smells of after-plough; first forest harvest in the wicker basket:

mushroom clouds on north east collision course put the cold slap on penelope pit and a couple of blanks had me on late nights in the r&d lab. sometimes you just have to take them by surprise by doing the obvious, so i stayed put in the double-30 swim when the fish were crashing on the opposite bank like bath time for aquaphobics. i tweaked the set-up to get more bleeps and last wednesday well into black-out an sos came through, this one was a zeppelin, armed to the pharangeal teeth and it went down to hand-to-hand as the wind sang through the line, a hired 40 on a no-win-no-fee mission:

paperwork and the yearly garden/barn and general tidy-up meant i missed the last chance waxing days and wednesday saw me heading for the pit through a wall of cold rain, the one thing the carp there despise. so i do too. cold piss on a full moon, so soon as i saw the pall of grey spounge over the eure valley i turned back, headed for home, avoided a straffing and got some proper kip for once. next day the clouds broke so i taxied the hurricane out of the barn again, fully armed from the day before, arriving at penelope as the sun rolled the pitch. north east wind barking like ridgebacks. a 3-rod day i thought, something i do in a blue moon, a lonely hearts way of fishing, but out the third rod went, into a 12foot hole in the wind. by 9 o clock the wind had got to me and a full moon was draped in flowing chiffon. the racket off the route nationale was what chainsaws are to rainforests, so i actually backtracked to the hurricane parked back of the swim to turn the radio on for a time check. it always works, that or a piss when you've hovered on the rods expectantly for hours: the left hand buzzer gave me three bleeps to the wind and i hit a good fish running. it's on the mat after shooting out my auxilliaries, and i'm saying to myself could be another 40 here when the blue moon rod goes off in the hole. i hit that one and let it run on a tight clutch, came back and dealt with this one when, you've guessed it, you can see the red middle buzzer light in the picture, just come on by the carp's nose before i've even time to lift it:

i'm on a hat trick with a possible upper-30 plus i've no time to weigh, two fish on collision course, more penelope madness:

the 3rd one's way off in the night and the dogs lost the scent.
weekend was spent on autumn rituals; me and laure trimming and clearing the trees round my pond, cutting firewood and stringing the onions. this is hugely satisfying work. telling winter we're ready. even the cat has got his fluffy leggings on, burying his shrews like a squirrel then digging them up when we're looking, throwing them in the air like his own penelopes, even fooling himself they're still alive, a moggy off the old block...
it's days on half pay now, watching the skies, the oak apples thrashing my pond in bursts whenever a convoy of crucians glide under it. monday morning, no work's come through, unsteady rain, and i think i'll go roach fishing.

chestnuts on an open birdtable