Saturday, July 5, 2008

Wardrobe Up The River Orne


so much for the glorious then, the tragic dawns of the heath robinsons, where no contraption ever made will bag an underground tench, if that's where they've gone, flushed down sherlock holmes's plot-hole or in a wicker basket round the back of a polish deli. fewer tench under gordon brown, more bolt-riggers on permanent leave to remain. modern britain sucks like a poisson-chat when your tench end up on e-bay instead of in the fucking bay. at least our osterley heroes found survivors who look as if they've been eating each other till food parcels arrived on the 16th.
i launched the wardrobe myself last week, afloat up the gorge, the echo of goat bells and the slap of waves. no more shit-pit tossers on quads or bottle chucking scum-bags. just this:

set up camp under gnarled oaks and sunken houses, baited up the old road home and one beside the bush once at the end of madame birkin's garden, 8 feet of post-war flood over it now.

rying the sausages when i lost the only carp of the trip, a scout patrolling the weeds, must've gone back and told the legion to stay put because i heard them all night feasting in their flood halls, their revel magnified by the sheer escarpments, you could even hear their squawking gills like hot air balloons adjusting ballast. 4 am they moved away, burning the village behind them. in the morning the boat was chin up on mud where the sluices on the dam had generated the microwaved coffee for the haymakers and milkers. second night i ferried over the other side and the bream came, hoardes of pillage and slime, underwater forest of waving tails, stripping the mud of bait and tripping the buzzer lights all night till they'd made mincemeat and gone with the coffee drop. loaded the boat and headed back to the land of bolt-rigs.

it's the only way to fish narnia:

the line, the hitch and the wardrobe on the birdtable


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Bustewr Crabbe's Baitdropper


It was too much, the wait for the beginning of the season, the false alarms, the rumours, the pictures of fat birds from France and the people who went over the top too early only to be shot in the back of the head by the baliff or sent to Porton Down to be fed on additives. The rumour doing the rounds on the Heath is that there are no more tench - they are extinct, gone to ground, buried their heads in the mud in disgust at the four ounce leads which keep hitting them on the nut. Come the evening of June 15th the shores of the boating and bathing pond looked like a bad festival, bolt riggers all waiting to be taken up in a spaceship come midnight to Planet Boilie. In defiance since 14th March I have been on the roof building a Thames punt from old mahoghany wardrobes and soon it will be complete. I will drag it across the Heath in the dead of night and set off across the Viaduct in search of just one tench. The lone bubbler, the acqualung exile, spotted in the cabbages one more than one occasion. In the meantime my other close season contraption is all ready to go: Buster Crabbe's Baitdropper, the Bloodknot Dreadnought, an Archway Bomb, and up here the only way to fish.

A large splash in the distance on the birdtable


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Pilgrims Progress


that really was me on the speaking tube, live from walker's pitch as carp made weirpools over the baits. the last thing either of us expected, because as you know:

i've never owned a mobile phone
nor never hope to own one
because when i'm away from home
i'm fuckin fish-not-phonin

the nokia baked-bean tin was a mike walker set-up. he says: when d'you last talk to that ja? years ago, i said. he doesn't like phones either. the purepiscator then hands me his communicator which starts yarning me about highgate ponds, and june 16, and i could smell your eight o clock bacon and see the tench bubbles popping round your jr quills. great to hear your ivories so in tune, geared up and counting, pacing your ponds, inspecting the pitch on your daily rounds now you're tench-runner for the hampstead & highgate home piscatorials under captain bellamy. you'll strike gold in that there mud, filling your pot with bamboozled private doctor fish and the hangman's speigals. arcadia the new carptalk. or the best bit of the ham & high. in the 1955 edition of fishing for londoners the ponds are given the hot tip for bags of early morning tench. for 2008, plastic bags i shouldn't wonder. all the tench i caught in victoria park were inside tesco bags i hooked winding in. more natural food in a tesco bag once it's chucked in the water.
close season pilgrims are prone to visions. in 1986 i took a coach from victoria and got off at wisley with rucksack and 3 days supplies to walk the woods and wisley ponds before paying the club dues, sleeping in the future swims, because i'd be fishing by public transport. woken first morning by thundering hooves just in time to see the belly of a horse as it jumped over me, rider dressed as a highwayman. no dream, the hoof prints were fresh with crushed beetles. cuckoo man is a swim stealer, i fear, a low-wayman, fishing over another man's bait.
here it's been mixed fortnights. grey, wet, all four winds in the ring and carp on stop-start rations, either jumping the gun or on hunger strike. by train to walker's pitch, then, french train style too, cheap, punctual, polite and peaceful:

made la morinais by teatime, first cast by evening as the sky looked silt, it overshot the mark and hung in the osiers leaning off the island. a gentle pluck and it fell intact into two feet of brown water. the one that goes in the top corner, the six over the grandstand.

you just know it's going to happen, but it went the full 90 minutes before one beep and the rod inched round a twitch. tug-boat resistence, spuds in a sack, snagged on fallen boughs, but all held tight. 46lbs of monster mash:

fickle as the wind, they fed once more for ten minutes my whole four days. 5 minutes on the wednesday afternoon, 41lbs.8:

and the wind seemed set, the fish all pushing and shoving at the trolley so i hung hooks for tea and narcissism up at the hut, laure's rum fruitcake in that tin for the king of spain you sent me one christmas.

i shouldn't have lingered, should've just downloaded the tea and not the photos. back at the lake for evening it was a scene to cause a riot at the baitmaker's gate, the curse of la morinais, all the wind stumped, all bites cancelled:

thursday morning a paper-boat breeze scimmed over to the island; upped sticks in a rush and put two in the windlane off the island point, then blew a hat trick at dinnertime when a forty came off at the net as the other rod screamed blue murder and a junior mirror showed off with a lot of flashy tricks then fell to the simplest of tackles. walker's pitch glorious but true to form: gone with the wind, only when it rains, never on a sunday, this side of midnight.
back home again with grass to cut and slugs to gather, my rows of french beans looking like the woods at ypres, cabbages like stained glass windows, the anatomy of a leaf. by tuesday the garden was tidy enough to neglect again and it was time to test the poach-hole on the bluewater pit. they were under the rod tops, coming in on a northerly, everyone a wild twenty that came on a duck's leg, no bloated triploids this time:

wed,thur, fri, just popping down for the coup de soir, half-seven till just on dark:

come friday they were twanging the line like the strings section at swan lake, piccicatto till sunset without a run. the wind was in my face. huge fish on the timpany at a 100 yards. the rods were bending double from the plucking. you sit on your hands and face the music when that happens. they were closer than where i'd slung my hook, down a deep shelf at ten yards. i pulled the right hand lead back and it jagged in weed at 5 yards out. wound in, plopped it back, sat down, rod went double in ten seconds and the line took off this time with water music and screaming reels. a loony tuna. no carpark scrap this, no thumping in the distance. a wild fish making for the trees, thinking of evolving just to walk up the bank and smack me one. 70 yards of smoking pulley and it nearly made it. tom brown hooks flashman. it bottomed the scales at 50, weighed in the unhooking mat. anywhere between
48 and 52 is my guess:

relics on the birdtable


Tuesday, June 3, 2008



Have you really been down at Walker's Pitch or was that phone call from closer to home, a sweetcorn can on string from the top of the Heath? Good to hear your dulcets. Last week John Richardson and I took the close season pilgrimage to the Creel where the lost Leneys of Frensham stared down from glass cases and Fran reminisced about fishing in Finsbury Park boating lake before she left London to head to Aldershot. A shop where you can still buy goose quills on a street where people leave notes on the door saying back in 10 minutes and you know they'll be gone for the rest of the day. From there we went to the Tarn over on Seale Sands another Leney water sculpted by Humphry Repton, a succession of lakes drawn by BB and cutting their way through the oak and the ash woods. The trees on the dam grown up where Chris Ball caught his first ever carp off the back of a Vespa in the 60's and Kay Steuart fished a pair of MK IV's in a Pucci dress and sawn off waders. Pre bivvy, pre boilie, post modern. Through the trees the Warren, a water beyond the reach of every rod and line back then but opened up in recent years like a door that Huxley left open for us to wander through and never return. The source of many of a 10 minute note, eel-like, snaking away into the distance into the very heart of darkness. And in the trees the sound of a cuckoo telling us it was still May. Down the road we went to the River Wey at Broomfield, even more remote, thunderstruck oaks and then the sound of the cuckoo again, close at hand. We turned and saw him in the distance, running down the track cut for the powerlines, the figure of a man dressed as a cuckoo. The sound of his call still echoing through the woods.

Spooky Tooth back on the birdtable


Sunday, May 25, 2008

Taught By The River


once more you stalk the concrete brooks, shadow fishing, casting at the moon. is that the thrift shop where i used to get my breeches and elliot symack knitware? in my day there was a tackleshop in kentish town. john's tackle? for close season junkies, sundries for the vulnerable, beside a petrol garage after a crescent of low-rise, today's gun turrets for your boy gangstas. has it gone under too? a tackle shop where the maggots came in ectoplasm, reel boxes so bleached by sun in the window there was no writing left. celephane hook packets disintegrated in your fingers. run by a limping biker and his old man in leather jackets. they still had agate rings in the wooden drawer. there are no tackle shops in france. just warehouse sheds on out of town shopping centres, chains without dignity or tradition, or a few shelves in a supermarket, chineese trash with blood on its hands. tackle for dystopia.
i've left the carpark lakes alone this week and humbled down with rod and float to black-eyed pools in thunderstorms.

where viking carp make for the ribs of armoured longboats wrecked ten feet down, where they snap floats in two and fight like beurwolf (who never could spell his own phucking name).

and on to where the even humbler river runs through buttercup plain, you wade through lakes of buttercups like i've never seen before, on to where long abandoned fishing huts and crumbling pontoons haven't seen a bamboo pole since 1968:

stephane was downstream fishing the silt under fallen trees with spuds and chickpeas, all for a brace of chub on the chick pea, one a fat half-pay territorial but not the plunder we were hoping to find. i was fishing hard baits on hard gravel, one along the reeds, the other roving every half hour. i pulled the rover back just off the middle late evening, and ten minutes later it took off in a battle cry, body-building in the current, punching twice above its weight, half barbel this carp with its underslung pucker:

we glugged it with a 2000 savenniers blanc which cost s. a tenner from leclerc. angler's mass for a holy lesson by the river. spoling for a fight now i swung the lead at penelope pit thursday evening where there was post-spawn convalescent laze, a moth or mayfly running the pharangyal gauntlet but nothing solid till one beep before dark had me using up a week's worth of spinach. i must get a bigger tripod for the camera - i'm hiding a 28 behind that grass stalk.:

friday was poaching night, an overgrown NO FISHING pit with no swims either except the back gardens of four houses along the roadside. a hampstead pond in normandy without brick or privilage, just beige bungalows, the 4-car scum who leave a rod outside with a livebait 12 months a year to fish for itself. there's a bramble scrub by the last house where i could get the vehicle in unseen and just before dusk i set to work with a hand saw and took out two willows and a few bushes, enough to poke two rods through, swing a lead 20 yards if lucky. i even chopped the cuttings up and stashed them under brambles and in thicket. no one would notice any different. everything invisible from four sides:

nothing got a hook in it but they came, fat walloping carp intrigued by bait, very big fish stumbling into the line and having me hitting line-bites. neither of us used to this and the carp got bored and moved out. this is the view of it from my hide:

back on the train tomorrow, land rover in for a service, going light, 3 rods and a rucksack, 5 days bait, heading west to mike walker's lake where every fish is billy bunter. comfort feeders, like their tuck in wind and rain, and it's a glutten's forecast with a 50 on the cards...i'll let you know.

a tenner on the birdtable for leclerc


Tuesday, May 20, 2008



whilst you were perfecting the art of the drive-by, french style, i was out wandering the old english close season, the only map the one i was making up as i walked along. leaving the heath behind i headed down the hill past the ghost site of fields tackle shop on highgate road the place made famous by their roach pole maker who took a holiday in australia and got eaten by a great white. about as ironic a feat as emigrating to normandy and spending your days fighting them in the car parks. beyond the closed doors of fields lies kentish town proper not a place you'd recognise any more, wholly changed since your last century sojourn in north london. i found your memory half way to camden standing under the sign for angler's lane, a road to nowhere if ever there was one. on the corner where the anglers pub used to be and flat caps used to talk about the spiegels in highgate and the tench in vale of health and drink in memory of roach pole is a branch of nando's where they serve the meal of choice for every gib wielding gun toting under 16 gangsta in greater london - drive-by chicken - the tastiest dish for miles around. and opposite the perilous parlour of peri-peri a thrift shop whose bookshelf revealed a piece of hidden treasure. casting at the sun as written by shane meadows. elliott symak's diary of a lincolnshire redmire which he kept secret for ten years throughout the seventies. a two acre bloodstain on the ordnance survey map populated by mahoghany monsters and fished by h block lookalikes. the particle chronicles, a broken bedchair confessional which is more aa than bb, and either way a classic, ' my thoughts plummet back to earth as a chilling yell escapes from the spinney to my rear. the vixen - perhaps attracting her mate, or gloating over the steaming corpse of a luckless rabbit. so too do the owls screech, sending the iciness of death into the heart of an innocuous shrew. and all the time the stars watch down on us in stony silence; atomic furnaces from which we will never feel the heat but of which i always dream'.

close season confessions of a carp fisher on the birdtable


Saturday, May 10, 2008

Mowing Days Are Here Again


since your last glimpse of the winter underworld on the heath, the green fuse blew. from squelcher to scorcher in a week of spawning bream. grass growing under your feet as you mow, the oaks beat the poplars into leaf and there's cuckoo spit on the willows. spring like a rapid deployment force in realtree. yesterday's carp are over the spawning grounds and the villages are under the yellow siege of rapeseed:

last week i was squelched up to the nines, no sign of the fritz speigals here, flash floods and window fishing:

cast and run at penelope pit as the storm hit car rolling mood and even the land rover turned land lubber as i pitched in a swell with a face gone solihull green. three hours trapped in the cab, like the dug out's caved in and the drowning rats cling to your hair. i suppose the rods stayed upright on the buzzers the way a butterfly survives a downpour.
a week later the patrol boat comes by:

no roaring forties, just a pit becalmed and a common under the rod top:

carp spies the other side had binocculars on me and mustered into the freelander, reaching me as i was mid-photo. oh, the tosser said, a little common. we know it well. your first fish is it? he squeels off in a cloud of dust, back to the day bivvy in the six-car swim. they packed up and went home at eight, back to their nintendos. they're just hired rods, enduro fodder, fucking spodnicks with bent hook rigs and fin clippers in their 300 litre rucksacks. and they are everywhere and taking over. they want roads round all lakes and carparks and bait-boats and the right to fish under lights, compulsory enduros and margin fishing banned, swim booking agencies and no fishing unless accompanied by another arsehole to help throw the rubbish in the bushes. society probably says it's better they're fishing than hanging round carparks. well it's not. society is better off if they're knifing each other where they belong because the carp lake is now the carpark and it's lone opportunists like me who are caught in the headlamps.

the writings on the birdtable


Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Cabbage Is King


since mansfield left highgate has gone downhill to kentish town. the hero of the hour in the village is cabbage a staffordshire terrier whose ears and tail were severed by a teenage gang to make him fit for fighting on the thirteenth floor of some nowhere block. cabbage fought back and is now in fine fettle and the teens heads have been spiked on betjeman spires for all to see and smile at their severing. on the heath the viaduct pond emerged from the snowstorm to sprout cabbages in honour of the warrior terrier and from the bridge i stare into the depths looking for the bronze back of a spiegel carp. staring back is a gaunt face framed by a stormtrooper helmet with single bullet hole and lavender token. slipped into the pond on a dark night by your former self, that black and white snapshot you found after our third bottle of bleak in the caravan in the morvan. haircut and jacket both cut like a double of a cold war dick walker escaped from the nearby russian attache's residence a sinister place of concrete walls and barbed wire coils, floodlit at noon like a commercial carp lake in the close season. the heath is still in the hands of winter, the leaves are out but the foxes screech at midnight in the rain and the early may blossom is lost in a sea of pea green. dusk is as long as dawn and as the light goes something is moving in the cabbages.

red brick arch on the birdtable


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

cuckoo spit & dripping yarns


was beginning to despair of a despatch from your sector. lines down, snipers, pickpockets, village hooligans. it must be rough up highgate. thank christmas for the hampstead ponds, their toothless pike and broken perch, ladies of the silt, cutpurse carp who once saw katherine mansfield, and landlocked eels who were there before betjeman. i await your report on a full closed season inspection.
here april still sends volleys over the trench. water temperatures stuck in february. four days in stephane's tourainne 2 weeks ago at his parents house while they were away on a vichy cure. we'd planned fishing the loire but it was over the banks. so it was plan 9 from hell. one thing worse than fishing your own scroffy chanceless pits is going hundreds of miles to fish someone else's ten times worse. here i need spend only 10 minutes picking up the litter round the lake; down there we were on the dustcarts for 3 hours. 4 pits in 4 days, the only carp we saw were dead. fish till midnight and the early hours, in the downpours, the wind whistling jack the knife, spring trenchfoot as the boots leaked, carbuncles, cuckoos, rainbows like iron girders cooling after a smelt of lightening thick as trees; nightingales in thunderstorms, and as the wind dropped for an hour on saturday evening the swallows dropped with it and gorged themselves on rising gnat. i felt like a bloody weather-boy on a church clock, in and out the brolley as one foul weather replaced another. sunday was one long flush on a stuck ballcock, an eerie blue nightfall after a day of pounding rain:

this was lac de varennes, marçon, looking clean for the moment, 230 acres of rain, sunday's best and deserted. they all fish the one point visible in the blue picture, scuffed to mud while the rest of the lake is duck-mown grass. like all these lakes, off-season you're alone. the water's high and the fish are on. they're not all fish; the biggest fully-scaled mirror in france at 60lbs died last year, sick of the point, and the shoreline sunday was post-flood sticks and shampoo bottles and a few bloated fourties side on up the slope. these fish are beachballs with carp body attachments, genetic misprints with bellies designed to explode once 10kgs of gathered eggs bind at the end of its rapid lifetime. the dead ones lay like those green photos of dead soldiers at paschendale, pods ripped open, mouth stuck round on a failed breath. these things self-inflate when they bolt off with the rig. thunderbird 2 painted on their fuselage.
rituals kept us alive: a minute we're in the door a roaring fire off stephane's dad's lifetime collection of faggots, roasting sausages and drying out boots and socks, a raid on the cellar for the best of vouvray and chinon, then red-eyed sleep till mid-morning which brings no real peace as it's carpless in an unfamiliar attic, and into the wind we go again. friday night on street corner pit when the local carp-heads came to launch a thousand boats on a mere 20 acres, playing pirates in the night over disputed swims, firing boilies over the bows, hand to hand over 25 foot of cold blue water, cursing each other through the swash buckle of petzel sword. absolutely fucking crackers. you read the obituaries in the french carp mags now, another fuckhead ditched from his zodiac after a night smoking dope in the bivvy. they cant cast is the trouble. into the boat at 3am they go, squinting at the GPS to drop their bait. hat knocked off by a branch, they make a sea-sick lurch for it and down they go into lazy bones locker. worst are the orange lamps hoisted on poles outside the bivvy. simms city tossers.
once home, swept by nostalgia for penelope pit as the first leaves of spring soaked up the rain. too soggy to garden, never to soggy to fish, i went back on monday, first session there since autumn. thick mist of drizzle, soaked through just putting the rod rests in. this time i wasnt going home fishless. rigged the marker rod and scoured the bottom for something to put a bait on. right hander on a stony patch at the foot of a twelve foot gulley, left hander on a stony hump 8 foot under, dropping off to 12. the drizzle was a fucking greenhouse power mister and got into everything making pva bagging a sealed laboratory job, which meant taking off the waterproofs, stripping down to bare towelled off arms and getting into the front seat of the landrover with the heater blower on to do it. the first three flew off anyway as the chuck was 60 yards. but perseverence, and by half five there were two in place and the downpour suit had packed in, i'd forgot to proof the boots and there was just no point putting up the brolley. so i did the unforgivable and sat up in the short-wheel base bivvy:

the wind dropped my side as i listened to the archers and a fish crashed over the right hander.

darkness fell like a wet rag over your face and i stood outside like a horse in the rain, staring at the buzzers as the boots just sucked in mud. quarter to ten, nightingales wetting their whistle, a fish came up in the margin where one of my pva bags had come off on the failed launches. then another 30 yards off. the urge to pack up dissolved. ran through proceedure for a take off the rocky bar. made sure everything was in place. ten o'clock, one beep on the left hander, indicator tight against the rod so i hit it. like pumping in a dumped steamroller till 20 yards off it decided to practice for le mans. so good to be back on jumping scales needles in the dark, 37 to 38 pounds, who cares, spring's in the air:

i'm packing that rod down when the other goes one beep more, the runner-up, one to watch:

next week i'm getting the boat out and heading up the 7 mile dam where the wild commons go fourty and live round the islands in the gorge. the water temperature is up two degrees this week. up with the sap, down with their heads.

battery charger on the bird table


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

vapour trails


the nearest blue plaque to here belongs to the memory of john betjeman who lived up the hill in a yellow stuccoed villa. he who saw the screens in hospitals like the kent and sussex in bluebell vistas and heard the bang of the coffin nail in the peal of a church bell. everything will have significance now. every spud you plant, every onion row, every trot down an empty stretch. every time the spring wind turns to the east and catches the back of your neck. signs which say 'private fishing' will take on a deeper meaning. you'll want to make bonfires of books and start again somewhere new. i met someone on saturday night who was in the same place and had burnt their passport. betjeman had it right when he wrote,

'that garden where he used to stand
and where the robin waited
to fly and perch upon his hand
and feed till it was sated

the times would never have the space
for ned's discreet achievements;
the public prints are not the place
for intimate bereavements'

oil the hinges on the garden gate and put some cake and crust on the birdtable


Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Old Mortality.


relieved you spratt yourself up highgate hill. the lost village tench ponds, blue plaques floating in the margins, lift bites off discarded murder weapons. a stolen handbag under every bush, olde tench silted from the days of the poisoners. you must've won the pools mate and pulled the black-out curtains down; was beginning to think you'd snapped your rod and got into the bell jar with jeremy bentham in the interests of science. you haven't missed much. my last winter fish squirmed like an eel on the mat. nine photos like this:

a dozen rivers flowed under the bridge since; mud in bed, mud on the eggs, mud on my literary future as another novel gathers waterstones moss in the amazon jungle on its way to a good pulping.
spring search parties are out for new waters within an evening's radius. found a moon crator colonised by life-forms from garbolino 6, or is it a retired railwayman's miniature model of a highgate pond?:

not the one i found last summer, this one's in the wells fargo village with the health club pit(see Dynamo Kev). a sign nailed to a tree says "no bivvies" (the french spell it biwwy). you can errect a fucking bungalow and fish six poles while you're away at work, but no bivvy. photo in local paper once of this place; some grundy in a red ball cap holding a fourty against his wooden railings. his four rods were laying on the kitchen table, lines taught, between bottles of plonk, baguettes and dried sausage. way to fish.
3rd week of sleeting winds, northern raspers no stab vest ever made stops you getting it between the ribs. i've hacked the pva out several times against it and done the long spring evening but these winds don't drop, they just keep coming at you like they're on something. not having a bungalow handy, i've got under the unhooking mat. just survival time till the chopper picks you up.
another ten quid's worth of sausages off the butcher friday night. the final payment. he called me a bohemian and said i could fish his pond if i ate snails with him. the grey ones that live round his pond. i'll do anything to fish. even that. next it'll be his tripe and frogs legs off the ones that live round my own pond. careless talk with corporal jones...
saturday evening after gruelling on the garden, early spuds in nice curved rows, peas, broad beans and onions squarely put to bed, i pulled some worms and took the avon down to the village stream. miles of heartbreak, barbed wire swims and fallen trees and not a minnow's twitch to the worm:

i found a stump & twig stretch at sunset, the winter wheat rising as far as the house where i'd bought my 5 steres of firewood last october. ash, hazel, the very logs which warmed me this winter came from here:

i'm after significance with this; end of winter, trees cut to the root, sleeted aprils like they were in childhood when we were worming along the village stream; because, as i made these fruitless casts and broke the rod down at sunset, my old lady died, aged 83, behind a screen in the kent & sussex. she who stood at her garden gate to watch cat's eyes cunningham dog jerry 109s over gravesend. she who wrapped the fruit cake in greaseproof paper when i went tench fishing down all saints pond with a stale crust.

grave's end on the birdtable


Thursday, April 3, 2008

Letter From Arcadia


the season is over and thanks to the weir-rash I stayed away from the river. On the last day I was carried by bath-chair up Highgate hill to the smallpox hospital and suspended in a large jar of sprats. I am cured! The air is good up here, we have pitched camp and are exploring the many hidden tench ponds on the heath. The season may be closed but the door to arcadia was opened by another inch.

birdsong on the birdtable


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Spring Offensive : Leave Cancelled


tragic luck that, in dry dock with thames pox. angler's curse, pepys' revenge, and falling at season's end is a court case under sod's law. may the scales and scabs fall from your eyes and the spume of cess ridden weirpools glance off your shield. sipping claret in a punt as your herrings bob along the weirs sills does strike me as reaper's charter if the thames really is flux with 21st century pox, unless it's angler's menopause and the estrogens and all the other hermaphrodite's jetsam got into your claret and you're actually mutating into a barbel. next time you walk into an indian restaurant you'll end up on the menu: bangers and masheer.
while you've been doing your walking freak show, i've been chained to the desk, the dancing editor, refilling the coffers after a spend-up on the rods of necessity, a month of sundries. and it all sat grinning in its wrapping as i ghost-wrote for the aged, sleep-walked for those with the writing pox in search of diagnosis. outside the wind shunted my stove pipe sideways and turned my greenhouse inside out like an umbrella on the fens, the plastic in shreds, the spinach swelling into thick fronds like a crowd of waving mittens. the fields turned nitrogeon green, the rivers of tea and all the spring yellows buttered the bread of the land. after five days and nights of tempest, imagining the waves in the town pit bay, and all those old creaking carp sheltering like wrecks on the bottom, i busted the ghost-writing, rigged up the new rods, piled into the truck and headed for the pox line.

i fished the tail-end of the recent storms, settled to a blue-sky billow, the ramrod steam-rolling half-retired, but it was still an x-ray westerly which all the fleece in china can't keep out. just baiting up, the rods blew out of my hands and the unhooking mat flattened itself against my face like burst bubblegum. by 4pm both rigs were down at 20 foot, water temp 9°, air temp 10° in the wind, baits at 25 yards. stephane turned up at 5.30 having blagged his pupils about some staff meeting, sneaking out the firedoors where the gear was hidden in his car. he's got two clocks ticking away now too - the one on the classroom wall and the biological one in his girlfriend's belly. after september the only runs he'll be getting in the night will be in his kid's nappies, so he's squeezing in every snatched minute behind the rods he can.
it was gloaming on a dropped wind just as i'd fallen back to the gravel path to shake a bit of warmth into myself when i saw the left buzzer light come on. i couldn't hear a thing because i'd plugged the speaker hole with a rubber swivel sleeve. the hanger was jammed against it and the rod tip was bent down underwater. i played this one down the margins for a couple of minutes. the other buzzer light caught my eye and the right hand rod took off like a dragster, the reel crashing into the buzzer head before upending like the death of donald campbell in bluebird and hitting the water in a deathly spray. it was like those last minute goalmouth scrambles in the mud: you're 30 secs off getting into the village cup final when a bad clearence ricochet's off your own striker's legs and loops towards the top left hand corner. the fucking striker shouldn't have been back there anyway. it looks impossible, the spinning ball is a ref's whistle away from the net but the goalie, who'll end his life doing a milk round anyway, grows wings for the only time in his career. the next thing i knew i was airbourne with a bent rod in hand and landing head first into the water. in my right hand the last six inches of the cork butt. the other rod was now under me with my full weight upon it. i began playing two fish on my back in nappy-mud, the right hand fish taking off on its first run. stephane rescued the left hand rod once i regained two feet and he played the fish into my net as i tried to get control of the rod thief. before stephane could come back with a second net mine came off close in, a good upper 20. the smaller common was spawned up and built like a nile steamer from the omdurman campaign:

i topped the swim up and swung the lead close in, ringing the water from my sodden clothes. there were fish crashing now. lorries on the ring road canvas flapping, double decker trains bringing insurance clerks home from paris and herons cackling, ducks in a night-time panic and pheasants bickering over roosts. the blue light on the right hand rod comes on. one muted bleep and all holds tight so i hit it. this time the fish takes off like the rod had. it's a tale of revenge. just scraped 30 with half a pound to spare:

spring offensive battle-map pinned to the birdtable


Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Half A Guinea A Look


whilst you were running round in the blackout trying to plug into the sun i was taken by the victorian weir rash. the same one that g had three years ago. it came up on my return from wimbledon, i thought it was a flea pit infestation caught from the car boot car park and then maybe the dungeness shingles but they were both ruled out by the ridley road 'designer handbag change your life' quack who told me i had a water borne virus, probably from the thames, that would cover my whole body with scars and scabs within weeks and stay until april. threatened me with the smallpox hulk but then she arranged for me to be pickled in a large jar for private display in the museum of curios on whitfield street but i gave the velvet caped baliffs the slip and went feral. look like the fucking leopard man only my eyes without sores and scabs. calming down a bit now after a rub down with a tench but still look like a floater in the margins. it's put the ki-bosh on my end of season plans as i have a fear of water that borders on the rabid and i can't get the sores infected otherwise it's curtains. emptied an indian restaurant in two seconds when i took my coat off the other night and mr rose broke into his new favourite song 'leprosy, i have bits falling off of me'. surviving on a diet of vegetable roots, ox's liver, ale thistle and the rosary.

merrick on the birdtable


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Dynamo Kev


sorry for the delay... lines were down after a nuclear strike from the electric company, a well aimed million volt power surge knocked out the 8 houses in my hamlet, smoke pouring from electrical goods two fridays back just as we were all plugging in our toasters and downloading the morning post. my modem in ashes, so too the radio caught mid-humphries, freezer with bait the fish got prematurely, eco-light bulbs and everything with a wire attached. heavy losses. this is the great EDF luftwaffe who are going to build britain's nuclear toasters. go solar is my advice. i have recieved not the least apology nor any admission of liability. some metal head pulled the wrong switch at hq, dynamo kev himself shakey after a night stealing cars probably. my insurance company are sending inspector cluebucket who has yet to be seen. i'm having to connect to blog on with a tin can, some fish-paste and a length of copper wire slung up the telegraph pole.
in the meantime, whille you were on the football special rattling over points, i was fitting out the icebreaker for imminent service, minus 1 at sunset all that week and plunging. one night i couldn't sleep so i watched the pond freeze over in moonlight you could've played extra time in if EDF had done the floodlights. days are garden duty now, the crusade against creeping buttercup, the original green fundamentalists, suicide weeds that evade your most efficient security. dig one out and make ten more of the raging, clustering parasites. i've had to move my entire herb garden to a secure zone. risky when half the garden's an iceburg till midday, but the herbs are well trained so can take it. a pair of fox euro-warriors with full cork handles arrived in the middle of this skirmish to hasten forward my next leave behind the lines.
i did manage a scrape-through double a week back. remember those stuttery half-seven bleeps i was getting? stephane got them too apparently but it was too cold to sit it out another 2 hours in case they were line bites. i did 3 blanks, then a bit of on-site rig-tweaking, dump the pop-up, short hook-links, anti-waterlog 12" stringers, leave the stutters and sit tight, fucking freezing, till nine o'clock then hit a good run as the herons fly past in the night croaking like cut-throats, camera flash bouncing off the mist:

next day a parcel to fetch from a cafe 3 villages off, a post-house, fag shop and flat screen, heinekin optics and a five quid menu dinnertimes. it was four pm and the gear was still in the land rover half frozen and wet from the night before. the parcel was a new fleece duvet i was going to flop the evening away on with the wood stove boiling fumes and the wine chilling on the porch. but the gear was with me and 300 yards from the cafe is the scuffiest gravel pit, a scum dump for petrol-heads whose only mission in life is smashing bottles on the benches. i've fished it once, last june, three hours dusk till dark in the pissing rain, but even that didn't deter the pillocks sliding through mud on their peugeot 50s. i was on that point in the photo, putting out a pva bag into a big hole 30 yards off. as the rain lashed and the gits road round and round with bottles in their gobs i got a run and lost a big 30 at the net. i had the fucking thing over the rim 5 times too, but the bottles were flying and the pests were circling... something, i thought, must put them off, keep them indoors. maybe the freezing cold. so by 5 i'd set up in a chilly corner with the hole outfront, pit levels up at least a yard . zander dandy fishing off the point which meant i had poor rights of way; a bouy on the left and tree roots to the right. off the point you're in the clear. the fish actually came off on a sand bar close in.

well, nothing came by except a pheasant to roost in the tree beside me and squirk till i packed in. since then the leaves have sprung on the willows, three muskrats have set up an underground station beside my pond and a calf was born in the field opposite:

solar panel where the bird table was


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

You'll Never Make The Station


the last of the few marched from the birdtable via redan hill and sebastopol road to the east bank aldershot with a pint of bull's blood from the crimea fresh in our throats. to stand in a february fog in tailored red coats with brass buttons, led by a drummer boy who took the king's shilling out the back of the bus station in '82 and has never looked back. suedeheads and old songs. a richardson linocut come to life entitled, 'everywhere we go, people always ask'.

the five fifteen out of waterloo took us there out along the thames past bob's catfish swim at battersea power station, along the side of the pike cut at staines to the basingstoke canal at brookwood and the pits at ash vale, stopping just short of badshot lea pits where i hooked my first ever pike by the caravans. a night time tour of the paid up permitted waters that i have failed to fish for a full calendar year. all too soon. rather than the empty bank and the lonely moon i needed the camaraderie of the crowd, old familiar schoolyard faces and the blinding white light of the floodlights. a glimpse of heaven. just enough to know that it might exist.

last train out of here on the birdtable


Tuesday, February 5, 2008



thanks for that buchaneering tale, nabbing a duke's pike under flush winter sky from a punt, clapping butler and cooing maids. there should be tapestries and painted ceilings of stag party pike inside the dutchess's boudoir. you know the old song of course, "pull out the stopper & lets have a whopper/get me to the bob church on time..." was the butler singing that?
pit fishing was just flushing lead down a hole last week. minus 7 sunday night, water tanks frozen even in sun. i put two baits out at 3 monday afternoon but by 4 the temperature was zero. sky streaked like a german raid on the docks at sunset. a fin nudged its reflection 30 yds off. numb toed, minus 2 before the blackbirds put their songsheets away.

i packed up as church bells rung up the start of the archers. chair frozen into the ground, pulled the skin away with it. line frozen in the rings, making the reel gears clunk. wednesday was identicle in blue:

this time an itchy run after dark, four stuttering bleeps. i struck ice. put the same bait in the same place as fish started rolling in the mist. my boots froze into the ground as i stood like a red guard outside the kremlin, brushing frost off my sleeve. cat ice forming on my teeth, findus written on the rucksack. yesterday it was back to mud and just raw. a bream hooked in the back, two bleeps in the only ten minutes of sun at 4 o clock. listened to the archers driving home. wednesday's forecast is belting sun and 13 degrees. the wind is whipping the margins to froth in the bay as i speak, a wind in its twenty-fourth hour. wednesday's carp is full of bait, they say. they'll be butlers clapping, and rods a-looping, sure as g's pike...

last of the few on the birdtable