How blue is my valley? I wondered as my cursing echoed off the krantz. It was the second Brown Trout that had thrashed its way to freedom inside of 30 minutes, and from the same pool. Thrashed like some demented eel with epilepsy having a panic attack. “Bloody Browns fighting dirty.” said Noel later. How could I disagree. He started fishing from an ox wagon. You can’t argue with those blokes.
“What do you do when a Brown does that?” I asked PD later in a voice note. He didn’t reply. There isn’t an answer.
With that second fish, I thought “I wonder what it would sound like if a rat fell off the krantz into the pool?”, and then I made my Taddy Bugger do that. I shot it in with a narrow loop under an overhanging tree, far too hard and it hit the water with a rat splat. There was a short delay, while Mr Brown wrapped up what he was doing elsewhere in the pool, and moseyed over to take advantage of the apparently suicidal rodent. Slam! I was in! Rod up. Whooping contained. Shaking knees. Mouth hanging open. Brain saying “Oh Shit! Oh Shit!”. Mr Brown doing the eel impersonation. And then it was over.
The first fish had been at the tail of the pool. I was on the sheetrock at the tail out, keeping low.
I had been casting into the gentle tongue of water that flowed down the centre towards me. Then I thought “Hang on. Where would a fish not go? Where would no self-respecting Trout go?” And I spied the murky static water off to my right, where rotten logs and sticks lay, and there was algae and white flotsam on the surface. “Got you, you surly bastard.” I said as I planned my cast. But I hadn’t got him. He too did that eel thing, and I got to feel his heft for just a fraction of time. Just a few seconds of heart-in-my-throat connection. Rod up. Whooping contained. Shaking knees. Mouth hanging open. And then it was over. There’s a guy on the hill on the other side of the river with a quant country getaway who heard some language that peaceful Sunday morning which no one should have to hear.
I am not proud of that.
Losing those fish, I mean.
I went downstream to look for Noel.
He said he had had a stroke a few weeks earlier. I had visions of finding him face down in the Big Pool. I was relieved to find him casting gracefully between two old poplars and his fly alighting like thistledown in the spot where I was chasing a lunker a few weeks earlier. Sneaky bugger. I had told him about the monster, and as soon as I disappeared around the corner, he snuck off down there to catch my fish. But I was over it. The lunker’s bigger brother had shown himself to me three hundred yards further up the river in the Krantz Pool. Noel was alive. My duty was done, I needed another hour to go three hundred yards further up, to go for the even bigger brother who surely lived in Bernard’s Pool. “See you in an hour.” I told Noel, and I strode confidently back up the valley, with cows and calves parting ahead of me in the ryegrass with bewilderment.
I decided to pace myself.
You don’t just go for the biggest biscuit on the plate. You take some little ones first. Decorum. Get your eye in. So I hooked some trees down on Nuttall’s Pool. Snagged the bottom, and broke off the fly. Lost a small fish that chased my offering as I lifted. Slithered down the bank and did some break-dancing in the algae.
Now I was ready for Bernard’s Pool.
Taddy Bugger. Size 10. A willow to the left, logs to the right. Slow moody water, under a grey sky, with the sound of river chickens as accompaniment. The fly sailed out and inched back. Again. Nothing. On the third cast I did the rat splat thing. It wasn’t as pleasing as Krantz pool. There were no cliffs for the sound to echo off, but it did the trick. Mr Brown sidled over and hit the thing. Rod up. Whooping contained. Shaking knees. Mouth hanging open. Brain saying “Oh Shit! Oh Shit!”. Mr Brown didn’t do the eel impersonation. And I had him. Well almost. There was that thing he did in the rocks at the tail end of the pool, where I couldn’t get my net under him. Then there were the two long reeds he went under, and then that run back into the pool, with my line still going around the reeds. That missed scoop with the net. The tension. The stress.
Then the photo, and the measuring tape.
He wasn’t bigger than the freaks of Krantz pool, but I thought “I’ll take it”, and I reeled in and went looking for Noel’s carcass in The Big Pool. He was still alive. He had broken off on a big fish and was clucking politely. “Serves him right” I thought, and loaded him up and took him home.
Author’s note: No names have been changed. The innocent deserve it.