For a lot of my boyhood and up to my late 30s, before I moved back to Australia I used to enjoy fishing (it’s a 7-thang). I gave it up when I became a vegetarian. Not that I ate the fish.
I’d say I was about 25-ish, during the 70s anyway, and I was excited. It was 15th June, the eve of the course fishing season in England. I was living near Oxford, which is a very watery city. You could, with some accuracy, class it as an island seeing as it is virtually surrounded by the Rivers Thames and the Cherwell and their streams and tributaries, not to mention the canal.
OK, I won’t…
the canal. – Built and surrounded by pot-less ruffians it was. (‘Was’ being the operative word, and the ‘pot-less’ part doesn’t necessarily apply these days – just joking. No need to get off your bike professor). Their single-brick-skinned tiny 2 bed terraces (50 years ago categorised as slums to be pulled down) now fetch a figure above 4 plus 5 zeros. Most only have two walls to call their own and all of them have car parks for roads and a sea view quite often these days (well, a front and back door-step they can fish from anyway).
One could even agree with many a commentator, that Oxford exists in a bubble; but I, dear reader (who is probably thinking ‘when’s he going to get on with this fishing tale?’), am referring to a different kind of bubble, at least for much of the year. No, not the misty moonshines of academic reveries, not the cosseted cocoons of eccentric ecole-ites, or punt rides ‘neath Rainbow Bridge.
It’s a place that truly believes it is in a world of its own, where even a dead fly can be front page news, and it is.
Being in the middle of drench-prone England and set in a great valley carved by rivers long shrunk, and the Chilterns and Downs short risen, it’s damp for much of the year, flooded and saturated often. The streets and the pavements, often more holey than righteous, are dry when it’s not wet; but away from the dragon duels of Carfax, now smarting its way below rubs Oxford’s ‘Stix’, the Trill Mill Stream, where three men in a boat…well three skeletons in a boat, fetched up not that long after it was covered up. Make no bones about it (groan) Oxford IS an is-land, here the Thames is called the Isis. I’m
Sirius serious. (Isis is represented architecturally, many times in Oxford, but particularly by St. Mary’s, the University church, in the High. Her consort, Osiris stands beside her in Radcliffe Square and known as the Radcliffe Camera. It is, as well, a circle enclosed in a square. The Encaenia ceremony was, until 1669 (a 22-date) held in St. Mary’s but the ‘festival of dedication’ was shifted to the Horus Apollo Sheldonian Theatre.
(Just wondering how I’m going to work my way back from here to the fishing story…It’s worth it, honest!) Ummm…and it’s not this one:
Where one day I was by the river at Medley…medley!…medley!…yes, that’s it. This isn’t really a rambling, all over the place, scribble. What was it?…ah yes, a medley…honest! Good excuse Ell, move on….
So, I’m fishing at Medley and this one-armed guy came up to me and told me that he had once been fishing in the same spot where I was. “Oh yes” says I, “Did you catch anything?”
Stretching his arm right out as wide as he could, he told me, “I caught a fish this big!”
Sorry to put you through this. Well, perhaps that one isn’t true but the one I keep casting off from is…which reminds me of the yarn of the angler who got married….no, stick to this story Ell…you’re losing the only reader you’ve got left…
OK, I promise, this is it…So, I hope you are sitting comfortably, and that you are awake. Better still, still here.
It’s the eve of the fishing season, 15th June…I can’t remember which year…perhaps it doesn’t matter…
Someone has told me about this brilliant lake where there are carp bigger than the fish the one-armed man said he’d caught. It was a lake called, ‘Marlborough Pool’, near Eynsham. They told me roughly where it was and I decided that that would be where I was going. I’ve got my gear, I’ve got my bait and I’ve got my licence…I’ve got…
I’m good to go.
I got up very early the next morning, made some sarnies and a flask of tea and was out of the house by 2 am. It was pitch-dark but following those vague directions I found a gateway and drove in. There in front of me the lake beckoned. Excitedly I unloaded my tackle, set everything up and waited for a monster to bite. I thought I had a couple of nibbles, but then suddenly the heavens opened. There’s me, without an umbrella and only the twigs of a hawthorn and its sharp comments for shelter. I pressed on.
After about 3 hours the rain stopped but slooshing along the track behind me I heard a vehicle. A man got out of it and spotted me straight-away:
“Oi!”, he shouted. “What do you think you are doing?”
Now, I’m soaked, I’ve been here for hours in the pouring rain and I’ve caught nothing. My tea’s horribly stewed and I’ve got more than I started with… I am not in the mood:
“What does it look like?… I’m ******* fishin’!”, responds I to the smart-arse.
The man casually put a bag over his shoulder and replied:
“Ain’t no fish in here mate. We only filled it up last week!”
Well, red-faced I apologised profusely. We had a laugh and he gave me precise directions to Marlborough Pool. It was only round the corner. The sun came out, actually turned into a scorcher…and I caught a 14lb carp. The first carp I ever caught.
Hope you enjoyed it,
Lots of love,