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Going Fishing

Posted by Deborah Courtnell

     Small But Exceedingly Mighty, my five year old nephew, is coming for the day tomorrow. He and I are going to go fishing together.

     We tried this once before and had enormous fun plonking about in the river up to our knees.

     We didn't catch a thing with our little black nets. We surprised the occasional pebble and gave some weeds a bad fright, but nothing that could really be termed a fish.

     I've heard that fishing should be done in an atmosphere of quiet tranquillity which I take to mean STEALTH.


     Evidently you have to announce yourself as a fisherman to the rest of the world with your waders and floppy hat and general fishing fancy dress costume and flies and packed lunch and thermos and Obvious Air of Fishing-Know-How but, thereafter, you are on Covert Ops.

     I'm guessing you have to hope the fish have not seen you coming, maintain a very low profile on the river bank or in the shallows and creep up on them unawares.

     Which would explain why, first time around,  The Nephew and I did not catch so much as a rumour of a fish. For one thing Small But Mighty doesn't really do Stealth. For another thing we had Cally with us.

     Yes, we were paddling and sploshing about by the bridge which leads to the marsh accompanied by Cally, who is so large and bulky a boxer dog it would not surprise me if the local fish population thought they'd been invaded by an alien being in the shape of an African hippopotamus.

     I imagine the event and Cally's general shape, circumference and girth remain a matter for hot debate among the descendents of those fish who survived to tell the tale and still hang out by the bridge today.

     Cally has probably passed into local fish lore as a kind of Yetti or River Test Loch Nessie. They'll  be organising bus loads of Japanese Koi Carp to 'come spot the monster.'
     The Nephew, aged only four at the time, did observe more than once that, since we couldn't even see any fish wouldn't we better off going and getting one of those really Big Ones out of the pond on Stockbridge High Street?

      By which he meant  trout. And he said it again on the phone yesterday.
      'Venerable Aunt: are we going to catch those Big Ones?'

     Yes. The Nephew is up for catching a trout. I can see I'm going to have to let him down gently on that score. No. He maybe didn’t say, ‘Venerable.’
But I’m working on it.

     Stockbridge lies in the heart of the Test Valley. The River Test, which flows through it and around it and underneath it and sometimes overflows all over  it, is famous the world over among fly fishing types for the trout which are bred here and swim and grow fat in the clear chalk river and streams.
   
     As The Nephew keeps reminding me you can see the trout  up close enough to tickle in the sort-of ponds which punctuate the High Street.

     They are splendid beasts and  they appear to like nothing better than wafting about, holding fast against the flow and tormenting the ducks by nabbing morsels of bread even before the morsels hit the water; they are too quick for the beaks for which they were intended.

      The trout will lift right up out of the water to snatch the bread, flashing their exquisite teeth and wide pink mouths.

          But, as anyone who has ever wandered through these parts will know, an amateur human being attempting to catch a trout on the River Test without the relevant paperwork,  permissions and inclusion on The Sunday Times Rich List, would be a bit like me trying to enter North Korea and interview The Haircut.

     Look up any site associated with the glorious Test and I guarantee you'll see some hapless trout being triumphantly waggled about.

     And there's every chance that trout's been hooked out of its comfort zone by a celebriddy. They've been spotted on Stockbridge High Street in their shoals.

     Not your average common all garden type of celebriddy either.

     Celebriddies said to have been spotted in Stockbridge are more famous than, say,  The Famous Cousin, who, though Famous in his way is not a Household Name and unlikely ever to be a National Treasure.

     They are even more famous than Jeremy Paxman who is a Household Name though also, not a National Treasure.

     They are Global A-Listers ranging from Eric Clapton to former USA presidents like George W. Bush. Was it Bush Jnr or Bush Snr? No-one really knows.  Though I do know that if I was a trout I'd rather be yanked out of my river by a former Yardbird.

     I love eating trout but I do not subscribe to this modern obsession with forensically dissecting the M.O. via which my trout arrived in my fridge.

     And, call me squeamish, but I can't stomach the vogue for meretricious cookery programmes which take us from the manger to the slaughter house under the guise of educating us, the ignorant viewers,  about how the meat got to your plate. Once or twice is fair enough but at one time there was an entire slew of so-called food programmes indulging in abattoir porn.

     But then I'm wet. I can't sit through a wild life programme without mewling and snivelling and having to leave the room in a flounce. Even, or in fact especially David Attenborough programmes.

     I can't watch because of the killing. It's natural enough for the animals involved but, by the time it reaches the TV screen it's wholly unnatural.

     It's been  laboriously filmed at huge expense,  lavishly edited, transformed into a kind of Death-Art with techni-coloured, slow motion effects,  glossy HD, topped off with a  running commentary and too frequently bursts of Elgar or Mozart or Verdi sawing away at your heart strings for extra pathos.

     Animals killing other animals is a bit like your parents having sex.
 
      It's natural.

     You know it happens.

     You just don't want to think about it.

     You definitely do not want to watch it on the telly.

08.04.2013

~~~~~





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