The Angler

The Angler Albert skulked out of the house and headed for his favourite fishing spot; he was in no mood to meet anyone. When he arrived he forced his way angrily through a tangle of sedge and nettles towards the river. How could he have been so stupid? From his concealed pocket he took out the worn tobacco tin containing his tackle and placed it carefully on an area he had stamped flat; he didn’t want to lose that as well. Then he assembled his collapsible rod and began to set up. Still shaken by his recent experience, he took an age to tie the first fly to the tippet then attach the dropper to the leader – one to attract the fish, the other to catch it on its concealed barb. It required all his concentration to persuade his arthritic fingers to tie the fine thread so that the fish would be taken in just as he had been by the crisp uniforms and identity cards. He had come to this remote stretch of the Kennet to escape the ignominy of what had happened as well as the attentions of the river bailiff; he certainly couldn’t afford a fine now. It was going to be difficult to cast from here without snagging his line on the alder branches dipping out over the water. With a practised arc of the arm he cast smoothly across the river, which broadened out at this point into a shallow gliding sheen that polished the gravel of the river bed and tickled through vegetation on the water margin. The fly landed perfectly as Albert intended, sank, then dead-drifted invitingly with the current towards a darker spot under the far bank hidden by a mass of bramble fronds. Albert looked intently for a sign of the trout that he knew from years of poaching would be lurking there protected from the glare of sunlight and hidden from its prey, hidden too from its predator. Yet even as he watched the spangles of sunlight refracting in the stream, an image of the empty money tin on his mantle piece assailed him. Irritably he tugged on the line. With a flick of its powerful tail yet causing barely a ripple, a brown trout darted at the fly. Albert was too experienced a fisherman to move at once. He allowed the fish time to take the bait then when he was sure of him he struck and hooked him firmly. Skilfully he played the fish letting it run before gradually reeling it in. Albert smiled bitterly. The trout twisted and glittered as he pulled it from the water. Holding it firmly he removed the hook from its lip. It was a good size and normally he would have dispatched it quickly and stowed it in his poacher’s pocket. But as it lay on the bank flapping ineffectually and gasping for air he pitied it. Tricked by a clever subterfuge, conned by an expert, the fish was not to blame. He took the smooth, shining trout tenderly in both hands, gently lowering it into the cool, clear stream. For a moment it remained still then shot away to the security of its hiding place.

With a lighter heart Albert packed up his gear and set off home.

by Michael Cope (copyright reserved)

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