Annalisa Barbieri: Mr Big rises to the bait in a small pond

Last Sunday morning, within 15 minutes of smothering a warm and yielding croissant with gianduja spread I was dipping a wadered toe in a river. Ah, there was that lovely familiar feeling: the water, always colder than you think it's going to be, hugging your legs tightly and squeezing all the air out of your waders.

Last Sunday morning, within 15 minutes of smothering a warm and yielding croissant with gianduja spread I was dipping a wadered toe in a river. Ah, there was that lovely familiar feeling: the water, always colder than you think it's going to be, hugging your legs tightly and squeezing all the air out of your waders.

I was in the River Box in Suffolk. There was a bridge behind me, a little weir some 20 feet ahead, a stable of horses to my left. In front of me a tiny, twinkling river, barely bigger than a stream, but full of promise. A big tree overhung it, the branches dipping into the water providing many a trap for my hook.

This wasn't a river that had been fished very much at all. Plus the fish were rising. What a great Sunday morning! Although this was the best pool - of maybe only two - my boyfriend, the generous soul, decided to ghillie me while I fished.

The casting wasn't easy. I couldn't overhead cast because there were too many trees behind me. I reached for a black-ant fly, on a hook as small as a newborn's eyelash. I cast; once, twice, half a dozen times. We decided to change the fly. I say "we", but in truth I'd have hammered away for longer with the same no-hope fly because I am so lazy. My boyfriend put a Tupp's Indispensable on for me as I stood in a semi-trance (nature does that to me).

The Tupp's was much easier to see on the water, too, which I like because fishing without being able to see the fly takes the edge off some of the banging-heart excitement.

Another difficulty was that the line caused slack as it came toward me, which meant that had a fish bitten I would have had little chance of tightening up in time to render him set. But being over-enthusiastic risked dragging the fly and fooling no fish. Oh what simple dilemmas one has on a river.

Anyway, whatever I was doing must have been half-right because a fish bit. Now I always find when fishing a river for the first time that I need to "tune in" to the fish's frequency and strike at just the right time, which is sometimes much slower than instinct tells you to do. I missed him, as I was to miss the next fish, too. But they were biting!

My heart was beating so fast as I watched my little fly come toward me, knowing at any point a fish might fancy it. I got the next fish and the next. Then, I can't remember after how many but my boyfriend pointed to a particularly good spot beneath the tree.

I knew it was the most "fishy" spot but I also knew that, because of that, it was the hardest to reach. Until this point I had been roll-casting, but now I had to cast sideways, shooting line between the water's surface and the lowest dip of the tree's branches. A big ripple broke just where we had thought there would be fish.

"That's a big fish," my boyfriend whispered. I cast and, with a precision that I'd never shown in netball as Goal-Shoot, my fly landed at that exact spot. And Mr Big Fish rose again, this time to my fly.

"That's a big fish!" gasped my boyfriend again, slapping my back in pride as I played the fish in. We are, of course, talking relatively: the utterly wild brownie was about a foot long and lucky to be 1lb; but in these here parts that would make him 10-15 years old and very worthy of the name "big". What a privilege to meet him: he was beautiful with his lovely red spots.

With the greatest delicacy we unhooked him and he swam off. I fished for an exquisitely exciting 70 minutes more, while my daughter slept. I lost count of the wild brown trout I caught, and surrendered back, to the mightiest of tiny rivers.

a.barbieri@independent.co.uk

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