My obsession feels like the best love affairs

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The Independent Online

Last night I dreamt I went fishing again. Only my rod kept turning into a golf club and I couldn't cast. If I were a man I'd worry. As it is I just keep having sleepless nights tossing and turning, dreaming about fishing, and waking up exhausted. I'm also very, very uninterested by anything that doesn't involve fishing. I want to fish and if I can't fish I want to talk about fishing and surround myself with nice fishing folk.

The reason for all this is probably shockingly shallow. I've been fishing quite a bit these last few weeks and been rather good at catching fish. Fishing is a lot like most other things: you go through periods of being good, and being bad. Of being lucky and cursed (relatively speaking, of course). It's only when I have a good day that I realise how philosophical I'm being when I try and tell myself fishing's not just about catching fish.

It's also nice to feel this obsessed because, believe it or not, I don't always feel that way. Sometimes I just don't want to go fishing and then I panic and think: 'Oh no, is the love affair over?' But then, like the best love affairs, it just suddenly turns right around and I'm all in love again.

So, two weeks ago, right in the middle of the week, I decided to ignore real life and go fishing. Deadlines, bills, pah. I just forgot them all and headed for Bewl, a reservoir in Kent. Regular readers will know I am not a fan of big expanses of water, reservoirs especially. Dams, with their big smooth walls, make me go all shuddery. Brrrr. But for some reason I felt very calm and confident and gung-ho. The last time we'd been there I'd freaked out and was unable to even get into a boat. But that was a few years ago and my hydrophobia has come on some since then. I wouldn't say I fair jumped into the boat this time, but I didn't have to breathe in and out of a brown paper bag either. But once in, even though the glass-fibre boats at Bewl aren't the most stable I've been in – a bucking bronco comes to mind – I was fine.

On the way down to the jetty we'd met some fishermen coming off the water – it was lunchtime – saying helpful things like "you'll be lucky to get a nibble today". Nevertheless we headed off in search of shelter because there was a capricious wind blowing, and anchored in Seven-Pound Creek. I had an intermediate line on and put a fly of Pete's own design on which I call a Pete's Whiskers. More specifically, one with a lime green chenille body and a fine black marabou tail. Pete was fishing with a floating line and a team of three buzzers. Within not very long I was into a fish which fought like most big water fish do: hard and dirty. It kept trying to go under the boat but I was having none of it. He weighed just under 2lb. All the way through the fight Pete was shouting "Good girl, good girl," his chest so puffed with pride that it could have been mistaken for a boat-sail, if viewed at some distance. Nobody around us was catching any fish.

We upped anchor and headed for a stretch of water called Hook Straight which a bulletin pinned in the lodge said had been fishing well. But I found it a bit choppy so we headed back to a different area of Seven-Pound Creek. Because my first fish had taken just after I'd been chatting – I'd let the fly sink for a bit – I was retrieving in a very specific way: slow retrieves with pauses. It worked. Within 20 minutes I was into another fish which took its time to be ready to come to the net.

Pete, meanwhile, had not even had a nibble. After a couple of hours we had complete role reversal: me trying to cheer him up, he very fed up. In the end I resorted to a cheap trick that all girls know work.

There was no one around so I undid my jacket and pulled out a secret stash of chocolate. But it was no substitute for a fish. Still, he brightened up considerably when a magnificent Spitfire flew overhead, its distinctive droney sound the cause of much rubbernecking.

We ended the day with Pete being very philosophical but terribly proud of me (a lot of the other men blanked that day too). I'm afraid I was rather too pleased with myself. But then, I've had my fair share of having to be philosophical and this time, it was nice to be plain old smug.

a.barbieri@independent.co.uk

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