Now...exactly how many did get away?

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The Independent Online

It's good to have a fishing experience to mull over at this time of year to remind you of all the fishing to come. And sometimes it seems the mind squirrels one away for just this purpose.

It's good to have a fishing experience to mull over at this time of year to remind you of all the fishing to come. And sometimes it seems the mind squirrels one away for just this purpose. Because although January can be terrifically exciting ? it's the start of the salmon season on some rivers, and a sprinkling of frost can make fishing for any species very picturesque ? it can also be terribly dull. Not least because although you may want to go fishing, but somewhere between that desire and its execution lies a chasm that is most often filled with a comfy armchair and afternoon movies.

Last weekend we revisited the friends who have a bit of the river Box running through their land This was the river I didn't fish in the summer because the lure of Pimms and champagne was too strong. Although the recent floods, and some gardeners, had much changed the landscape (the former had actually swept away the bridge!) it was funny seeing a place that had last been viewed at the height of summer. It's a bit like catching your glamorous Aunt Trixie (or whomever) without her make up on. Not less beautiful, just different. Because the bank had been cut right back, we could walk further along than we had in the summer, and were able to see some very fine gravel beds that, hopefully, will be nursery to many trout eggs soon.

There was no fishing to be done so this time the distractions of a wood–burning stove and various girlie movies (no not that sort) had little competition. Snuggled under a rug I was drifting in and out of consciousness when I had this half dream of fishing that I seemed to recognise but couldn't place.

It so intrigued me that when I got home I hunted through my diaries. Thank goodness for diaries. And there it was. A fishing experience I'd clean forgotten about. This puzzled me further because I'd clearly written "I got two to the net including one that was probably my biggest brownie to date at about 4lbs". How could I have forgotten my biggest brown trout? A clue lay further on in the diary entry "that evening we went to Patricia's to celebrate her birthday and stayed quite lateÉI drank quite a bit." Ahem.

Although the diary entry makes it real, the whole day seems to have developed dream like qualities. It all took place on Clavering Lakes in Essex, I know this because my diary tells me. I do remember the parking lot very vividly because it had a toilet cubicle which was, for me, the source of some excitement. I recall buying tickets from a man with a very bouncy dalmation dog. Although it was May, it was cold. The fish were behaving in most athletic fashion. They weren't taking the mayfly under the surface or off the surface but they were jumping for them. Eating the mayfly just as they thought they'd hatched for freedom and had cleared the water by about 8 inches. It was like watching some sort of killer whale demonstration. (My boyfriend said he'd never seen anything like it before but he clearly has amnesia of his own because I remember the fish doing the same thing on the river Coln in Gloucestershire one May. They'd made it look like they'd be so easy to catch that I'd wolfed down my pork pie in order to do so. Only they'd been teasing and were buggers to catch.)

Perhaps fish do this jumping fish when they feel very wily and have no intention of being fooled by a fisherman's fancy. Because on both occasions when I've seen this the fishing was very hard, perhaps made all the more frustrating because you can see the fish and can't fool yourself that they're not feeding. On Clavering Lakes I had several hours of blanking. I know I tried to fashion some sort of "floating mayfly", pulling it out of the water and dangling it half a foot off the surface, hoping they fish would jump on it as they did the natural. I thought I might invent a totally new way of fishing "very dry fly". But no. I do, however, now that I think of it, plan to do more research into this; maybe with a slightly weighted mayfly that wouldn't flitter in the wind and would hang above the waterÉ.

But I have no memory, whatsoever, of eventually catching the four fish I list in my diary. Not what I caught them on, not what I did with them. Two of them got off, apparently. Now then, what's the name of the prime minister?