Speed casting is for water babies

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The Independent Online

It felt good to cast again. The last time I'd fished I had been eight months pregnant, now I was a mother. Everything had changed. But at the water's edge, nothing had. My fishing vest, my rod, my Hardy reel, they were all waiting for me like the most understanding of friends.

It felt good to cast again. The last time I'd fished I had been eight months pregnant, now I was a mother. Everything had changed. But at the water's edge, nothing had. My fishing vest, my rod, my Hardy reel, they were all waiting for me like the most understanding of friends.

It had been something of an operation getting to the water's edge at all, timing my trip between feeds. My daughter had been dropped off en route, the baby seat had been liberated from the front seat (it's OK, we don't have an airbag) and I had taken my place in the passenger seat again, next to my boyfriend. It was headily familiar. But, because we had got lost, despite being on a familiar road, I now had exactly 90 minutes to fish.

For months I'd dreamed of fishing. It was OK until January, when the salmon season reopened. "Oh well," I'd sighed, as I remembered days long ago when fishing trips were only a matter of whim and weather. "Who wants to fish on a freezing Scottish river?" But then the trout season had started to edge tantalisingly close.

"Let's go fishing?" I'd emailed my friend Charles. His response was immediate. "Yes! Will that be the two or three of us? Will you bring a papoose?" In my naïvely pregnant days, this is what I'd imagined. Me fishing with my baby in a papoose. "It can't be that difficult," I thought. But it was.

Charles suggested some wonderful places. In Wales and the West Country. "I fancy something off-beat," he said. Well, yes, so did I, but how did I manage that with a breast-fed baby? I emailed back my response trying to explain briefly the logistics of the breast-bar and its opening hours and how one could go only so long before exploding. Funnily enough I've yet to get a response. I wondered how other new fisher-mothers managed. I'd love to know.

Without a convenient base in the country, Syon Park was pretty much our only option. My parents in West London were willing baby-sitters, and Syon is a little further West. It was do-able. I had three fish-tickets left over from my summer's foray to the Albury Estates and it's all part of the same "fishery", so all I had to do was buy a day ticket for £8. This took the sting, a little, out of the brevity of the visit.

It was the penultimate day of March, the sun was out and the fishery was busy. There was a mean east wind so, although the sun shone, it was a crisp day. So the fish, we reckoned, would be quite deep (I have always caught my fish deep here). I opened my fly box and a little black-bodied, lime-tailed viva jumped out at me. It was an ideal choice so I put it on and cast.

I decided to start fishing on the left bank, very near the entrance, for this spot had once given me a good fish. In a fit of madness - labour can make women think they can do anything - I cast straight into a 40mph wind. The line wound round my rod. Because I knew I couldn't spend the next 89 minutes untying knots, I switched to the opposite bank and cast with the wind at my back. As some sort of consolation for having so little time to fish, each cast I managed after that was so good, I marvelled; perhaps the break had done me good.

This fantastic casting didn't, however, get me a bite, not even a little nudge-nudge. Thirty minutes had gone. Should I waste valuable time changing fly? No. I went over to discuss tactics with my boyfriend.

He had changed to an intermediate line and the little foam-patch on his fishing vest showed me that he had already changed flies no less than eight times. "Anything?" I asked him, looking up from under the huge bill of my salt-water-fishing baseball cap. "Not a nibble." The bailiff came round to collect my £8. "Oh, you're that Barbara Annaliseri" he said, as he wrote out my ticket.

You know when you fish but you feel you have no chance? It was just one of those times. I looked at my watch: time to go. "Just one more cast," begged my boyfriend, lying as he squeezed another 10 in. Ninety-nine minutes later we were heading back home. Speed fishing, I fear, will be a feature of my life, for a little while at least.

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