We welcome Subsurface Journals Gareth Fareham to the Fortis Collective. Manchester born and bread, Gaz grew up cutting his teeth on ultra tough northern meres, like Redesmere, which is a course that has since lead him to succeed on many notoriously difficult venues down south. We share the same values as Gareth when it comes to fishing. His creative flair as Subsurface Journals Editor and his determination to “keep things real” perfectly reflect the Fortis ethos. We join him in this short story…
Wisps of spidery grey mist twist and coil towards the sky, sliding imperceptibly across the glass like surface of the calm pit. I know they are around, I can feel them. A single bleep shakes me from my meditation, the slack line flickering where it meets the water. I bite my lip, hoping and praying one of the big mirrors finds my delicately balanced hook bait before the sun makes its way too high into the sky and puts an end to the morning feeding spell.
Work beckons and I know I might not get another chance this good for weeks. The familiar rasp of flint brings warmth to my hands as the stove fires up for what must be the fifth tea of the morning already, more as an escape from the tension of willing a bite to come than anything else. Water gurgles from the container into the kettle, scarred from years of getting bashed around in my rucksack and encrusted white with limescale on the bottom. The cup doesn’t look much better either, brown and stained from the tannins. The familiar chink of spoon on Porcelain heralds the end of the age old ritual, and another sweet tea is clutched as I watch the spot intently. Pin prick bubbles are dotted around the area, occasionally a larger frothy set appear in the thick scum covered calm. I imagine the solid, steely grey bulk of one of the big mirrors as it looms over the spot, chewing on another mouthful of hemp and tigers, gills flaring excitedly and sending up bubbles through the columns.
Another few high pitched bleeps from my Neville makes my heart skip a beat or two, the little bobbin twitching almost all the way to the roller this time before edging its way back down from whence it came. I imagine that same mirror, flanking through the spot, sending up clouds of hemp and brushing its wide shoulders across my line in the process. My little balanced tiger dances around in the vortexes, riding a dangerous line between still sitting presentably and becoming a ruined hope. The big mirror approaches from the right, closer and closer he edges, the fleck of yellow catching his eye. He slows his pace with a few gentle flicks of his pectorals, dropping in the water and fixed on the little nut before turning away at the last second, something minutely small and unknowable had alerted him to the danger ahead, he’d been here once before. My cup is cold by this point, and I am none the wiser to how close I had just come.
As the morning sun burns its way higher and brighter into the sky and the shadows creep back into the trees I pack away my kit, as I have a thousand times before, wondering just how close I had come and planning a return. Another bucket of hemp and particles are scooped onto the spot as I leave, the cloud hanging in the water as the tiny seeds flutter down towards the sandy gravel underneath, and the cycle of hopes and dreams begins once again.
Fishing means many things to me, it is the pursuit of the unknowable, of the uncatchable, and the result of holding on, however tenuously, to all my boyhood dreams and the basic need to spend time outside in the environment. I love sleeping under the stars, I love the wind and rain on my face, and the biting cold on my hands. Exposed to the elements, not protected from them. Embracing the challenges, not looking for an easy option. Carp angling is a thousand different things to a thousand different people these days, but to me it has to retain something of the unknown, and more so than that, something of the challenge. I need to feel like the fish I’m chasing have the upper hand, that they have the Aces and you only have some Tens and a Queen. I need to know that they don’t need to eat the bait I’m presenting them with, and I need to know that if I don’t get things right I could go months without hooking one…that is what makes me tick, that is what gets me out of bed each morning to watch for shows, that is what will have me out at midnight baiting up under the cover of darkness. As soon as it becomes predictable or too easy it becomes an empty pursuit for me, it has to be hard.
I listened to someone with twenty years more experience than me say something profound a few weeks ago – he said ‘without the magic, carp fishing is a very superficial experience, without the magic it is nothing’ and I couldn’t agree more. The socials, the friendships, the adventures, the disasters, the anguish, the stress, the nerves, the anticipation….that is what angling means to me.