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Ray and I

Back together again. It's been nearly a year by my reckoning since Ray and I last went fishing together and that's too long. In between we've both had a lot of different stuff to deal with, so it's good to remember that despite everything that's happened we're still the same people, that we share - broadly - the same outlook, and that we'll both still be fishing until we can't.

We've had a houseful in the last week with a lot of coming and going and there'll be more before things settle down again, so it's good to get back to the relative calm of the river. I've kept my decision-making to a minimum too, by just bringing the little quiver tip rod and four slices of white bread. This, I've decided, is the most recession-friendly bait I can rustle up at the moment. This loaf, divided into plastic bags saved from our egg deliveries and distributed in four parcels around the freezer (partly to hide them from raiding children) cost 50p and should do me four trips, at least.

Almost without thinking I head for the swim where I last caught a fish. It's a confidence thing I suppose, just as my reason for fishing with bread flake - I met another club member who spoke glowingly of the big chub he'd caught on bread and I, at least, was hooked. Later I'll remember what a pleasure it is to use something that makes your fingers smell nice instead of nasty and that doesn't wriggle around when you put it on the hook.

Ray arrives about 15 minutes after me and then wanders off upstream to nab his favourite swim before anyone else gets there. Tonight it seems the only competition is from a couple of picnickers we met here last year, so it's not too much of a problem - though Ray does have to have words when they try and set their chairs up right next door to him. It's all resolved in very civilised fashion and before the end of the evening the three of them are chatting away about the river, the wildlife and half a dozen other important matters.

Nothing happens for 45 minutes and then I get four bites in a row - savage stabs from baby chub probably - that I can't get anywhere near. Then it goes dead. Ray stops by for a visit and we agree that it's probably still a bit hot for any real action. I move swims and carefully drop the bait right in front of me. Seconds later I've got a little 5oz chub that's taken the bait right down. A firm push and swizzle with a disgorger and the hook comes out clean as a whistle and he bombs off under the lilies.

Then we settle into a period of nothing. As sometimes happens with fishing, this is entirely pleasant. Gripped in the vice of an unseasonal heatwave, it's lovely to sit here with the sun sinking, the breeze still about and the swallows darting down to dip the surface of the river.

I move up and settle in next to Ray, just beneath the big willow tree, ledgering downstream. In quick succession I get a Fred Flintstone bite which I miss completely, then overcast and watch open mouthed as the bait gets hit on the retrieve - another miss - before striking into something substantial which I manage to lose in the weed. The last three feet of line, ledger and hook come back covered in this stuff which is like green cotton wool covered in wallpaper paste. By the time I get it all off, I can't see what I'm doing anymore. I leave Ray where he is as the river sinks into darkness and head for home.


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