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A Recollection From Childhood: Entry #1 – Olney

By: David Stone
Childhood Recollection – Olney

Robin’s father, Bob, walked behind carrying even more tackle.  The two boys picked spots next to each other so they could at least chat if the fish were scarce, but Bob walked another fifty yards down the river to ensure he got some peace and relaxation, out of sight from the two lads.

To Bob fishing was more than a hunter’s quest, although deep bodied bream, plump roach, chub and perch would be his quarry.

 

For him it was more an escape from the monotony of the mundane worlds he inhabited – the factory, with its repetitive noises, smoke belching chimneys, clocking on and off, swarf and sawdust; and his depressing home, grey bricks and prison-like walls shared with a woman he no longer loved. It was his chance to forget everything apart from the fresh air and his surroundings.

No bills, no repairs, no hassle and no worries – well just for the day.  Instead, he saw the flowing river meandering through the landscape, bull rushes pointing their fingers to the sky, the mill now idle in its retirement years, the golden fields of maturing wheat and, with luck, a kingfisher – a streak of orange and turquoise flashing by.  Once he had seen a kingfisher perched on the branch of a nearby tree spending the next half an hour dipping into the water and emerging with small fish in its bill.  Total joy.

Robin always went fishing with his father but Jonathan, his friend, only went when cajoled by Robin.  He didn’t like the inactivity, pointlessly sitting for hours watching a float that hardly twitched, but he felt obliged every now and then to accompany Robin who, after all, was his best friend.

“Do you want me to help you set up?” Robin asked.

“Yes please.”  Jonathan’s lack of piscatorial experience meant he was only too glad for Robin to set up his rod and get him started.

Whilst Robin had been fishing many times before, he had only caught small fish, five or six inches long.  He desperately wanted to catch fish the size his father caught and so took his endeavours very seriously.  He was determined that today would bring his record fish, but he felt that every time he approached the water’s edge.

The two pals had been fishing for twenty minutes when Robin’s float started to move.  Initially, the float raised itself an inch out of the water, typical of a bream bite, then slowly moved downstream gradually submerging.  When it had totally disappeared, Robin struck and felt the immediate tension in the fishing line.

“I’ve got one,” Robin shouted to Jonathan, his rod bending under the pressure.

Jonathan put his rod down and went to see what was happening.  It took five minutes before Robin brought his bream to the surface and Jonathan helped him land it by scooping the fish up in the landing net.

“Wow, that’s the biggest fish I’ve ever caught.”  A look of delight was across Robin’s face.

“I must weigh it.”

The fish came in at three pounds exactly, certainly Robin’s best fish by far.  After he took the hook out of the bream’s mouth he rushed along the bank, the record fish in the landing net, to show his father.

“Well done”, Bob said, “go and catch another half dozen now.”

Robin returned to his spot and put the bream in his keep-net.  With a look of determination on his face he was sure that this day would be the best ever day’s fishing in his life.  He baited his hook again and cast out into the river.  His eyes were firmly concentrated on the float, waiting to detect the slightest movement.  On the other hand, Jonathan, who hadn’t had a bite, started to think of other things.

“I’ve got another,” Robin shouted and a second bream, although smaller than the first, found its way into the net.

After another half an hour Jonathan, totally bored by now, decided to go for a walk along the river bank.  At least walking would be active, something to make his heart beat faster, rather than sitting motionless on his fishing basket like a bronze statue.  He told Robin and headed off, upstream.

After half a mile he saw two figures walking towards him.  As he got closer he saw it was two girls of about sixteen or seventeen talking and laughing together.  They stopped abruptly when they saw Jonathan.

“Not seen you in these parts before,” one of the girls said.

“No, that’s because I’ve not been here before, I’m fishing with a friend.”

Jonathan pointed in the general direction of where Robin was fishing.

“Don’t look like you’re fishing to me.” The two girls giggled.

“Just stretching my legs.”

“So you’re with a friend,” the second girl said.

“Yes, would you like to meet him?”

“That might be fun.”

Jonathan, who had had a number of girlfriends, was good at spotting opportunities and he felt this chance encounter presented one.

“Come on then, I’ll introduce you.  I’m Jonathan by the way and my friend is Robin.  What are your names?”

‘I’m Sophie,” the first girl said, “and this is Nancy.”

Jonathan and the two girls walked back to where Robin was still in the depth of concentration.

“Robin, I’d like you to meet Sophie and Nancy.”

Robin turned around, shocked to see Jonathan with the two teenagers.

“Oh, hello,” he said, turning back to fix his eyes on the float.

Jonathan eyed up the two girls, who were both attractive in their own ways.  Sophie was slightly the smaller of the two, with wild, blond hair.  She had a fresh face, the sort you see on farmer’s daughters, bordering on cheekiness.  She had a good figure too with large breasts, which Jonathan could make out beneath her tight-fitting blouse.  Nancy, on the other hand was quite a thin girl and her baggy jumper hid any hint of her form, but she had a beautiful face and short, jet black hair.  Jonathan had to make a choice.

After a minute of further conversation, he held his hand out to Sophie and said, “let’s go for a walk.”

Sophie obliged, putting her hand in his and they started up the river bank.  Soon they were out of sight.

Nancy, sat near to Robin and watched his back for a few minutes.

“You come here often,” she said.

“Um, quite often,” he replied, slightly turning his head towards Nancy, but then refocusing on the float, just as it started to disappear again under the water.  He struck again and this time caught a roach.  He took the hook out, put the fish in his keep-net, re-baited and cast out again, not for a minute looking at Nancy.

“Where you from?”

“Birmingham,” Robin replied with little enthusiasm, turning even less than before.

“What else do like doing besides fishing?”

Robin thought for a minute.

“I like football,” he said, not even bothering to turn his head at all this time.

“Nothing else?”

“Sport in general,” he said after a pause.

Robin, unlike Jonathan, was inexperienced with girls, although he had had the occasional snog and a feel of a breast every now and then, but only on top of clothes.  Because his mind was so bent on catching more fish, he didn’t see the potential of the situation.  Here was an attractive girl, trying to engage him in conversation, even being slightly suggestive, yet he failed to pick up the signals.  Had it been a day when the fish hadn’t been biting, it might have been different, but days like this were few and far between and, after all, he’d caught his record fish.  This spurred him on and he had an even greater desire to catch more.

The float submerged again, this time a small perch.  Robin even forgot Nancy was there.  A hour later, Sophie and Jonathan returned.  After a few minutes the two girls went on their way and Jonathan returned to his spot on the river.  He put a maggot on his hook and cast out, not really bothered if he had a bite or not.  Time passed quickly for Robin and slowly for Jonathan, but soon it was late afternoon.  Robin had continued his catches and Jonathan passed time, thinking of other things.  Bob came along and said it was time to pack up and go home.  He watched eagerly as Robin emptied the fish from his keep-net back into the water.

“Well done, son,” he said smiling, “bad luck Jonathan, I’m sure you’ll catch something next time you come.”

Robin and Jonathan sat in the back of the car together on the way home.  Robin was full of himself and couldn’t stop talking about the fishing.

“Olney is my favourite fishing spot,” he said, “and I must have caught over thirty fish.  And, of course, my biggest was 3 pounds.”

Jonathan thought for a minute.

“I can beat that,” he said.

Robin looked puzzled, knowing full well that Jonathan had not lifted a fish from the river.

“My biggest catch was about seven and a half stones.”

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