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Bad Day
By Kenneth Ewington

It was Jack who first became aware of my growing interest in carp. Perhaps it was the look of longing, lingering on my countenance, and the suspicious protruding of my lips as I sucked floating crust from the margin of my soup plate. It was imperative that something should be done. The outcome was that arrangements were made for a nights fishing expedition, and the place was to be a chalk pit some twenty miles distant.
In the days that followed, I familiarized myself with all available knowledge contained in Jack’s extensive fish library relating to carp and the catching thereof. Spellbound bby the writings of gallant carp men, I became determined to match my own wits with the cunning of these awe-inspiring creatures.
A thorough survey and plumbing of the pit gave much valuable information. The quarry were wild carp inhabiting an area of nine acres. As the night of nights drew near, so excitement increased. Nothing, we decided must be left to chance. The eve of the operation saw me and my confederate plotting the final details for a plan of action. At midnight two weary anglers slunk off to bed to dream of the morrow.
It was 7p.m. when we arrived at the water side. The day had been gloriously hot, but now a thick blanket of cloud hung in the sky, causing an extremely close and stuffy atmosphere. It was as still and silent as a grave. ‘perfect conditions’ Jack hissed in my ear, ‘that’s where I’m fishing.’ Looking in the direction of his pointing boot, I saw he had chosen the corner of the smallest bay, about an acre in size. ‘Fine,’ I said, ‘and that’s my position.’ Jack gasped. My choice was an island situated in the mouth of the bay. A good vantage point, for carp patrolling to and fro would have to negotiate a channel formed between the island and the main bank. The island was completely overgrown with dense vegetation of every conceivable type which, to the uninitiated, appeared impenetrable. Hence Jack’s gasp. However, on a previous visit, unknown to my ignorant companion, I had explored the island and gained access to the only available pitch, which, fortunately, covered the channel.
It was now growing dusk as I stood contemplating the fifteen-foot-wide strip of black mud and weeds I had to traverse to reach the island. So, without further delay, we wished each other tight lines and Jack stole off. Anxious to be in position, I picked up my gear, taking the first step through the reeds-whereupon I sank up to my knees in the sticky ooze! With a quite curse, I pressed on deeper into the mire, my other leg receiving the same treatment enroute. Half way to the island, I heard an unmistakable ‘cloop’ to my right how stupid to have left it so late. When the island was finally reached it was quite dark and, with a great sob of relief, I heaved my, by now, sweat-soaked body on to dry land. Wiping the perspiration from my eyes with a muddy paw, I blinked in to the inky blackness trying to get my bearings. The hell with it! Easy enough in daylight but now everything on the island seemed transformed and strangely out of perspective. A multitude of midges, disturbed by this intrusion into their privacy, began attacking in force, draining my life’s blood and setting up irritations in the most awkward places. Keeping a firm grip on my rising emotions, I some how stumbled upon the gap in the bushes that led to the chosen swim. By now ‘clooping’ was becoming more frequent with great eddyings billowing in all directions from the island. My temper was getting harder to check as I realised the time wasted and the carp not yet caught. ‘Ken’ a low call floated across from Jack’s swim. I refrained from answering. ‘Ken.’ ‘Yeah,’ I snapped irritably. ‘I’ve got carp all round my crust. What are you doing?’ a long moan came from my lips, for I was engaged in an all-in wrestling bout with a hawthorn bush which somehow had managed to form a half-nelson round my vertebrae. My rod was also wedged firmly in the undergrowth. I thought it better to let Jack’s question remain unanswered. An hour elapsed before I finally wrenched myself free from the hawthorns clutches. The tearing noise that followed brought another enquiring comment from Jack. By this time, I was completely exhausted and fell back panting and licking my wounds. After a brief rest I freed my rod, which took another half-hour, and pushed on into the dense thicket. The clooping and eddying still continued. All sense of time was now lost and, I am sad to say, all sense of direction. Panic was building up fast. What a miserable state of affairs to be in, hopelessly lost on a tiny island. Try as I could to find the swim, it still eluded my ever attempt. Just as if the whole island had turned into some live thing changing shape and character. The rats and moles had joined forces with the slugs and were closing in on me, with the midges keeping up their unmerciful bombardment. Awful, ghastly, creepy, crawly objects came out of hiding to make their contribution to my torment. And to add ironically to this nightmare, my companion had not hesitated to tell me with maddening glee of the capture of two carp. This then was the position at about 2a.m. in tropical conditions on a tiny island, a desperate, half-crazed figure sat, in a pool of sweat, fuming and jibbering while the carp clooped. The strain was unbearable. Waves of panic swept through me. That swim must be reached soon if all my great effort was not to prove in vain and the night written off as a complete farce. So, gathering my tackle about me once more and calling upon the last reserves of will power, I smashed my way for the umpteenth time into the bracken.
Although I now flatter myself, justifiably I think, that I am a persistent carp man, temperamentally suited for fishing for these superbly intelligent fish at that stage of my carping career these qualities were somewhat lacking, for after coming back to the starting point thirty or forty times, falling into a pit of brambles, impaling myself on hawthorn bushes, tearing the seat of my pants and generally letting rip, I had had enough. It was dawn as I made my weary way back to the mainland. No sign of carp now but the brutes had been feeding ravishingly all night. Upon reaching the mainland, I immediately cast a large ball of bread paste into the first swim I clapped eyes on, set the rod in its rest and lamented my misfortunes. At 9a.m., Jack, beaming with success, came up behind me gripping a dripping sack. ‘Hold these while I get the balance.’ He stole away and I looked down at his capture. Three wild carp in beautiful condition. I buried my head in my hands and wept. Jack returned while I was still grieving bitterly and weighed the fish before my envious eyes. Seven pounds-seven and a half pounds-eight pounds of wriggling carp flesh. A little puzzled by my lack of enthusiasm, he asked me how I had fared.
‘Got lost,’ I snarled.
‘Got lost?’ ‘Yer.’
‘Where?’ ‘On the island.’
‘On the island?’ ‘Yeah.’
A long sickening pause followed as the information sunk in and I gritted my teeth in expectation of his next question. ‘Haven’t you bin fishing then?’
‘Nah.’
‘Why not?’
‘Told yer.’
‘didn’t you catch…?’
‘Oh shut up!’
We stared at each other and he scanned my disheveled appearance. Suddenly the unbelievable comedy of it struck him as with a piercing shriek of uncontrolled hysteria he fell in the grass, his legs flaying and kicking in the air.
Jack paid no heed to my sulky silence as we trecked back to the van. Our tackle deposited in the van, we climbed in for the drive home. I looked back at ‘Devils Island’ and there, as plain as the writing on this page, was the path leading to the swim on the far side. So simple. So utterly easy to reach. Such a perfect swim. Just right for taking care of any carp cruising in or out of the bay.

 

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