Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Dave Horton - One Good Deed

I first shared this little tale through the pages of a small circulation Irish Piking magazine (An Luis) back in the early 2000’s?

I’m hoping then that few if any of you will have read it already and that it entertains you and fills a few minutes of your life’s as intended.

I don’t know if it’s the fact that I have Irish blood coursing through my veins (my father having been born and raised in Tipperary town) but the one place in this world that find myself most comfortable and at home in is Ireland.  For many years now I’ve nurtured a dream that sees me living somewhere on that beautiful Island and god willing one day I will!  Here and now though in the cold light of day and the stark reality of the present I live on a somewhat different Island surrounded by people with whom I find myself increasingly at odds with and the majority of whom I seemingly become ever more detached from.  Don’t get me wrong, I recognise the fact that the common denominator in all my conflicts is me and that I can be a difficult man but on the whole my brother man (and woman) disappoints me more often than not and even if I am able to recognise and (slowly) accept my own failings, it still doesn’t alter the fact that there are some who’s failings are yet greater!

Here then is a Piking tale that contains considerable good and just a little bad, that will I hope paint the picture more clearly to you of what I’m getting at. 

The story begins with me driving a couple of hundred miles across country in the dark, in order to get a reasonable nights kip on a mates couch (Les Moses) and wake just a short jaunt down to his local river in pursuit of the awesome Pike it held!  Forgive me for not naming the venue but even with this passage of time I’m mindful of treading on the toes belonging to those more local than myself.  Some if not all of you will work out the venue I’m referring to but at least I can say I didn’t tell you eh?

Previous ventures to the river had seen Les and I share multiple catches of BIG Pike, with his best going over 28lbs and mine just a pound less.  Confidence then was high especially when the river conditions were at their optimum best following flood conditions.

I’d first met Les (a good, good man) in the late 90’s when I’d been asked to give a presentation to his local region of the PAC.  Despite being well versed at giving these presentations I don’t mind admitting that I get a little anxious about giving them (few of us like public speaking?) especially if I attend on my own (please take note people I won’t be alone in feeling that way).  Anyways, there I was, stood anxiously in a room full of strangers, 150 miles from home in the late 90’s, when out of the crowd emerged  a stranger (Les) who was to become a friend for life with his warm words of welcome, a kind smile and a pint!

Les, he won’t mind me saying so, is a bit of a scally wag which meant we found common ground and empathy quickly.  Even before we shared great fishing and more than our share of bad times together we discovered that rare natural understanding from which lasting friendship grows.

Anyways back to the story.  It was about ten at night and a tired Horton decided to pull into a motorway service station for a refuel and a coffee.  Parking the car up near to the Services entrance, my headlights picked out a forlorn looking figure standing with an empty Petrol can in his hand.  Already starting to recognise an opportunity to help someone I wandered over and enquired if all was well with him?   “Not really.”  He started and proceeded to tell me how he was driving home in his Van and had realised he’d left his wallet at work and was on the brink of running out of fuel.  Could he perhaps borrow a fiver to get him to the next Services where he’d hopefully find another “generous soul”  who would maybe lend him another so that he might repeat the process until he made it home.  He would ofcourse take my name and address in order that he could mail me the fiver back if I were good enough to help him?  Blimey this was my lucky day I thought to myself!  This bloke really was up shit creak and I was in prime position to help him!  To cut a long story short I gave not the £5 he was asking for but the £30 he’s need in order to get home without stopping again and so that he wouldn’t have to suffer the indignity of having to ask some other stranger to lend him some of their hard earned cash – I even bought him a coffee and a pastry (incidentally I’ve never ever bought myself a pastry from a motorway services because I wouldn’t justify the extortionate price of one  for myself – but when I asked him if he wanted anything it that which he pointed at and that which he got!) so that his little tummy might stop rumbling!  Feeling pretty good about myself, we shook hands warmly and parted company so that I might take a leak and he’d go fill his van up with diesel.

Needing fuel myself I figured I’d see him at the pump too.  Smiling to myself and humming “Everything is beautiful” I drove down to the petrol stn and was a little surprised not to see a van of any sort?  Certainly I’d been pretty quick and I doubted I’d missed him but somewhere deep inside me stirred an uneasy feeling.  NO!  I wouldn’t allow myself to think what I’d started to think and so I tried my best to shut it out!  The next couple of hours passed without event and eventually at about midnight I pulled up at Les’s place. “You’re a little later than expected?” he said and whilst making my apologies I related the tale of the poor fcuker I’d met at the motorway services and how I’d saved the day. Les smiled wryly, at the same time shaking his head and muttering as he left the room momentarily.  When he returned he furnished me with a local Newspaper already open on page 5 with the bold headline “Motorway Services Petrol Scam!”  I didn’t know wether to laugh or cry when I realised that the very plausible “Paul?” that I’d met some 100 miles or so earlier and had seemingly shown honest respect and gratitude to the simple but kind man that had pressed 3 crisp tenner’s into his hand and bought him a coffee and cake, had likely been little more than a confidence trickster!  Even faced with the mounting evidence I clung to some desperate hope that Paul would honour our verbal agreement, stop my already dwindling faith in humanity, restore my faith in myself for being able to judge the good and bad in my brother man and mail me the money he said he would to my place of work, the Fire Station.  NO NO NO!  I simply refused to accept that I’d been mugged!  I even tried to console myself with the fact that I’d done something that made me feel good, though I wasn’t sure I felt £30 good?   I slept very little that night and all too quickly morning was upon us with the ever cheery Les enthusiastically waking me to begin the assault!

A hearty breakfast (Les always looks after me) and we were on our way.  As luck would have it another factor Les and I found in common is that we both abhor early starts so it was gone eight before we were at waterside and ready to launch the 10ft Ally boat we were to fish from.

The river was in fine fettle and was just as Les had predicted, only just becoming fishable after being in flood for the best part of the winter.  Previous experience had proven this to be just about the optimum time to fish for the rivers Pike.  Today that would simply be re-affirmed! 

Les had in the past been a bit of Salmon ghillie and was first class at positioning a boat in the most appropriate position to get the most from a swim.  The “plan” was to drift along one of the margins and take it in turns to cast a bait to “Pikey” looking spots.   Lives and deads, cast into every nook and cranny, invariably solicit a rapid response from any Pike that have taken up residence there and had proven to be very productive on previous trips.

We had only been fishing perhaps 15 mins and had presented baits in maybe 4 or 5 swims when we happened upon the first really horny looking one.  We were taking it in turns to cast our baits into these often quite restricted swims and it was Les’s turn to fish this particularly small one.  A perfectly positioned under arm plop saw les’s half pound bait land exactly where he wanted it and within seconds it was taken.  The spirtited fight that ensued resulted in a fine looking fishing of about 18 lbs.  Several hundred yards and half an hour or so later we came upon a slack that was large enough for us both to fish.  I dropped the anchor and we both swung our baits out to fish perhaps 10 yards apart.  We had simultaneous takes, with mine being a tiddler that was easily dealt with.  Les though was into a much better fish that was taking line as it headed upstream of our position.  I’d just dropped my jack back in when I witnessed Les’s BIG fish turn beneath the boat and throw the hooks!  A few quick words of consolation were offered whilst we both quickly hooked fresh baits on and got them back out into the slack again.  My bait reached the tail end of the slack first and “plopped” under!

The fight was similar, the outcome different as minutes later we were weighing our first 20 of the day!  A great start at 24lbs and we’d only been out an hour.  I’d love to say that the action was fast and furious but in truth it wasn’t and rarely is on this particular venue.  In fact you can fish dozens of great looking swims and hundreds of yards on this river and not get a sniff of a Pike and today was a case in point.   It was then a couple of miles and quite a few hours later that we encountered our next BIG Pike with just a jack a piece to each of us in between.

As luck would have it, it was my turn to drop a bait into this swim and as is usually the case, if a Pike is present, the 6oz (the baits were getting smaller) Roach was taken pretty much immediately.  I wound down hard and the rod wrenched in my hands as an obviously BIG Pike gave it best for the initial few seconds before being bullied back towards the boat.  It was all over in a flash as the bait came flying back in a sorry looking state for me to examine. The teeth marks were BIG and I felt the despair only a fisherman who’s lost a whacker does!

The swim required a better look so we dropped the anchor and both got our baits ready.  Decent baits were running out so I mounted a dead one of about a pound whilst Les stayed with his more moderate live one and we both got them out into the slack.  Both our baits made it unmolested to the end of the slack but as I rapidly retrieved mine in order to clear Les’s line, it was engulfed in a BIG swirl.  This fish, like all her sister’s on this river fought like a Demon and set off upstream at a rate of knots against a not inconsiderable flow!  This time the hooks held and after the initial surge another mid 20lbs fish was bullied into the net.  A little BIGGER than the earlier one this fish weighed in at 25lbs 4oz (interestingly this fish had appeared in one of the Angling papers some months earlier at a claimed weight of 32lbs and had been one I’d hoped I’d bump into) and was ofcourse my 2nd twenty of the day.  

A few quick shots and a happy Horton sat back to take it all in.  I had a move in mind but Les had other ideas and what’s more he had my best interests at heart too!  “You cast out again Dave I think there might have been two different fish down there?”  Les offered.  Well, I have to admit I was convinced that both takes had come from the same fish and also it should have been Les that was putting a bait through the swim.  Les though was having none of it and went on the explain his reasoning.  “Go on Dave you might catch a third 20 and after last night events I’d like to see that!”  With that I quickly hooked one of the remaining little live baits back to the head of the slack.  God it’s good to be wrong at times!  The take was a carbon copy of the first and the fight just as spectacular but the weight was better still!  At 26lbs this was our last fish of the day and still remains one of my favourite days fishing ever.

I’d love to finish on a high note but sadly I can’t for as I’m sure you’re probably guessed already? Old muggings here never did see his £30 quid again. Would I do the same again? Yes I most certainly would (and have) for I genuinely believe in the old adage “one good deed deserves another” (fortunately so it seems does Les) and I live in the belief that for every snake of a human there is out there, there’s at least one good man to balance them out?

Dave Horton

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