‘Through endless meadows wends a long forgotten cart track – its route takes you towards the wooded outcrops of hazel, alder, oak and ash that afford a ringed copse to the pool’.
Walking toward the pool I hear the faint call of a cuckoo his distinctive voice will be heard from the highest treetops to the lowest branches of marginal willow. Restless he takes flight one perch to the next his call ever present and forever being returned unanswered; in the last two years his has been a lamentable existence for I have not heard a female respond to his coupled plea.
There was with surety a pair of cuckoos here every year for there is an abundance of both reed and sedge warblers, who share the prolific beds with there partial namesake the reed bunting, their songs are one of joy, and when accompanied by the chiff chaff’s rendition you have nature’s voice in parity. I am being reminded constantly of their presence as I get ever closer to the pool. The cart track rounds the copse with a number of convenient cuts, the one I am taking reaches a kissing gate and then a rather lengthy boardwalk that will take me above the wet boggy perimeter of the pool.
With net, pole and the two part cane all being reunited, I take from the oversized willow creel my trusty Aerial, a repurposed fly fishers leather wallet, under the holding strap of which I have secured a scant selection of floats which I will whittle down to ‘the one’ a disgorger and lastly a shot tube, when all is set I place the remaining tackles over a convenient branch and make my way towards a first cast.
There is a pitch I would like to see first, where over the last few days I have spotted tell tale signs of tench grubbing around beneath the pads, it surely must be worth a visit. Upon arrival I am greeted by a rather large pike, he is fanning his pectorals and with an effortless toing and froing motion the water buoys and holds his size and menacing shape. I can see the next cast on the point this is a glorious pitch of loosestrife, angelica and reed. Here too are lily, in fact all along this bank-side margin the lily create large flotillas that appear to extend the reach of the land well into the pool.
The view out and over the pool is aglow with a picture perfect sunrise. Should I even disturb the water? With this and other permutations running through my mind it seems an age before the diminutive float edges a lily and is obligingly held by it to perfection. With a few offerings around the beds and either side of the quill I settle comfortably and float watch. The cuckoo is not far from my thoughts or my ear as his call is ever present – it really is desperately sad, channeling such feelings one is led into other waters and far deeper than the one in front of me. The quill is unmoved and as yet not one sign has suggested tench are below it. With the suns climb through the sky as my timely guide I estimate the inactivity lasts a good hour or more, without a glimmer of assurance I eventually read the signs – with hook in its keeper I make my way back to the obliging branch but not before looking in on Esox who unpredictably is holding station.
A gentle breeze gathers the vestiges of dawns misty beginnings and with a whisper announces the days intention. I am standing beside an alder, and looking out over the stream whose course delineates the lower contours of the pool. Over the many years of egress smaller pools have formed, their bright crystal clear water with multi hued cabbages and the scatterings of lily and reed offer a fine scene. The pools are alive to the skitting darts of fry in what are near perfect crèches; there are hundreds upon hundreds of rudd and roach and all appear to be enjoying the warmth that is running through the water.
It was by now surely time for tea, with storm kettle lit I have decided to sit back into the day and immerse myself in the romance of the place. The early casts of a quill are fast becoming a faded memory. One is always ever hopeful here – this morning was not to be, the pool being determinedly sleepy, offering very little by way of encouraging signs to a piscator – later toward the end of the day all may have changed of course.
The early morning refrain is held gently into the heat of the midday sun, the whisper in my ear earlier eluded to and among other things a stillness, and a certain tempo being played – and it would be off score indeed not to go along with. As I wait for the kettles boil I marvel at the spreading beams of light bursting through the leafy hazel cover above me – they create sparkling ripple dances upon the water and every now and again a surfacing rudd sends a smoothing ring of water through the spectacle. If a physical natural algorithm for this scene existed I would wish to replicate it at will such is the unfettered and ethereal beauty offered. The pool without fail provides something so very extraordinary upon each and every visit.
As I take the ever so flavoursome first sup of tea I am alerted to something remarkable – another of those extraordinary moments, it reaches my ear from afar sending its percussive notes over the rich greening canopy and around the pool – a cuckoo – however there is a drawn sibilance to the phrasing – this is a female and she is in full and unbridled exclamation, scolding my lip in the thrill and anticipation of it all I place the cup & saucer on the convenient tree stump cum-table and pick myself up; I too am being drawn to her.
After a brief rummage through the creel I set off, binoculars and camera in hand. Following the brimming paths I head toward her call and the boathouse. By its side stands an old friend and now a rather auspicious one, the alder has provided cover from the elements through the passing of many seasons, its healthy aspect having encouraged the branches to embrace the ageing shiplap and in doing so has created the perfect canopy by which to shelter.
Her voice drifts somewhere above me – I place myself onto the even blanket of velvety grass that is held an advance by a sun bleached wooden veranda – pressing the grass under weight reveals springs misfortune, it is still wet. My knees having a water margin that seeps ever further into the fabrics weave, it is wonderfully cooling however as the sun continues to heat and ascend in the bluing sky.
Gazing upward I pass over every leafy branch, my breath reducing to a shallow draw – her call can be heard but as yet I have not had that first glimpse, her song is repeated but with a suitable and tantalising pause.
It is unusual for these birds to still be here at this point in the year, under normal circumstance and conditions their deeds are done by June’s long summer days. This year natures signature has been far from readable due to the inclement cool days and frosty nights of April and the wet, windy conditions that hampered springs longed for rejuvenation in May.
And so it is June that has brought forth the long awaited momentum toward new beginnings and nature has set about its task in earnest, there has been an eruption of colour in the meadows, the greening paths all peppered with sprays of many hues, hedgerows burgeoning with bountiful blossoms and flower of every description. The quiet days of May having been supplanted by the full articulation of nature’s voice a veritable ensemble of chatter and joyous couplings, the insects abound, there are clouds of hatch all spinning, rising and falling on invisible wings, damsel and dragonflies abound, butterflies furtively flit from flower to flower and the diligent, hard working bees can be seen drinking upon every waterflag.
All is quiet from the alder, had she taken flight? no sooner had this entered my mind I could hear her from the farthest bank, and in a harmonious epiphany his reply meets hers somewhere over the pool. His long wait has ended.
Water laps gently against the reed stems and my thoughts turn to fish – the orange tip of the quill shines brightly – the diminutive float is calling to me. For all intents and purposes at this time in the days proceedings I would most definitely not be trying to catch a fish but a nap.
Moments later the float has taken up a delightful resting place flanked by two beds of flowering lily’s whose centres appear as tea lights in the sun. Although I cast near here earlier I am not deterred by the apparent lack of fish this morning. I sprinkle a few offerings around the quill and watch them disappear into the depths. I imagine a whole host of bright eyed activity is convening below and the pinnacle of their interest and my concentration will manifest and meet by way of a disappearing float.
An hour or more has passed and with it my hopes have diminished, the heat of the day is telling – with the cane nestling in the reed and a willow holding me and my inclination to snooze I drift into sleep with the sounds of the pool in my ears.
Waking some considerable time later I relieve the willow of my slumbers and proceed to take the few steps required to meet the waters edge – I have to second glance rubbing my reluctant eyes into focus, before me is a whole host of exuberant fizzing pinheads bursting into life. Following this upward momentum are the leafy stalks of cabbages that billow and shape shift on there journey to the surface they appear as cotton sheets hung to dry on a gentle breeze.
After the disbelieving pause I reset and reach for the in waiting cane – moments later I have cast into the excitement. Almost immediately the quill dips, rises and slowly disappears from view. I have a tench, well I do not yet but there is most definitely one below the quill and he’s doing his utmost to spoil proceedings – the propensity for tench to take the perilous scenic route rather than the uninspiring and safe uniformity of open water is well documented, but fortune is on my side, after a brief dalliance with the lilies he inexplicably heads straight out into open water – not quite believing my luck I allow a little to much on the payout – deciding this to be good fun the fish continues to steam ahead – and as quickly as the adrenalin flowed it ebbs as without any forewarning the line becomes lifeless – winding down slowly with that customary ‘I cannot quite believe what’s just occurred’ feeling I hasten to a speedier retrieve.
Eventually, and praise be the ratchet acknowledges the connection is live – he is right under my rod tip not far from where his misadventure started, and of course he decides to take in the sights this time round and ploughs a wide watery furrow through the upper most parts of the cabbages and lily – after 5 minutes his sightseeing comes to to an end and I slip the net under a rather handsome and shimmering scale perfect tench. Sitting back under the willow I collect my thoughts and decide to call it a day.
As an angler I of course have the desire to catch a fish, this morning and throughout most of the day that seemed beyond me. Perhaps I may have been a step ahead or behind in aligning with the pools awakening. The days diurnal rhythms are mostly an unknown quarter and I often feel slightly at odds in these the most natural of environments, try as I may coalescing with them is simply unfathomable and way beyond my comprehension – one can only but try. I would like to believe how we fish and where surely has a bearing, a cause and effect upon the outcome.
Climbing one of Norfolk’s lonely hills the village inn can be seen among the thatches – its weathered iron work sign a beacon and like the noble beast depicted on it stands tall and proud. The Church bells ring out 8’o’clock and all around is bathed in washes of red, crimson and ochre as a setting sun bids farewell in the western sky.
With a tasty jug of ale in hand I look out over the meadows that eventually meet the winding track that started this diary entry. I rewind the day – there is much to remember and savour, for many it would be the tench that offered the fitting finale to a glorious summers day – but it is the cuckoos resounding calls that occupy my mind and in time my memories – for them in this the most trying of years they found that which was most sought – a consummate conclusion to their collective trials and efforts – days of solitary and seemingly endless flying, the hours of inhospitable weather that hindered progress – miraculously this year the waiting is over and I have been blessed in being their witness. I think that calls for a toast and another of those alarmingly tasty ales.
Writing & Images Pallenpool – Summer 2021 somewhere in the ‘deeps’ of Norfolk