Winter Riverwatch

Another enthralling tale from the bankc of the River Wissey

The day had never started. There was little difference between night and day. It was dark and overcast – it was cold and miserable and forlorn. Now it was afternoon and a faint impression of the moon still hung overhead like a beady watchful eye. All about was a sense of gloom and our fur and feather friends obviously refused to play any part and were nowhere to be seen! I was completely alone alongside the river Wissey and a strange peace ruled. There was a nice ripple on the water and with the heavy cloud it was perfect for piking. I had already enjoyed a good morning with a beautiful fish and was reluctant to go home.

The shadow of real winter had cast its spell several days before and so it must now be endured for many long months. Then came another change. Without any warning a whisper of wind became a hammering. The undergrowth became restless and bent double. Bushes rattled and branches creaked. A whistling through the trees sounded and finally upped its note to a howl. The voice of the wind was relentless and waves turned to peaks and troughs. What on earth was coming? Perhaps this was the forerunner of a violent storm with thunder and lightening. More worrying had someone out there dropped the inevitable nuclear bomb? The rough water slapped noisily against the riverbank. Great black voluminous clouds raced in the sky. Common sense said it was a good time to pack up but still I gave it a while longer. Who knows the weird weather just might be the trigger to prompt a monster pike to start feeding.

Then I saw him! Out there from nowhere appeared the ‘always there’ resident moorhen. At least there were now two of us to endure whatever was coming! With his black colouring he was well camouflaged against the drab background. He was riding the waves like a World War II battle ship – slowly but defiantly ploughing along splitting the waves. His red beak was the only focus and then in mid-water he finally made the decision to turn for home. Eventually he reached the sanctuary of a near-by reed bed where his hidden nest surely provided welcome warmth and shelter. Mission accomplished!

Finally I made the decision to pack up when in front of me a large mink slowly crept out of the undergrowth and full of purpose crossed the gap where I had been fishing! It disappeared into the opposite bushes. It was difficult to register as it was so unexpected but for sure this sleek, black shining creature had just passed a few feet away from me! To confirm the apparition it reappeared further down the bank. Rarely are they seen at such close quarters and although declared as a public nuisance this one had obviously escaped the bailiff’s traps!

But the story is not yet ended for when I finally gathered up my belongings the mink was spotted again. This time out in the rough water and heading for the moorhen’s home. Then out of sight came a great splashing and commotion followed by a long laboured pause of nothing. My heart went out for the moorhen and, alas, I assumed the worse and headed for home.

For whatever reason I made one final turn of the head and, joy of all joys, the moorhen was swimming up the river – bobbing up and down once more. Maybe his nest had been destroyed and definitely he had endured a great fright but at least he was still out there and his well-being safe. Perhaps such is Mother Nature’s way to test our little friends but the trials of this small creature had been enough for me. As for the mink he will probably carry on undetected for a long time yet.

The end of the day was now arriving but to add to the near darkness the temperature was dropping fast. The air was damp. A frost and a freeze was on its way. Today’s weather certainly had little to cheer but for me it had been yet another enjoyable day alongside my favourite river.

By Ivor Hook

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