River Wissey Lovell Fuller


January 2009

Another stirring tale from the banks of the River Wissey

The North wind hammered away for three whole days. Then it veered to the East and became an unmistakeable icy blast. Thus it continued until last night whereupon everything is now white. The perennial patchwork of fields has disappeared and the gently twisting river provides the only contrast. All signs of wildlife have gone but in truth our fur and feather friends took shelter several days ago as they enjoy far better weather forecasting than ourselves.

Under the surface of the river all closely mirrors the world above. The water is cold and uninviting. There is no sign of life. The giant choking weed beds of summer have died and their remains swept away long ago. There is a void of everything familiar.

The sky is dark and overcast. A veil of shadow hangs over the riverbank. The water is a deceptive black. There is little flow until the inevitable thaw follows. Is the covering a blanket of snow or just a thick crust of frost, nobody knows or particularly cares. To most it is just an unexpected nuisance and the beauty cannot be seen.

Then, down in the deeps, as if by magic, a number of silver roach with bright red fins appear. They defy the low temperature. They are all big fish and although their metabolism has slowed them down for winter an area of ground bait has tempted their curiosity. The red maggots and breadcrumb on the stark riverbed stands out like an oasis in the desert. Slowly and ritually the roach circle the generous offering. Their fins hardly move but they ably maneuver until they are immediately above. They lower their heads, as if to feed, only to then turn away to circle again. So they come and go throughout the morning.

To the fish the sky above is clearly obvious even on this dull day. By contrast when the sun is out it is overpowering and the mood within the river changes but such seems far away today.

A primus stove with a saucepan of bubbling soup taunts the anglers' taste buds. The air is fresh and hands are freezing. Then to the surprise of everyone, and everything, the alien sun pops out. It has crept up unawares and instantly the riverbank assumes a hearty glow. All sparkles and glistens. A new atmosphere takes over.

The brightness beams down through the murky water and for the fish the effect is immediate. Indecision changes to desire and like proverbial sheep one fish starts to feed to prompt another and the remainder all follow. Feeding time has begun with gusto!

The welcome sun remains to enjoy its burst of pleasure. The newfound warmth begins to soften the white ground cover. The crispness underfoot is no more. Nearby bushes and trees start to drip. The pages of the picture book now turn fast and a new world is transforming as we watch. Seasonal browns and greens will soon show and become familiar again and the memory of the morning will quickly be forgotten.

Thus another day will soon be ending alongside the dear old river Wissey - but for the hardened men with rods, the best hour is still to come!

Ivor Hook

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