Another exciting tale from the banks of the River Wissey
Making an early start is easy - the bother for me is the other end of the day and staying awake! The morning in question was dark with dawn still awaited whereupon the usual riverside activity would begin. The wild fowl normally commence the proceedings but alas they have been missing of late so the beginning of days alongside the river Wissey is now all the more interesting just to see who will be the first!
I set up my rods away from the waters edge and threaded my way through a gap in the reed beds to my favourite swim. Undergrowth towered high on either side. I had spend numerous hours in this special place and knew every bit of its geography. Here was an oasis where time stood still. All was quiet to an extreme and as I stood overlooking the large expanse of water there was no sign of movement. For me it was the perfect place to contemplate everything I enjoy. There was no hurry to start fishing as more light was needed to cast accurately to the opposite bank. There the river was at its deepest and was the most obvious place to find my good old friends the pike. Being deep it should also be the warmest part of the river where you imagine all the fish queue up to find sanctuary. My targeted place also has a massive array of uprooted trees downed by storms and high winds of long ago. They make intricate tangles of submerged branches and provide an extra attraction and shelter for the fish. Fond memories of specimen fish from the past flashed through my mind and confirmed this to be the ideal spot for yet another lazy day.
I decided the time was ready to start business when I noticed a disturbance in the river - not far out from the bank. A streamlined shape had broken the surface and was swimming towards me. At first it seemed like a large fish topping but a closer look showed it had a large round head. What was it - could it be an otter? He had either not seen me or he was somewhat defiant for he carried on heading towards me. Then he flipped and dived and disappeared leaving behind the same calm and me completely surprised - almost in disbelief. I kept questioning what I had seen but carried on and cast out and positioned my rods. Then I prepared for the inevitable wait.
It was always a long wait but one I always enjoyed for a host of different reasons. Here everything invariably fell into perspective being far away from our sad man-made world. Before long all was disturbed again, this time by a quiet but distinct noise that could just not be ignored! The noise increased as the mind focussed. It was somewhat strange but this time (as you may have guessed) I knew the answer. In a mass of debris at the base of an old willow tree which breached my reed beds a family of hedgehogs were fast asleep in the middle of a long hibernation. They had been noticed several times before and the sound was their snoring! So here were other people who had found a retreat from the world and for them so it would continue for a long while yet. How ironically that their secret hideaway was given away by their own deep slumber!
My mind kept referring back to the otter. Had it really been what I had seen? Was it perhaps a giant rat or similar? Then to answer the question there was another disturbance in the river and surprise, surprise the otter reappeared again. He was even nearer to the bank this time and for a whole minute or so he dived and twisted as if demonstrating the agility and prowess of the whole otter family! Now I had found a new friend to look out for in future. Dawn and dusk and half-light are no doubt the favourite times to find him and of course good fortune is essential. Perhaps I will never see him again but what a memory and an extra special day for me!
By Ivor Hook