River Wissey Lovell Fuller

Riverwatch July

August 2015

It is mid morning and the forecast is for another hot day. We are off to explore a favourite place from many years ago. It is not accessible by the usual public footpaths and is always heavily overgrown. For this reason it attracts very little attention. An overnight downpour has left large puddles across the approaching track. The lack of footprints in the mud confirms that it is still seldom used. Even then, I guess, it is only a very occasional fisherman who would ever use it. It is a long walk but a wonderful place for anyone seeking out isolation and a few hours of escape!

We are met by different smells as we wade through the tall grass. There is a sense of freshness following the rain. The grass has its own sweet smell. Our pathway is narrow and in places is difficult to find. We now pass briefly through fir trees and encounter the powerful smell of pine. Then, after a walk alongside a seemly neglected field and over a five bar gate, we arrive at the upper reaches of the good old river Wissey. Here we can catch our breath before we push our way through the bushes and ponder the secret place!

The current is hardly noticeable and the water crystal clear. Large beds of water cress spread out into the river and give out their own pungent scent. Despite the hour there is still a suggestion of a mist rising from the water as the sun begins to warm and take effect. There are tall trees on the opposite bank together with high undergrowth so we are almost enclosed. A short distance upstream and almost hidden by dense reed beds is a small bay to the side of the river exactly as it was years ago. Here was always a haven for fish and to confirm that nothing has changed we soon notice a steady stream of bubbles rising up to the surface. At the same time the water grows muddy and indicates a sure sign of fish. They are stirring up the bottom as they feed. The waterside reeds twitch and tremble as they obviously congregate in large numbers in such small confines. This is a dream spot for any fisherman!

This part of the river has little interruption from the normal geese and wild fowl. We have left them behind along the wider stretches of the river. Our small stretch of the water is the very centre of Mother Nature's real countryside! No pollution, no people and only the birds and rabbits for company! It is easy to slip back in time and you imagine a similar visitor many years ago, in his plus fours, would perhaps now be lighting up his pipe and merely sitting down to enjoy the surroundings. Only after enjoying his smoke would he contemplate his fishing with his split cane rod, basic reel and a tin of worms. Alas today everything has to be done quickly and many simple pleasures often missed in the rush!

This time we are not fishing but the old urge is returning. We are merely refreshing fond memories. This same place is where many large tench have put a severe bend in different rods before being drawn to the net. Then after gentle unhooking and being briefly admired, quickly returned to the water. Such halcyon days are now few and far between although there are still plenty of true fisherman who keep trying and forever dream of such places to fulfil their dreams. Alas our hideaway spot is private and must remain a secret.

Suddenly there is a splash in the main river and then its gone. Then it is there again! We see the top of a dark head. As it moves along it becomes clear. It is an otter! The delay in recognising it is because it is so unexpected. Although we freeze and stand still it has obviously seen or sensed us and dives under the water and does not return. After a few minutes of taking in the moment we discover the digested remains of fish on the bank. Then we find signs of a muddy slide down the bank and into the water. This spot must be home or at least regularly used by our new found friend. Perhaps he has a mate and even a family all close by so it is a good time to say goodbye and leave him to his privacy. He certainly has found a beautiful spot!

We head for home having enjoyed a special few hours. On our return journey we briefly digress as we find great numbers of giant slugs across the muddy track. They would make an ideal bait to tempt the big tench in the bay but we will leave that for someone else to try! We are preoccupied with the sighting of the otter and again the river Wissey has turned up with the unexpected. Over the years it has excelled itself over and over again and hopefully this will continue for many more years to come.

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