“Take almost any path you please, and ten to one it carries you down in a dale, and leaves you there by a pool in the stream. There’s magic in it.” Herman Melville, Moby Dick, 1851.
There is something truly magical about the first fish of every season. The feelings it evokes… relief, I think, might be the first closely followed by deep joy.
Relief to know that you can still do it, still cast and catch a fish after the highs and lows of last season. Joy that the fish is there in the first place and that it has fallen to the fly you chose or perhaps even tied. And then… relief again as it slips into the net and it’s yours, if only for the briefest of time, before safely releasing it back into the stream (hopefully none the worse for wear) and back to pure unadulterated joy that it’s done, you’ve done it, the first of the season.
The first fish of the season this year was on my beloved River Fowey in Cornwall. Fishing a rainy afternoon, woefully out of practice, I’d missed so many takes and chances, but no matter… If it’s going to be a blank then at least have the manners to take it with good grace (years of salmon fishing on the Fowey had taught me that).
I was joined by my good friend Jeff Pearce and for once, I think we fished more than we talked. Jeff had already caught a beautiful trout from further downstream and lost a fair few more to get his season off with a bang.
As we talked, I saw a trout go airborne twice in as many minutes… “That’s yours!” said Jeff, so I quickly put on a new fly (something I’d tied that morning, a scruffy gold ribbed/hares ear/hackled creation) and got in position.
First cast… nothing… Second cast… take…lost… bugger… Third cast… bang! Not, if I’m honest, the most elegant piece of fishing you’ll ever see but lovely none the less.
After a fair amount of trying to keep the line as tight as possible (South West trout are notorious for charging straight towards you) I got it under control, line on the reel and finally the fish in the net… phew! Hook out (barbless), lifted the net briefly out of the water for a quick snap, made sure fish was ok/raring to go, and then released.
So, that’s the story of my first fish of this season, and one that will stay long in the memory (as all firsts should). Not because the fish was any great size, but just because it was there in the first place. A little bar of Cornish gold that took a scruffy fly whilst two good friends fished together on the river.
Doesn’t get any better than that. Cheers!