As I shifted and fidgeted in my chair, the cool air on my face, I saw vaguely the rods pointing forlornly down into the satin-black water-margin. I was carp fishing and was waiting for a take; both silver-paper indicators lay on the ground-sheet utterly motionless. Nothing around the lake stirred.
Ears pricked, I listened with mounting tension for fish rolling on the surface and as my eyes strained in the darkness for tell-tale signs all was silent, still, and dark. Nothing was heard save the sound of the silence, nothing was seen save the tar-black of the night.
Not far away and just visible in the blackness the Heron, a sentinel in the night stood as still as a statue. I bent down and felt for the thermos flask, picked it up and held it between my knees and undid the stopper. Pouring out the last dregs of stale coffee I screwed the stopper back on the flask and leaned forward to peer into the mist now rising from the water; it seemed Time had stood still and the lake was in a state of suspension.
Buzzzzz-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-Z-Z-Z-Z-Z!........The bite alarm suddenly screamed aloud - like a banshee into the night! Yard after yard of line flowed from the reel as a fish made off with the bait and made for the far side of the lake! The silver-paper cylinder indicator beat rhythmically against the butt-ring as line emptied from the reel-spool and my hand closed around the velvet corks of the rod. I felt for the finger-grip of the Mitchell 300 and turned the handle once. The bail-arm closed with a satisfying clunk!.
Spilt coffee and soaked knees, thumping heart and straining rod; the staccato rasp of the slipping-clutch and the line making thin tinny noises in the night air. Aching arms groping in the blackness with the landing-net. The glistening, sparkling, golden flanks of a common carp shimmering in the torchlight. Flapping fins in the weigh-bag.
And the cheerful face of the dial-scales as the pointer spins round and round... and round.
Before I embark upon the main text of the book I want to say something of why it was written.
Many books over the years have described how to catch carp; Kevin Maddocks Carp Fever (Beekay Publishers, 1981) is probably the landmark publication which in its time spilled the beans on the rigs, tackles, and tactics which the top anglers in the country had been using; suddenly they were made available to all via Kevins book. For the first time, anglers had access to the means to catch the same numbers, size and quality of fish as their heroes; all was laid bare the baits, the rigs, even the venues. Yet to me Carp Fever said very little of the actual fishing itself.
When Kevin published his book in 1981 I decided to start writing myself. This was the year Christine and I got married and I decided that if there were any little Spreadburys that came along they should know something of the passion and commitment which I had devoted to a sport which had occupied me all my life. I wanted to commit my thoughts to paper before (a) I had grown too old to remember what the fishing was like, and (b) maybe others, a long time in the future who had no knowledge of what carp fishing had been like in its early years, could gather something of the flavour of the early nineteen-seventies.
So it was that (the then title-less) In the Still of the Night was begun. Its intention is to say something of what it was like to be a carp fisherman in the early 1970s and to tell the story of a fish I named She, a thirty-pound mirror carp inhabiting a Kent club and day-ticket water first caught by my carp fishing companion Peter Hanley, and subsequently landed by myself some years later. The pursuit of this particular fish is a summary of not only what carp fishing was about then but encapsulates many of the qualities inherent in the fishing which survive even today.
Many now cannot imagine fishing for carp without either boilies or a hair-rig and yet in those days carp anglers had no knowledge of either. The standard set-up was a Richard Walker cane Mark Four carp rod, a Mitchell 300 reel, some line and a hook tied on the end and a boiled potato and thats all! Imagine trying to catch todays carp with such a primitive arrangement!
Above all, I believe that carp fishing is a human activity an experience of the emotions rather than merely a series of mechanical processes which lead to an inevitable conclusion. One cannot convey the substance of ones adventures by the cataloguing of statistics alone, therefore this book is descriptive rather than purely informative.
This I hope is a book for long winter evenings, when the snow is drifting against the back-door and gales howl down the chimney, when rain drives in sheets against the windows and the carp anglers tackle is locked safely away in its repository. It is a book dedicated to all the lone carp fishermen who sit crouched beside windswept carp lakes in the dead of night with little shelter, listening to waves crashing onto isolated shores, wondering what on earth they are doing out on such a foul night. It (I hope) is a reminder that carp fishing is an activity with many faces, that what may at one time be a severe, disagreeable pursuit, may also be at other times benign and pleasant, and when the fishing may be hard and demoralising in the heat of the day
Who knows what may happen In the Still of the Night? ..
Copyright © Andy Spreadbury, 1999-2004
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