I ALWAYS try to go fishing on New Year’s Day for two reasons; firstly, there is the sense of smug worthiness that arises from casting a line when one’s comrades-in-rods are sleeping off the previous evening’s excesses. Secondly, the waterside is usually deserted.
A determined angler can be alone with his thoughts – even if these amount only to ‘did I really perform a table-top lambada in a packed pub last night?’
Just for the record, I strenuously deny it.
In previous years my favourite January 1 jaunt has been to the river, pike rod in hand. It is the right time of the season to expect a specimen, and the weather is often perfect.
There’s also something hugely sobering about the prospect of unhooking an angry esox. Those 700 teeth in close proximity to trembling fingers do focus the mind.
I’ve never had a true Hogmanay monster, but a double-figure pike is enough to eclipse any hangover and whet the appetite for the 12 months ahead.
But not this year. The rivers are flooded right now, and the maxim about pike in coloured water is a good one; they really aren’t having any of it, and will skulk in the backwaters without hunger until the rivers clear.
So I joined a group of friends at a small pond, where we cast for perch instead.
I was suffering and so were my pals, in varying degrees. We all had headaches, parrot-cage tongues of dehydration and the hang-dog demeanours of men who know that they let themselves down just a little bit the night before.
The worst casualty among us shall remain nameless, but at first light he resembled a tweed-wearing Keith Richards. Frightening, given his tender age of 27.
We caught a few small stripes, up to an estimated pound in weight, and missed twice as many bites in our post-intoxication befuddlement. One of our number hooked a carp, but was no match for it, and it threw his tiny hook before he had a chance to loosen his clutch and steel his nerves.
It wasn’t an outstanding success, but nobody blanked, which was as good as we could have hoped for. And as we sloped back to the cars, we talked only of the future, of fish yet to be caught.
Memories of badly-executed dance moves were dismissed. They belonged to another year.
Catch reports: firstname.lastname@example.org.