Worn out by my megalith-seeking adventures, I decided to take a break for some fishing on the Salisbury Plain. It seemed that most waterways in the area are owned by clubs which don’t sell day tickets, but I did manage to discover a stretch of the River Avon that is free to fish where it passes by the town of Amesbury.
Mick kindly supplied some slices of bread for my expedition, not for my lunch but as bait for the trout that were reported to inhabit this stretch of the river. I headed east along the A303, saluting Stonehenge as I passed, and took the right turn exit on the Countess roundabout to park up on London Road in Amesbury.
From here I could slip through a gate on to Lords Walk and follow a muddy little track down to the place where the A303 crosses the River Avon. Then I began to scout along the river bank for a good place to start. The winter day was calm and mild, bare black branches thrusting up against the pale sky, and there was not a ripple to be seen on the eerily still surface of the river.
I fiddled about with the bread a bit, having trouble attaching it to my hook in such a way that it wouldn’t fall off. After many unsuccessful attempts I came up with a method of squashing it down enough that it didn’t just float away. I set my tackle box down on the muddy ground and sat on top of it, content to wait in this isolated little spot for as long as it took.
Luckily it was not too long before I had a bite, and I pulled in the little trout, dutifully using the long net I’d been lent by my expert fisherman friend.
I pulled out the barbless hook and released her. One major difference between English fishing culture and New Zealand fishing culture is the amount of care taken with the fish. English freshwater fishing tends to be about sport, not food, so it’s important to keep the fish in good condition. Many fish will be caught several times in their lives. Barbless hooks are the norm, and I’ve been cussed out for not using a landing mat – something I’d never even heard of!
So one of the things I’ll be taking home with me is this English idea of careful respect for the fish I catch.
I moved downstream a few paces and settled down once again to wait, while the evening mist slowly rose from the damp earth.
I didn’t have to wait too long before I had another bite. This time I was gratified to see my catch was slightly larger.
The afternoon was wearing on, but I figured I had enough time for one more before the early winter darkness closed in. So I moved along once again and settled down in my new spot. As I’d hoped, it worked and I had soon pulled in my third and largest trout. I released her to join my two previous victims back in the river.
By this time the sunset was well into its pink and orange throes, while the fog was thickening fast. I suddenly recalled my desire to capture a Stonehenge sunset and realised that the conditions were absolutely perfect.
Quickly I packed up my gear and hustled back to the car, pulling out on to the highway towards Stonehenge. It was completely gridlocked.
I crawled infuriatingly along as the sunset began to fade. There was no way I was going to make it in time! But then I realised I didn’t have to. All I had to do was wait until I drew level with the monument, stick my phone out the car window and capture the moment that way.
I inched closer, closer…yes! Here I am, and the mist-clad monument indeed looked magnificent under the darkening sky. I grabbed my phone and…curses! Now the traffic moves! I had no choice but to drop the phone and drive on, lest I wanted to hold everyone up.
Foiled a second time, I returned to my lodgings to await my next chance.