The call of a wood pigeon echoes through near silence, summer dew dampens the overgrown grass and wildflowers.
You quietly approach with a building anticipation, as you gently place your foot one in front of the other like a wary deer, it is still difficult to make out in the predawn light. Your eyes adjust and you catch your first glimpse of the mysterious pool - surrounded by ancient trees, swaying rushes and thick dense reeds.
Pass under a canopy of intertwining branches and closer to the waters edge, the dewy grass and weeds soak you to the knees. You lower your rucksack, place the rod and net to the soft wet ground and peer through the gap in the bushes.
A deep breath…
The dawn sunlight slowly starts to rise from behind which begins to burn away the mist across the lake, shadows of trees cast across the flat calm sheet of glistening water. Large plateaus of Lily Pads span the perimeter and at first glance the entire pool is gorging with thick weed from top to bottom, completely impenetrable by float and a hook.
As you squint through rays of light and scan the margins, you find a clear patch in the weed at the edge of a Lily Pad. A small handful of red maggots thrown into the spot, they writhe and squirm as they drop out of sight and into the darkness.
Moorhen chicks bumble across the pads as their mother warily watches on, she senses something beneath, let’s out a danger call and alerts the chicks, she hastily shepherds them to safety in a nearby overhanging bush.
There are monsters in the deep, lurking below the surface, you can almost feel their presence.
As you diligently survey the baited area, trying to hold your nerve - pinprick bubbles start fizzing on the surface, then, larger round bubbles - which rise and hold on the surface before popping one by one. Another trickle of free offerings and then you retreat back and collect your equipment.
With the depth preset, all that is required is to add three red maggots to the pin-sharp hook and you are ready to go.
An underarm cast lands the float in perfect position, tucked in the gap amongst the weed and close to the Pads. With rod in hand, a slight wind of the reel lowers the float to the tip and the trap is set.
Another small pouch of red maggots.
Palms now sweating and eyes glued to the tip of the float. Now fully immersed in the moment, like a hungry heron, perched in complete stillness at the lakeside waiting for a curious stickleback to mistakenly emerge into open water, ready to strike at the perfect moment.
The summers golden rays now in full force and the faint hum of a farmer ploughing the fields a mile or so away drones in the background. The dawn chorus in full flow like an orchestra building to crescendo, the landscape is alive.
The float sways from side to side, the bubbles begin again, this time it’s right on the spot. It is clear that there is something feasting below the glassy surface and it feels almost inevitable that something will slip up.
Heartbeat quickens and you control your breathing to stay calm and composed, almost Buddhist like in deep meditation.
The tip of the float gently rises, your grip on the cork handle of the rod tightens and then the float slowly glides away and disappears out of sight, almost taking your breath with it…
As you hastily jolt the rod skywards to set the hook, the beauty and calm erupts into absolute chaos, the rod whacks round and then the unmistakable sound of the reel clutch buzzing as line tears away as if attached to a runaway train.
It darts for the Pads and thick weed as if on a kamikaze mission! The rod doubled over and lowered to one side, there is no option but to hold your ground and hope that the modest tackle and old rod can take the strain.
The seemingly dead weight kites over to the right into the open water and with each thrash of its tail the creature which resembles an angry bull on a lead charging deeper into the thick silt and weed. You lift the rod up high and a tug of war ensues, with each downstroke - a furious crank of the reel.
It feels like stalemate and time slows, what is no more than a few chaotic minutes feels like an hour.
At last, you begin gaining some line and you glimpse the dark bronze flanks as it hits the surface for the first time - an audible gasp before it once again lunges towards the thick weed-bed.
A dead weight.
The weed firmly tangled around the creature leaving a feeling of dread as you do all that you can. Leaning back slightly you feel the weight pull through the weed and you are back in action.
The fish rises from the depths and it’s head turns towards you as it takes it’s first gulp of oxygen, it is beaten and comes in like a dog on a lead.
A scoop of the net collects the magnificent creature in a bundle of weed and the battle is won.
As you gather your thoughts and attempt to calm yourself down there is but one option, tea!
The kettle on and plumes of steam signify that the water is boiled, resembling the smoke from the dying embers of battle. All the while, sitting there, safely secured in the bottom of the net - placed in the margin, covered in weed is a wild beast of epic proportions rarely seen by if ever by anyone unfortunate enough to be unaware of their existence.
After a celebratory cup of tea to settle the nerves a parting of the thick mass of weed in the net reveals the prize, as if carved out of solid gold and bronze and as wide as a good sized dog, sulking as it recovers sheepishly.
Relief… Elation… Awe!
This moment is what encapsulates the lifelong commitment of an angler. The time, the cost, the sacrifices. The never ending journey, catching not just a fish, but little moments of magic in an effort to preserve them as memories forever. This is what makes all the other things seem irrelevant.
Not only are you immersed in nature, you become part it.
And all of this before the majority of the world is even awake…