The Barrow Pike – A short story.
Her left eye slowly rolled and scouted the faint whirls of activity from upstream. Slumbering deep in the still eddie beneath central arch, the March sun warmed her icy scales. Heavy with spawn, hunger continually gnawed as she struggled to gain weight. Soon she’d have to leave her calm retreat in search of a calling meal, once more. Murmurings of a distant shoal drifted past her like a faint song as she strained to remember the tune. Cutting left with a strike, she caught the cool flowing waters beyond the eddie-line. She was awake now and the fresh flowing currents sang that old familiar tune of “The Dancing Rudd”. Moving upriver she took advantage of the competing swirls and ebbs as she navigated from weed-bed to rock in search of cover. Drawing closer, she glimpsed the first flickers of fin and dived for the rushes of the bank. A disturbed Perch shot from the covers but she was too late to snap. Had he blown her cover? She lay perfectly still and slowly peered from the reeds to see. A shoal of about 30 Rudd circled only meters from her snout. She watched as the skating sparkles of light danced with fiery red fins, tempting her closer with each enchanting to-and-fro. Then suddenly a tall shadow above the surface pulled her from the trance. Startled, she dived deeper beneath the covers. From her dark hide, she watched as the larger fish circled the perimeter with cautious eyes. Ever vigilant, the adult fish took their time scrutinising in detail every drifting insect and scattering of debris. The younger ones seemed to bite at anything that wriggled. Suddenly panic spread throughout the party, all fleeing in terror. What had startled them? Not her. Left struggling in midstream was a lone Rudd, fighting to escape the fishing line that pulled him to the surface. She shot forward and with a lighting snap, the Rudd and line were no more. Taking upstream a few meters, she circled quickly and courted the western river bank back down below the bemused shoal of Rudd. She was not satisfied. Stealth-like, she doubled back to the hide from which she could watch and wait once more. Fluffy bread, chocolate flavoured ground-bait and wriggly maggots were far too tempting for the innocent Rudd, and they soon returned. She watched on. After a short period, all recollection of the frightening events seemed lost on the greedy Rudd. They dipped, bobbed and dined, as carefree as ever. Between the flickers and flashes she spied a large Red Fin. It rested on the river bed, lifeless and still. A mature Rudd, easily ¾ of a pound in weight. A meal such as this was surely to be welcomed. She sailed forward from the covers as terror struck the shoal once more. Flashes of sliver and red shot in every direction as she claimed her prize find. Twisting the scaled fish head-first, she felt the sharp prick of a hook. Before she could spit the morsel out, the fisherman struck. An intense pain, penetrated deeply into her soul as a war cry rang out from above the waterline. She panicked to free herself. Water-creatures rushed the reed beds as the river floor became a vicious battleground. The fight was on. She turned and powered, grinding hard with razor sharp teeth. The pain fought back, pulling against every driving thump of her powerful tail. It was relentless. Pounding deeper and deeper, her captor battled back, drawing her closer and closer with each turn of the reel. Tiring, she broke the surface. The blinding light could not hide the dark shadows that screamed from the grassy bank. She dove with a burst but her strength was waning. Failing to reach the dark depths, the taut line wrenched her upward once more. She surfaced. Lying portside, her gills fought the air as the landing net drew down upon her in a wicked swoop. Caught in the hessian cage, she lay exhausted and breathless on the grassy bank. A dog screamed and barked. The bright light blinded her vision. With pliers and utensils, her torturer went to work, ripping at the various hooks. Each twist and jerk tore the barbed spikes from her one at a time. Her agony ran deep. With no fight left, she submitted as her body went limp. The heavy spawn she carried poured onto the ground as she felt all life leave her body. And it grew dark. The excited voice of her captor dimmed as a drowning guilt began to take hold. Spawn covered and remorseful he rushed to steady her in the flowing water. Pleading with the day, he pulled her against the current, fighting to draw the life-giving water through her gills. Her body struggled to float lifelessly but he fought back, pulling and pushing her deeper against the flow. The harder he fought to save her, the harder her corpse fought back, pushing toward the surface. He could not win this battle. Surrendering to defeat with a lowered head, he released his grip. A drop of shameful regret fell from his eye and circled on the surface. All was lost. Her lifeless body caught the reeds. Hunkered and dejected, all love for rod and reel, drifted and died.
Other Pike / Boating stories
If you like the above story, here are one or two others that might float your boat. Haha.
Thanks for reading.
A day Pike fishing on the river Barrow
The Barrow Boys – Easter 1916
Boating for Pike on the river Barrow
The Barrow Cot