At the bottom of Kev's Garden - by David O'Sullivan
At the bottom of our garden, there is a rickety, old shed which hides a multitude of junk and broken things I can’t be bothered to take to the tip, a big tree, a fence and a poo pit (anyone who has a large Labrador will know what I mean by this) At the bottom of Kev’s garden is the Warwickshire Avon, and a stately pile of bricks known as Warwick Castle.
Warwick castle at sunset
At this time, there is nothing rushing
For the tired, fat sun is blushing.
And the clouds softly canter by
Into a shady corner of the sky.
It stands a proud and wondrous sight,
So noble in the dimming, dusty light,
And the old Avon beside it settles to sleep,
Their secrets like the stars, distant and deep.
At night, ghosts of the past my groan,
And at dawn disappear into the coldest stone.
Yet it’s sunset that gave those magical times,
Which married together a thousand rhymes.
On a late Saturday afternoon, as I drive over the bridge, I strain my neck to look over at the river. Warwick Castle is not my main concern, as I look down to see Kev’s landing stage and nearly smack into the car in front. How many times have I seen Japanese and American tourists taking pictures of the castle from the bridge? It’s like Stratford-upon-Avon on a Sunday afternoon. It’s the “don’t-walk-in-front-of-the-tourist-taking-the-picture” show. Mr. Shakespeare has a lot to answer for. If you don’t get out of the way pretty sharpish your face could end up on a kitchen wall in Tokyo for years to come.
The view from the bridge is so famous it’s on thousands of postcards sent around the world every year. It’s funny that when you have the finest medieval castle in England on your doorstep, you tend to take it for granted, but I’ve been lucky enough to actually fish in that picture postcard.
The river always catches my eye first. Then again, I’m in love with all types of water- apart from the stuff you drink -yuk! (unless it’s hot and got a tea-bag in it) I’ve known Kev since school and we both share a love of fishing, although he prefers carp for some reason which escapes me. I can’t understand why he would go all the way to France to fish for carp, when you’ve got monsters at the bottom of your garden- an old woman 2 gardens down hand feeds them (her babies) and a 35lber was taken just the other side of the bridge. Hmmmm.
(view looking back to the bridge from the landing stage, at dawn)
September 1st 1984 was the first night fish on the landing stage, and to this day I’ve never caught a smaller eel (although I came pretty close on the canal this year- my wife thought it was very sweet and had no trouble picking it up as he was such a little one -the eel, that is!) Since then, Kev and I have enjoyed many nights in bootlace heaven. It was a place I could always count on to boost my tally for the season. I’ve caught many eels 1lb and under, and many more 1lb 8oz-2lb 14oz. My best eel there is just over 3lb, ironically caught at 1.30pm on a cloudy and humid day. I still believe an eel of 4-5lb is down there, or may be even bigger.
Whilst fishing for eels, (I only ever fish for eels and I only ever will) I have caught some big carp, chub, tench, perch, bream all on worm, and pike and zander on dead bait. Kev has persevered with boilies but I always caught more on the natural bait, like worm. I was really pleased for him a couple of years back when he landed a 16lb 8oz carp. Kev’s neighbours have also let us use their landing stages as well, so more of us could fish all night. At this point, I must thank Kev’s mum and dad for their incredible hospitality- it really is 5 star fishing, and the cooked breakfasts in the morning were spot on. I’ve ingratiated myself in to Sunday dinners and family barbeques, been topped up with cups of tea through the night and Kev’s dad, John has also brought down a cold box full of beer to keep us happy as the sun set.
We’ve even been serenaded by Anastacia, Simply Red and Rod Stewart for free when they’ve played at the Castle (but Hucknall was getting on my nerves by the end of the night- I had eels to catch and he was making a right racket) We’ve also sat there watching our own spectacular fireworks display. Our mate Ivor, who isn’t into fishing, always comes down with the curry and Dave generally turns up for the beer. My wife has come down night fishing a couple of times, and we’ve sat watching bats, swans and kingfishers darting up and down the river. There was even a muntjack deer in next-doors garden at 3 in the morning, kicking the fence which scared us all witless (or something that rhymes with that anyway!)
I’ve only fished there once this year on a cold, late September night. We both caught different species of fish, and I was pleased Kev caught a carp again, but for me it was an eel no-show for the first and hopefully the last time. Kev spent most of the night in a heated bivvy- and his bite alarms let him sleep through as we caught most of the fish during the day. At 2.00am I went back in to the house- a cold and weary figure. I sat on the sofa, and decided I had to go back out as I realised there was no place on earth I would rather have been than on that landing stage in the dark and in the rain which had just started. At 3.00am I looked up at the Castle, which was softly lit from beneath, to hear the bell tower clock chime the hour, and memories of all the times I’d fished there before came flooding back. I was well and truly blessed.