A tricky call to make at the riverside when things are on the slide

The trusty log-burner is doing its thing and I'm still reflecting on last year and the days spent with friends.

Sometimes the recollections bring a smile to my lips; occasionally it's a definite grin. Once in a while, the glee extends to a chuckle. I've just had one now, a chuckle that is. Actually, it was somewhere between a chuckle and a full-on laugh. You see I've only this minute recalled the day when Rob wet himself.

The occasional days that I spend on the water with him are filled with nostalgia and mirth. My pleasure is frequently enhanced through Rob's enthusiasm for his fishing. I hesitate to call him dedicated because I'm afraid that accolade is tainted by his insistence on wasting some perfect fishing days on the golf course.

In all other aspects of his being, Rob displays an entirely sensible approach to life. However, one day in early summer good sense prevailed and we arranged to meet in Starbotton.

We parted company at the bridge; Rob would walk a little way upstream before starting to fish, I would cast a line upon the bit that he passed by; we would meet up again in the meadow where the springs enter the river.

I'm afraid that I do not always stick to plans. I have been known to sit quietly by the river and just watch and listen. I've learned all sorts of stuff by doing that, and noticed fish that I would never have otherwise seen.

As I leaned my back against a grassy tussock, I heard the gentle buzz of a fly reel, a sign that my friend was preparing to make his first cast. I know that it's a sad habit, but I usually try to guess which fly my companions will try first. I imagined Rob diligently searching through his fly box, giving due consideration to each and every creation within it. In my mind's eye, I saw, with absolute certainty his fingers delve among his collection of snipe and purples, selecting a size 16.

I waited a moment before visualising him holding said fly against the light from the sky, the better to thread the line through the eye. I pictured the rhythmical movements of the fly rod, the well-formed loops of line carrying the fly accurately to the river's nooks and crannies.

As I rested on my laurels, the look of concentration on Rob's face gently settled into my brain. I could hear nothing of his progress up the river; my old friend casts far too efficiently to make any sound. Eventually almost reluctantly I scrambled to my feet and ambled slowly along the river bank.

As I passed through the gate into the meadow, a familiar hat made slow horizontal progress about two feet above ground level. Rob, on hands and knees, was clearly stalking his prey. Progress continued, very slowly, until suddenly, the hat and its contents did a vertical take-off before disappearing from sight. A heart-felt expletive broke the silence of the meadow as I hurried to the scene of the vanishing act.

As I peered over the bank, my comrade emerged from the river. Only his hat remained dry. Our hero cursed again and explained the bizarre behaviour. "That was a near miss," he exclaimed. "The top of the bank gave way and I was sliding towards a strand of barbed wire." His face turned rather pale now. "I had a split second to decide whether to finish astride it or to jump in the river."

Good decision Rob.

Flies dressed by Stephen Cheetham. 0113 250 7244. www.fishingwithstyle.co.uk

Roger Beck 01439 788483.

CW 8/1/11

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