Ice crystals keep trying to form amongst the brown and broken weed stems, then a cold blast of air sweeps across the water to lash my face, and the crystals are gone.
I had arrived at the water over two biteless hours ago, warmed by the car's heater, and full of optimistic expectation. The warmth had long since seeped away and the optimism had slowly evaporated, as each small handful of maggots had been tossed to their watery grave, in fruitless attempts to awaken the appetite of something hidden in the cold depths.
My nose and fingers burn with the cold, my ears itch within the confines of the balaclava, my back is beginning to ache.
My thoughts turn to home. By now, the central heating would have come on to warm the house, the family would be up, there would be a smell of cooking coming from the kitchen, Ila would be doing her homework and David fixing his bike, alone.
'What am I doing here?' That same question which always comes to haunt me, at some point, in nearly every session. 'Why go fishing?'
When a non-angler asks me that, the answer comes easily. 'It gets me out of doors, into the fresh air, it brings me closer to nature'. Cue misty mornings. Cue mist bathed in golden sunlight, creeping among the trees. Cue kingfishers, flitting in a shower of gold and iridescence. Cue birdsong and the buzz of summer dragonflies.
The next icy blast, sweeping into my face, brings with it the first sting of freezing rain. I glance at the surface of the water and see the first telltale dapples amongst the wind blown ripples; my eyes turn to the sky. The darkening clouds confirm what the wind has told me. I'm too cold too put up the brolly. With the wind in my face I doubt whether it would do much good anyway.
I think maybe its time to call it a day. Time to pack up the gear, load it in the car and drive home. I picture it as I walk through the front door, my wife coming to greet me. 'Had a nice time dear?' She always asks if I've had a nice time. Today I will kill her.
I pull the collar of my waxed jacket a little higher, lift the rod and watch the baited hook swing toward me. As the hook comes near, I grab it and inspect the unfortunate maggots, impaled together. They are absolutely dead, not a sign of being sucked. I pull them from the hook, select two more unfortunate victims and gently impale them.
I swing the rig back toward the baited swim and watch the tackle settle. Another small handful of their brethren is pointlessly dispatched to keep them company on the bottom.
I snuggle down again, and again the question comes. 'Why do I do this?'
The only words of wisdom on the subject I have heard or read, which have a ring of truth, were written by Bernard Venables 'An angler does not choose to fish, he is summoned to fish'.
I put out my hand, to feel the fading warmth of my flask. An hour ago, I had lifted it from my box, in expectation of the sweet warmth a sip of sugared coffee would bring, only to hear once more the unmistakable sound of broken mirrored glass, swishing in warm liquid and scraping against the metal of the container walls. Now, as my hand seeks the little remaining warmth, something remarkable happens. The float dips.
My hand drops to the butt of the rod, my breathing stops. Again the float dips, hesitates, sinks, and slides away from me.
I lift the rod and feel the resistance. Feels like a good fish. Suddenly, the clutch is slipping gently against the ratchet, then more quickly. I lift the rod higher to put on more pressure. The fish responds by turning on more power. 'Tench!' The word leaves my lips in amazement. I know I'm just about to start having real fun. I'm using a 1lb bottom.
Maybe five minutes later, she's in the net. Around 4.5 lbs, absolutely beautiful! I decide against putting her in the keepnet, and slip her back into the water, watching her as she slowly powers away with that huge back paddle.
I rebait the hook, my mouth frozen in a grin. I suddenly feel quite warm; the waxed jacket feels too heavy, so I take it off. I swing the tackle back to the same spot, and cast another handful of maggots after it. Reflected from the water, I see a small patch of blue beginning to show overhead.
Now, where was I? Oh yes, 'Why do I go fishing?' the float dips againâ€¦â€¦â€¦
I guess I won't kill my wife this weekend.