It was just a normal Friday night, Pete was there with his friends in the Queen's Arms.

After the fifth pint the conversation turned to Angling. Pete switched off, glanced at the thirtysomething barmaid and imagined some erotic games for them to play later. "Some wish," he thought.

"What about you Pete?", Greg broke into his rambling thoughts, "Fancy a day on the Pats?"

"Doing what?, inquired Pete, "Getting bored with you fishing freaks?"

"Don't knock it till you try it" said Greg, "Are you gonna tinker with your car instead?"

Pete downed his pint, looked straight at Greg and replied " OK, but make sure you bring the radio!"

"Christ Almighty," said Pete, "What the hell is that?!" Woken from his sleep at 5.30, Pete had forgotten his promise to join the lads on the river, hadn't set his alarm and stumbled from his bed, bloody annoyed. " I'm coming" he shouted down the stairs, "give me a minute." Twenty minutes and lots of grumbles from the lads later he made it to the car, cursing silently his semi drunk promise to go fishing.

The Pats is a truly beautiful river, a cut from the Thames holding some excellent fish. A mixture of shallows and deepening pools to seven feet deep with the picturebook overhanging willows. The group arrived there just as the mist was lifting from the river, a sweet southwesterly breeze rustling the reeds in the margins.

Greg was determined that Pete would have a good day and ushered him down to the "pot swim", a deep hole of five or six feet at the end of a shallow stretch.

Tackling up was simple, no hair rigs, bleepers or electronic gizzmos for these lads, they were real anglers! A simple loop setup, half ounce bomb , and size 8 long shank specimen hook was all that was needed.

Greg settled Pete down, told him not to eat too much of the spam and showed him the basics of casting, and how to watch for bite indications. After half an hour, instead of being bored, Pete was nervous with enjoyment. The swans fighting over their territory, the small vole, twitching in the grass, the sudden splash of a fish in the margins. He had never felt so alive. Even the smell of freshness, out here away from the city, brought back forgotten childhood memories.

Pete's rod tapped, then pulled over. He grasped the butt and was, to be honest, terrified. "Greg! Greggg...!" he screamed, "Come and help." Regaining control, he raised the tip, allowing him to see where the fish was heading. Why was he shaking so much? "It's only a bloody fish." he told himself, before his arm was dragged to the right as the fish headed downstream.

"Rod tip lower, and point it upstream." came Greg's calming words, followed by, "Looks a big fish." to set him shaking again.

Barbel photograph by The Freshwater InformerWith Greg's help, Pete managed to gain some sort of control, the fish now circling below their feet. After three attempts at lifting it from the bottom, Greg finally netted a superb barbel of just over 9lb. Pete collapsed on the bank, almost spearing himself with his rodrest. He couldn't understand why he felt so utterly, utterly exhausted. They admired the fish, Pete marveling at the burnished gold of its flanks and the powerful vented tail. Beautiful, so beautiful he muttered in a daze, a strange look on his face.

As it was released, he watched the powerful fish edge into the slipstream before surging away. Greg said nothing. He understood, he had been "touched" in the same way many years before. That's why he was a Fisherman.

The day moved on, Pete was strangely quiet, even when the rest of the lads ambled downstream to see how he had got on. This changed the following week, when down the Queen's, he recited time and time again the BIG FISH story. The other change was that it was he who uttered those magic words "Where are we fishing tomorrow?"

Join the club, Pete.

Graham Elliott