The monster in the moat

The question is not how to fish, but why you do it. The author and his fishing buddies do it out of necessity. It’s more important than life and death to them to escape the human world, step in to water and wave a stick. Left on the shore is their misery and worries. Standing in the water they find freedom, healing and occasionally a fish.

Battles are lost and won with tongue in cheek and always celebrated with mountains of cake and an endless stream of fresh espresso coffee. To the band of brothers it’s more important who you fish with than how big the fish is; except for the ones lost.

You may not learn a lot about catching more and bigger fish, but reading these stories is like holding a mirror up in front of yourself getting a little wiser. The small why is a big one.

  • This artickel is written by Danish photojournalist Søren Skarby

We were three boys roaming all the waters we could reach riding on our bikes. Our tackle boxes on the back of our bikes always announced our arrival driving on a gravel road with the sound of lures, spoons and hooks bumping around in them. 

This was our favourite, exclusive and very secret spot. A moat surrounding one of the many castles that were buildt more than five hundred years ago at the south of the big island we live on. No one had fished in the moat for years it was practically virgin water. Add to it that there were rumours of ducklings and even ducks disappearing in big splashes. There was something down there.

To get bait for bigger fish we started angling for roach loading them into a bucket standing in the shade of a tree. There were loads of the small silvery fish and we started getting ready to rig them on heavier gear when one of my fishing buddies pointed at the water.

“Look at that big perch under those branches.” My eyes turned in the direction his stiff finger was aimed, trying to see through the glare of the water. For a short moment the wind made a window in the surface and two feet down was a shadow lurking. It looked like a thick pole with a beak and eyes, the pectoral fins were moving a tiny bit to keep balance. “That’s not a perch it’s a pike” I shouted and rushed for my tackle box.

From it I drew a big bronze spoon and tied it on as fast as I could. There was no reason to hurry but adrenalin was pumping through my veins. The lure landed perfectly under the branches and the whole moat exploded. The fight was short, intense and lost in a few seconds. With my total lack of experience I had tightened the brake of the reel way too hard. No line can stand that kind of tribulation and it broke like a dry twig. With defeat in my eyes I turned around and saw my fellow fishermen standing in line to have a go at the pretty big fish. The monster swam back to the shadows ready to teach the next juvenile fisherman a lesson. Both my friends had a go and lost in exactly the same way. You could almost hear the speaker of the stadium shouting “Pike 3  Youngsters 0”, but the game wasn’t over.

Never underestimate the level of anger and thirst for vengeance of three twelve-year-old boys that have just lost their very expensive lures. Our greedy opponent had just stolen the equivalent of several weeks of saved up pocket money from each of us.                                                                                                                                                               Chewing on our sandwiches we made a plan as defeat was not an option and started assembling the right gear for it. In one of our tackle boxes we found some bricklayers cord the monster would not be able to break. In another there was an enormous bobber in the classic red and white colours. A big treble hook was tied to the end of the line and an especially palatable looking roach was added as bait. 

Rig and bait was thrown into the middle of the moat and the end of the line was tied to a willow sapling. While we waited we were drinking lemonade and fishing for more roach. After a while we had forgotten all about the bobber occupied as we were with rods and roach and didn’t even see it disappear. I don’t know for how long the bobber was gone, but suddenly the small willow the line was tied to began shaking like it had been hit by a very local storm. Out in the moat something big was sending cascades of water in all directions. We all rushed to get hold of the line before the willow broke.

Fighting a big pike whilst holding the line with bare hands hurts when the line cuts into your skin, but we wouldn’t give up. The bank of the moat was pretty steep and the line too short. When we couldn’t get the fish further up one of my friends placed his foot in the mouth of the fish to hold it in place I’m still pleased he wore wellies and not sandals. Those were the longest, sharpest and meanest teeth we had ever seen. The line was cut and the monster dragged to safer ground, but the backward turned teeth were holding my friends foot back and he nearly panicked. A knife and some firm hits in the head made encouragement for the soul of the fish to leave for the eternal moats full of glittering roach and innocent ducklings. Together we opened the mouth of the monster, my friend dragged his foot out and then we cried out in jubilation.

Yes, it was the largest fish we had ever caught and for my two friends the first pike ever, I had caught one before, but our triumph was even bigger. Inside the enormous mouth that looked like a bucket full of spikes, we found our lost lures. With shaking hands trying to avoid the long teeth we dragged out our stolen property and placed them in the tackle boxes. The criminal was caught and brought to justice imagine our smiles when we entered the home of one of my friends in triumph. The pike meat was turned into a considerable amount of fishcakes and it’s still the best as far as I remember I have ever tasted.

Somewhere deep down in a drawer at my parent’s house there is a box of old faded photographs. In one of them three beaming boys are holding a pretty big pike the one holding the head is me. As their senior with a few months the two others said I should do it. Truth is that they didn’t dare to. Another truth is that I haven’t caught a pike even close to that size ever since.

Don’t forget that Søren and Håkan are at the BFFI this very weekend. So if you want to see the line of hooks and talk to both Søren and Håkan, please stop by and have a look and a chat.