A glorious thing began today…the start of a new fishing season! Time to put aside all the poorer days of angling (why is it called angling?!) by the river bank last year and dream of pulling out lunkers and battling with beasts in the year to come. Although this year, I am going to have to rely on luck by the riverbank more than ever…a man has to eat.
An important factor to keep in mind when relying on my little stretch of river to provide me with food, is to use it sparingly. Fish stocks and sustainability are tremendously important and I must not get too greedy or take more than I need-after last nights escapades, it seems the eel could be at the top of the hit list.
It was a complete surprise to me that I managed to leave the rod and line well alone for the entire closed season (even though I could have gone and fished at a lake somewhere), but I had a house to build…as you do. So, brushing the dust off the fishing gear and tying the first blood knot of the season was a total joy (insert word “geek” here somewhere).
Rudimentary cave-man fishing tools.
Last night, I left the warmth and comfort of the treehouse and wandered down to the river, nightlines in hand, ready to put in the first cast. At the stroke of midnight, in went hook, line worm and weight X4. I sat by the river in the pitch black and enjoyed a pint of my latest batch of nettle beer to see in the season and put the best part of my wild brew into the river in the hope of keeping lines tight this summer.
The following morning I woke at about 9am, the recent addition of the bed has made sleeping much easier…too easy. But it was a refreshing change and I somehow managed to shut out the ever-eager birdsong that begins around 5am. With functionality evolving everyday, I have found the speediest way to boil the kettle and have resolved to make me a small kettle fire consisting of 3 bricks, a small hole and a quick-burning pimp (pimp is the traditional name for a bundle of birch kindling, not necessarily someone who manages a bevy of young ladies and carries a stick and goblet).
As I was keener than a pikey in front of an unlocked jewellery shop, I quaffed down my morning brew of meadowsweet and mint and made a beeline to the river to see if the drizzle of nettle beer had improved my chances. As I have mentioned in the past, few things get me as jumpy and excited than the sight of a tight nightline…gone is the saggy curl of the line from the night before and now we have the prospect of some kind of fish at the other end!
It was amazing to pull in all the lines and discover that all four had been taken by something or other, I had two eels: one big, one small and two which must have had eels which clearly made a beeline for the nearest root system and well and truly snagged themselves…not bad for the first day of the season. Generally, you set more lines to improve your chances, my plan is to have a fish store: a long keep net which I can put all the fish worthy of the table in, until I choose to eat them- a holding pen in a river, if you like.
Once I had wrapped up my lunch in a few burdock leaves, I walked over to the patch to embark on the task of vegetable hydration. All I can say is thank @£$% I put my patch next to a stream; otherwise this simple task could have got very boring indeed. I rather enjoy watering the patch and seeing how everything is coming along; whatever is ready comes back to the treehouse. At the moment I have been mixing up the peas, spinach, lettuce and rocket with a few wild bits and pieces- bittercress, watercress, nettles and the last of the wild garlic. I can’t wait until my first courgettes are ready…counting the days!
The "Patch" coming on nicely...
Today, I had my eye on some red-veined sorrel I put in some time ago, and had been saving for this very day- the perfect citrus kick for any kind of fish. I was a little concerned for the potatoes…they didn’t look great, but I lifted a few rather prematurely. The strange thing was that it filled me with worry- the same kind of creeping concern you get if you go overdrawn or need to pay a bill…how things change!
Back at the tree, I readied the smoker and went to work on skinning and gutting the eels with the help of a hatchet, a few nails and a pair of pliers. I have been teaching a bit of foraging (to fund my treehouse building) at Safari Britain: I think I must be the only person who takes a machete, a hatchet, knife and a brace of coneys to work with them…still ‘tis better than working in the city of sin!
How to skin an eel...
It appears I have lost touch with my smoker, obviously an eel isn’t the same as a 3lb trout: still, drizzled with a finely chopped wild garlic and sorrel dressing, my first taste of “treehouse fish” was outstanding! Just need to go find a little horseradish for next time. Although good, the eel lacked a vital ingredient, catching fish in closed season for the table does add a little je ne ces’t quoi…I believe it's called crime.
Life down here is coming together slowly, there are plenty of ups and downs, as can be imagined with high rise living and having to dash “upstairs” to grab some eating irons. Building is still going, made a swish fold out table inside and have been patching up the corrugated iron around the stovepipe with exhaust pipe, “Gun Gum”- with the rains last week I got a puddle on top of the stove-not good…
So whilst the muggles have been at work, I have been busying myself with all sorts and when not being busy (a rarity), I have been sitting in my new Hammock chair Clare brought me from her recent trip to Hossegor and sticking up my small hobbit feet and reading Robinson Crusoe…this most certainly IS the way forward!
One final word, I am very lucky to have the most amazing view out of my window when I wake in the morning and I just have to share it with you all…makes a change from the brick walls of my past few years!
Oh yes, I am writing a column on the Treehouse diaries for Reader’s digest- first one comes out in the July Issue…