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Tales of the unexpected

Mark Bowler heads to the river in search of a spring salmon. He returns, not with a fish, but with...golf balls?

Fore! Not a nest of eggs, but an unusual result of the winter flooding.
Fore! Not a nest of eggs, but an unusual result of the winter flooding.

The river was in good ply and there'd been a couple of 20-pounds plus salmon taken recently, so I was keen to get onto the river. Usual set-up for this time of year – Wet Cel II long sink-tip and a Templedog on a copper tube and I was soon in action, working downstream.

I can't say I was confident, just keen to get casting again, and get the feel of the river under my feet, so when, half-way down the pool, the fly suddenly stopped and started to draw and thump on the rod-tip I had time to think "Well, I wasn't really expecting that!", but, then, that's fly fishing. No day is ever the same. And this short session was just about to prove it. I lift the rod, and there's that beautiful, addictive sensation of a solid fish resisting on the line of the line.

The fight begins, and I'm already eager to judge its weight. 20-pounder? Well, err, no, it feels lighter than that, but this is an odd fight. The fish is struggling manfully, banging the rod down, but is going nowhere. I lean on it, worried the hook-hold is poor, but it still wobbles on the end of the rod. Now it's starting to kite to mid-stream and, just as I expect it to make a sprint downstream, everything goes slack. Fish off.

Such was the strange, almost detached, fight that I decide to check my fly. Pulling in my line reveals something extraordinary. Onto each of the two points of a brand new double a fresh silver salmon scale is impaled, dead centre. I think of all the decades I've been swinging a sunken salmon fly across a river and can honestly say I don't think I've ever foul-hooked a fish. And, in all my fishing days, I can't recall ever having a fish-scale impaled on my hook-point, and now I've collected two in one cast.

I fish on, and double back to try the same lie with a different fly, but the fish is (quite rightly) sulking.

I wander off to have a look at the river round the bend to see how the winter floods have changed the river. As I do, something at the side the path catches my eye. Is it a nest with eggs in? No, lying in a thin layer of sand are three golf balls, all within four inches of each other. I pick them up – one Taylor Made, one Titleist and one Wilson.

I smile and remember how one opening day close to here I picked up 24 golf balls all along the edge of the pool, lying on a bed of deposited sand. The floods had washed over the golf course about half-a-mile upstream, including some of the water and sand hazards. All the contents had washed downstream and rolled to a halt by the fishing hut.

However, these three balls, all made by different manufacturers, were, I suppose, testament to the golf ball makers' art, in the fact that all three had travelled down a turbulent river in spate for well over 800 yards and come to rest within a few inches of each other.

I returned having lost a salmon, but at least I was three golf balls up. Perhaps I should take up this golf thing.

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