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It goes without saying that carp fishing is different things to different people. As in most other things, time spent carp fishing changes you. You revisit some of your previous material when you come down to the nitty-gritty of the mundane chores required for the completion of a book project – like coming up with the jacket material. Having based the introduction to this book on a quote by Ernest Hemingway, I was surprised to read the following on the back flap of the jacket of More From the Bivvy: ‘…the buzzer sounding will always be meaningful and uplifting, but there came a time when the need for a sense of achievement started to conflict with the simple need to catch something.’ I was surprised, not because it isn’t true, but because I didn’t remember writing it! In my case, that change in outlook is emphasised in my carp-fishing approach in From the Bivvy, and the two books from 20 years or so later, More From the Bivvy and Bivvy Three. Over the years, what I caught, and from where, has become increasingly meaningful. If it is of any consolation to those of you who are too responsible, or simply don’t have the inclination, to pursue big fish, or fish long sessions, then I cannot pretend that carp fishing hasn’t become less enjoyable over the years, because for the most part it has. It is fitting that the Bivvy books have finished where they began, in Shropshire. I have travelled far and wide, but my memories of Snowberry in Bedfordshire, and Birch Grove and the Mangrove in Shropshire, eclipse all else in terms of the joy of simply being by the water, and trying to catch carp. Some captures are more significant than others, but if they bring you joy, then they are all meaningful.
When you mingle with people who are not only not carp anglers, but aren’t anglers either, the fact that you have had nine books published on the subject of carp fishing (prior to this one) is received with a degree of incredulity. I suppose it’s an incredulity that I’m inclined to share! The fact that the books span a published period of 27 years, and the written content a much longer period – approaching 40 years – perhaps goes some way towards putting the numeracy of my books into perspective, but only some way! Each new book is a new beginning, and once it is published you accept that what you were trying to achieve was actually beyond attainment. So you try again! When I embarked on this third attempt at a book actually written in the bivvy, the subtitle of The Final Countdown was already writ large in my mind, whatever the outcome. In the event, the outcome was not displeasing, and I end the final ‘Afterthoughts’ chapter thus:
‘Results-wise, it is probably a modest achievement compared to the figures some of the most successful big-fish anglers aspire to, but as a blow-by-blow exercise in spelling out the effort, frustration, enjoyment and occasional fulfilment which goes into the pursuit of carp, as it happens, I think it almost succeeds! On reflection, it is ‘The Final Countdown’. With some reluctance, and the glow from a host of golden memories, it is time to move on.
There is a self-discipline involved in the creating of the Bivvy books that I can’t always aspire to. I have a number of stiff-backed A4 notebooks containing false starts prior to the ‘successful’ start, and completion, of More From the Bivvy. A session, for me, is about getting the house up, setting the traps, and doing as little as possible for as long as possible prior to uprooting and setting off back towards normality. The self-discipline required to record the session, through the written word and the camera, turns every session, day and most nights, into working days and nights. More From the Bivvy was successfully completed, but by then I was pursuing targets which were beyond attainment! The book was big on lows, thin on highs, and meant that I had to continue to pursue the unattainable in one more attempt; one more new beginning – ‘The Final Countdown’. The fact that many readers prefer the lows to the highs is a consolation, and some of the photography marked the second attempt as a move forward from the first Bivvy book, 1994’s From the Bivvy, in terms of the pictures, if not the results. But the problem with a succession of highs is that they can make carp-fishing success appear commonplace, when it is nothing of the sort! You need the lows to put the highs into perspective, and if carp make a writer look pretty ordinary at times, then that is the reality I try to hold my hand up to, and record, through these books. By chance, I think this third attempt at a book actually created in the bivvy is as close as I can get to an acceptable blend of struggles and successes. The subtitle to More From the Bivvy was Twilight in the East. The subtitle to this one could easily have been: ‘The darkest hour is just before the dawn’. Two of my most successful carp-fishing days ever occurred following mornings when I was tearfully writing up the desperation at my lack of success, ongoing bad luck, and the likelihood of me never catching another carp – ever. I guess that is the essence of carp fishing I’ve been trying to capture in the Bivvy books, and have come as close as I’m likely to get in this volume.
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