At his peg the
fisherman got the first intimation of what the draw had brought him. For some
the peg proved to be a sunny perch atop a barbered stream bank, languorous and
pleasant whatever the fish population. For others it was a comfortable hideaway
among thick streamside weeds. For a few score of unfortunates, pegs were
precarious positions on flooded lower banks, with water knee-high and scarcely
a place to position a basket seat. The one woman among the 1,212 contestants,
who bore the name of Mrs. Duck, found herself buried in a small forest of
bulrushes. A chap no taller than his five-foot keep net found himself pegged
into mud that came to his thighbones. "It's a mug's game," he muttered,
sloshing about like a mad muskrat in search of a place where his gear would be
safe from the wash of passing pleasure craft. "I should have left my
blinkin' gear behind and brought my blinkin' swim costume."
cock," said his neighbor, who could see over the weeds, "it's just the
luck of the draw."
said a disembodied voice from the watery peg adjoining. "If Lady Look's
with you, that's all there is to it. Last year I had a dream of a peg—four foot
of water and three foot of bream."
watched for rule violations (no advance ground-baiting, no wetting of ground
bait), anglers assembled rods. These were mostly nine-to eleven-footers with
butts as thick as fungo bats. From sacks and boxes they poured ground bait into
buckets, ready to dampen it with water and cast it into the stream the instant
they heard the starting signal. They threaded lines, chose hooks (few larger
than a No. 12) and laid out Rube Goldbergian arrays of floats, bobbers and
sinkers and tins and boxes of maggots. Here and there an oldtimer positioned
his umbrella as a sunshade. A safe distance back, friends, wives and children
spread blankets, parked picnic baskets and settled back to watch.
A flare exploded
in the sky over The Broads. Whistles screamed. "Lines in!" bawled the
stewards along miles of riverbank. It was 11 o'clock. Each angler quickly
baited his hook with one, two or three maggots, cast his line hastily into the
gently flowing stream and with his free hand began madly dipping ground bait.
All art was dispensed with in this operation, each trying to lure more fish to
his swim than his neighbor; it was a monumental barrage, and within seconds the
waters were cloudy with dissolving balls of ground bait.
provoked great headshaking and laughter from veteran fishermen of the Norfolk
Broads who had come to watch. "If that river war' London and that ground
bait war' bombs," said one, "there wouldn't be a building
said another, "and if I war' fish I war' halfway to Land's End by
Bream and roach
are sneaky fish. Their presence has to be almost as much sensed as felt when
they nose about a hook. To snare them requires such concentration that
bystanders are not supposed to talk to contestants during a match. The Broads
gleamed and preened in the sun. The fishermen perched silently by their pegs,
like so many tethered herons, tensed for the slightest feathery tap of a snout
on a maggot. If their attention was diverted momentarily it was only to munch a
dried-out sandwich or take a pull from a Thermos.