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There was still some exaltation among us when we met on Boxing Day morning, but it was more soberly directed. The wind had died on Christmas Day and the weather had turned colder; there was frost on the grass and a thin skim of cat-ice at the margins of the lake under the overhanging trees.
Keeping his promise, Roy began to fish for roach. I took my position north of the bridge as planned. Lindenburgh worked the south side. Preece had a plan of his own. He walked to the far end of the bridge, dropped a floating plug into the water, let out line, then walked back across the bridge towing the bait. An original form of trolling.
When he came along, as we knew he would, Howell the Pig found there was no room for him. He walked past us without even a "Happy New Year." True happiness would have been to hook the Green Devil in his presence, but that was not to be.
Indeed, the whole morning passed without action. "It's the sudden frost," said Lindy. However, he ate a cold turkey leg without putting down his rod. When he finished, he said, "Time for the live bait."
Normally we did not care for live-bait fishing. However, the cold had turned the Green Devil sluggish, he might not chase a spoon but could well grab a plump silver roach if it swam within easy range. Roy headed over from his roach-fishing spot with a bucketful of them.
Lindy had no festive champagne cork but a regular hot orange pike bobber, which we tried to stare into invisibility. For 10 minutes it stayed serenely on the surface. And then, suddenly, the roach itself was struggling on the surface as if it wanted to get up and sit on the bobber. Then there was a great boil, and the little blob of orange disappeared.
Lindenburgh let line out, counted a slow five, and hit. Brick-wall resistance. The hooks were in. The huge pike, olive-green, dappled pale yellow, came out of the water and shook its head. Then it surged toward the fallen beech tree in the water to Lindy's left.
This time, though, I was standing out on the beech as far as I dared, making a commotion, slapping the water with the gaff. Twice more in the half-hour fight it went for the tree and twice turned away when it saw me. The rest was textbook stuff. No shouting from Lindy. Stolidly he worked the fish until it was showing its great flank, and then he was guiding it to the gaff.
On the bank it looked huge. "The Green Devil," said Preece, awed. "You got him." We hoisted the fish onto a hand scale. Thirty-four, nearly 35 pounds.
"Hey, Green Devil!" said Roy.