As they moved out across the lake they ignored the plugs we threw. Pike sometimes mass in the spring, in spawning time, but this was early winter. It was a mystery. But the Lily Pools were mysterious waters.
That was easily the most dramatic moment in the pre-Christmas fishing, not that the biggest of the pike we had seen, according to Lindenburgh, began to compare with the Green Devil. The smallest the Devil could be was 45 pounds. More than likely it was more than 50. Early in December we had had a bad moment. A huge pike, it was rumored, had been taken at the Eight-Arch Bridge by the local barber, known to us as Howell the Pig both because of his corpulence and from his habit of knocking small pike over the head and taking them home in a sack. To eat.
Never having heard of quenelles de brochet, those feathery pike dumplings for which the Loire Valley is famed, Lindy and I considered pike to be bony, insipid and tasting of mud, which, of course, would not deter Howell the Pig. More important, though, he imperiled the possibility of there being future Green Devils, and it would be a vile injustice if he had been chosen to land the present one.
The West Wales Guardian brought relief. On an inside page, smiling greasily, Howell was featured holding a large pike. Twenty-eight pounds, according to the caption. "Twenty pounds, maybe," Lindy said as we examined it closely. In either case it was only a small cousin of the Devil.
We had had a fright, though. It was time, Lindenburgh said, that we start forgetting those excursions to distant parts of the lake and pay more attention to the mighty fish of the Eight-Arch Bridge.
And so, for the coming Boxing Day, we planned a major assault. Preece would be home. Haggar would be available. All day long we would not move from the vicinity of the bridge. We would lay siege with plugs, spoons, live bait even. Lindy would have liked three full days, but the Scrooge-like bank kept him at it until five in the afternoon on Christmas Eve, and of course Christmas Day was impossible.
"So, Christmas Eve, we'll take out the guns then," Devan Preece said. Lindy looked at him disapprovingly. Preece had come home, torn off his uniform, rushed down to the Hope Inn for the midweek Green Devil planning meeting, and now he was going to prove to be a disruptive influence.
"What you three could do," Lindenburgh said, "is, Christmas Eve, you could go to the lake and catch us three or four dozen live baits."
"O.K.," Preece said, "and I'll ask Father Williams if we can keep 'em alive in the font until Boxing Day. I don't think he has any baptisms over Christmas."
It was Haggar who kept the peace. "Boxing Day, you lot make a start with the plugs and spoons and I'll fish for bait," he said. A noble gesture. Lindy still grumbled, but he could do nothing about it. On Christmas Eve, while he slaved at the counter, we would be walking the lake shore for mallard.