Despite Matthew spending most of the day at the Nash Redbond Junior competition on Saturday, he was still up and raring to go at 6am Sunday morning for yet another session. I drew the short straw for the early start and dropped Matthew and his friend Ollie off at Slough House Lake, Bulphan just after 7am.

After helping them set up, and after being joined by another friend Josh, I left them all at the lake and went home to get on with my Sunday chores.

I spent the morning calling in regularly for updates on how the day was going. Matthew did manage a nice 11lb mirror early in the day, which I could tell he was partciulary chuffed with.

Then came the call….

It was around 1pm when I received the call from Matthew. As the phone rang and I realised it was a FaceTime call, I guessed that I would either be greeted by a selfie of his latest ‘trophy catch’ or a sorry hungry looking face enquiring when I would be back with food supplies.  The call connected and Matthew appeared  on screen with the look of a newly crowned lottery winner across his face. Screaming and whooping at me down the phone, unable to put more that a couple of words together. As the immediate hysteria died down a little, he took a deep breath and then spoke…”Dad… Dad… oh my god, oh my god, seventy one pound, seventy one and a half pound cat fish, oh my god….aaaaaaarrrrrrggggggghhhhhh.!!!”

The screen when blurry for a few seconds then re-focused as the connection flipped to a close up of a huge gapping mouth of a monster. As he panned round it was difficult for him to get the whole fish into frame at once, it was that big. The phone was shaking and I could hear the squeaks and squeals from his two fishing partners, who still couldn’t quiet believe what he’d just landed.

“Put it in the net, if it fits” I said “and I’ll be there in 15 minutes.”

I arrived at the lake and started to make my way found to his swim. As I passed by other anglers, I started to receive a few nods of acknowledgement, which I found a little strange. Did they know me or were they just being extra polite. They must have seen me arrive with Matthew earlier in the morning. Then I realised that they were actually offering subtle congratulatory nods of approval for what had just taken place on the lake. It wasn’t until I arrived at Matthews swim that I started to realise just quite what had happened. All three of the boys were still bouncing up and down like little kids at Christmas. They were now also accompanied by a small additional crowd of anglers that, as I subsequently discovered, had offered the use of various bit of their equipment and help in various ways, during Matthews half hour struggle to land the thing. Apparently almost the entire lake had come to a standstill to watch the battle unfold.

Even though I’d seen the it via FaceTime, I still couldn’t quite believe just how big it was, not to mention how the hell he actually managed to land it without it dragging him in, rod and all. Although I was told by his two friends later on that they physically had to hold on to him to prevent him going in; he’s not exactly a heavy lad. We spent quite a while taking photos from every conceivable angle and made sure we covered the obligatory ‘so big it takes three of us to lift it’ type of shot.

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Then it was time to release the beast back into the depths. We videoed the release, Matthew stroking its slimy skin as it wriggled free of then weighing sling, almost unable to let it go. Finally, it rolled over and slipped silently back into the lake. Matthew bid it farewell, then turned to the camera, with a look of pure joy and happiness on his face and with his fists clenched, let out and almighty roar ‘YYYEESSSSSS.!!’.

In years to come when he’s telling his kids and maybe even his grand-kids the story and his monster catch, with his arms outstretched, they’ll be safe in the knowledge that it really was ‘that big’…

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