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Emlyn and the Far Pools

A short fishing story

“I wish there were more,” said Emlyn to his family, as he brought his fish-catch into the house. After all, the whole village depended on fish. It was even a requirement of the landlord that the village should catch sufficient fish for market. Only then would it grow and prosper.

The fish-pools supplied the needs of the village – they stretched up the valley, almost as far as you could see. Those nearest were right on the edge of the village, set in comfortable fields with pleasant shade. Go further away though, and you came to hard rocky pools with steep sides and limited access. Furthest of all, hard up against the dark forest, were the murky pools where you had to be careful of the quick-sands. Insects could be a real problem there. Nameless beasts of prey lived in the forest, so it was best not to fish alone. Emlyn had been there occasionally.

Well-stocked library

In theory, everyone in the village was meant to go fishing regularly, and even carry a small net when outside, in case they found themselves near a pool. There were regular meetings and discussion clubs about fishing, and the library contained many fishing books. Most villagers loved to hear the old stories about fishing exploits in past years, especially from the pools near the dark forest. But in fact, only a small number of villagers actually went fishing regularly. Most people were too busy with activities within the village itself.

Another problem, Emlyn realized: it was relatively easy to fish in the ponds near the village. Access was simple, the fish would take the bait and were usually docile when caught. Go further away, and the bait didn't work so well. Although people occasionally suggested experimenting with different types of bait, many villagers opposed this as being as an unnatural compromise with the art of fishing. The village shop only sold standard bait anyway. The few people who had success in the far ponds were those who had taken time to understand the lifestyle of the fish there. They would often spend time not actually fishing, but wading up to their waists in the water – watching, learning, and relating to the fish.

Stinging spines

And those fish from the further ponds! They got a good price at the market, but often looked strange and unfamiliar to the villagers. They would flap wildly when caught, stinging the unsuspecting fishing-person with their spines. The ones living near the dark forest seemed the strangest of all. Very different shapes and behavior. Poisonous too, some of the villagers believed. Yet they fetched a really good price in the market, which was operated on a co-operative basis by the landlord. Indeed, he seemed to welcome these different fish as much as any.

Emlyn knew that the ponds near the village, though not fished-out, were getting sparse. The village could never grow if it depended on these alone. “I must go further out,” he thought. “Experiment with bait. Find out what they like. Take precautions against the stinging spines. Maybe work in a small team.”

And he did.

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