Nayland Rock

It was the summer after the pandemic first hit. We had been told to only meet outside. I lived in Margate. A coastal town sprawling across the northern shores of the long lost Isle of Thanet. My friend Joe had responded to the news of needing to meet outside by inviting me to learn to fish. Come summer we had acquired a kayak from which to head out along the coast and see if we could score us a bass, perhaps even, a wily mouthed mullet. We would scarper and glide, up and down the coast, with the ebb and flow of the tides, only needing to strain our own muscles when caught in a quick eddy. We fished liked pirates and ate like kings.

One day we decided to hit Nayland rock. This time on foot. A micro peninsula jutting out into the sea, brought forth when the tide retreated only to disappear beneath the surface some hours later. At a distance, in the eyes of the passing tourist, this rock was a grey boring mass lying flat and passive, as the sea curled and swirled up and over it every day. But we knew better. It teemed with speckled sharks, juicy crabs, vaginal oysters and lurking, the sea bass, lots of em. Big silver fish, with mouths so large they could have sucked off a passing beach donkey. Bodies so muscular and ripe they could each have fed a family of refugees shipwrecked on these shores.

That day the sun was ablaze in all its grilling glory and the tide sat just over Nayland rock, hiding it. But for those who knew, its further stretches were just below the water. If only there was a way to get out there. With tabs under tongues and spear-like rods in hand we found the local shit pipe. Lolloping along atop it as it took us out unto the farther nether regions of the beautiful Nayland rock. From there we could skip and jump in crouched style, from rock peak to rocky plateau. Around us deep valleys cut, swirling with kelpian forests. And amongst these swirling canopies we knew, was our totem, the sea bass. Out hunting itself, we were hunting it.

Making sure not to cast our bodies shadow over a valley, nor dislodge an underwater avalanche with a foot, we skipped, paused, craned, and fired our lures into the waters. Not one, but two, three, bites all around. With no basket or bag to carry the quota’ed two each we could take home; Joe innovated and strung his pair from his swim-short waistband. Emerging back onto the beach, they dangled between his legs leaving him with fin scarred thigh cheeks. It had truly been a day of gifts. An adventure with the fishes. Scaled and gutted in the sand and sea, back home raw thin slices of these bass tasted of life. A life I had shared.