Have you ever wondered what heaven is like? I suppose that is something most of us have thought about at one time or another. As it happens I was there earlier this afternoon and so I got to see it for myself. You may not believe me and I understand that you may be skeptical, but it´s true. I took a photo to prove it.

My take on things is that heaven is supposed to be the place where all the good people end up. It´s a reward for declining any opportunities to engage in the sinful activities that, let´s be honest, are a lot more fun than sitting on wooden pews and singing hymns. And so I´m not convinced it would be such an entertaining place to hang around even if, somehow, all my ducks lined up in a row and I made the entry requirements. Just think about all the people up there. They would be the really boring ones who never put a foot wrong during their lives. What would they have to say for themselves? Presumably booze would be banned and fornication would be out of the question. And you would have to listen to endless choir singing and recitals of scripture and of course God would be there, centre stage, lording it over everyone and recounting, for the umpteenth time, how he had created all of heaven and earth in just a few days.

I am delighted to announce that heaven is nothing like that. There are no goody goodies. There is no harp music. There are no angels. There´s no sign of God either for that matter. The best of all, getting there doesn´t involve a life of tedious virtue, as we have all been lead to believe. Instead you can get there by taking a 20 minute drive from our house. To find it just join the A357 and head towards Málaga. Then take the first exit (follow signs to the Hospital Valle del Guadalhorce) but instead of taking the slip road to the hospital, follow a dirt track into the heart of the valley. Park up when you get close to the Guadalhorce and make your way down to the river on foot. Heaven is about a ten minute walk from where you can park up.

It is very conveniently located.

You may be puzzled about how I got to discover where heaven is and so I´ll tell you. It´s not a bad story either. I was pulled into heaven by a fish! I hadn´t even realised it was there! I had hooked the fish in pretty  stretch of the Guadalhorce. It was an awkward cast. I came up short a couple of times but when I got it right the fish took the little nymph at the first time of asking. And then the fish shot upstream beyond my view and into an unseen stretch of water. It dragged the leader through some fine weed and clumps of weed became attached to the leader and the upper section of my fly line causing it to sag and arc deeply towards the running fish. When a barbel like this one puts its foot on the gas you just have to hang on and, having taken a meandering course through soft weed, I had little option but to follow it upstream, clearing my line and leader from the weeds as I went.

Eventually the fish took me to another pool through a narrowing of trees and this pool was just stunning. There were gypsy barbel like the one at the end of my line that that had been displaced by the movements of my own fish, and a group of three or four small carp with dark forms silhouetted against the pale river bed that had been similarly disturbed and that glided unhurriedly to the far side.

Soon enough the sting was gone from my fish and I knew that there was clear water in which it would punch out its remaining runs. While it was doing this, in the few moments before I could beach it over a clump of soft weed, I took in the details of the pool that the fish had taken me into. The water was running clear and the bottom was sandy with contours scoured during previous floods. As far as I could tell, it was nowhere deeper than thigh depth and it was, for the most part, much shallower. The pool was fringed with trees and could only really be entirely seen when standing in it, as I was, with my feet in the shallow riffles of the tail. You could walk all along the bank beside this pool and never see it unless you were prepared to burrow through the bushes and low trees that encroached from all sides. At its head the water was animated by a narrow spill that channeled the water from the river beyond.

When playing a fish there is often a moment when excitement of the events leading to the take, and the subsequent drama of the initial run, begin to fade. As a fisherman you feel that you have accomplished what you had set out to do. The intensity of the moment of the cast is gone. The fish has bolted and torn many metres of line from your hands or from your reel. And then comes a shift in the balance of power and you are aware that, if you attend to your duties with due diligence, you are the one calling the shots. All that remains is for you to subdue the wild thing to which you have become attached, to take it to hand, and to set it free again. For me these are moments when the focus shifts away from the fish and I feel a profound appreciation of the my surroundings. Maybe you recognise this feeling? It’s a kind of sense of reverence for the river and of gratitude for all the gifts that it gives me including, but going far beyond, the gypsy barbel that is arcing my rod with its pulsating runs.

Eventually, our contest reached its end. The fish was beached in the shallows and I rested it on a nest of soft wet weed while I slipped out the barbless nymph and took a quick photo. After it was released I wanted to take a picture of the pool although I didn´t imagine the photograph could ever ever really do it justice.

Of course whether there exists a heaven or not is your call. Many take comfort from the idea that, if they play their cards right, it´s up there waiting for them. Fair enough, it is not for me to throw cold water on any such belief. But I do not share it myself and that, of course, is my call too. The way I see things, if you are in the market for heaven it is down here that you ought to be looking. This afternoon, in the intimacy of a secluded river flowing through the southern part of Andalucía, I found a little piece of it myself.

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Heaven! The sun was only out sporadically and so this picture does not give the pool full justice.

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This is the fish that led me around the corner into this beautiful pool. It was the last of six fish that had all taken the same little nymph.

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This one was number 2. It ran upstream through a hollow in a giant concrete structure and I had to coax in back downstream through the same obstacle. In the process I put down every other fish in that pool!

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At this time of the year some fish sport red blotches. I looked carefully at this fish and it appeared healthy and uninjured. Some fish are spawning around now. Curiously the red blotches were on one side of the fish but not on the other.