From The Privvy – Chapter Three

Moor Flung Dung

We returned from our holiday in late August, just in time to get a new reservoir permit, but unfortunately didn’t return to our apartment in Pockfulham. Instead we went to a new one in Repulse Bay, our furniture and personal belongings had all been moved for us while we were on holiday. I phoned Michael, his mother told me that he had gone back to England to attend boarding school, she also told me that Tony had moved to the New Territories, Anne had gone back to Canada and Amanda had returned to Australia. So nowhere to fish again and no one to fish with. I could get the bus to Pockfulham but as most of my fishing sessions were between midnight and six a.m. it seemed a bit impractical.

I made new friends quite quickly after moving to Repulse Bay, an American boy called Capper and two girls called Sue and Glenda, my sister was already quite friendly with Glenda and as a crowd we had a lot of fun. I didn’t miss fishing too much, I had caught two carp from Summerhill lake and one from Horton Kirbey while on holiday but I had discovered that I liked music almost as much as fishing.

I learnt to play the guitar and over the next five years played for several groups. The music was time consuming and what fishing was done was fitted in around the music, but the social side of being a musician eventually absorbed nearly all of my time.

I did find another water though, it was quite close to my new home. Capper and I climbed the peak next to our apartment building and in the valley behind it was a lake equally as large as Pockfulham reservoir. This lake we later discovered was Tai Tam reserve reservoir, plans were made to fish it. Our first trip was made in the early hours of a Saturday morning and it wasn’t easy climbing over a peak in the dark with all our fishing tackle and no torch. We eventually got there and started to fish with bread paste, coloured and flavoured with an assortment of culinary powders. We caught carp that were identical in size to those at Pockfulham but we did see one fish that was very much bigger than anything I had previously seen. We never saw this fish again and never caught anything larger than six or seven pounds, but being aware of its presence kept us trying for a long time.

Tai Tam was very remote and we very seldom saw anyone else while we were there. We did however see some of Hong Kong’s wildlife, some of it we saw far too closely. The first animal that caused us any problems was a stag, I never did know what it was doing there, it certainly wasn’t a native animal but nevertheless we woke up one morning to find this stag drinking from our swim. As I stood up the stag jumped back and realising it had made a mistake, put its’ head down and charged, there was only one way to get out of its way and that was to jump straight into the water. As I surfaced I saw my friends running up the track and the stag still in the swim, I tried shouting at it but it just wouldn’t go away, it looked very aggravated and there was no way I was going to give it another chance at trying to butt me. There was nowhere very close where I could get out and so eventually I swam to the other side of the reservoir and went home on another track.

I found my friends near to home and thanked them very much for all their help! Later that day we returned to the reservoir to collect our tackle, there was no sign of the stag and we started to feel a bit braver. We had a discussion and decided that if we were to continue fishing at the reservoir the stag would have to go and so more plans were made.

Three bows were made and a few arrows, we also made some particularly nasty weapons out of welding rods. A point was sharpened on one end and a piece of catapult rubber whipped to the other, a three inch length of welding rod was then whipped to the other end of the rubber. By pulling the welding rod back while wedging the short piece of rod against your thumb and index finger the whole thing could be fired generally in the direction of anything you wanted to hit. We learned later at the police station that these were called Hawaiian slings.

Anyway back to the stag, we searched every track around the reservoir and found no sign of it, we eventually found a barking deer and had even managed to get it trapped in a hollow under a large rock. A barking deer is quite a small animal with two little horns on its head and fangs like a vampire, a more satanic looking creature you couldn’t imagine. The barking deer cowered and made a coughing sound, three arrows and two welding rods hit the rock, the deer coughed again and sprang from the hollow. We turned and ran up the track, five would-be great white hunters pursued by an animal little bigger than a Jack Russell.

The track eventually came out of the jungle at Stanley village where we went into a shop to buy a drink, unfortunately the shop keeper didn’t understand why we had bows and arrows. By the time we had finished our drinks the police arrived and took us for a tour of the local police station.

As Tai Tam was so remote we forgot all about the fishing season and fished it whenever we liked. In the summer water levels could drop by as much as ten feet, this would leave the clay bottom exposed which would quickly become sun baked. This was the only time you could walk all the way round the reservoir and the only time some areas could be fished. A weekend session was planned by several of us in an attempt to see if we could get some bigger fish from an area we hadn’t previously been able to fish.

On the Friday night we set off despite the warnings that a typhoon was about to hit the island, the climb to the top of the peak was fairly easy but the track down the other side was difficult. The rain we had been having all week made things very slippery and there had been several land slides that had completely blocked the track. We still didn’t have a torch between us and lost our way several times. We didn’t have torches because we just didn’t need them, we could tie hooks and bait up in the dark and in normal circumstances could find our way around the tracks blindfolded.

We got to our chosen area and set up camp for the weekend under a concrete bridge that had once been part of a more permanent track around the reservoir. Through the night we heard an animal howling, it was a very strange sort of howl, quite indescribable really. As dawn broke we could see some trees about fifty yards along the bank swaying as something moved through them. The first animal appeared on the bank no more than forty yards form us followed by another half dozen or so, they looked like a cross between an orangutan and a chimpanzee. They stopped dead when they saw us and then very slowly started to walk towards us, one of the lads with us got very nervous and after shouting something quite incoherent, threw a rock at them. This caused the apes to start jumping about, they started to make their weird howling noise and having previously
seen my friends reaction to aggressive animals I quickly picked up all my bits and was the first one to leg it up the track, the others no more than a second behind me.

There had been an Irish kid with us called Pat and none of us had noticed that he was asleep when the apes arrived, he had woken up to find himself being watched at close quarters by the apes and his friends all gone. Apparently the apes had spent a couple of hours playing around on the bank and then just wandered off into the trees. When he hold us about this I wished I had stayed but was then glad I hadn’t as I hadn’t been wearing brown trousers. Pat returned to the reservoir on his own several times and the apes always came to see him but as winter approached they stopped coming. I suppose they just got as fed up as everyone else with hearing about huge Irish pike that ate anything and anyone that got in their way.

I don’t think I ever went back to Tai Tam, I started playing for a group that managed to get a recording contract and even made a few television appearances. I was also working as a draughtsman five and a half days a week and just didn’t have any spare time, but if any opportunity occurred I went fishing. I had found a reservoir called Tamar, it was private but by climbing over the fence and sitting behind the rocks I was never discovered. The fish we caught were a bit bigger than the fish in the other reservoirs and the surroundings were more like an English park. It was all very pleasant. One afternoon while fishing with a friend and a couple of girls, we had another unwelcome visitor.

We were sitting watching for the fish to start feeding, Chris had a bottle of San Miguel in one hand, his other arm was round one of the girls. He felt something moving on his trousers and thought she was getting amorous! As he looked down every drop of colour drained from his face when he saw an enormous snake slithering slowly across his lap.

Michael returned to the colony at about this time, he had finished his schooling and was having a holiday before finding a job. He phoned me and said that he had been to PG Farm and although there were no animals there the shop was open and we could fish there again. He had looked at the pond and had seen some good sized fish. We met down there for an evening session later that week and thought that if we were lucky we could hang it out until the early hours, as it turned out we went home exhausted at ten o’clock. We never cast without getting a bite, most of them while the bait was sinking. We caught grass carp to ten pounds, Kois to ten pounds and a peculiar Chinese fish called Dai Tao (big head) at about five pounds. This was the last time I went freshwater fishing in Hong Kong, Michael and I had just one fishing trip after this and that was to try to catch a shark.

That summer Hong Kong had been plagued with sharks, this was caused by a large number of bodies being washed up onto the beaches. The bodies were coming from prisons in mainland China, it seemed that their method of disposal was just to throw them into the rivers. The sharks had found the bodies easy pickings and if you went swimming you could either swim into a decomposing corpse or get eaten by a shark, most people stayed out of the water!

We bought a line that would stop anything that swam and a wire trace and hook that wouldn’t look out of place on a crane, we also bought a parrot fish of about five pounds for bait. One end of the line was tied to some steelwork that supported the sea wall where we had chose to fish, the other was tied to the swivel on the wire trace. The parrot fish was hooked on and thrown as far as we could get it. Within an hour we had a run and we sat and waited for it to stop, neither of us wanting to try to grab the line that was disappearing at an alarming rate. It stopped when the line pulled tight to the steelwork, we took it in turns to try and pull the fish in but ended up with both of us pulling as hard as we could. The fish decided to swim back out to sea and did exactly that, it broke the line and Michael and I fell over backwards. I don’t know what it was we had hooked but it was certainly big. Two weeks after this I left Hong Kong and moved back to Bromley, I had just four weeks to start my apprenticeship in engineering or I was going to be too old. As the plane circled Heathrow I could see odd lakes dotted about and thought to myself here we go again!