By Greg Long
I suppose I started the right way. I had been sent to stay at an Aunts house for a holiday, Sundays at this house was fishing day, and so, on Sunday I went fishing.
The venue for this auspicious day out was a local beach, not the kind of Beach I would choose for a Summer Sunday, but to this stony beach was I hauled. The rods were set up, the three hook traces baited, and the lines were cast. "That rod there is yours," I was told. So there I was sitting on a stony beach watching a rod standing in a milk bottle wedged upright in the stones, clueless.
In time the top of the rod ceased it's hypnotic to and fro-ing and danced a merry jig. "What do I do?" the not so plaintive cry sought instruction, which was a gruff "Pull it in!", so I grabbed the line and pulled it in, dragging a lively Plaice up the beach before the shock of the Uncle's line in tangled coils about my feet had fully registered with him.
That was the end of my fishing that day. Realising I hadn't a clue how to fish at eight years old, the uncle decided it was safer for his prized fishing tackle if I only watched My rod, but I was hooked, beware fish, there's a new Kid in town.
My next episode was not so 'ethical'. I had been shipped back home. Behind our house was a walled in park, originally a deer park on a country estate, behind the park was a river. My two Brothers and I were allowed to play in the Park. We were not allowed over the other wall to the river. Now, if you walked along the wall there was a culvert. This culvert allowed a ditch to flow into the river in the winter. In summer there was no water in said ditch. There was room for small boys through the culvert. The culvert went under the wall. Small boys were not allowed over the wall. This agreed, small boys wriggled through and went paddling and playing at the river.
Gudgeon are stupid fish. They hide on the gravel bed, in shallow streamy water. Little boys paddle in shallow streamy water with nice smooth clean gravel beds. Did you know it is quite possible to catch Gudgeon by standing on them in bare feet? Bliss. How we discovered this fact was chance, the result was instant, the next day 'Bucket' joined small boys through culvert so boys could count daily catches before releasing the hapless fish. Probably the same ones all summer long.
Christmas came, and with it one of the H frame hand lines, orange string, three hooks on nylon snoods, and an ounce of lead. This set was, surprisingly, effective in catching a few small trout in the river over the course of the following summer. Towards the end of the season I graduated to a 'proper' fishing rod, with a reel and monofilament line. I still remember the rod, from one of my grandparents, a rich royal blue with deep cadmium trimmings. My birthday falling in September, however, meant that I didn't get a chance to use the rod that season. As my father said, "something worth having is well worth waiting for". It was, the next summer the trout didn't know what hit them! I soon discovered that the Trout I watched sipping flies in the glides and runs were too preoccupied or easily scared to be caught but in the deep holes where I had caught the tiddlers on the hand line a number of fish succumbed to my worms.
One day, the inevitable happened, I lost my weight and was unable to cast the line out. Rather than go home early I decided to let the current wash my bait into the pools. It never got there. Time after time the bait was taken on its way through the rough water on the way into the pools, and, by and large they were better fish than the usual ones I had been catching. The thinking Angler had been born.
I became a master at catching these fish in the heavy flows, these flows however soon became trickles as the summer wore on and the fish moved out of them into deeper water.
This proved a stumbling block to my success as a Trout fisherman. In the deep pools all I could catch were the 'tiddlers', by the time a decent fish came along the bait had been pulled apart by small fish; some of which managed to hook them-selves in the process. The thinking Angler was stymied. The answer came to me through an old copy of the Angling Times sent to me by my Uncle, a float, the offending article or rather a cork from a wine bottle, joined the terminal tackle and worked. The cork eventually gave way to a float made from a large chicken feather quill tied on the line by a couple of half hitches, and the fish kept obliging.
About this time I discovered every boys hook the bent pin. Hooks were available in the local shop. These items cost 2d in old money, about the price of a pint in the pub, a lot of money for a small boy. One of my acquaintances showed me how to make a hook by bending a dressmakers pin around a six-inch nail. His father had taught him the Knack and the spade end knot. He taught me, and soon we were best Buddies fishing in friendly competition and teaching each other what we knew and what we learnt along the way. This had major repercussions on my fishing techniques however. Now I could fish amongst the weed and bushes since I no longer worried about losing my hook, there was an ample supply in my mother's sewing basket!
I had soon discovered that the better fish liked to lie hidden in the rivers. Many piles of debris and tree roots, coupled with shelving rocks made almost every other pool in the river an ideal home for a decent trout. Up until now these fish had been relatively safe from my point of view; in bookie parlance the odds were too short. The risk to a precious hook out weighed the chances of success. Now the odds had lengthened considerably. The bent-pin hooks straightened out in the snags, unfortunately the same thing would often happen when pulling in a good fish. To counteract this problem we learnt to play the fish and to reduce the pressure on the hooks. This successfully saw our summer out and come the end of the season we were catching two or three 'keepers' every day.......... until the angling club secretary found out that is....... but that's another story. Watch this space.
Greg Long - 2002