When I was a young man-sprout, twelve years old, to be precise, my father came home from work one Friday evening carrying a brand-new fishing rod, a fishing basket full of line, weights, floats, a keep net, and a load of those little rubber rings to hold your float on the line,
Oh, and a book entitled “The Compleat Angler”, by Sir Isaac Walton.
“Happy Birthday my son” he said.
But, it wasn’t my birthday until November.
Had the old man lost the plot?
It was the summer of 1959, and on the 16th of June, as happens every year, the coarse fishing season started. That summer, and from then on, Dad and I visited endless reservoirs, rivers banks, ponds, and lakes in Essex, around Rayleigh, where we lived.
I even saved all my pocket money, bought a sea fishing rod and a multiplier reel, cast some lead sea weights, made endless wire paternosters, and added all the tackle I needed to go sea fishing too.
Somewhat surprisingly, given my track record when let loose on a bike, Dad agreed to let me ride to Southend (6 miles), then to the end of Southend Pier (1.5 miles), to spend the day sea fishing from the pier.
There was method in Dad’s madness — both the early birthday present and the sea fishing trips.
— I was hooked!
One day my father told me a secret about fishing that not a lot of people know. He said, “…the gods do not subtract, from the span of men’s lives, the hours spent in fishing”.
And I soon learned, such is the power of the fishing gods, they can make time stand still, or even make it fly by!
Sometimes, as I sat on a river bank, or the edge of a lake or pond, time would sort of elongate, as the day expanded into night. Dusk would tip-toe in very slowly, as if seeking permission to be there.
When you’re fishing, and you’re in the zone, it’s just you vs. the fish (weather, ducks, snags, mozzies, bailiffs etc). Nothing else matters, and you’re not going to leave until you’ve got one. So, why on earth would you worry about such an abstract concept as “time”? Beats me.
Occasionally, I’d go by myself, but more often than not, Dad would be there. We fished and we learned about fishing together. If only I knew then how precious those hours were.
Words cannot describe how much I enjoyed those hours spent fishing with my Dad, although I never did read the book he bought me. Had I done so, I might have become a much better fisherman, and fishing partner, but I was having too much fun fishing with pops.
After my mother died, poppa and I got into some very bad habits together. We used to throw all our tackle in my car on a Saturday night, drive to one of the locations on the Thames where he had fished as a lad, and try our luck together.
I am not sure which bit we enjoyed the most. The eager anticipation of hooking a big Carp, Barbel, or even a Pike, or maybe it was the bottle of Drambuie we always took, just to keep the cold out?
Personally, my money is on the Drambuie!
Either way, we must have fished literally hundreds of ponds, lakes and rivers and had endless enjoyment together, my dad and me. Up and down the River Thames, from the Mill at Sonning to Eel Pie Island.
Parents often joke that young kids are like little blank books — you just need to write on their pages. I think that’s true to a far greater extent than we realise.
I know for a fact, my dad definitely wrote on one of my pages — “Gone Fishing“