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Angling ~

This page gives an insight into arguably my main vice when I'm brave enough to put up with bad weather and sunburn...

I have been a piscator (read maggot drowner) since I was a young boy, my first experiences of it spring back to Summer holidays where I'd attempt to catch crabs at Aberystwyth harbour using fish heads as bait, surprisingly it worked although I daren't touch the crabs! A little while later Santa Claus very kindly brought me a DAM fishing kit featuring a 10ft float rod, reel and assorted tackle. That float rod lasted me for years, right up to my GCSE days until I accidentally stood on it and broke the top section (ouch!), but it did me well and even survived a stint at sea fishing...I still have the remnants of that rod tucked away somewhere.

My early coarse fishing days began on a commercial fishpond called 'The Delves' in my then local town of Thorne. It consisted then (and still does) of two separate ponds, featuring the usual fare of fish - but I never really caught anything of great size although it did introduce me to the shock of seeing a pike when I optimistically tried to plug the depths. Thankfully for either him or me, he fell off before he got to the bank - but the sight of that fish (albeit a small 2-3lb jack pike) intrigued me for years and I've never forgotten it - probably because it scared the hell out of me at the time! The Delves became my hunting ground for the majority of my youth, sadly my biggest regret being that I never managed to catch a lovely green tench, and even today they still allude me.

It was the arrival of other friends eager to be by the waters edge that got me to seek pastures new - and this time it was the delights of the local canal banks. I learnt to grow attached to Thorne canal in my later angling life; if one travels far from the beaten path its possible to fish areas that are quiet and peaceful away from the maddening crowd, sadly fishing with friends (at that age) often meant that trips tended to venture into lunacy, for example: trying to crack holes in the ice from which to fish (needless to say we never caught anything other than pneumonia), friends smuggling bottles of rum and orange juice in their tackle boxes, fishing hooks with floats and shot ending up in every tree around us! Yes it was farcical at times, but we enjoyed every minute and more often than not we'd catch something (albeit small perch normally). A Silstar float rod (again 10ft) and a cheap glass-fibre car boot special soon replaced my much loved and abused DAM rod, slowly becoming the back bone of my equipment needs for much of my later angling exploits during my GCSE years. However, once I reached 6th Form things suddenly ground to a halt as my interests in academic pursuits, cars, guitars and girls meant fishing was slowly forgotten about as the pressures of being a student kicked in.

Five years later during the tail end of my university course the thought of angling returned, inspired mainly by reminiscent conversations and rose-tinted articles in The Waterlog magazine - leading me to question why I gave it up in the first place; I couldn't wait to get back out there and escape from reality. So with the thought of relaxing after the exams in my mind, I dusted off my tackle hidden at the rear of the wardrobe and headed back to the waters edge. Friends I used to fish with joined me later and for several happy months until I found employment we fished the canal banks (and the Delves one more time) purely for the fun of it. It's amazing how much you improve with time, I don't know whether it was because I was being more methodical, more committed or simply more relaxed but we all caught far bigger fish this time round (a nice fat perch on my 25th birthday comes to mind). I also had a better rod this time, again a Silstar but now 12ft - and yes ladies - size does make a difference! Fishing during this period was joyous, being away from the pressures of life with time on my hands is a memory I'll never forget, particularly as it permitted me to revisit locations I hadn't fished since I was a boy (including a spot that overlooked the house of my teenage crush). Happy days indeed.

This reflective time in my life came slowly to an end when I found employment in Hampshire, so for about two years the rods remained packed up until one day I learnt of a private, secluded stretch on the Blackwater river. Given some hastily scribbled instructions courtesy of the RAE Angling Society, I set out one cold and frosty morning in pursuit of a farm in the middle of nowhere, leading me through a horse field then a cow field until I found myself staring at a swirling, steaming river. The canal never looked like this, it was spellbinding. I spent some time there that morning in dumstruck awe before eventually dragging myself away to defrost my feet and to fill in the membership card. Since then, I've spent the vast majority of my angling fishing that river and finally, after all these years, I'm catching big fish! Well, a 4lb chub and 5-6lb barbel isn't bad for a small river...

I've always described myself purely as a pleasure angler, I may have dabbled in friendly rivalry with friends in the past but I've never been attracted to the concept of match angling, nor would I ever class myself as being sufficiently skilled or gifted to compete. For me personally, I just want to be by the waters edge and let the world go by, which probably explains why I've also never had a huge passion for concentrated fisheries. Whilst I don't mind them necessarily, given that it offers more waters to fish and attracts new members to angling, it does somewhat remove that certain 'romance' - in the sense that it feels commercial as opposed to personal. I'm at my most content sat by a small secluded stretch of water using traditional techniques, without all the need for multiple 'specialist' rods, electronic bite indicators, tutti-frutti boilies, hair-rigs and the obligatory shades...

Despite what I've just said, I don't think you ever stop learning as an angler - there are always new methods or techniques that you adopt along the way as your experience grows and your knowledge of where and how to fish improves. The more traditional tried and tested ways of angling are still in use and I don't see that ever changing, its only natural that technologies develop and new ideas come to fruition and there's nothing wrong with that. Fishing evolves as does everything else, sadly however, although the traditional methods are still popular the older style of tackle largely isn't, vintage tackle is growing rapidly unobtainable due to either the rarity or the cost. Whilst I personally swear by a centrepin reel for trotting on rivers - to actually find a classic 'pin (such as an Allcocks Aerial) in good condition can be horrendously expensive. Collectors of fishing memorabilia have sadly driven the price of vintage tackle way beyond the reach of many anglers, where the price of nostalgia just isn't worth the cost.

But I digress, at the end of the day it doesn't really matter what tackle or techniques you use - what's important is that you are enjoying yourself - as they say "there is more to fishing than catching fish". I haven't found another pastime that provides me with such highs, such lows, such thoughts and such feelings as angling, whilst for some the idea of sitting on a cold canal bank is akin to punishment, for others its a sheer delight - I'm with the latter :)

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