Sunday, 22 January 2017

One in a million

I was a shy 18 year old I guess. Just filling up my battered old Volvo with fuel after a day's fishing on the River Wye. Bennetts Garage will always have a special place in my heart. I looked out from the shop at the forecourt and there was some bloke standing by my car. Who the fucks that I thought? I hope he's gone when I get back - he hadn't. 

A guy in a green camo shirt and black trilby looking like a cool Dick Walker was waiting for me - "just spotted those cane rods in the back of your car, I'm mad on fishing, where have you been?" - three hours later we are still on the forecourt. 

They say first meetings are the time that likings are made and they were that day 30 years ago - he gave me a pink business card, for he was an antique dealer from Ealing - The Duke of Bedford Park and he would be moving west to Herefordshire soon - could we keep in touch he asked - "I can't call you Dickie though, already know one of those, it will have to be Rick" - we kept in touch.

Pete Overend Watts became my closest, dearest, lovely friend that day and earlier this afternoon we lost him. I was expecting the call, but it still knocked me down and I feel shattered writing this, but I just felt the need to.

He filled my life with joy. Every moment cherished. We had some magnificent adventures and memories that I will treasure and I am so sad that we won't have any more.

He had such a brave journey these last sixteen months - so brave and so dignified and there were moments of magnificent humour. He sent me this song a short while ago - I make no apologies, it is sad, but one he loved.

I just can't write anymore, the sadness is too great, I have a glass here to share with you son and my love shines bright and my friendship will last forever, Rick

Friday, 20 January 2017

Friday Face

A chance find of a pile of posed photographers portraits got me ever so slightly excited that I may have chanced upon a selection by Ramsey & Muspratt, but I don't think so! They are still charming in their own right and you can't help but wonder where are they now? 

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

How does it feel?

A day riverside is the perfect tonic indeed. Even though the conditions were far from ideal it was good to be in the open Stour valley landscape. I was probably the only one enjoying all the river had to offer on this particular stretch. I laid new footprints in the dewy wet grass as I walked upstream to where I felt there may be some hope of actually catching something, but to be honest, just being by the river was enough.

Rain after a very cold period is never that good a prospect - not only is the river coming down after a brief period of being high it usually means the fish are hunkered down and waiting for food to pass them by in the quieter areas of the river. The roads have been plastered in salt of late and most of this gets washed in and adds to the soup which no doubt puts the fish off their stride.

I always have visions of those lovely illustrations by BV in Mr Crabtree that show you each species of fish that will be in each part of the river - he would have been proud of my tactics today!

Trotting with a float sees two dace caught and it's hard going - cold, drizzle leading to longer spells of heavier rain which gets blown intermittently away by the odd heavier gust of wind. For once I was glad of an extra large flask of tea as brewing with the Kelly Kettle would have been hard work on a day like this. The flask of sweet tea offered instant gratification.

A change of tactic to lobworm tail hard and fast on the bed of the river in a quiet slack eventually lead to a goodly bag of roach up to just over the pound mark - they do amaze me how they find the worm in coloured water. Tentative plucks on the bait before a nice hard rattle on the rod top - all is good with the world.

The owls started their call earlier than usual - the church clock hadn't even struck five and the last cast comes much later than previous weeks. We are getting through the dark days now, slowly but surely. 

I lost my hook on the last cast at last knockings to an unseen underwater snag so called it a day. A lovely stroll away from the river - two fingers held aloft in the V sign - not to the river which I of course gave thanks, but to Blue Monday which I had firmly kicked up the arse this year.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Blue Monday

There is no science behind today being Blue Monday and I don't mean a day of appreciation for that revolutionary New Order song of the same title. In offices everywhere there will be folks having what is more commonly known as a shitter - a crap day. A crap day for a multitude of reasons, but in the main it's the one day of the year when sickies are at their peak, duvets pulled back over heads, resolutions broken, the drafts and overdrafts through bank accounts are as huge and as whistling as they could ever be after the Christmas indulgences and generally a black dog will be peering over quite a few shoulders.

Not me - for this year I have beat the bastard at his own game and by the time you read this I will be cold, possibly wet but loving every minute of it by watching a bright tipped float drift down the Dorset Stour. If I catch it is a bonus, for I will be making tea, making plans for the year and hopefully admiring some of the rivers finest silver darlings. 

Keep your pecker up! We are nearly through the dark days - don't beat yourself up if you had that extra slice of pie or that extra libation this January just revel in the joy that lighter days are not too far away. There is always tomorrow to get things back on track. 

Friday, 13 January 2017

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Confessions of a book collector

I dare not tell you exactly how many copies of BB's 1950 classic "Confessions of a Carp Fisher" I have in my angling library, but it is quite a number - these photo's are just the tip of the ice berg!

Each copy has a particular story attached to it - the one I take fishing with me, one that belonged to my good friend the Norfolk carp angler and lovely gentleman Dick Kingsley Kefford, one from BB given to me, various reprints and favourite copies and so the list goes on. In a moment of poorness I did part with my prized copy of BB's proof for the second edition, but when you are young and a house renovation needs to be paid for such things do happen.  

I know exactly what it is that grips me with this particular book - a book I am dipping into again on these cold and dark evenings fireside. That is the mark of a good book isn't it? One you return to and one that still stands the test of time after all these years. This book has been a minor obsession of mine since I first read it in the school library in the early 1980's. That was a reprinted copy (1970 edition to be exact) with a contribution by Dick Walker on his record carp capture. That particular book, the very book I read at school is now on my shelf and the copy I always re-read. It formed part of a school library sale a few years later - and so its journey continues. A constant in my life. I thanked BB many times for being that spark at thirteen and I often wonder how many other poor souls have similar stories to my own.

The evocative and descriptive way that BB takes you down long winding lanes to tree girt pools shrouded in mist at dawn struck a chord with me at thirteen and it still does now. The hopes and expectations of a carp that you may be lucky enough to land after it takes your simple bait that you fish for with a float. The shaking hands as a shadow beneath the surface film of the lake comes into view and starts to feed over your bait. You dare not move, you cannot move until the bait is taken and the line stirs - you worry that the fish can feel and hear your beating, thumping heart. The day that stops is day the magic is lost and is the day I stop fishing.

Friday, 6 January 2017

A new rod for the Epiphany

I do have a liking for glass fibre rods. I know that may come as a shock to some, but I don't just fish with rods made of bamboo!  

You can imagine my pleasure, over the Christmas break, when I came across this old school glass fibre pike rod. The Blenheim (made by Vortex, ET Barlow & Sons of Thames Ditton) - no doubt named after that fine Capability Brown landscaped park at Woodstock in Oxfordshire that has a mighty fine lake which contains some mighty fine pike. The punt fishing for pike is still available and very good too, although my memories are of cold days, not enough flasks of soup and gin clear water which invariably led to no pike!

The rod was too good to pass up at about the equivalent of three pints of your finest ale - a bargain! 

Today is the Ephiphany and one of my traditions is to fish at some stage on this day, return home for King Cake and a glass of amber by the fire where we will burn holly and mistletoe that decorated the house and look forward to the year ahead.

I will be casting a line at last knockings, hoping for a a pike on the Stour, but if I end up fishless I will still be happy - happy in the knowledge that after my experience I will at least be king for part of the day.