Unfortunately, the COVID-19 lockdown has scuppered all of our fishing plans, mine included. I’d planned to fish some of my favourite still waters this spring. More importantly, I had planned to take some of my children along with me.
I’ve been blessed with having six children, three girls and three boys, with age ranges from seven to twenty five years old. I had taken my eldest out a few times, when she was nine or ten, on the Grantham canal near Tollerton. We spent a few evenings catching lovely looking rudd and roach on a four metre whip, feeding liquidised bread with bread punch on the hook. It was a delightful experience, and we both enjoyed it, but like many things in life, circumstances change.
I took a sabbatical from fishing after this for over 16 years, due to family and business commitments, and other changes in my life. Looking back now, it is hard to understand why this happened, but it seems to be a common occurrence amongst many anglers. Considering how I started fishing it now seems unbelievable that I took such a long break from the sport. Even more so when you take into account that fishing is actually in my blood!
My family on my dad’s side were split into three different locations; Birmingham, Bristol and most importantly, Brixham, where my great uncle lived. He had carried on the tradition in our family of being a trawlerman and captain. He owned two trawlers and was the fifth generation in our family to do so. A proud man, he took to me straight away when I was born and treated me like a son.
I spent many a summer down there, catching my first ever fish on a rod and line at three years old; a mackerel. I was hooked after that and spent as much time on the boat with him as I could, weather permitting. I learnt most aspects of how to be a trawlerman but also had some great days pleasure fishing on the wrecks along the Devon and Cornwall coast. These were magical times with an extraordinary man.
Unfortunately, years later, he had to sell the boats due to the declining quotas allocated to British fisherman. It crushed him! He was never the same again, and he died a broken-hearted man. An absolute travesty! What he’d done though was given me a love of fish and fishing and he’d ignited that spark.
I had one other great close mentor as well, which wasn’t a family member. My dad and grandad had their different interests which rubbed off on me quite a bit. My dad had a passion for trains, and my grandad loved rugby union, cricket, football and gardening. I loved all of those also but still wanted to go fishing and they’d got no experience or idea on how to help me with that.
Up stepped one of my grandad’s employees; Mr Keith Owen. He would tell you himself he wasn’t the greatest of anglers. However, he instilled in me all the important things about nature, rivers, lakes, fauna, flora, fish and fish care which I still hold dearly to this day. He also took me to venues far away from the local ponds, reservoirs and canals of Birmingham and West Bromwich that I was used to.
I got to fish great estate lakes like the ones at Clive of India’s home, Walcot Hall, where my love of tench fishing started. The River Severn beckoned as did my soon to be favourite River Teme. They were a few miles down the road from his family home of the old railway station in the small village Neen Sollars. It was just a stone’s throw away from the mighty Clee Hill in the extraordinarily beautiful Teme Valley. Absolute heaven!
Getting up at 3 am just to go fishing. Catches of roach, dace, grayling, chub, bream, trout and barbel were interspersed with learning bits of river craft and how to stay safe on a river. They were glorious summer and autumn days that instilled in me my love and passion for angling. He used to say to me that if you see a kingfisher while you’re fishing, then you’d catch something special. I still use that exact saying today and it nearly always works too! Magical memories that will live with me forever!
As I became older, I realised I needed more technical help and guidance, and I eventually plucked up the courage to attend a Birmingham Junior Starlets A.S. meeting. The meeting was run by Ken and Janice Aske who dedicated their time and effort, along with many other parents, to give mainly inner-city children like us an opportunity to fish and become better anglers. Annual trips abroad to Ireland and The Netherlands were awesome, and how Ken and Janice put up with some of us, I’ll never know. There are too many stories for this blog alone!
It also gave us access to some of the best anglers in the country from the main Starlets Senior and Intermediate squads which were invaluable. They were our angling mentors, we could pick their brains about anything and as eager youngsters, we lapped it all up. The late Bob Green was especially kind to me as was the gentle giant Mark “The Beast” Jeenes. Just lovely people.
Great friendships were formed that have still lasted to this day. People like Brian Rigby, Lee Harries, Stuart Palser and of course James Robbins, who are some of today’s top, top anglers! In the world, we are in at the moment I think I can safely say these friendships are priceless.
All of these people influenced my life and ignited my love of fishing. Family. Friends, but most importantly of all, mentors! I owe them a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid, and it’s so sad that so many of the people I’ve mentioned are no longer with us anymore. I’ll never forget them or what they did for me.
Sitting down and reading back through this is very emotional but also fills me with a warm glow to go with all of the lovely memories as well. It then makes me think and reflect on what I need to do to maybe leave a good angling memory legacy for my family, and perhaps for some others too?
So that was the start of the plan for this spring. It will, unfortunately, have to wait for a little while. Hopefully, we’ll still have the summer, and I have some serious plans to get at least my youngest two into fishing properly.
They’ve had a few goes at it already, and it seems my youngest one, Anastasia, is the keenest at the moment. My ten year old boy, Kiril, is autistic and although he likes fishing, the insects are a massive problem for him, and I have to time it correctly; otherwise, it’s an absolute non-starter. The mayfly season would be a nightmare for him, just as an example.
However, we have managed to get out occasionally, and I’d like to recall a special day last April at Portland Fisheries in Nottinghamshire. It saw Anastasia catch her favourite fish which are chub, or rub-a-dub-dub chub, chub, chub as she likes to call them.
We only set up the one rod and reel. The Cadence 11ft #2 Match rod combined with a Cadence CS10 3000 reel, 4lb Dave Harrell Pro Feeder mainline to a .12 hook length and a size 18 hook. A small homemade insert peacock waggler completed the setup. This was fished at a full depth of five foot with just three no10s evenly spaced down the line for a slow naturally falling looking hook bait.
We fed casters and Evolved Baits’ Amino Hemp to the island with single or double caster on the hook. First fish was a mirror carp, closely followed by roach and rudd, then the first chub came along. To cut a long story short, we stopped after fifty chub which would’ve easily gone to 70lb+, including a lovely near 4lb beauty. We also had five carp, crucians, roach, rudd, roach/rudd hybrids and brown goldfish! Anastasia loved it! She reeled the fish in and held them carefully.
She loved seeing the maggots and holding them, and to see her jump up and down with excitement, as every chub came to the surface, was a joy to behold. It was one of those magical father-daughter days that will stay with us forever. 90lbs of fish is fantastic for a then six year old, and she played and reeled them all in.
We’ve since gone to a couple of the Cadence Open Days which have been fantastic and had one or two other little short evening sessions.
Many organisations hold regular opportunities for kids to have a go at fishing. One excellent one is www.getfishing.org.uk run by Sarah Collins, who runs many days to give children a taste of our favourite pastime and get hooked on fishing.
The Canal and River Trust along with The Angling Trust, also run many sessions and are a great introduction to the sport as well. There’s also your local angling clubs where many will have a dedicated junior section, and their work is invaluable. I pay a massive tribute to the dedicated people who give up their time to do this.
Many tackle companies do excellent work as well by donating to organisations or clubs with juniors, and I’m glad to say Cadence is one of the leaders in this. Every purchase you make over £50 automatically triggers a donation of tackle to such an organisation where youngsters will get a chance to fish. It’s the biggest reason I’m so proud to be one small part of the Cadence family. Even sitting at home during this lockdown, you can still help children to have an opportunity to go fishing by placing an order for tackle from Cadence.
You may have children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, cousins or just friend’s children who might jump at the opportunity to have a go at fishing. If you’re in a position to take them, maybe only once, you never know, you might just ignite the spark that will bring a lifetime of joy to a youngster.
In these days where many of us are restricted to our own homes, please think about what you could do to get a youngster fishing. I know we’ve all taken inspiration from famous anglers, many who’ve made fantastic TV programmes and videos, however, it’s nearly always someone closer to you that’s been an even bigger inspiration.
Think about it? Help make a lasting angling legacy. Become an Angling Mentor!