Booze and birds, the mainstay of my formative years, that and fishing of course: Statistically I have spent more time, energy and money on these three simple pleasures than I care to own up to. Still, I’d hate to lie on my deathbed regretting I hadn’t done something constructive with my life.
Statistics suck anyway; they can be used to show anything in the desired light, just ask any politician. I could boast of one lake that over the course of a season the average weight carp I caught was bordering on nearly twenty-three pounds, impressive stuff eh?
Or I could say I fished this venue long and hard for a year and only ever caught one fish, a mirror carp of 22lbs 12ozs. Both statistics are true but presented different lights.
According to Vic Reeves 88.2% of statistics are made up anyway, that one too I suspect.
I intended to start this piece with a rant on war, terrorists, Bush, Blair, Saddam, Mugabe, North Korea and my mother-in-law but felt with hindsight that it wouldn’t change the inevitable... a roasting from the editor!!!
Instead I thought I would spread a little happiness recounting a tale of a pleasurable piscine pursuit.
I was just a lad, thirteen to be precise, I didn’t know what else my todger was good for, coke was just a drink, a bong was a noise from a bell and dressing up and camping was something you did in the scouts: happy days.
The ‘glorious sixteenth’ was a time all fishermen revered, rather than just a date for paedophiles when all jailbait became legal. For the uninitiated, when close seasons applied, the ‘glorious sixteenth’ meant the 16th. June, a time when our self-imposed three-month exile from fishing could be resumed.I’m not going to get into a debate on whether close seasons are good or bad: I just accept it but I do know a few months off leaves an excited, expectant air that is not there no more.
Anyway, 15/06/79, my mother kisses me goodnight and goes off to bed safe in the knowledge that the ‘bedbugs wouldn’t bite’. I lay awake more excited than any Christmas Eve, the bedbugs were okay but what about the fish? My bike was already loaded with tackle ready for a morning sortie but over excitement took the better of me, I’ve found a cure now, recognising the signs and all that!
Anyway back to the past, eleven-thirty-six illumed large from the digital display of my alarm clock, both parents asleep for an hour at least, I crept past their bedroom door; onwards downstairs, easing open the garage door, silently I made my escape. I waited until the end of the road until flicking on the lights of my ‘Raleigh Chopper’; Mission Impossible had nothing on this kid.
The three miles to the lake was a blur as my adrenaline charged legs pumped effortlessly towards their goal. I got to the lake and felt the tension; a combination of the date and my sense of wrongdoing were as intoxicating as the finest champagne or aspartame-laden soft drink.
There was a choice of three lakes at my disposal; the third was my goal, as I knew the first two would be full due to the ‘shorter walk’ factor. It was still at a time when carp were impossible but it was too warm for pike; Tonight Matthew, I’ll be a tench angler.
I had a Bruce & Walker XTM 13’ match rod at the time, for modern teenagers, this is the equivalent of a Nokia 8310 with an Eminem ring tone: the business. Armed with a tin of the Jolly Green Giant wonder bait and an isotope float the world was my oyster.
Despite little activity on my end tackle I was high on the atmosphere as little titbits of information came whispering around the lake of a nineteen pound carp to my friend Ian, then a twenty-four pounder to my hero Brian Mills; one day...maybe...
The local ‘rag’ was due around nine o’clock. At eight-thirty the float dipped. The swift strike met solid resistance, I played and I prayed, a gorgeous fat female
Tench of 4lbs. 12ozs. graced my net shortly afterwards. Not massive by today’s standards but in the seventies it beat my fathers personal best: nirvana.
I had the audacity to borrow another anglers keep net; I’d not one of my own. The ‘East Kent Gazette’ beat my dad to the lake by five minutes. He had been sent by my mother to administer the obligatory bollocking but with the local newspaper photographer taking my picture and, I suspect, a begrudging ‘that’s my boy’ attitude, I escaped with an innocuous ‘Don’t do that again… how big was it?’ type of telling off.
Halcyon days and sweet memories, it sure makes better reading than my prophecies of doom regarding suicide bombers in London as retaliation to our freeing of Iraq.
It would make no difference anyway; leave politics to the politicians.
Our editor has taught me to concentrate on the important things in life, like netting your perfect target fish and writing about it, I’ll settle for that.
As Oliver Reed once said, “Don’t drink, don’t smoke, eat healthily, you’ll die anyway!”