Last year I wrote about the White House public house that stood alone in the Hackney Marshes near the end of Pond Lane. Run by Mrs Beresford this was one of the prime tickets to hold on the Lower Lea. Today the tuesday swim had the privilege to hold one of these hundred year old subscriptions, issued by Mrs Beresford.
Continuing on with the theme of old classic angling books, Within the Streams was found on EBay a few years back but strangely through the seller recognising my EBay name as a fellow professional photographer a dialogue started up which has now become a friendship and almost ended up in a few fishing trips, alas so far they have been aborted but we will go fishing one day…Nick!
Back to the book, first published in 1949 it covers a mix of a dozen or so coarse and game stories with a winter codling addition to complete a picture of a complete angler. The first chapter – Colliers and Carp at Dawn is a magical twenty pages that recalls the authors early days of angling and the realisation of the existence of carp, the coal miners who fished for them and the realities of working the mines and using carp fishing as an escape. This is not a flowery tale, it is a basic and raw story of strong men who at times have been broken by the pits and haunted by death. The principles of angling and its antidote to the daily grind hang heavy throughout this chapter, but it is excellent…
‘Mist, fish, the metallic call of the water birds and the prospect of a day with a rod was a splendid and never to be forgotten pleasure.
At dawn the miners would arrive.
Many of them came straight from the pits, unwashed and tired. They stretched out work-stiffened limbs, bent over the banks on their bellies and splashed the cool water into their eyes until it ran down their faces, making chalky channels in the grime. They loved the place too, and many of them were excellent fishermen.’
Recently I was given a 1961 Sussex Piscatorial Society membership rule book and a list of their waters. I grew up in Mid Sussex and still fish there when I get the chance to escape London, so this was of great interest to me.
The Sussex Piscatorial Society has always been quite a secretive clan for which I cannot blame them for, as they do have some stunning waters, keeping the waters hush-hush makes good sense. I know if I fished there its how I would like it.
One water that no longer belongs to Sussex Piscatorials but features in the 1961 handbook is one that I now fish in the heart of the Sussex countryside. My fishing is really only spent on places like this now, commercials or ‘tidied’ up lakes and rivers have no appeal, the lost, the overgrown and un-touched is where I want to fish. I’ve spent a few years now fishing this lake and while spending many hours waiting for a bite I think back at the anglers that have sat by the waterside and gaze in wonder of the fish that have resided and indeed still exist in this pool. The lake has a head of old Leney carp but no one knows really how many and how big they go. Its a hard place to net as there is an extensive bed of lily roots, so the lake remains a bit of an unknown.
From the description of the 1961 list of waters it talks of ‘my’ lake as if it was written yesterday, I’m sure the landowners names may have changed but the description of the lake, the farm track, boat house and where you can park a car, is just as it is now, fifty years on. Knowing that some waters stay unchanged is a comforting thought, my only surprise on each return is how the seasons have marked its stamp on the surrounding landscape.
My current read is Jon Berry’s Beneath the Black Water a book that logs Jon’s pursuit and obsession of the ferox trout, one of Britain’s true mystical and wild fish. A large proportion of the book talks of the Alness boys and the surrounding area, coincidently the river Alness was the location were I first hooked a salmon. Before my first salmon trip my fishing partner Tony and I spent few long lunches in the St James area of London talking tactics and tackle after an expensive shop in Farlow’s of Pall Mall for various tube flies. Tube flies were unfamiliar to me and like most fishermen, shiny fishing tackle brings on the magpie effect, the Visa card probably came out too many times. The advice that came from Tony, who had regularly fished the Alness for ten years, was all new, but the unknown is what makes fishing such an exciting pursuit. One of my questions before the trip was “is it worth taking a fly rod for trout or spinning gear?” The answer was flatly “no, there’s no point when there is salmon in the river!”
On arriving in Scotland (with only one double-handed salmon rod) I was seduced by my quarry, the salmon, I was absorbed in my new surroundings, a complete contrast to the gentler southern english rivers I was used to. The Alness which runs for only twelve miles cuts its way through dark gullies with high cliffs of dark stone on one side, the other side covered with gravel banks and high trees of the Ardross forest. The river is spotted with huge boulders that takes the river on a fast flowing course occasionally broken with slower runs. The water was dark but clear like stewed tea without the milk.
As our week progressed the penultimate day was spent on the upper beat which was unlike all the other beats, no longer were we surrounded by forest and high cliffs but instead the landscape opened up to reveal heather and gorse. This upper beat (number six) ran slowly after flowing out of Loch Morie. With four days behind us of wading in fast flowing water this was a pleasant break, the sky was bigger and a sense of space gave way to a more relaxed approach, salmon fishing can get quite intense at times!
Above beat six was Loch Morie itself and at this point I wished that I had brought a spinning outfit or trout fly rod and ignored the advice given to me back in St James the previous month. Saying that, ferox hunting should not be taken lightly and stealing a day on Loch Morie to catch a ferox was fairly unrealistic, specialist down riggers, fish finders, weighted lures and most importantly a boat is needed and at that point in time I was unaware that ferox roamed the loch, but casting a trout fly would have been a welcome break. So back to the salmon fishing I went and finally at the end of my week a grilse was caught, small but my salmon rod had been bloodied.
While writing this piece I have come to the end of ‘Beneath the Black Water’ and now I have another piscatorial seed planted in my head. Not this year, perhaps not next year but at some time in the future I shall troll the depths of Scotland or Ireland and seek out the ferox trout.
An introduction to Caught by the River, with a Q&A session will take place at Rough Trade East, ‘Dray Walk’, Old Truman Brewery, 91 Brick Lane, London E1 6QL, tomorrow evening at 6.30 (Sept 21st).
Those attending and chatting about CBTR include the proprietors, Jeff, Robin and Andrew, along with John Andrews and Bill Drumond.
Rumours have it that real ale will be served later at Mason & Taylor concluding in a raucous east end knees up… DJ’s verses the old Joanna!