11/09/2018 - Difficult times

The above title doesn't refer to fishing and for that reason it is a very hard piece to write. The family tragedy referred to in my previous entry was the sudden and unexpected loss of my father under circumstances that we yet to fully come to terms with as a family. In the process of sorting out his affairs I found a full set of pictorial rod licences stashed away in his wardrobe. In recent years it is true that we did little or no fishing together, his age and his increasing commitment as carer to my mother playing a part, but that hadn't stopped him from buying his licence. Thinking back, it was my grandfather that actually introduced me to fishing, the first trip literally a bent pin for a hook and a matchstick for a float before I got my first "proper" outfit consisting of a six foot fibreglass rod and a Gladding Intrepid Boy'o. However, it was subsequent trips out with my father and my brother that developed my interest and skills, whether it was catching greedy little perch from a tiny farm pond on the outskirts of Birmingham, being hopelessly out-gunned by barbel on the River Severn at Stourport, or catching "monster" pike from Bosherston Lily Ponds in Pembrokeshire. Even then I remember, whilst he did catch the odd fish himself, he was the one more likely to be sorting out the tangles, baiting up the hooks and getting the stove going for a bacon sarnie or a cup of tea. He took equal, if not more, pleasure from both the social side of fishing and the success of others, even on a day on the River Swale when I sneaked out and bagged a trio of "donkey" chub from a swim he'd earmarked for himself. That was his nature.

The period immediately before and after his death was a whirlwind - a holiday cut short, a mad dash up the motorway, two weeks sleeping on my brother's sofa, meetings with the police, coroner and solicitor and the start of seemingly endless arrangements and paperwork. We all probably ran on adrenaline over this period and didn't really have time to think, simply because we were kept busy. As things calmed down, amongst the messages from friends, family and my GP was the advice to carry on as normal. 

Whilst nothing will ever be "normal" again, I knew this was advice given with best intentions and with my mental well-being at heart, so when my friend Stuart suggested that we had a couple of hours trotting one evening on the Embankment in Nottingham, I threw a minimal amount of kit in the car and set off to meet him. Despite living in Nottingham for nearly 30 years I had never fished off the embankment and, apart from the carp anglers occasionally bivvied up opposite the Forest Ground, I had never really seen anybody else fishing it either. It was only when Stuart spotted a chap catching dace and roach on the stick float whilst on his way home one night that alerted us to the possibilities and, whilst the concrete steps make it look barren and uninteresting, closer examination revealed lush, marginal weed growth and a clean gravel bottom. The evening in question was warm and sunny, so there were a large number of boats moored up along the river, which basically left us a small section upstream of the suspension bridge. Plumbing indicated a depth of about 11 foot off the rod tip, just about manageable with the stick float. 

Sitting on the bottom step and trotting maggots down the side we were soon catching roach, dace and perch. The latter were particularly abundant, gorging themselves on the loose feed and probably muscling every thing else out in the process.The best of these went a pound and a half, but I lost a much bigger fish that plodded upstream against the curve of the rod before snagging me up. I could still feel the fish thumping away on the end of the line, so slackened off hoping that it would swim out of the snag again. Unfortunately, the inevitable happened as the hook eventually pulled out leaving me to rue to the loss of an unseen "monster"

We carried on fishing for a couple of hours, chatting and and watching all and sundry enjoying the river in their own way - walkers, cyclists, rowers, boaters and winos - before we lost the light and a bit of a chill descended. It had been exactly what I needed and we parted ways agreeing to meet up again for another session very soon. It had also been just the thing that my dad would have loved - a float rod, a few maggots, loads of fish and good company. My hope is that, if I'm wrong about there not being a god and an afterlife, he was watching from somewhere and enjoying as much as me. 

For John Edward Firkins, 09/04/39 - 05/08/18