( Story ) A Severe case of Fishing Pox

by Jonathan

All too often these days, when out fishing, I have to sit down on the banks of the river or lake to rest my weary body. This is usually when I am having a difficult day. As I rest I find myself asking, “Why do I spend so much of my time trying to catch these elusive trout, when I always return them to the water?” Invariably my mind wanders back to that year nineteen forty three. My father was the local policeman in a village on the fells of County Durham. He had been posted to Cockfield after three years on Tyneside during the blitz. He had been on night duty with his close friend and mentor,who was killed in an air raid.
He was a country man at heart and was keen to teach me the local area. One summer evening we went for a walk over the fells to the river Gaunless. It was in reality, more of a large stream, meandering its way across the fells on its way to the river Wear. It was a warm summer day and the fells were covered in bracken, whin bushes and dry coarse grass. There were sheep everywhere and the green plover, he called them pee- wits, wheeling about in the skies all round us.
That fateful day as we walked along the banks of the Gaunless changed my life for ever. The river was teeming with minnows darting and flashing in shoals everywhere you looked. Even at the tender age of seven I was smitten. There was a deep inner urge to catch those beautiful creatures That day was the beginning of a lifetime devoted to that incurable suffering that all fishermen go through. Some men are lucky enough to find a cure by marrying a woman, strong enough to help them overcome their addiction, by making the supreme sacrifice that only a woman can make. Others join the Foreign Legion, in the hope that with only just enough water to drink, it will take their mind off fishing. However only they know what they dream about.
I was one of the lucky ones, I decided, even at that tender age, to be a martyr to the cause. Instead of looking for a cure, I devoted my life to researching the possibility of overcoming this dreadful suffering, by indulging to excess. I must confess that it has been painful at times but I was spurred on by the motto ‘No pain no gain’.
The early years saw me graduate from catching minnows, in an old cloth flour bag threaded on to a wire ring, attached to a garden cane. Once I had mastered this technique it was time to move on. The next stage was a leap into the unknown, a bent pin tied to a length of cotton attached to the same cane, baited with a caddis grub. I had become an angler.
Such was my success that I caught a very small brown trout which went into my 2lb. Jam jar and ran all the way home over the fells to show my Dad. I think at this stage he realised that I was smitten. He said that the trout had to go back to the river and he went with me just to make sure that it did go back. Was this my first lesson of catch and release?
Within a year I graduated to having a very old greenheart rod with a brass reel, filled with cuttyhunk, a few short lengths of catgut and some rusty old hooks. I was a fisherman.
My catch rate did not match my enthusiasm and there were many fishless outings. One of the older men in the village, Tommy Bowman, suggested that I should try flyfishing. He recommended that I should contact a gentleman called Mr. Proud at The Travellers Rest in Evenwood, the next village down the valley. He was renowned for his fly fishing skills and teaching fly tying.
He helped me acquire an old fly rod and reel. I cycled to Evenwood on many Wednesday evenings he taught me to tie flies and how to cast a fly. He was responsible for me being totally addicted to fly fishing. Sorry I digress.
In the summer school holidays most days I was off early in the mornings, with my rod strapped to the crossbar of my bike with my old gas mask shoulder bag with my reel, a selection of flies and a tin of worms.(just in case the river was in flood). I would travel miles to satisfy my craving during the school holidays.
I even found time whilst I was in the Army to get some fishing done, in the UK., Spain and in Gibraltar. The most important part of my kit after my rifle was my fishing rod. Even three years in the Army was unable to cure my addiction.
Learning to drive and buying a car only served to make things worse. I could be found anywhere in England, Scotland or Wales rod in hand by some river, fly fishing, spinning or drowning a worm. I even took a week off in Ireland when I was twenty one to try my luck with pike. I managed to catch one weighing over thirty pounds. It frightened the life out of me when we got it in the boat and I have not fished for them since….it looked like Jaws! It was getting so serious by the time I was thirty, the only possible cure was to marry a strong willed woman who could keep me in check.
Eventually it had to happen. Now that I am 78yrs young I confine my activities to fly fishing small stillwaters for trout when it is fine, bait fishing for grayling in the winter months, tying flies by the dozen that I will never use……..but we can all dream.
Over the last few years I have lost too many of my fishing friends who have gone to fish that big reservoir in the sky. It must be good because they have never complained……..and that is very unlike some of them.

Written by Dave Cammiss

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Alan Sharratt January 1, 2017 at 9:13 pm

What a nice little story.

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