I sometimes wonder if I go fishing for fish or for memories. Like many anglers I generally take a camera with me, and like every angler my head is filled with recollections of trips from days gone by, some as clear in the mind now as 30 years ago when they were happening, others half-remembered and perhaps distorted by time, but all part of a stream of consciousness that trickles and runs through the mind like a mountain stream.
The other day in an idle moment I was trying to decide which were my top three angling memories, and was surprised by two things. Firstly, despite the fact that I look back on my teens as the halcyon days of my angling life (partly because so much of them was spent fishing) none of my top three memories were from that era- perhaps you have to be older to really appreciate things, after all they do say that "youth is wasted on the young". I've got some great memories from my teens: my first ever fish (a perch) caught at the age of 13, my first ever pike caught on a cheap plug in January 1982, the October half term when my two brothers and I fished every day and I caught my first ever 1 pound roach and one of my brothers caught a 3 pound carp which to us, in those days was a monster. I remember with affection my early forays into the worlds of carp and night fishing, and Southlake,the club lake I fished (five minutes walk from our house- how fortunate was that!) and Dinton Pastures (our other main venue) remain indelibly etched on my mind. But for all of that my top three memories are all from within the last decade, and- strangely- only one of them involves a personal best fish, and that a very modest one. So here they are, my top three "red letter days":
Not a spectacular day's fishing, but an immensely satisfying one. For a ten year period most of my fishing was for carp,some "overnighters" but mostly day sessions, sneaked into otherwise busy weeks. I fished with a good circle of friends from church, and there was something beguilingly benign about this particular day. The weather was hot, the fish were co-operative, the company congenial, and without fishing too hard my companion , Mark, and I caught 11 carp in about 5 hours, none giants but all respectable fish. We chatted about life, fishing,work, church, God, family and probably a dozen other subjects too. A day which for no particular reason other than its pleasantness sneaks in at number 3.
This does include two personal bests, my own personal best zander, and my brother's personal best pike. My two brothers, Andy and Tim started fishing at the same time as me, and throughout our teens we were inseperable angling partners. Adult life (and the fact that we're dispersed accross the British Isles) means that opportunities for all three of us to fish together are strictly limited, and therefore intrinsically special. This was a trip to the Fens, where on a small fenland river my brother Andy had 3 pike up to 19 pound 14 ounces and one zander, my brother Tim had two pike to 15 pound and I had two pike (largest 11 pound) and this zander of just under 6 pounds. The weather was unseasonally sunny for November, the "old firm" was reunited and the toothy critters were obliging- what more could we have asked for?
A bit of a "cheat" this one, but anytime, spent fishing with my son. A fisherman since he was 4, any occasion on the bankside with him qualifies as a "red letter day". Hopefully the sessions we have now will, in adult life form a part of his stream of angling consciousness, they're certainly a part of the ongoing building up of mine.