Saturday, 31 May 2014

Dinton Pastures and rose tinted spectacles

"The past", wrote LP Hartley, "is a foreign country- they do things differently there." There is always a fear when remembering bygone days that all nostalgia is only really an exercise in remembering the past as it never really was. Were summers really hotter, politicians more honest and fish easier to catch thirty years ago? I doubt it, and the only reason that my grandparents were able to leave their front door unlocked in the 50's (a feat they often boasted about) was because (a) nothing much had been invented back then, and (b) the inequalities between classes were so great that they had nothing worth nicking!
I fear many of my teenage angling memories might be marred by a similarly over generous retrospective selective memory, but irrespective of such a possibility, Dinton Pastures remains in my mind's eye a place of almost Illyrian boyhood happiness.
These days it's become a "circuit water" for some of the South East's top carpers, and a walk around its banks might lead to bumping into Dave Lane or Terry Hearn ensconced in their bivvies in pursuit of monsters, but I fished it, back in the 80's not for carp, but mostly for pike. I occasionally fished the stretch of the River Loddon that flows through the Country Park, catching plenty of gudgeon and the occasional roach, perch or chub, but never one of its famed barbel, but the lake was my first love. With my 8 foot Shakespear Sigma spinning rod (the first carbon rod I ever owned, and my "pride and joy") and a small collection of plugs (the Shakespear Big S was my "go to" plug of first choice) I caught countless pike from the lake between the ages of 14 and 19). Apologies for the dyed blonde fluffy hair, but the picture shows just one of them, taken on a summer's day fishing with my friend Olly- it was the biggest of a dozen pike caught that day.

A few years ago I was back in Reading to take my Godfather's funeral, and on the morning of the funeral I went for a melancholy walk down memory lane and round Dinton Pastures. I saw three chub of about four pounds facing into the current holed up under a tree on the Loddon, walked a circuit of the lake, took in the view and realised that although you can't ever return to the past  you can take it with you. I'll probably never fish Dinton again, but standing there on that summer's morning I realised that I didn't need to.

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