It’s true that I’ve fished for about as long as I can remember. My very earliest memories were fishing for newts near our house in Crowborough, East Sussex. I must have been maybe 6 or 7 years old and it was around 1978 I guess. We used nets and marvelled at how we could capture these things that you wouldn’t usually see ‘above ground’. They were like from another world. You could discover and expose something that your average person would just walk passed, without even knowing it was there.
I also loved being outside as much as possible. We were very lucky as kids. We lived very near the forest, in fact our garden backed onto it and we would disappear for days on end just larking about in the forest.
My next memory of fishing was catching bullheads at a stream that was not so close to home. We’d have to jump on our BMX bikes and ride a fair way to get to the stream. It’s wasn’t very deep but we did use rod and line (and still sometimes just nets). These were much trickier to catch and we would eventually snare one and we thought it was great! There was a massive swing at this location too – like huge. Quite dangerous on reflection but that also made this place an absolute winner!
Above: Bullheads – ugly little things!
By the time I was around 11 years old I was introduced to ‘proper fishing’ by good friend Dave McManus. He was mad about fishing and he took me to a small lake called Scaland Wood (it looks like it may now be called Danesfield Wood). It was a very pretty little lake with mature trees, lilly pads and lots of small carp. We would float fish luncheon meat up against the pads and catch plenty of fish and they fought like crazy. They were like little ‘wildies’ and never went over about 3lb but it was around this time that I became totally hooked on fishing. I simply loved it. Dave was a good angler too. I fished with him for a number of years from then and he always knew more than me when it came to fish, bait and rigs.
Above: Scaland Wood – float fishing a big block of spam!
The next venue was Rotherfield Hall. When I visited there we would often mess around catching perch but we always saw these very large dark shadows in the water – so we started to target them. I remember one day standing at the end of the lake which was about 3 or 4 acres in size. I was floating crust when a huge fish came out of nowhere – it looked massive! It came for my bread which I promptly pulled out of the way as quickly as I could!!! My heart was racing. I couldn’t imagine hooking something like that! In reality it was probably only about 8lb but at the time I’d seen nothing like it.
After having a stern word with myself, I returned to Rotherfield Hall with Dave and a few others and vowed that I would keep my bait in the water and catch one of these monsters! Floating crust was order of the day again and we would stalk these fish and try to catch them. On that session I caught my first ‘proper carp’. It might have been around 5 or 6lb maybe but I was really chuffed.
One thing I remember about those days was experimenting with bait. We would mix bread with water and then add a favouring of our choice. The favour would come from orange juice, ketchup and anything else you could find knocking around your mum’s kitchen! We tried everything. We’d roll a big ball of it before burying the hook in it! This was all way before the hair rig came along. It’s amazing that we actually managed to hook anything!
Above: My first ‘proper carp’ of around 5 or 6lb from Rotherfield Hall, East Sussex probably in around 1982.
This was most certainly the start of a bit of an obsession that I hope will last a lifetime.