Angling for the memories


My son Stuart sent me a photo of his latest rod and line catch; a superbly conditioned sea bass of nine and a half pounds, caught the other day off Kimmeridge in Dorset. Twenty four hours before that he'd been fishing from his own boat off La Herradura in Spain, where he lives. Almost unbelievably he'd caught - you guessed it - a nine pound sea bass!

That picture set off a fire cracker of memories. I could hear the intermittent grumble of waves on that West Wales beach, smell the brine and the rise of the tide. By the light of the moon I could see my sons' rods flexing and reflexing against a starry sky, baited hooks way out there in the invisible surf, waiting for the spiny finned darlings to come along ... I was rising and falling in our small boat off the Magharee Islands in south west Ireland, leaning over the gunwhale to see what was on Stu's line: a pale octopus, small but strong, ominously spider-like ... I was in that same boat, the one we called Culash (Gaelic for 'fly')off Longa Island in Gairloch as Robert reeled up his flatfish - a British record dab (limanda limanda) as it turned out ... and the bitter cold night of an East Anglian pebble beach, casting for cod. I see the twinkling Tilley lamps yet. The fraternity of those alone but for the sea.

And Hastings, where for one small boy it all began. I am staying with my grandfather. He'd lent me the key that would let me in to the special world of the fisherman via the wonderfully old-fish and line-grease scent of his tackle box in a Sea Angling Club locker. I had bought my newspaper wrap of lugworm and found an unconsidered place amongst the row of humblingly expert men, baited my hook with trembling fingers, dropped my (grandfather's) line down amongst the piles of the pier. I can see the swirl of the grey green around all that ironwork. And the rest - well, that's my story. Literally. But I can tell you I never did catch a bass like that one of Stu's - either of them.

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