My first fish

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The Independent Online

Andy Murray, Sales Promotion Manager, House of Hardy.

Andy Murray, Sales Promotion Manager, House of Hardy.

"It was a warm, damp afternoon in the summer holidays after my eighth birthday. I was staying at my grandparents house, where my grandfather was a gamekeeper, on the Shawdon Hall Estate near Glanton in North Northumberland.

We set out to fish on the river Aln. Uncle Dick, my brother Nigel and myself. I was not impressed as my brother was being taught to fly fish and I was told to go and worm fish instead! I stomped along the riverbank downstream of my brother and uncle in my grey flannel shorts and wellington boots.

The water conditions were not particularly great, the water fining down after a spate caused by recent rainfall. I had been casting for a while and was getting a little bored. I stood gazing jealously at Nigel learning to cast a fly with the expert attention of Uncle Dick. I was not pleased! I decided to have one more cast then rest on the riverbank for a while. I cast my worm, it plopped into the slightly coloured water and I began to wind it in. At first I thought the hook had snagged so I gave it a huge tug. But it was not snagged - I had hooked a fish! Fortunately the fish decided to swim in the same direction that I had yanked or the hook would surely have come loose. I pulled again and let out such a yell. Poor Uncle Dick thought I had fallen in. His tall wiry frame came sprinkling along the riverbank, only to find me lying on the grass wrestling with a mighty silver beastie! As I had pulled, the fish had flown out of the depths of the Aln and landed right on top of me!

I had landed a 3lb fresh run sea trout - a good feat by an angler of any age, but a record at that point for the "Murray Brothers". To make me even happier Nigel had only caught brown trout, commonplace on those fishing outings we had as young lads.

So that evening as my brother dried his silk line, the rest of the family dined upon the 'catch of the day'. I still have the photo of that prized catch - it always brings a smile to my lips when I remember that happy summer day".

Anne Voss-Bark, Proprietor of the fishing hotel The Arundell Arms, tel: 01566 784494

"When I was young and living in London,my father and my brother fished but my mother and I, as females, were neither interested nor was it considered appropriate for women to fish. When I married, I became a dutiful new wife and accompanied my husband on fishing trips. The countryside was beautiful. I did not fish, but walked and read and got bitten by midges as the sun went down. When we bought a fishing hotel in Devon with miles and miles of beautiful trout rivers, I thought I should learn to fish but as beaten by the battle of the bulge and once the baby was born there was even less time to fish.

It was not until after my first husband Gerald died, that I decided tolearn to fish but more as a duty, after all, I was responsible forrunning a fishing hotel. All that changed on a magical in May. Our wonderful fishing instructor, Roy Buckingham took me out and said, "Today you are no longer a beginner, I am going to teach you to fish with a dry fly." I can still remember the wonder and excitement when I cast to a rising fish on the river Tamar and the fish came up and took my fly,not just any fly, but my fly. It was sheer heaven and after that I was a fanatic. Work became irrelevant and all I wanted to do was fish even to the point of going out by myself sea trout fishing in the dark."

Philip Parkinson, MD of Sportfish. For a Sportfish catalogue call: 01544 327111. Website: www.sportfish.co.uk

"I distinctly remember the first fish I caught even though I was only 8 at the time.

My parents had taken me away for a long weekend to stay at the Shap Wells Hotel at Tebay in the headwaters of the River Lune. Also staying at the hotel was my father's great friend, Basil Hall, who was one of those fishermen who seemed to have the "magic touch" and even now, forty years later, his fishing stories are awe inspiring: the numbers of fish caught and the size of them!

Basil introduced my father and me to fishing on the same day and he took us to one of the streams that joins the Lune near Tebay. Forty years ago the streams in that part of the world were full of small trout and as we looked into the pool in front of us we could see a number of trout lying close to the bottom. Basil threaded a worm on a hook and skilfully cast it upstream and as it drifted downstream towards the fish, one of the trout darted across and picked up the worm. Basil struck in an instant and the fish was immediately hooked, and a few moments later it was on the bank.

You can imagine what happened the first few times I tried to copy his technique. The net effect of my casting technique was to cause panic amongst the fish and they disappeared!

After a while, I started to get the hang of it and further upstream I cast the worm into a streamy run entering the top of a pool and to my great excitement, the next thing I knew was that I had a fish tugging away on the end of my line. After that seemed like an epic battle, an eight inch brown trout was safely landed and dispatched. I am embarrassed to say that I have a photograph of me sitting down on the river bank at the end of that day, with ten small dead trout displayed on the grass in front of me. Nowadays I would not dream of killing a fish but at that age and on my first day's fishing I guess there were mitigating circumstances!"

Mark Bowler, Editor of Fly-Fishing and Fly-Tying, tel: 01887 830526.

"We were privileged that evening. Andrew's dad was a bank manager and he'd managed to get an invitation for Andrew, my brother, Paul, and me to fish the Hall's ancient carp ponds - only these pools were now stocked with trout. To get to it, you had to go through a 'secret' gate in the walled garden at the back of the Hall. We had the whole place to ourselves. Had anybody had ever fished there before?

Now I was already hooked on fishing, although I had never really caught anything bigger than a minnow on the local river. I had my new, all-yellow Black Seal rod which my Mum and Dad had given me for my eighth birthday, and the reason I planted myself away from the others at the weedy end of the pond was because my Mr Crabtree books had told me that big fish lie under weedbeds. I'd show 'em.

My reel was a battered, tin centre-pin and casting was not easy. After three threshing casting attempts, I decided that ten feet out would have to do. My thick monofilament line coiled like telephone wire through the rings of the rod and draped across the raft of duckweed from the rod tip to the float. Trouble was, my float wouldn't "cock"; instead of standing up straight in

the water, as Mr Crabtree would have had it, the swan quill lay inert on top of a thick layer of duckweed, its bright orange fluorescent tip radiating like a motorway maintenance jacket in the middle of a meadow. I can still picture it lying there now.

I set the rod in the rest and waited. Perhaps the float would "cock" on its own after a little time, as it sometimes did? No. I would have to add more weight to the line under the float. I picked the rod up to swing the float in towards me, but its willowy form buckled into hoop, and for the first time in my life I felt that magical, adrenaline-spiced pulse, pulse, pulse of a fish on the end of the line, immediately followed by the angler's eternal questions: What is it? How big is it?

I did not need long to find out. Seconds later, the fish bounced through the duckweed and fell at my feet. It was green. It had brilliant red pectoral and pelvic fins, a yellow olive tail, and an erect, spiny fin that looked like a sail running down its back, and dark, vertical bars running down its flanks. It was a perch. It weighed about twelve ounces. And I had caught it without having the slightest clue that it was eating my worm.

I sort of panicked. I needed to tell someone. As it gasped and flapped in the grass I ran round to my brother to tell him that I'd caught "The Sergeant", as it was nicknamed in our book at home (due to those stripes) but he was too busy unhooking his second trout to be interested. "Told you big fish lived near weedbeds", I shouted, as I sprinted back, acutely aware that I should not keep it too long out of water. I gingerly unhooked it, avoiding those spines, and brushed the duckweed away from its rough scales, before sliding it back into its home. Who would have thought a beautiful, big, orange, green, yellow, spiny and stripey fish like that would live in a such an ordinary green English pond? Only an angler, that's for sure".

Mick Rouse,Chief Photographer and former UK Pike record holder, the Angling Times

"My granddad George was the local water bailiff at some old clay pits in Bedfordshire and he bought me my first rod for Christmas when I was 4 (yes 4). I couldn't wait to try it out so he took me down to the pit on Christmas Day and, armed with my brand new six foot solid glass fibre rod, centre-pin reel and a large hook baited with a worm dug from the garden I made my first cast. Almost immediately the float buried and a tiny perch around three ounces was whisked into the air by an overjoyed youngster. It took the fish, and me, ages to come down - I will never forget it, I was so excited I ran all the way home with the fish in a bucket to show my mum and dad - leaving my granddad to bring home my new rod which I had discarded in the excitement. I have since learned to put them straight back!"

Oliver Edwards, author of 'Fly Tyer's Masterclass' (Merlin Unwin) and Fly Tying and Casting Instructor.

"The first fish I ever caught! Wow that's some mighty strain on my memory muscles. The absolute truth is I simply can't remember the very first one. What I can recall is that the war was over, or almost over, no-one had much, and everything was rationed. I'd have been about six or seven.

Living just south of Leeds in the heart of northern working mens club country, and born into a match fishing family (Uncle Henry was an "All Englander") I was obviously destined to fish. Father also fished, not quite as successfully as his brother Henry, but no slouch with a match rod for all that. He must also have had a PSV licence or whatever qualification you needed in those days to drive a bus. Quite regularly at weekends he'd get pressed into driving the fishing club bus for the Sunday match. In those far off days if you travelled it was either by "Shanks Pony", bike, train, bus or train. No one had a car apart from maybe the local doctor and you could more or less play on the roads where I lived.

So, come Sunday the bus would grind to a halt outside some working men's club, the craters of ale would be loaded aboard, followed by the cloth capped and trilby hatted drinkers. Someone would point to a folded Mackintosh on top of one of the beer crates which lined the centre aisle and I'd be told to "...sit thi sen darn lad, and doan't be cheeky t'mesters...". Off would come the handbrake, dad would turn his head, and with a grin call out "Everybody on!". Then, booting the big hinged throttle,the old Albion single decker would roar into life and with a cloud of oily smoke we'd lurch off.

I clearly remember all this, I was going fishing and I was "high" with excitement. Some of the incidents on those trips are also well etched in my memory. I remember faces: old young men from the pits and factories, smouldering Woodbines in the corner of their mouths, out for a day's fishing, the coal face a million miles away, as we trundled along into the glorious, unhurried, undeveloped 1940's English countryside.

The forty or fifty miles to the river would take an age, and quite regularly the old tub would cork out or boil up. Much ale would be supped, and there was always a serious game of solo, or some other card game being played off the top of a beer crate-come- card table, as we bumped and bounced along. Eveyone smoked - or smouldered - in those days, and very soon the bus would be wreathed in a dense fog. I reckon I must have passively got through a packet of "Capstan Double Strength" by the time I got home.

But eventually, eventually, we'd arrive at the river. There were now a few rituals to act out: pegging out, the draw and reading the rules. Two men would leave the bus before it had hardly stopped, and quickly disappear along the bank to "peg" the match length. While this time wasting but necessary chore took place, tackle would be off-loaded, and a few more brown ales would be downed followed by a mass call of nature.

Next the "draw" would take place. This part of the ritual entailed each angler in turn, dipping his hand inside one of the upturned trilbies to find a scrap of folded paper upon which a number would be scribbed - your peg number, your pitch for the day. Once everyone had drawn, a start and finish time would be agreed, rules would be read, boxes and baskets would be shouldered, and off we'd trudge to find our "peg".

"What'v yer drawn dad."

"Seventeen."

"Is it a good 'un dad?"

"How the hell do I know, come on, keep up lad, we've only half an hour to find it and tackle up."

We'd eventually find our peg,half hidden in some neck high nettle bed (boys were small and skinny then). Dad would settle his big box so it was flat and level with the water's edge and then he would hurriedly tackle up. I'd pester to untie the maggot bags to look at the coloured ones. "Don't you spill any or you'll cop it," dad would warn as we mixed the bran and rusk groundbait.

Then, somewhere down the bank, maybe a couple of fields away the faint cry "TIME" would be heard, followed by another and another as each angler passed on that it was time to start. By now my excitement was boiling over and I'd yell "TIME" at the top of my squeaky voice.

So the match would start, and soon father would swing in a small perch and in would go the big keep net. This was real fishing, we had them, they were 'ours' for a few hours. Swimming, alive and well, but ours. Another perch would soon join the first one, then maybe a baby chubb, or a dace, or a beautiful red-eyed roach and maybe a gudgeon or two. I can see those summer days oh so clearly, cows stood in the shallows chewing and tail swathing, dragon flies would perch on reed stems, swallows scooped high speed drinks, it was always sunny and warm, and I never wanted the days to end.

After an hour or so, I suppose I'd get fed up of watching dad have all the fun. I'd start pestering "Can I have a go dad, let me have a go dad." I probably even came close to a clip around the ear, but in the end I always wore him down. "Oh come on then nuisance," he'd reluctantly say as he siddled off his box, "sit there and hold it steady, don't jerk that float and play out the line smoothly, just like yer saw me doing. Now I'd had the prize in my hands, 12 1/2 feet of Spanish reed and a 4" Allcock Arial centre pin. My puny hands were holding a Rembrandt..."Keep your eyes on that float..." my dad would say.

So my clear, keen young eyes would stare fixedly at that eighth of an inch of bright red porqupine quill as it drifted downstream. Occasionally while "in charge" without father's big guiding hands anywhere near, that little red dot would plunge out of sight, I'd swipe the rod, and the line would jerk tight and, I suppose, like any other kid I'd yell "I've got one dad, dad I've got one..."

The first one? Maybe a gudgeon or a Raffe (or Tommy as we called them). I can't honestly remember, but that's how I started. Thanks Dad."

Oliver Sweeney, Shoe Designer and Carp Fisherman

"I was about 16 when I caught my first fish and it was a leisure sport fishery called Burfield near Reading. I went with two friends, John, and Mick who kept saying "It's so f*****g peaceful". Both were experienced anglers and I'd heard them talking about the excitement of catching fish and I had decided to try it for myself.

They set me up and I struggled to work out how to do anything at all. It took me three or four hours to get bait out. When eventually I managed to cast it out, I didn't dare move it - I'd been caught up so many trees. My friends caught fish steadily throughout the day and I sat there, obsessively watching my bobbin. I was so excited.

Finally we all agreed to stop fishing and get our lines in. It was 10pm. I retrieved my line and there appeared to be a clump of weed caught on my line but it turned out to be a two and three quarter pound lovely slimy green tench. I can't describe the feeling but I haven't stopped fishing since that day. I put it back after kissing it. That's when my romance with fish began."

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