FREE-LINE 01.pdf - Page 33

A Tale of Two Records Canal Carping
he ripple rings ebbed
away from the yellow
blob bobbing in the
middle. A young boy
sat trembling with
excitement gazing at
a bright yellow grayling float, willing
it to disappear. Dreams of the culprit
being a monster of the deeps, swallowing his dough paste bait, are suddenly interrupted by the reality of the
strike. Splish splash and a pristine little gudgeon is swung ashore. The elation felt was unforgettable, I was now
a fisherman. It was a truly defining
moment in my life.
That is my first memory of fishing a
canal; I was alone and happy in my
own company. It was on the Grand
Union somewhere near Tring. My
tackle was a length of cane, some
cord, and, compliments of a step
Uncle, a proper float with a hook to
I had fished farm ponds many times
using a cork for float and bent pin for
the hook, and the result of this was
lots of bites but never any fish. When
the bent pin was replaced by a hook I
caught loads of small roach and rudd.
On the advice of Uncle Albert I tried
smaller hooks, which resulted in lots
more fish. He also told me to try worm
as bait, which I did on my next canal
visit. The result was what seemed at
the time, a massive perch. Two very
important basic lessons learned.
Step Uncle Albert was a bit of an
odd character but a keen angler. He
never took me fishing but would utter
advice and allowed me to look in his
tackle shed. I would spend hours in
that shed, looking at all the cane rods,
drum reels, nets and line on rollers. I
must confess that I did sneak a few
old floats, hooks and sinkers into my
pocket. He confided in me that he
was interested in carp, which he
fished for with potatoes.
I was given a home-made bamboo
rod with an old wooden reel. Armed
with such gear I decided to catch a
carp. Many hours were spent on both
the ponds and the canal with chunks
of a raw King Edward potato on the
hook. Needless to say, I soon gave up,
but not before another lesson was
learned. It was on the canal again,
and as usual I was catching nothing
on the spud, and changing to dough
paste was marginally better. A passing stranger saw me eating a cheese
sandwich and said, “Put a bit of that
cheese on the hook son; you’ll catch
roach.” He was right: as soon as I
changed to cheese I caught several
decent roach. The importance of the
right bait was becoming apparent.
My life as a child was a bit of a
mess to say the least. I lost my mother
when I was nine. My “father” was an
evil man and abused me terribly. He
was a farm worker that changed jobs
at least a couple of times a year,
which meant we kept moving from
one area to another. Schooling was
impossible, so my outlet became fishing, I would go whenever I could.
By the time I was about twelve we
were living in Kent, not too far from
the Royal Military Canal, a water that
over the years was to influence my
fishing, and indeed my life a great
deal. The RMC is deep in the south
east of England. It stretches for about
25 miles from Iden lock in the west,
eastward through the Romney
marshes to Shorncliffe sluice. It is not
navigable so there was no boat traffic
other than an odd canoe.
At twelve years old all fishing was
magical; nothing was too much trouble for the reward of a few hours’ fishing. The canal was about seven miles
from home so accessible by push
bike. Rods tied to the cross-bar with
binder twine, a wicker basket on my
back, and most weekends and holidays would see me pedaling frantically towards the canal. The journey
took me from the main A20, along
Otterpool Lane and past Lymne Airport. Then the highlight, the descent
of Lymne Hill, a steep, long and in
(Top) The smaller of the two ‘dug out’
(Left) Swim preparation to clear the


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