River Wissey Lovell Fuller


September 2010

Ivor returns to his youth to recall a visit to the River Bure near Norwich

The river threaded its way around the edge of Norwich. The busy city was only a mile or so away and yet here the river Yare meandered along and cut through vast fields and meadows. Trees and green ruled with a thick lushness. Life was slow and lazy. Traffic was non-existent and the only noise was the never ending bird song. The sun shone every day - all day long!

This was the picture nearly sixty years ago where a band of boys waded in the river with nets on sticks and jam-jars searching for anything that showed a sign of life. Every snail or insect attracted noisy attention and an actual fish was a miracle to behold. The occasional gudgeon and minnow and bullhead would all verge on the minute but were closely examined and handed from boy to boy. Each day was a new adventure. Anyone could join in and all wore the same home-knitted swimming trunks with the all important white plastic belt. Black plimsolls were ideal for wading in the river but had to be quickly dried out for the next games lesson at school. We all lived near the city centre and biked to the river in a long crocodile. Our bikes were second hand (if not third and fourth hand) and were left in a pile at the top of the steep river bank. There was fun galore and time flew by with abandon. Such days were repeated every weekend and school holidays were never boring. If you went home before tea time your parents would think that something was wrong!

The exploration of the river was a serious business and the passion meant that nets were soon replaced by long garden canes with fixed fishing lines. The all important hooks were begged from a 'real' fisherman who obviously took pity on the group of young lads. The so-called rods were shared by the many and turns taken. A self-important boy with a borrowed watch would time the proceedings and make certain that fairness ruled. Those waiting a turn were employed to search for worms or likely looking insects to use as bait. The fish caught got bigger as skills and knowledge increased. Roach and perch were soon discovered. The faithful stretch of river was extended as the search for fish increased and then those awaiting a turn would also be required to wade up and downstream looking for deep holes and other likely places that could be home to fish. Every contour of the river bottom was intimately known. Eternal friendships were formed during those long days as every possible minute was spent at the river.

During the ensuing years real rods and reels appeared. Like the bikes these were far from new and would lack any finesse. Any unwanted broken rod would be received as if gold dust, then repaired and any missing bits ignored and used regardless. Such possession showed we had a serious intent and so the eternal bond of the river and fish grew. There was no leader - we were all equals and no one ever fell out. Any visit to the fine city would invariably mean a detour past the fishing tackle shop but no one would dare venture inside as it was the domain of grown-ups. A look in the jam-packed windows and to smell the linseed oil of the nets if the door was open was reward enough.

In time everyone obtained 'proper' fishing equipment and still on our bikes we travelled further afield to the likes of the Costessey Mill and the upper reaches of the river Wensum. The spirit of adventure and the camaraderie continued. We became quite proficient and sometimes literally filled our nets! When the first of the fishing brigade passed his driving test and somehow managed to borrow his dad's car we all went as the car merely made two journeys! So for a while we travelled the length and breadth of Norfolk in our quest for different rivers. That was until the opposite sex was discovered. Then different urges took over. At first a few resisted but in the end everyone gave in and fishing was not quite so important!

For some the attraction of a river and the waterside was so deeply embedded that even today any river, large or small, has a special pull. Alas commercial lakes and tame instant fish have little appeal for me. Without question those days of long ago were highly impressionable and now I have the river Wissey on my doorstep and for that I am truly grateful!

by Ivor Hook

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