Riverwatch - July
Tom was really excited. He had hardly slept last night and now the alarm clock was ringing away. Just momentarily he was reluctant to leave the comfort of his deep feather bed. He could hear his Dad in the kitchen downstairs and assumed he was making sandwiches and flasks of tea in readiness of their day out. It was still dark outside but he knew they had a long bike ride in front of them to get to their fishing that morning.
His Dad was always fishing. Sometimes Tom would join his Dad and his Dad's friends but he always felt left out because they were grown ups! Like his Dad he loved his fishing but most of the time he just went on his own. He didn't need any company. But today was extra special. It was Sunday the 6th August 1960 and he had been thinking about this day for weeks. He was going to take part in a fishing match.
Every year the local estate owner arranged a charity fishing match on the large estate lake and there was a junior section for boys up to age 16years. As soon as it was advertised Tom and his Dad had both entered. All the places for 30 adults and 10 boys had quickly been filled. It was a very big event and Tom had started preparing for it weeks ago. He had been doing gardening after school for different people. They all thought he was being very neighbourly but really Tom was collecting worms. He had now filled several tins with them. Tom had also made an arrangement with the village baker. He delivered bread and cakes to customers on Saturday mornings and in return he was given all the shop's unsold bread. He had been making groundbait and had made bags and bags of it.
It was still not fully light and everyone was assembled at the draw for pegs. There was lots of activity and friendly boasting. There were also very serious discussions how the lake was best fished and whether red or yellow or just plain maggots would be best. Some had bought the new bottles of different flavourings to mix with their bait which were 'guaranteed' to attract more fish. Most people had already decided to fish a long way out because the lake was much deeper in the middle and so the speculation went on! This was all adult talk to Tom but he had now seen the giant lake and was just smitten at such a beautiful place. It was covered with a slight mist and looked as if it was full to the brim with fish! He was impatient to start.
He had drawn a position under a tree with tall reeds on either side of his fishing pitch. This was not a favourite place to fish and some competitors even mocked him and said he would never catch anything from there. Tom ignored them all. He couldn't see anyone else from this position and the tree was a bit of a nuisance but he didn't mind. The whistle to start sounded and now he had until 12 o'clock to fish and enjoy himself!
Tom was soon in his own little world. He checked the depth and to his surprise he found a deep hole immediately in front of the tree and he choose to concentrate all his efforts there. He wasn't bothered about fishing a long way out. This was more like fishing in his usual narrow river. He tossed in several large balls of his own groundbait and knew it was important to lay a bed of bait to attract any large numbers of fish. After a wait he began to catch but the fish were only small. Then all went quiet but the respite gave him time to think about what he was doing. He decided to try a bigger hook and bigger bait. So he used two worms instead of one. The sun came out and it was really hot but Tom was in the shade of the tree and so was the swim he was fishing. The tree's sunken branches formed a feature for fish and feeding this area, a little but often, it all started to work! Suddenly instead of delicate bites his float registered a really distinct one. The float just disappeared and his line keep going out. He lifted his rod which then assumed a real bend and with full confidence he manoeuvred a large bream to his landing net. He had never seen such a large fish before but he didn't waste time admiring it and recast again. Soon he had another large bream and then more. He used lots and lots of bait to keep their interest and was really busy catching, unhooking, baiting, casting and groundbaiting over and over again. So it went on for ages. Then everything went quiet again but Tom hardly minded. He needed time to gather himself. His head was full of the last few hours. He forgot about the match and merely enjoyed the picture in front of him. What a place! What a day! Then he carried on again and caught more fish. Soon the whistle sounded and it was all over. He packed up but left his keep net in the water and waited to have his catch weighed in.
He had not seen or heard anyone else during the match but now people started gathering along the banks. Some moaned having had a poor day. A few were full of bravado. Most people were lobster red with the sun. Then his Dad came along full of smiles. He asked how Tom had fared but Tom only mumbled as he was now in a state of shock. People were already shaking hands with his Dad and somehow assumed he had won. No one else asked Tom how he had got on!
The officials with the scales eventually came round. All the other competitors followed as everyone was interested to see who caught what and where. They lifted Tom's net out of the water - or they tried to lift it out! It was heavy to an extreme! There were fish galore including a dozen or more large bream. The match scales had to be used three times because of the number of fish and the aggregate weight was a staggering 72 pounds! There were gasps of amazement. No one had ever caught or even heard of such a catch before. Tom was the star of the day. Not only was he presented the junior cup but also the overall winners cup as well. His Dad was the runner up but a long way behind in weight.
Now Tom is constantly talked about. He is forever being questioned to tell his fishing secret but he has no secret. So he merely shrugs his shoulders and enjoys his new found fame. The truth is that he just used every day bread and common garden worms whereas adults all have their own elaborate baits and ideas. Fishing should be uncomplicated and as natural as possible. Don't grown ups always complicate things?
By Ivor Hook