Fishing with Dad
My first fish was a small Rudd in Acklam Park Lake, Middlesbrough. I must have been 9 years old. My dad and I used to fish there on a weekly basis during the Coarse Season. Soon I was cycling 7 miles to the river Leven catching small dace and desperately (and occasionally succeeding) hoping to hook brown trout.
By the time I was 10, dad must have thought I was strong enough to cycle to the South Gare at the mouth of the Tees. It must have been August and we got there for dawn. I can still feel the aching legs, the warmth of the rising son and mounting excitement. Dad would secure the bikes and, even before assembling the rods, pour a cup of tea. On my very first trip, my very first cup of hot sweet tea poured from a flask. In my oil wool sweater from a Merchant Navy store, I felt very grown up. Dad put together a greenheart rod, Scarborough reel and a float baited with a piece of mackerel He cast out for me in the basin, told me to be careful and moved off to the block on the end of the Gare. Of course it was here that I caught my first sea fish, a mackerel. Just the one but I was hooked for life. However, the ride home was a nightmare. All those bridges on the Trunk road (A1085) and my bike had no gears.
I passed my 11+ and was promised a new bike, and hoped for a lightweight ‘racer’. However, my reward was a really heavy ‘sensible’ Raleigh! Fortunately, it did have gears. The next two years saw dad and I fish the Gare almost on a weekly basis. We would get there for low water, dig 100 lugworm, always placed in folds of damp hessian cloth and then fish either the river side or on the end depending upon the season.
Again at the Gare, I learnt respect for the sea. I suspect this will be familiar to many who fish breakwaters. High tide, but with no seemingly high swell. We were fishing the seaward side but not off the block at the end. I was walking back to the wall to rebait when I stopped and stood motionless watching the sea rolling along the deck. Dad shouted and swooped me into the air. Of course we lost the bag, the bait and the flask.
I must have been about 13 when dad got his first car. This opened up new marks to fish. Down to Greatham Creek to collect peelers and then fishing the creek for flatties. My mum would never eat them; black backed flatties never looked natural! Saltburn pier became one of our favourite spots. Shelter provided by the bandstand. However, with dad now working shifts he wasn’t always available for bait digging and lifts. A friend, John McGreevy, and I would catch the train from Middlesbrough and fish the pier all night with scraps of bait. Of course you had to fish the pier all night because you couldn’t get home until the first train in the morning! We would take it in turns to patrol the bandstand, asking the anglers who were leaving if they had any bait they were going to throw away. Over the next few years I caught a huge variety of fish from Saltburn: cod, whiting, pout, bream, billet, mackerel, scad, plaice, dabs, gurnard, and weever.
Having ditched the green heart rod and Scarborough reel I bought a glass beach caster and an Abu 7000. I’ve forgotten who told me about the Abu but I do remember that at the time it was regarded as the ‘Rolls Royce’ of reels. Dad was still using his split-cane rod and Scarborough reel. However, it became clear after a few sessions that I was outcasting and outfishing him. He was very reluctant to change and even more so to pay for an Abu. So he bought a Penn Sea Intrepid! Now if there exists a reel that will give you more ‘birds nests’ than the Intrepid it must be in another Universe. But he was so stubborn. The next few sessions were exercises in frozen fingers (mine!) attempting to untangle him. Eventually he got has Abu, mum bought him one as a Xmas present. By the next cod season (October) he also had bought a glass beachcaster. Mind, it took a few more seasons before he ditched his wire ‘paternosters’ and shark hooks.