Wednesday, 8 January 2014

A Natural Progression ? - Peter Webster

ImageMy earliest angling recollections as a youngster are from when I was around seven or eight years of age, I would take my late Dad his flask of tea to him where he had been night fishing for Tench on a local railway pond, owned by the mining company Cementation, this involved a walk of around a mile or so, through the local estate (housing not country), in those days children were safer than in today’s world, or were we?, I grew up quickly and was probably a lot more street wise than today’s eight year olds so any dodgy looking bloke offering sweets, or the chance to see some puppies, would have probably got the V’s, even at that age.

What I do remember was the first time I saw the Tench my Dad had caught during the previous night; they were as black as coal, probably due to the clinker lined pond situated right at the side of the Doncaster to Leeds railway line. These Tench were not large by today’s standards, probably around the 5lb mark, but to an impressionable eight year old they were mightily impressive and even today, just months from my 50th birthday I can still see them in my mind’s eye, looking back I now realise these, and a near 20lb Pike caught from the same pond by my father’s friend,” Uncle Barry to me” who was bailiff on the Cemmo , were the first seeds sown that years later would drag me into the world of the Specimen Angler.

My Dad was a typical hard drinking miner, consequently mine and my siblings early childhood were not easy, not to mention my poor Mam who had to scrape what she could together to provide for four hungry kids, it was a hard life and I can well remember hiding under the table with my mother and sisters when the Rent was due and someone was knocking on the door.

Despite my father’s failings it is definitely where I get my love of Nature and the countryside from, on the odd occasion he would take me bird nesting from a very early age, a common practice in those days and one that I carried on in to my teens amassing a nice collection and I make no apologies for enjoying this pastime, even if at a later age I could see the other side of the argument. I would be bursting with excitement when a frosty Sunday morning came around hoping for a very rare offer of a morning’s Ferreting to look forward to, rare because most of Dad’s ferreting was what could loosely be described as poaching, and a small child is a bit of a hindrance in such situations.

I can never remember going fishing with my dad other than a couple of hours on the “Cemmo” pond after I had delivered his flask, due to this I recall a couple of friends and I would sneak on there and after scrounging around for some old discarded line and a hook we would dig up some worms and dangle them under the landing stages trying to catch the Perch that hung out in the shadows of the boards, this form of fishing was termed “Pimping”, an unfortunate phrase but what did we know at our age.

On one particular Sunday evening I remember begging my Mam if I could go out for half an hour, even though I had just had my Sunday night bath, which I always had to have, whether I needed it or not, of course she relented and I and a friend snuck of to the Cemmo for a spot of Pimping, we were so engrossed, lying down on the boards peering into the water, straining our eyes in the search of a stripy, that we didn’t notice the bloke sneaking up on us until it was too late, “Peter is that you” came a booming voice from behind, my heart sank as I recognised the voice of uncle Barry, and I turned around almost in tears as I realised I would be in big trouble now, we had managed to drop the line in the water so we explained we were just looking for Perch, and we would never “Pimp” on the Cemmo, after a bit of a rollicking and a promise he would tell my dad I was there we trudged off home, me full of dread fearing a smacked a**e the next time I saw dad, fair play to Uncle Barry, he never did tell dad but I did get a clip round the ear from my Mam for leaving the street so late in the evening. Unfortunately my Dad died when I was Ten years old so that was the end of my fishing experience until my early teenage years.
A couple of years after my Dad died my Mam found love again and the family moved 15 or so miles to another suburb of Doncaster, My stepfather did not share my love of all things nature but he did help build my aviary where I housed my Canaries and Quail, and didn’t even complain when I brought home a varied selection of wild bird chicks such as Magpies, Crows, Kestrel, and Owls.


ImageI soon found my way back into fishing through the local youth club, and a keen teacher who knew the value of keeping young lads busy when they could be up to mischief. Most of the fishing with the youth club was in the guise of small matches between ourselves, but we also had a couple of seasons fishing in the Boys Club where I did become runner up in the all England Boys Club Championships on the River Ancholme.

During my Teens and early 20’s I organised an Angling Club at my place of work, we had monthly matches on venues such as the Trent, Witham and local waters such as the Warping Drain, I also pleasure fished on local waters when time permitted as I had a young family during this period of my life, I then went through a period of very little Angling activity for a number of years as I got seriously into working Terriers, another Field Sport that I think stems from my Fathers influence, I owned, bred, and worked mostly Border Terriers and I still own one to this day, I just wouldn’t be me without a Terrier by my side.
I was probably 40 years old when I seriously started to target Specimens, I had already amassed a decent PB list through my pleasure angling exploits, I was introduced to the Angling Star which ran a competition called the Climax Challenge, an angling competition that allocated points to specimen fish over a certain size, the winner being the one with the most points at the end of the year. This competition gave me a great deal of motivation as it gave me an idea what size of fish I should be aiming to catch, it created a table which was updated monthly and I must admit I used to really look forward to seeing how well I was doing, or maybe even wasn’t doing as well as I thought, the fact you have to travel soon struck home and the costs required far outweighed any rewards gained through the competitions prizes, never the less after a couple of years of plodding along I decided to give it my all and gave myself two years to win the competition.

I did win the Climax Cup the next year, actually winning it on the last day of the competition after a taking big catch of Perch which included a new PB of 4lb6oz, and I must admit I really enjoyed the dashing about, planning which specimen to target that particular week, the venue chosen, then the plan executed to fruition, with a specimen caught, or even a PB fish in the net, something that we big fish anglers strive for. Most northern anglers I would guess are realistic enough to know that you aren’t going to break many National records if you fish North of Leicester, which was the Southern boundary for the Climax Challenge, but to get a Venue record or a PB is their main aim, that was my aim and motivation in any case.


I bowed out of the competition half way through the next year after some silly new rules were introduced which made the competition go off in a different direction, this may have been the final nail in the coffin as it were, as not long after the Magazine sadly folded?.
My Angling at the moment concerns only a couple of Species, spring sees me targeting big Perch on a couple of large Canals local to me, the summertime finds me chasing Carp, Catfish and Rudd on my Syndicate water which is run by Neville Fickling.
The winter is reserved for one species only, and that’s the Pike, earlier in this story I alluded to a near 20lb Pike my Uncle Barry caught from the Cemmo, I only saw a grainy photograph of the fish but I was amazed a fish as big as she was could be found in a water so small and close to home, I told myself there and then I would catch my very own 20lb Pike one day, that desire ebbed and flowed over the years due to circumstances I found myself in, but every time I caught a Pike I remembered Uncle Barry’s Cemmo fish. 
I caught my first 20 from a local drain quite a few years ago now, she weighed spot on the money at 20lb, I had made my way back to the car park by last knockings and I was wobbling a Roach around the two static dead bait rods when I felt a slight grab on the bait, the adrenalin started to pump as I recast the Roach to the same spot, time and time again I recast, all to no avail as she did not provide another chance, not to be out done and as a last resort I repositioned one of the static rods on the spot, the Smelt can’t have hit the bottom as before I could clip up the drop off she was away. 
The fight wasn’t memorable as is often the case with Pike caught in midwinter on a relatively shallow venue and she was soon in the net resting while I got the gear ready for unhooking and a quick photo, much to my annoyance I did not make a very good job of the latter, in my haste and excitement I forgot to place something on the mat such as my rod or the scales to provide some scale to the photo, and to be honest the resulting picture could have been of a fish of any size what so ever, in today’s age of remote control camera’s and a lot more experience on my part I am glad to say this occurrence is a thing of the past, but I must confess it was a lesson I would rather not have gone through with my first ever 20, and you can imagine the leg pulling, good humoured I have to stress, that I had to endure from my fishing mates of the time.


I am not a glory hunter by any stretch of the imagination, that being someone who will fish anywhere and step on any one to catch a known fish, but!! If it is in my area and I do get the right info I may give it the attention it requires, if you know what I mean. Speaking of glory hunters, the world of the Pike angler is said to be full of ruthless cutthroats who will stab you in the back to gain a shred of information pertaining to a 30, but in all honesty, all the lads I have met and fished with have been a pleasure to know, and that includes some of the top Pikers in the country, there is only one rule to follow “you don’t have to tell them owt just to impress them”, if they are good at what they do they probably already know anyway.

If I am honest I like to catch big Pike, that being a fish over 20lb’s, on my doorstep so to speak, one such venue a heavily fished northern canal is five minutes from my front door, and even though it is well past the glory days of old there are still the odd Canal Queens to be had to the Pike Angler who can give the venue the time it requires, and it has been kind to me over the last few years.


There are a couple of small rivers locally that have miles of untapped, or at least seldom fished stretches and it will be here I will be turning my attention to, once the dreaded ice descends and covers the still waters or drains that I fish, it would be nice to think that maybe I could catch a 20 that has never been hooked before, are there still such fish out there in my neck of the woods? Who knows the fun is in the effort for me.

The high point of my Angling adventure to date is the capture of my one and only 30lb+ Pike, and would you believe it she came from the same venue as my very first 20 many years ago, she is a fish I doubt I will ever better, even if I catch a bigger Pike I just don’t believe it will carry the same emotion or, in my own mind Kudos, due to the venue and the fact that I went my own way to catch her when everyone else went in a different direction, literally.


Well I am fast approaching my 50th year on this ever changing island of ours, some of the changes are for the better and some for the worst, for most of that time the Pike has been persecuted mercilessly, during my childhood smaller fish were regularly taken by my father, and no doubt thousands of others, for the pot, then it was the match Angler’s and club’s turn to be the villain, tossing any, and every Pike caught, up the bank, but with the advent of the PAC most clubs and some individuals can be shown the error of their ways through education, even up to last year the problem was still occurring on one of my local waters, the Pike though is still here, and thriving, hopefully they can withstand the current onslaught that is affecting some of our waters at the moment. I don’t just mean the immigrant population either, today there are a damn sight more Pike anglers around, and the one thing some big Pike can’t handle is angling pressure.

Let’s hope Pike anglers out there remember what they are handling if they do manage to catch their dream fish, that fish has possibly been through the hands of many anglers during its life and its only there for you to catch because they have treated it with care and respect, please treat it the same way and return her safely to possibly make another angler’s dreams come true.

Just remember it’s all about the fish, yes, we do have to stick hooks in their mouths before we can enjoy their company, but after that they deserve the utmost care we can give them.

My one true regret In angling is the fact my Lad Daniel has no interest in angling what so ever, and at 22 years of age I stopped trying to cajole him into accompanying me years ago, obviously I blame his mother.

Tight Lines
Pete Webster

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