Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Life Changing & New Beginnings

It all started back in the early 90’s at about the age of 8 when I saw some minnows in a small burn in Blantyre where I grew up. Computers to me were nothing more than the old Sagas and the Internet was not even known to us, we climbed trees and went on adventures.

Not knowing anything about fishing and having a pretty useless father who didn’t teach me any of this, I came up with the idea that a bit of old wood and the thinnest bit of gut from an old guitar nailed on to the end would be a good way to start.
Being pretty proud of my accomplishment (I loved making crazy useless crap out of other useless crap I could find as a kid) I headed down to this little burn with my homemade minnow catcher and some bread, I quickly realising I needed hooks.  A quick granny knot on the end with a bit of bread pinched on would have to do, I suppose I thought the knot would act as a sort of gorge rig, not that I knew about gorge rigs but it’s funny how our minds work like that.

I was later gratified by my inventive little mind as a minnow clamped on to the bread and as I lifted it out of the water, still hung on to the bread, but every one of them soon fell off before I could grab it. Still, I was pleased with the result, but soon got bored of it and it wasn’t till a few years later that I saw a white Shakespeare starter kit in a corner shop window. I begged my Mum for it and she eventually gave in a few weeks later.

With the new starter kit in hand and not a scooby of how to use it I headed down to the weir at the David Livingstone memorial park.

I met a few people who gave me pointers, but looking back now I think they knew just about as much as I did at the time. They said “just cast out the trebles the flash from it might get you a pike” so that’s what I did, with no bait I might add.

As expected I did not catch anything and casting out just a single treble attached to what might have been 8lb mono was, well, pathetic to say the least.
Someone told me I needed lead weights which were not included in the starter kit. Now remember I said I like making stuff ?
Well I wouldn’t recommend this even to adults never mind a 10 year old! But I managed to find those balance weights from car tyres, but that wasn’t good enough that I had found them, I didn’t ‘Make them’.
So I went back home, looked in my box of junk and found one of those little metal football keyrings. I pulled it apart and filled one with little pieces of lead and preceded to fire up my Dad’s camping stove.
So now I have a lump of lead, but how do I attach this to the line, I know, I'll hammer a nail through it to make a hole.

The next day I headed out with my lead weight and starter kit with a treble. It wasn’t long before it got snagged and I lost my entire rig. Fed up with that I resorted to catching frogs in one of the stagnant puddles near the weir.

When I got home with my new pet I figured he needed a pond so I dug a hole in the back garden, lined it with bin bags which were held in place around the edge with bricks and filled it with water. My Mum was not pleased at all but she just had to live with it as that’s how I rolled back then.

A few days later I went out to find the frog, but it had gone and my Uncle thought it a good idea to joke that he'd seen him pack his bags and hop away saying he wanted a bigger house, twat.

A week later I was made to tidy the back garden and to my horror found my little frog, disemboweled I assumed by Jock who cut the grass a few days before.
By that time I had totally given up on the fishing until another few years later my Mum thought it was a good idea for my brother to take me down to the Clyde for an overnight camping/fishing session.

Really wishing she hadn’t, as my brother, a teenager now with other ideas on his mind (boozing) as it was, it one of the worst experiences of my life he was so pished he knocked over the stove and frying pan, which saw the sausages rolling all over the sand, no way was I eating that!
I thought it best just to go into the tent and try to make it through to the next morning. Morning came and I was glad to be getting the hell out of there, but before we went home we tried another bit of the river and my brother caught a small eel.
Me being a bit of a weird child took it home, it had died, but that didn’t matter it was a cool looking thing and it stayed in the back garden until my mum got mad and told me to get rid of it.
So that was it, I was scared of fishing for about 10 years thanks to my brother.

In 2000 we moved to Glasgow and at the time it didn’t occur to me to try and fish the Forth & Clyde canal that could be seen from the kitchen window.

With no job prospects I took to keeping myself entertained by drinking, which promptly became a problem. I would drink almost every day and stay on the old yahoo chat rooms annoying people and writing software to interfere with the chat protocol and crash peoples computers, It was crazy, the buzz you would get from making about 40 peoples computer freeze and crash was hilarious, even funnier was seeing them all return wondering what had happened.

By 2005 the drink problem had got considerably worse and the last straw was after drinking two and a half bottles of buckfast and not remembering anything apart from the odd flash back now and again of trashing the house, enough was enough.
I looked out of the kitchen window in deep thought and looked at the canal and thought to myself “I need to get out of this house, I need to do something, these four walls are driving me crazy, if I don’t, I'll end up killing myself."

Armed with the Internet, I searched for information and all the terminology I then found a forum called "Anglersnet", but my first post is laughable at best as I truly didn’t have a clue.
One thing I chuckle about now is this comment I made on my first post “I'm not fussy what fish I catch as long as its not pike”
It was on that forum that I met my best friend and fishing buddy Andrew Macfarlane who kindly offered to accompany me to the Glasgow Angling Centre to get me kitted out and we managed it with £100. Andy picked out a £30 float rod and a £25 reel,  hooks, split shot, floats, 4lb sensor line.
We left the angling centre and headed to the canal, Andy showed me how to setup a basic float rig and I promptly caught my first ever roach of about 2oz and it was named Fred, I'll never forget that little roach.

Many joyful years passed with me and Andy fishing side by side in all conditions and locations. The fishing had changed me so much that I even landed a job in a letting agents which got me through my driving test and got me a car. The fishing opportunities that gave me and Andy were brilliant and we went all over the place. I lost weight and life was looking good.
I slowly progressed my way up the angling ranks to start fishing for pike with Andy as my mentor; this was a big difference from the little roach and perch that I had been catching.
It was a few years, me and Andy had been friends before he felt I was ready for pike and I'm grateful for this and I firmly believe this is how everyone should do it (start small).

At first Andy thought it best to start me off with a spinning outfit and take it from there. He took me to one of the local ressies. I blanked the first few times, but Andy caught a few wee pike and showed me how to handle them.

The funniest memory of this was the first pike he showed me how to chin. It was a jack of about 2lb and Andy was showing me where to put my fingers under the gill plate taking care not to go under the rakers. I asked Andy “so where does yer finger go” and as he pointed in the pike's mouth, it clamped down on Andy’s finger. I could hear him mutter “please don’t move please don’t move” but as can be expected it did move and quite vigorously too leaving his finger in an awful mess.

Stupid cnut.

Not long after, I managed to land my very first pike on my own which fell to a shad, it was only about 10-12lb but my god I was buzzing, I was howling like a nutter with so much adrenaline pumping through my body, this pike was so determined to get away. I'm just glad no one was around to hear me whoopin n hollerin.

I can’t remember now how long it was until we eventually went to one of Andy’s favourite waters for big pike, but by that time I was armed with a 3lb tc rod, alarms, droppers, 50lb braid etc.
It was then that I caught my first 20lb pike. In all fairness I really shouldn’t have caught it as I was meant to be working that day.

Andy had called me the night before saying him and Andy (yes 3 Andy’s) had spent the night there and they had been catching a lot of nice double figure pike and they could really do with something to eat.
I went to Greggs in the morning and got them a ton of rolls, crisps, drinks. I grabbed my rod and pulled a sicky and went to Loch X.

It was about 6 or 7 hours before I got a bite but feck me what a bite. I played this 20lb’er for what felt like an eternity. It didn’t have much depth to play in so all it could do was go straight ahead at full speed, to say it looked like a torpedo was an understatement it fought so hard I could barely keep hold of the rod so Andy suggested I stick the butt on my hip. Eventually it gave up the fight and was banked, weighed, photographed and returned.

This pike has been my crowning achievement and it’s been hard to beat but I’ve come close a few times with a 17 and an 18 from the same water but I doubt my next twenty will ever be as memorable as my first.

I have since fallen away from pike fishing to concentrate more on tench and carp but come this October I’ll be hard at them again and hoping to beat my PB.

In 2012, Andy told me about The Pikers Pit and I thought this sounds right up my street so I registered and kinda fell away from it but then started reading again in 2013 and tried to contribute. It was then that Ben (Forum Father) needed some help moving to the new server and since then I've found myself a new angling family. I was getting fed up of forums where you had to bite your tongue for fear of a ban, but you lot are wonderful and while chat can get heated and strong words spoken, we don’t get all hung up on it.

So to sum things up, angling has given me so much in such a short space of time. It has changed me for the better; it is in my blood, and in my thoughts every waking moment, it gave me back my confidence and made me sociable, it has saved my life and I am grateful.

I have seen some spectacular scenery and awe inspiring events, I remember the 40-60ft high whirl wind sucking up water as it travelled across a loch, fog rolling across the mountains to settle on the surface as the sun rises with intense ambient gold and red.

At times it’s been grim and dangerous such as when Andy got stuck in deep silt at HarelawHenrys Snypes dam and the time the weather has been so horrible you wondered “why” whilst clinging to a brolly soaked to the bone and through all that, I wouldn’t change a thing, I'd do it all over again next year.

If I didn’t have angling I would have nothing. I’am a piscator.

Andrew Croft

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