But I do have several photo' albums, and occasionally I glance through them and remember much of my lifetime of angling. Just one picture can bring back so many memories, as the brain's ability to wander from thought to thought multiplies that one picture into many others. Flashbacks!

For example, I found a picture of my first 20lb. pike, caught 45 years ago, and that one picture was the 'catalyst' for several other memories. Simply looking at the picture without the mind wandering too far, affirms the many years one keeps one's friends. My mate Harry, who gaffed the fish, is still a frequent visitor to the Steuart household - a friend for over 50 years.

The fish was gaffed! Who gaffs pike anymore? We could go into a long discussion about the merits of gaffing against netting, the latter sometimes causing awful tangles with trebles caught in the mesh, but the brain is wandering off again! I will say however, that the photograph does show clearly where a pike should be gaffed, and reminds me of the shocking efforts made by some anglers in those days, when gaffing pike, but I suppose it didn't matter too much as pike were usually killed. It was difficult to find a tackle shop that stocked landing nets large enough to cope with pike, but most of them would have gaffs.

The picture recalls a story to relate to the catching of that pike. The first part of the tale was that four pike anglers had gone to fish a lake, not the gravel pit where the 20 pounder was taken. (Only three anglers in the photograph? Kay my wife, Harry and me. The fourth angler took the picture.) We decided that the strong northwest wind was in the wrong direction to guarantee success at the lake, so we moved on to the gravel pit to fish a deep, productive hole, where we had taken numbers of fish to 19lb. Livebaiting was the norm in the fifties, and I still think it is the most productive form of pike fishing if the ethics don't bother one, so out into the deep water went four livebaits fished on paternoster gear.

No! Float paternoster wasn't invented in the last 25 years. I used fixed float paternoster from 1945, and sliding float paternoster for deep water. I experimented with sunk float paternoster from 1950. I must admit however, that apart from my friends, I never saw any angler using those tactics. Even when fishing over deep water, ninety-nine percent of pike anglers fished 3 or 4ft. deep with a tiny livebait fished beneath a great chunk of cork called a 'Fishing Gazette' pike bung, whereas we used sliding floats, and small fixed floats, for fishing as a sunken float into the depths at long range, although I had one customer/friend who always legered livebaits. We used large livebaits, which we would usually catch from a different venue to our pike waters, which practice is no longer possible owing to the illegality of moving live fish from one water to another.

The transportation of live baits has just put another thought into my mind. I once caught a good chub in a lake where there weren't any, apart from a small one I released after a pike session. I'll bet the one I caught was the one I put in a few years before. If so, it had done well and grown considerably. And that leads to another flash-back. I introduced some tiny chub to my garden pond. Obviously not a large pond in a small suburban garden, but those chub still eventually topped 31b!
Back to the gravel pit. We were fishing in more than 20ft. of quite clear water, and although the sun shone strongly, with the northerly wind the day was cold, so deep water tactics should bring success' but the fishing was slow with only one very small pike to Kay's rod. By the afternoon, Harry and I, tiring of the boredom of watching bobbing floats that wouldn't sink, wound in our rods and went off around the pit working a couple of plugs. That was equally unproductive, but eventually we arrived at a shallow bay, and I suggested to Harry that it might be worth a move to the shallower water with our livebait gear for the last couple of hours, as the sun may have lifted the temperature of the bay a little.

This seemed to be a good move as it was not long before Kay and I had a fish apiece, but Harry had to wait until the sun had almost dropped from the sky before his float slid away.

I've always had a good eye for spotting fish, as most of my angling friends will confirm, and just as I was about to land Harry's fish for him, out of the corner of my eye, I was sure I saw a large pike drift up and then turn away quickly. "Harry, don't take out your pike. I think there's a big fish with it and we might catch it". My friend Harry usually accepts what I say, and let his pike swim about until I returned with my rod, when there were two pike lying beneath his rod top. One was a played-out male beside which, lying absolutely still, was a big female. The sex of the fish was pure deduction as it was only December, and early for pike to be already pairing, but what else?

My bait, a large lively dace was lowered a couple of yards away from the big fish, but in front of her. She drifted slowly towards it. so slowly that she did not appear to be moving, as hardly a fin quivered, but suddenly she was within a few inches. A flash and my line was moving fast to the centre of the bay. After setting the hooks I was fairly certain that this fish was mine, as I was trying a new snap tackle that consisted of three large single hooks, with a piece of soft wire to hold the hooks at right angles to the livebait, and I had not lost a fish on it to date. Although I didn't know it at the time, it was very similar to a snap tackle called the 'Mullins' snap tackle, designed I suppose, by a Mr. Mullins. Whatever? The hooks held, the fish was gaffed, and my first 20lb was landed.

It had always been my intention to case my first pike that exceeded the magical 201b. mark. Casing big fish was still common practice in the fifties and so, when the scales registered 201b.4oz. the fish was dispatched. It was only the second fish that I had ever preserved and without tuition it wasn't too bad an effort, but I wouldn't be pleased with it today.

About 3 years ago I gave the cased fish to my friend John Cooper, a regular contributor to this website, and he seems to be happy enough with the thing gracing his wall. It was in my fishing tackle shop for many years and got me into trouble in a way, as customers would suddenly dump some great fish upon the counter with the request to, "Set this up for me please Dave." I rarely refused, and hoped I improved with experience.

I preserved Peter Stone's first 10lb. bream, and he liked it enough to wish to know how it was done. We worked on a fish or two at my home, and his home, and he was a good learner, so I can claim to be the man who started Peter off on his career as a fish taxidermist. I guess I changed his life, as he really enjoyed the taxidermy work, and he had more freedom to follow his fishing passion as he was no longer tied to a nine to five job. Another flash-back that relates to the picture of landing my first 201b. pike, and good memories of fun times with Peter Stone.

Like most species in these present times, pike too have become larger, or larger ones are being caught, and 20 pounders don't raise many eyebrows, but most old codgers like me still rate them as being big pike. That first one was to me, and still is, a flash-back of an absolute whopper !