Obvious ones that are in daily use for example are herds, flocks, and shoals, but there are hundreds of names describing specific species. I was intrigued to learn that an animal which I think is of special attractiveness to most of mankind, the porpoise, and also the dolphin, have a social structure which includes similarities to the human species, such as particular friends, enemies, and even jealousies within their particular pod or group. Of course, as far as we know, the human species is the most socially involved animal of all species, and that trait is generally applied to almost every aspect of our living – except sometimes within the sport of angling.
I added that last bit as someone is bound to argue that they prefer to go fishing alone rather than with a fishing buddy. That may be true with some anglers as they become proficient, or more miserable as they get older, but I will bet that 99.9% of them had a friend or fishing companion, or a parent, to start them fishing in the first place. The influence of another angler somehow, whether it be by observation, angling literature, or in the last decade or so, television, will be the means that made them want to fish in the first place, and so the social side of man in wanting to convey to others his particular angling message, or knowledge, will be what started the so-called loner.
I was a loner most of the time in my childhood days as there were not many of my friends who wanted to fish for most of their spare time as I did. I had several young angling pals who came with me now and again, but most of them were into other sports far more than I was; cricket, football, rugby, all of the things that boys use to show how macho they are, although I must admit that I did play a lot of cricket when it was possible. I’m going off track! What I was leading up to was that because I spent so much time by rivers and ponds, and gravel pits, that I become friendly with much older anglers than myself as most of the time I was fishing, as any other anglers present were much older than I was. There is no doubt that I learned much from many of them, but equally, because I was ‘at it’ so much, I could hold my own with a great many of them. It’s funny in a way that when I was a nipper that many of my angling pals were much older than I, but now that I am looked upon as a ‘wrinkly’, many of my angling pals are much younger than I.
George was a man who wasn’t an angler even though he lived right beside the Tidal Thames. He was a Twickenham ferryman, and a good friend to me in spite of his age. He had an influence on me in a way as he gave me a route to being able to fish far more than I would have otherwise been able. He allowed me to keep some fishing tackle in his hut by the ferry moorings, and also to fish from the boats moored off the property. During the war, when my school did not insist on attending during an air-raid, the great aunt who was my guardian thought I had gone to school during a raid, I would be fishing from the ferry area until the all-clear. Also, as I had often to attend doctor’s surgeries or hospital for some little problem or other, I never went back to school on such days, so I either went and fished near the ferry, or collected my tackle from him and went off farther a-field. It is unlikely that during our present times of general crime that I would have left any tackle with him in a similar situation, as it would not last long in a lock-up hut these days. George, far too old to go to war, was a dour man to some, but the youngster who loved fishing and he, got on fine.
Around that time, at the age of 11 or 12, I learned to row the ferry-boat. It was a large boat, and as I recall, capable of carrying about 12 or 14 people, and no doubt helped to give me strong hands and arms, as even today I am told I have strong hands, and I don’t seem to have much trouble landing reasonable fish in the 100 – 300lb. class anyway, but neither do some old boys much older than I, in spite of what my wife keeps suggesting, that there is nobody older than I!
The war had just finished when I was due to join up and go to serve Britain somewhere or other. I passed my medical, the doctor somehow missing the fact that I was quite ill, and soon after I was within a hospital society for a long spell. There were a couple of angling fanatics in one of the hospitals and so we passed many hours talking fishing, and no doubt bored everyone else. Even though none of us would be going fishing for a long time, I guess I could say that we were fishing friends even in that situation, although unlike many of the fishing friends that I made after leaving hospital, we never kept up the relationship. In fact, soon after leaving hospital I was into the fishing tackle trade and that has helped me towards lifelong friendships with so many anglers. Friends for more than 50 years some of them have been, and we have fished together on and off for all of that time, with what I have called, ‘Natural Breaks’. You know the sort of things that interfere with fishing – marriage, babies, changes in working areas and living areas, and the really final one, death! As one gets older one loses many fishing mates but let’s not get morbid!
When I was a young angler I was fortunate in having transport. It allowed Kay and I to travel around easily to fish parts that other anglers had difficulty reaching, apart from the locals of course. That was probably the reason that I arranged most of the fishing trips for my friends and helped many of them towards their first barbel, or carp, or pike, and so on. It may seem surprising to today’s angling fraternity that such fish were not easily available to all anglers, but that is how it was, and so I was very happy that I could help many friends to have some great days. Now the reverse is the case, and although I have arranged a few trips for friends during my retirement, much of the fishing that I now do, especially abroad, is because friends have ‘sorted it out’ beforehand.
Don Wheeler for one has sorted out some good fishing and asked me along on several occasions. Good sea fishing off Mexico, sturgeon fishing in Canada, and several other trips abroad I have to thank him for, as I do Richard Ogden, whom I have already mentioned on this website as he arranged the first trip for Canadian carp. There are many. I made a list this morning but there are too many to mention, but I do thank them all for their friendship and the fun we have had together. I love humour and banter, and friends like Peter Stone and I would be at that continuously when in each other’s company, and I have many other pals who love to take me down a bit, as I do them.
Writing this I was reminded of a time when John Denman and I both hooked a large conger at the same time, when out in Mike Digby’s boat off Fowey. I would get it up a bit but it would then dive with tremendous power to the bottom. John’s monster was doing the same and neither of us was gaining any real quantity of line. Kay and Mike were in hysterics and John and I thought that it was because we were so incapable of beating the power of these congers. As we were on opposite sides of the boat, and concentrating so hard, neither of us realised that as John pulled harder, my rod went down, and when I pulled harder his rod went down. It was a long while in playing time before either of us realised that we had either hooked the same fish which was under an obstruction, or we had simply hooked each other somehow under an obstruction. We both swear to this day that originally we had hooked a really big fish though.
I mentioned marriage interfering with angling. One old mate, long since gone, was terrified of upsetting his wife, and the first time I took him pike fishing he said that he would have to be home early afternoon to take her to the cinema in the evening. Apparently that was a Sunday ritual with them, long before television became a household requirement. Kay and I turned up at his home, at 4.30 in the morning, and gave him a hoot on the car horn. He came rushing out in his socks, boots in one hand, tackle and rods in the other, desperately trying to hush us up. "You’ll get me shot if you wake her up and I doubt if she’ll let me go again". I couldn’t understand that as a young man whose wife was always happy to be out fishing. Anyway, we caught a few and arranged to take him again in a couple of week’s time.
We arrived at about the same time and found him already in the middle of the road looking somewhat dazed. At the time we had a Wolesley car which had the name in a little light in the middle of the bonnet grill, and so did the police who used Wolesley cars for most of their operations. (You see them in the old black and white films.) It was a good guide as you knew when you probably had a police car behind you if you were a bit over the speed limit, as you could see the little light between the headlights, and it certainly saved me a ticking off at times.
Apparently Sid had seen the little light between the headlights coming down the road, and knowing that I’m a bit of a sod was frightened that I would hoot for devilment, so he rushed out into the road in the same manner as a fortnight before – in his socks with tackle awry when a police car shot past and almost took off his nose. "The buggers didn’t stop!"
"Of course not! They were probably rushing back to the station for tea!"
As an angler I find I am making new friends all the time. Some I may have known in the past but circumstances have brought us together more in recent years, like Peter Wheat and I have been friends for years, but only in the last three or four years have we got together much more. John Roberts is another with whom we have become very friendly over the last few years. He used to write to me about fishing years ago but it wasn’t until we enjoyed a sturgeon holiday with some other mates that we really got together. We had such a good time and so much fun, that even if we hadn’t caught a fish, it would still have been a memorable holiday. In fact Kay and I adopted him and the others who now address us as Mummy and Daddy, but that is another story.
And new friends like the Editor of this website – I think I can say that we have become good friends – well, we will if he can help me catch some big fish!
I can write pages about fishing mates and the fun we have had over the years, but there is one fishing pal with whom I have fished constantly for fifty years. Even though I lose out quite often and catch smaller fish, I wouldn’t change my best fishing mate, "Honest Kay!"