Fourteen months ago my dad was diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas, which is a very aggressive form of cancer, and given three months to live. Well, being the person that he was, he battled away, confounding the medical profession on a number of occasions. But as time wore on, it was evident that the clock was indeed ticking, and last Sunday, in the early hours, he finally lost his battle.
Having visited him more or less every day over the fourteen-month period, we became closer than ever before. If there is one positive thing about knowing that someone you love is dying, it’s that you can prepare together. As a consequence, my fishing over the last year or so has been very much secondary. Of course I have still been out and about, but often my heart has not really been in it.
My dad was never a fisherman; in fact he never really understood the attraction. (We both shared a love of Wolves though, and he took me to my first game in 1963. He was a season ticket holder right up to the start of this season.) But he always took an interest in what I got up to. Even in the last days, when he was so weak and could hardly talk, he would make gestures of casting out and reeling in and enquiring whether I had been out that day or not.
The very first fish that I caught was a gudgeon from the Staffs/Worcs canal at the Bratch in Wombourne. Last summer while he was still able to get out and about, I took my dad for a ride in the car to see the spot where it all began for me. In fact I write a monthly article for Midland Angler called ‘Where to fish’ and I took a few photographs of the canal that day, which were duly published with the piece. My dad was so proud of the fact that his son had articles published in magazines.
As a boy, my local water was a small and not very well known pond, located in the grounds of the brickyard where my dad worked. Even then I was an angling fanatic and used to get up while it was still dark to begin the walk to the pond. (Those were the days when you could let your kids out and not worry too much).
During his morning break, my dad would wander across to see how I was getting on. Happy memories indeed, even though the fish in there were all small really. The biggest I caught was a 12-½ ounce perch, which seemed a monster when I was young. But sadly, the pond no longer exists, having being filled in by the company.
Anyway, bringing things up to date, I did get out once this week, right at the very end. It was a freezing day and with sleet falling, if recent weeks have been one step forward into spring, then this day was definitely two steps back into winter. I continued with my quest for roach though, and will do so until the weather picks up and I begin bream fishing. Heading for the middle Severn, it was no surprise really to discover that there were no other anglers on the bank and I therefore had the choice of swims.
I did manage to gather a menagerie of birds around me as soon as I settled in the peg, the most unusual of which was a pied wagtail that kept coming closer and closer, literally begging for maggots. Usually it is the robin that is known for this sort of thing, so it was nice to see a different bird behaving in the same way.
I set up and cast out about 1/3 of the way across the river. The river itself was normal winter level and a small bomb was plenty heavy enough to hold the bottom. Well surprisingly, considering the weather, I managed to get regular bites that resulted in dace and roach. The former were bigger than the latter though but due to the way I was feeling, it wasn’t really that important. It’s when we go through difficult times in life that everything (including angling) gets drawn into true perspective.
(Originally published February 2006)