It Was Drinks All Round In Devon - Benjamin Pond - Longshoreman

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It Was Drinks All Round In Devon

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Anglers World, April 1965
By Benjamin Pond

Regular readers have noticed that I have been in some queer places and done some odd things during sixty odd years continuous fishing, day in, day out.
Of course, I have been most fortunate to have led the life I have, right from when as a boy I resided in a house on the banks of a river, then later went to live close to the lower waters of the Stour and Avon, plus the sea only two miles to the south.
In 32 years on rivers and another 31 years sea-fishing I have discovered that there is no pastime equal to our sport, here I would like to suggest that anglers should be more variable in their pursuits, too many just go to the same river or bit of coast.
We can't all travel to new waters, but a great many are able to do so these days, so to those who can get to the coast I would earnestly suggest that they sample some of the delights of saltwater fishing - not just one method, try boat, pier, and casting from the shore.
In fact, try any water you come across, both fresh or salt, without restrictions.
To give an instance of "tryng any water" - in that dry summer of 1921, I came to a pond at Strouden Park which had almost dried up, the area of water was only about six feet by five, the water was so coloured that I could not see what was disturbing the mud.
In went my line, out came tench and roach by the score, these I was able to transport to a "better 'ome", whioh goes to show why I have earlier written about odd 'appenings.

What a delightful river is the Taw, running through the heart of Devon, plenty of migratory fish, also brown trout and specimen roach.
Back along I used to go to this river with salmon rods, we would stay at a posh little sporting hotel, me having the same board and service as my gents.


There was an excellent buffet, where during the long everings we had nothing to do but drink and yarn.
Now should you be unlucky enough to return to the hotel with a salmon, you HAD to treat everyone in the place wirth a drink.
There was one extraordinary thing about this treating affair that I was never able to solve, it was like this :
Should you proudly walk in with a salmon, you would be told to go at once to the buffet, where you would find at least sixty thirsty natives awaiting you.
Now the population within one mile radius was no more than forty, yet here already were assembled MORE than forty, much more.
However did all these felows know that you would be retuining with a fish? Normally there were no more than six or eight in for a drink, no one was likely to see you land a salmon
because the eight beats were hidden away in the wooded and isolated valley.
None of this thirsty mob could have been "listening in", it was before wireless sets became in use.
Carne a day when I caught a 14 lb. fish, it was like this: My party had decided to go to Torrrington, to look at some water on the Torridge so I was told to go out and get a fish -- it was all as easy as that -- but I was NOT to go back to the hotel with it. "Put it on passeoger train for Waterloo", were my final orders.
"Good", I thought, "no drinks to pay for", so when the fish obliged I hastened to little Eggesford Station.
Behold, there were already seven thirsty fellows there to give me a real royal welcome.
I had no escape, back to the buffet we marched, more than thirty more were already licking their lips, others were arriving, some on horses, some on penny-farthings.
I paid for one (me) and all, came to nearly £7, what a night of shady recollections. My gents when they came back, hearing that I was about to file my petition, made my loss good. Plus another £3 for getting a fish.

I ask again, "How ever did these fellows know that a salmon had been caught?"


Still talking about salmon, do you know that there is one way of telling if a salmon has been lying in a certain part of the river? Supposing the fish is no longer there, perhaps it left
several days ago, how would anyone know this? If you want the answer, ask the Editor, he may ask me to say a bit more at some time.
To catch any quantity of salmon, one HAS to specialise.
It is a fact that one DOES acquire a SIXTH sense, an inborn intuition, as many anglers know, I have gone to four different rivers and frequently been able to hook my flsh in under six minutes actual angling.
There is nothing clever in getting a salmon when or where one happens to be, if one has studied this problem.
A salmon is well worth catching, it gives wonderful sport, it is of great value in cash or as food.
Specimen hunters? It is a worth-while pursuit for salmon, would you put one back?
I have no time for specimen hunters who spend almost all their angling days after certain coarse fish, they have so many blank days, days that could be spent really catching various varieties of fish.
Since the first B.S.A.S. list in 1898 was issued, and on up to tle present day, I have studied lists of Specimen Fish, yet how rarely, how very rarely, do you see the name of a specimen hunter appear. These fellows, these "one track minds", are missing the joys of angling.


The actual people who DO get the real specimens are the beginners, the casual anglers, the lads, and often when using the crudest of tackle.
Don't I know it, after over 16,000 days being present with anglers, either at the riverside or when my little fleet of boats returned from long days at sea.
It is YOU, my reader, who fishes just for the fun of it, that is most likely to get the big 'uns, many of you have already done so, do it again.
Having done so much fishing, I have by luck or chance had many really big fish, but they were not worthy of the title "specimen", for instance, a 37 lb.salmon is not a specimen, nor is a 1 lb. 3 oz. dace, or a 6 lb. plaice.
It would seem that the minimum weights are purposely so low on some Specimen Lists to enable so-called specimen hunters to get on the bottom rung of the ladder, strange it may seem, sorne of them do not even get that far, it is the happy-go-lucky man or boy who gets right to the top.

Outside of the Specimen Lists, Sunday newspapers give a good idea as to who gets the big 'uns, I have had to witness the weight of a nunber of species taken, sea and river, such as 12-year-old John Ford, a 29 lb. pike, and similar youthful prize winners.

Another odd thing, is that if you study records over the past 70 years, you will see that the standing weights of many fish appertain to catches of many years ago.

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