ANGLER'S WORLD, December, 1962
By Benjamin Pond
How fortunate my life, I've never owned a car, never owned a motorboat.
Managed to get to all my fishing on two legs, or, when afloat, with sails and oars.
I think some of the fun was in getting to our fishing spots, then getting home again. Try sailing eight miles close hauled on a bouncing sea and get that exhilarating feeling. Motor-boats? Bah!
No, I never made a fortune, could have done, if only taking trippers round the bay, but fishing was solely my work and pleasure.
In fact, after so many years spent in dangling a line somewhere or other, almost every day for nigh on 60 years (over 30 years on rivers and about 20 more on the sea) I really am not boasting, but justly proud of such a record, unique, so I am told.
Done a bit of beachcombing and smuggling. Some day I might let on, and you'll be surprised to hear that I was only caught once, one midnight hour.
That can wait.
I've never earned much money, Perhaps today I earn more than I ever did (and thatls not much) as head river keeper on nine miles of the Test. Some say it's the "best of the Test", anyway, all fisheries are overrated.
True, there are trout galore, and grayling by the score, and plenty of pike in store; These latter I take out, not by wiring, but by spinning, it's more fun that way. Took two good ones recently' 15 lb' and 16 lb'
When I was a nipper and lived close by this river, I never recall any pike. I fished it back in those days, didn't know what a pike looked like, now they have got them in both the Test and the Itchen
Mind you there's plenty of trout all sizes, but some of these have been hand reared and fed.
can't see any fun in catchins domesticated trout that give themselves up and paying £1,500 to do it.
Not on"my water, oh no! Lower down river they pay all that, might just as well caich goldfish in a glass bowl.
Makes me think back to when I was a kid and yanked out wild trout 2 lb a piece. All you young readers missed the bus - those were the days.
Funny, I can't seem to do it today, the trout here always seem to be on the alert for troubles that cast their shadows before them. Some keepers are guilty of casting their shadows over the water, a good man will always move carefully and only approach the bankside to carry out necessary work.
My specimen fish have been few and far between, as I said in an earlier article, although I must have caught well over a million fish, from the mighty salmon down to the little smelt.
We could be divided into three groups:
1: Those who pay attention to every detail, yet never get a specimen.
2: Reads all the books on angling and eventually gets a specimen after 40 years.
3: The chap who never bothers about size of hook, length of rod, temperature, or all the other accepted theories. He just goes forth for the fun of it all, gets the specimen, takes it home and
Specimens have always been landed, through tle ages, it's only since newspapers have offered prizes that one has come to hear about them.
As I said before, we knew how to use our legs in those days and we made good use of them. One favourite trip, three of us would make (we were all ten or eleven
years of age) was to board the last boat from Bournemouth to Swanage. Upon arrival there, we would go off the pier and wait until all the staff had locked up and gone home. Then we
would climb over the turnstiles and make for the lower deck, west side. Here there was a gas jet light, only ever used in the rare event of a late steamer, which was shaded to only
show seawards and down to the mooring bollards.
One such night comes back to mind.
I put over a conger line with half a herring as bait and got a 10 lb. bass on it, the only ten pounder I ever got hold of. Had plenty of pollack up to 4 lb., also smelts and a few bream, we all had
a good bag of mixed fish. A cigarette machine was up on the top deck. Suppose we tried smoking, never done it before. So into the machine went three separate pennies and out came three
packets, each contai:ring two large cigs (fancy, two a penny) but they were soaking wet because of spray from a recent gale, so three naughty little boys went back down below.
By about 5 a.m. we were all so cold that we set off to walk home, only fourteen miles and over 700 ft. Ballard Down, heavily laden with fish and gear. Reaching the mouth of Poole Harbour, we waited for the first ferry, seven more miles to walk.
One of my mates was carrying a 15 lb. conger over his shoulder, its head tied to a pole. For at least five of the remaining seven miles a very dark-skinned gentleman followed close behind, muttering every ten yards, "Dat's a big snake, dat is".
Since those days I have not been so keen on night fishing, but there have been occasions when some strange events happened, one or two told on the radio, and I may refer to certain
incidents in this series. Talking about night fishing has made me think of an incident on Hamworthy Bridge, not so long ago.
You must have heard of this famous bridge, in Poole Harbour, which opens to allow the passage of steamers. It is renowned for bass fishing, you must know that.
Then there was that night, at 11.59 p.m. to be precise, when I was there after the bass, or a minute later with the bass. To be more precise, read on:
As I stood on the bridge at midnight, I thought of that good old song-
"I Stood on the Bridge at Midnight" (But I didn't stand there long).
For whilst I stood on the bridge at midnight, A steamer's whistle blew,
And the bridge where I stood at midnight
Divided and let me through.