Sneezewort asks the question – “Do you fancy a swim?”

Swim (noun) – “a pool in a river that is a particularly good spot for fishing”.

Since as early as I can remember, I have always loved books with maps in them – usually near the frontispiece, something to refer to throughout the readers journey or indeed remind oneself of on darkening winter evenings by the fire.

I have a near hundred-year-old copy of A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh, and no doubt could once recite the best walking route from Kanga’s house in the ‘100 Aker’ (sic) wood to Eeyore’s gloomy place he called home.

As angler’s, we too prefer a localised ‘address’ for referencing the places we fish. An encrypted code, often known only to oneself or the most trusted cohorts.  

Sneezewort In A Rather Fine Looking Swim

Indeed, other anglers will often refer to the very same locations by their own completely different forms.

Known to us as Pitches, Pools, Swims, Holes or Beats all accompanying a feature, a person or some such red-letter-day capture, over many years of fishing, they set our co-ordinates.

Redmire Pool famously boasts evocative spots such as ‘’Pitchford’s’’, ‘’The ‘35’ pitch’’ and ‘’Boathouse pitch’’, while even the most polluted of urban ditches will no doubt reference the shopping trolley where the big Chub was once lost.

Around 30 years ago I decided to try and come up with names for the Swims on my local River Wey, a shortish section of its lower reaches, club owned, just above its confluence with Father Thames.

I started with no consideration of scale, and began walking the length, sketching as I went and noting prominent features. Each was duly ‘christened’ and forever committed to a scrap of paper that I still have.

The Wey Swims – As named by Sneezewort

From upstream to down, club boundary to boundary their names rang out like Aintree’s famous jumps:

The Bay – well, a shingle half-moon beach not more than a dozen footsteps wide.

The Point – a prominent, undercut greensand high bank which heaven help you if you strayed too close to the edge.

Steep Bank, The Chub swim, The Pallet Swim (yes, there was once a broken pallet which made a suitable platform from which to set sail a revived Barbel.

Then came Rushes, followed by Cut – Tree swim (a personal favourite, so named by the farmer’s barbed wire gouging its way to the very heart of the luckless Alder tree on the opposite bank).

Aquarium, so named for its clarity of water over a gravel bottom and was where I hooked my first ever Barbel – a Coral-finned torpedo weighing a shade over 4lb back in 1990.

Railings (still never fished), New swim – the site of a monstrous PB of exactly 12lb to the precise ounce, bizarrely caught as a ‘last chuck’ with an 8-foot spinning rod after a few hours Perching in nearby Perch Pooland finally ‘Fred’s Hole’ – which had much more of an armchair feel about it.

So, there we have it. ‘X’ marks the spot!

Hopefully, you will think fondly of your happy places by the waterside and visit them as much as possible just in case anyone or anything has changed the address.

All Writing & Images Sneezewort Summer 2021