As I approach the pond it seems larger than it used to be, which seeing as I was then a small child defies logic. I should now tower over this small pond, and the far banks which once seemed a million miles away and unreachable should now be within reach and surely close enough to touch.
Leaving the van parked on the roadside I hop the new traffic barrier and head to the break in the hedge which I recognise as the gap leading to my old pitch. To my left, no more than 10ft along the bank another swim has emerged sometime over the last 20 years.
I creep closer to the water’s edge feeling the same excitement I did all those years ago; the overwhelming desire to get to the bankside as quickly as possible, the wave of nervous excitement as I reached the water and the overall sense of calm that swept over me when I arrived. But this time, all of these feelings are softened by nostalgia and the fact that although so much time has passed since my childhood days here where I would spend more time than anywhere else – it feels as if all this was yesterday, baring a couple of minor details having changed; the pond at which I first learned to fish as a small child remains by the roadside, the same bed of lily pads sit on the right hand side with the reeds behind them, and the thick pond weed is still present in the middle meaning only a few swims are actually fishable.
The water in front of me used to be heaving with small roach and rudd, all seemingly desperate to be caught by me and my first telescopic rod. Any small morsel of bait dropped in would cause a huge commotion as the small silvers virtually climbed over one another to feed on whatever scrap had appeared. In truth, the first fish I ever caught from this water fell to a bare hook as I was learning to cock my float, though not foul hooked, it hardly counts.
Back here, in the present, the water is much calmer, though a few small carp no bigger than two to three pound circle the lilies and look to feed from the surface. These small, potentially wild carp, would have been unimaginable monsters of the deep to me as a child. As I grew older and fished here less and less I often wondered about what the further reaches of the pond held and whether carp did lay in wait of my bait, but I never returned, and had no evidence of such before now. The carp must have been there all along.
No silvers show themselves and I find myself recalling the days I learned to cock a float, tie a half blood knot, fix a shot and underarm cast and caught roach and rudd in abundance; though being the perfect water to learn to fish, the pond probably did nothing for managing my expectation, which I would take forward leaving my pool to pursue bigger and deeper water. It’s hard to imagine that even as a complete novice I ever blanked here, but maybe I’m remembering it too romantically, or perhaps my ever-enthusiastic fishing father or long-suffering golfer-not-fisherman grandad would remember differently.
My girlfriend patiently waits in the car, confused as ever no doubt with my fascination for water and fishing; I have spent the entirety of our relationship talking and reading about it whilst partaking in very little. I have a real longing to regain those long lost days and return to the ways of fishing I first learnt all those years ago – being spurred on by my admiration of all things Chris Yates, I am yearning to restart the fishing cycle of my life.
It has in truth been sometime since I’ve fished properly, living on an island sea fishing became the standard as I grew older, and despite occasional visits to Dorset to fish the Avon and Stour (a particular ritual on June 16th) I had done very little coarse fishing since I left school despite it being the thing I love the most.
Work and being a grown-up had managed to sneak its way into the forefront of my routine and fishing had been forced to take a back seat, books and films satisfying the occasional urge that returns in early June as the excitement builds for the opening of the river season, but on the whole doing very little fishing at all.
A wave of nostalgia stirs something in me and this time I know a long overdue return to the fishing of my childhood is about to begin. A return to simple tactics fishing with old reels, floats & light tackle. A return to appreciating the silver fish which used to bring me so much joy. A return to the simpler things that only fishing can provide.
One Year On…
Being true to the above I went home that day and started to sell my sea fishing tackle and began sourcing the coarse tackle I wanted to fish with, old Mitchell reels, cork handled waggler rods, vintage floats, along with a few unavoidable modern must haves. The result? I started to fish a lot more and in ways I did all those years ago..
Almost a year to the day after that first return visit to the roadside pond and by way of a total coincidence I found myself once again by the side of the pond and on this occasion fished from dawn. It was the first time I had wet a line here since I’d learned to fish as a child and almost a year since I had stood in the same spot and rediscovered the desire to fish. I fished simply, with just a floating crust, along with a few scattered offerings seeking those would-be-monster carp which I never previously knew the pool held. I was rewarded with a dark golden torpedo of a wild carp. As I held the rod the fish thundered away toward the weed, tail pumping and the rod thudding away, I was reconnected, I had returned.
All Writing & Images Ralph Ridler Summer 2021