Monday, 14 September 2015

Fishing

Fishing was one of the great pastimes of my childhood and many of the other children in the village. We were well served for places to pursue the hobby as there was, and still is, the pond at the centre of the village, the river running through just over the hill and Shortheath pond just a short way over the common towards Oakhanger. If that wasn’t enough there was always the two Frensham ponds and the river Wey, out towards Frensham, as well. Although those waters were then in the hands of The Farnham Angling Club, which several of the village boys had joined and could, therefore, fish them. Of course, we didn’t have the benefit of motor transport so it meant a cycle ride to get to those rather more distant fisheries.

The village pond, in those days, was not in the hands of a club and fishing was freely available to all. Indeed people came from as far afield as Alton and Petersfield to fish. Although Kingsley Pond was not noted for large specimens it did have a big range of coarse fish. Roach, Rudd, Tench, Gudgeon, Perch and Crucian Carp. For those wanting larger specimens it was Shortheath Pond to which they went. That was where large carp and pike could be found.

During my early teens my uncle Wilf, (Henty), became keen on fishing and it was a regular Sunday morning trip to Shortheath during the summer months for carp and in the winter for the pike. When I say morning, I mean early morning.Uncle Wilf would arrive on his bike at around 0400hrs drop off at my home in Woodfield to collect me and together we would cycle to the Shortheath location. In most cases we would meet up with the Bishops. They were father and son, both named Jack, it was, therefore, the norm to refer to them as big and little Jack, father being the "big" of the two. Both came from Yorkshire and came to the area with work at the army camp. They were dedicated anglers of considerable skill and I held them in awe. Apart from having, it seemed to me, every piece of kit known to man, they caught fish. This was a major attraction and as a result of their skill I learned a great deal. Softly spoken they were willing enough to take the time to pass on all sorts of tips and "secrets". I don’t know if they thought the fish could hear us but all parties spoke in hushed voices and crept about as we moved around the banks. No running. Both Bishops constantly puffed away on their pipes which, it seemed to me, were never out of their mouths. Almost always when uncle Wilf and I arrived at the pond, the Bishops were in place, set up and fishing. Goodness knows what time they left home. Not only were they the first there but when we left, which was usually around noon, they continued to fish on.

I saw my first pike courtesy of one of the Jacks and, over the period of a couple of years, some large carp. Dead sprats or herring were used to lure the pike and sometimes small roach or rudd for live bait. Live baiting is now no longer permitted but then was widely used for a number of species which included perch and trout. As far as the large carp were concerned, the two Jacks had their "secret" formula which was soaked bread squeezed into a thick dough with the secret ingredient mixed in. That ingredient was Birds custard powder. Apart from colouring the dough yellow it also gave the mix a pleasant smell of vanilla. I don’t really know if this secret bait mix actually caught more fish than any other but those chaps swore by it.

The Frensham ponds were the other locations to which we went in pursuit of pike. Those ponds, then, being noted for some quite huge specimens. Although I heard tales of great fish and anglers equipment being smashed up by monsters I never encountered one myself.

The stream running through Kingsley mill and all of the way down to, and beyond, the New Inn at Sleaford was where we went for trout. Back then there was a healthy stock of wild brown trout in the river and specimens of three and four pounds were not uncommon. Worms were, I suppose, the most commonly used bait but also spinners, live baited minnows and occasionally bread dough were all used to capture the wily trout. Bags of three and four fish were regularly achieved and provided good eating.

I still fish and recently went to a trout fishery, with my two brothers, at Frensham. The motor car enables long distances to be travelled in pursuit of fish. I don’t tend to get up at the crack of dawn any more but I still have fond memories of those far off days in Kingsley which is where, for the three of us, it all began.

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