There are, sometimes in life, quite by chance, when something occurs which makes one believe the world is a better place. For me this happened about eighteen months ago when my brother Don and I were fishing on the south Dorset coast on that great bank of pebbles which is known as Chesil Beach. This beach fishing lark is quite strange in itself … sitting in all weathers, waiting, and hoping that some sort of fish, in fact any fish, will be kind enough to take the bait you are offering. Well,I hear you say, that is what happens with all fishing, and yes that is, of course, correct. However, if you are by a pond or river there is, always or almost always, some cover to take advantage of if things get dodgy. A sudden storm, strong winds, searing sun, really anything the British climate can throw at the angler.
Stuck out on a beach where as far as one can see to the right and the left is just a huge stretch of pebbles and the same to your rear, cover is just not there. In front, of course is the sea and that is pretty unforgiving. Well,of course, there are all sorts of wonderful shelters, tents, mobile huts etc. which can protect the beach angler …but they all come at a cost and are not cheap. Not only that, but they have to be carried to the chosen fishing spot. It didn’t take me long to learn that the best spots are always, by far, the longest distance from the car park. So, it was, that I had been persuaded by my dear brother that beach fishing was one of life’s great joys which I should not miss out on. Hence, over several months, I found myself to be a regular visitor to that particular part of the Dorset beach. The routine is much the same on each occasion one goes to fish.
Upon arriving, and meeting in the agreed car park, discussion takes place as to the best spot to fish on this occasion. This is usually based upon any intelligence which may have been gathered from the man behind the counter in the tackle shop. Here is the chap that sells the sea fisherman his bait. Lug Worms, Rag Worms, Squid and all manner of stuff, which the buyer is assured is the best bait for the occasion. Encouraged by the info that a man had caught a monster cod on just the bait one had purchased and in the very spot to which one was intending to fish, one leaves the bait seller in a state of high anticipation. If I am honest that high state of anticipation is, for me,still waiting to be fulfilled.
So, there it is, a sort of edited background as to how and why an angler finds himself on a beach, well anywhere, but in this case in south Dorset. Once one settles down in the chosen spot and, for the life of me, I am still trying to work out how this is established, the rig of the day is setup and thrown as far out into the waves as the angler is able to achieve. For the most part, it is then just a question of waiting and watching the tip of the rod. During this period,which can be agonisingly long, it is usual to have a brew, a snack, check the phone, read a book …actually anything which provides some sort of diversion and overcomes the overwhelming sense of … what the hell am I doing here! But don’t tell my brother!!
It was, during one of these regular, and prolonged periods of inertia that we first encountered Dorset John. As, is the case, whilst beach fishing there are other people, who use the beach, to be encountered. Health freaks, (these are the people whom, whilst deep breathing and taking the ozone, adopt all sorts of weird and wonderful poses. Most of which have long been beyond the capabilities of myself and my brother.) Then there are runners, walkers, dog walkers, photographers and many more all attracted by the great beauty of the beach and sea. Dorset John is a dog walker. John lives locally and walks the dog every morning, in fact, you could almost set your watch by him. I suppose he covers about a half a mile down the beach from the car park and, of course half a mile back. John stops and chats with all of the anglers he encounters along his way. There is no doubt that John is a very friendly sort of chap but he is also a keen beach fisherman and, therefore, any info he can glean from the fishermen he encounters is put to good use when deciding where and when he will next fish himself. It was on just such a meeting that Don and I first met John. I have no idea what his surname is but we Christened him Dorset John as he has a delightful Dorset accent and lives in the county. I suppose our meeting went along the lines of all Johns meetings, he wandered up to us, wished us a good morning and asked if we had had any luck. We had not, and, upon hearing this piece of news John settled down on the pebbles beside us and began to roll a cigarette whilst outlining the many reasons why we probably were not catching fish.
Of course, he would not be using the bait we were and the tides were all wrong this week, We would have a much better chance next week when the tides would be almost perfect. Well to cut a long story short, Don and I engaged John in conversation and he spent a couple of hours chatting away and giving us a potted history of his life. All of which I will reveal in my next edition.