I’m balancing precariously on the slippy rocks, trousers rolled up to the knee, bare feet numb in the icy rushing water, bamboo pole net in one hand and jam jar in the other. I’m about five years old, and this is my first fishing trip, my first tackle. After a long afternoon with my brother and my friends in the Scottish burn, we are the proud owners of a large number of translucent minnows, which we return to the water before running home for tea.
I bet most of us can remember our first tackle. When we asked on Facebook and Twitter, we got a flurry of enthusiastic replies. Many had fond memories of red Woolworths’ rods with their cheap, plastic red and white floats. They may not have been fancy, but they often did the trick and many a small perch or chub was caught on one of these. Others remembered fish traps made from old plastic drinks bottles stuffed with bread. Lots talked about basic fibreglass rods, many of which are still in attics, because they can’t bear to throw them away.
Some people borrowed their Dads’ tackle, if they were allowed, and talked about the start of a lifelong shared passion. A love of sitting on the riverbank that bound them together, like Mr. Crabtree and Peter.
My own children will remember crabbing in Suffolk. An afternoon spent on an estuary with a few cheap plastic lines, chunks of smoked bacon, a bucket and a large net, yielded twenty six crabs. I can remember the number because it has entered family legend. And of course we put them back again, just as soon as we’d staged a crab race.
Some people were brilliantly inventive. Who needs a shop bought rod when you’ve got a bamboo stick and a float made out of flip flop? Apparently this beauty caught many a 2lb Bream, and I can’t help thinking that Mr. Crabtree would have been very pleased.
These days we have any number of specialist pieces of equipment, that all have different jobs and help us to catch a wide range of fish in increasingly inventive ways. But nothing quite beats that first rod, does it?