There are so many reasons why I am so proud to be involved in the Crabtree Project. I can quote all the usual ones, especially the central issue of trying to bring more children into fishing so that they can enjoy the highlights that the sport has brought to my life and probably to yours. Fishing is absolutely the most worthwhile thing to do and if Crabtree can convince people of that then it will have served the sport well.
Personally, the core of it all is probably my childhood. Like so many people over the age of forty, Crabtree was an integral part of growing up. We all wanted to be Peters and we all venerated our Mr Crabtrees. When I was privileged to meet Bernard a few times in his later years, a childhood dream had been realised.
Of course, there were other heroes as I was growing up. Probably most notably, beside Bernard Venables himself, we are looking at the mighty Richard Walker and his circle. What men he gathered around him. The Taylor brothers, members of the Carp Catchers Club including Eddie Price and Peter Thomas.
Eddie Price made national news by catching a 40 pound 8 ounce carp in 1959, a fish that weighed more than I did in that year! But it was also Eddie Price who saw the legendary Redmire monster in the 1950s, a fish that from his hastily-taken photograph, most have agreed was probably in excess of 60 pounds. Such a fish today would be breaking news but then it was barely credible.
It was also Peter Thomas who shone out like a star for me. He actually accompanied Richard Walker on the fateful day in 1952 when a 44 pound carp was landed. I was fortunate enough to meet Peter Thomas around fifteen years ago at a Redmire reunion and his stories completely captivated me. He was full of memories, full of advice, full of life and vitality.
Sadly, both these giants of our recent angling past died last week. Both were ninety-one and both helped the fishing that we enjoy today. One by one, the angling giants of my youth are fading into history but I’ll always feel privileged that I had them as my own personal guiding lights.