My grandfather was born in the 1860’s – it’s hard to believe that now. He gave me my first fishing rod. I still have it – it is around 7’ long and weighs 1lb, 7ozs! It is a two piece – the butt seems to be made of oak or ash, and the top is greenheart. I can see that I re-whipped all the rings and varnished it at some time. I think the reel was solid brass, but that has got lost.

With this primitive tackle, probably made for sea fishing, my brother and I set out after monsters in the Thames at Reading, complete with some slices of white bread, and a bucket of worms from the garden. This would be around 1952. The banks were very overgrown, making casting difficult, but we found an area clear of trees, where a large pipe stuck out into the river. After returning a large number of bleak, I eventually hooked an enormous roach. Well, it seemed enormous to us small boys, but was probably only about half a pound.

We tipped the rest of the worms into the river, carried the roach home in the bucket, and transferred it to a big rainwater tank at the back of the house. The fish swam happily around in its new home, but in the morning we found it belly-up.

My parents insisted that if we killed something, we had to eat it, so the poor old roach was duly gutted, cooked and eaten. It was pretty disgusting – tasting like stale blotting paper, as I recollect.

Later, we discovered that the big pipe was the local sewage outfall….


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