My fishing journey started where many others did, coarse fishing for perch and roach. I don’t actually remember my first ever fish that well, I remember the day itself but not the first fish other than it was a perch and I ended up catching six of them and two roach. This was after fishing, but not catching, on my own (all my family were golfers) for two years – eventually my neighbour took pity on me and took me to Llyn Helyg where he fished, this was obviously in the days when you knew your neighbours and actually spoke to them. On my return I immediately put my name down to join the club that had the fishing rights for Llyn Helyg and before long was granted a junior membership.
I soon got used to catching lots of small perch and roach, watching the float sink, striking, followed by a tap-tap-tap type fight before swinging the 2 or 3 ounce fish into my hand. However, the day I hooked something substantially bigger sticks in my mind. Looking back I feel a bit sorry for my dad as once I got my club membership I wanted to fish as long a day as possible (juniors were not permitted to stay overnight alone), this meant weekend lie-ins were not on the cards as I needed his taxi service to get me to the lake (perhaps he went back to bed when he’d dropped me off – I don’t know). Anyway, this particular day the fishing had gone a bit quiet so I decided to have my lunch, a sandwich prepared by my mum the night before (she still got a weekend lie-in). It’s strange some of the details that you remember about specific fishing trips as I distinctly recall that my sandwiches were made with hot-dog finger rolls, I suspect we had some spare that needed using up. As I got to the end of the sandwich I noticed the filling had run out and rather than eat the bread alone I decided to scoop some out and pinch it onto the size 16 hook I was using. I then cast this alongside a reed bed rather than straight out in front of me where I’d been feeding the perch and roach with maggots.
I wasn’t too long until the float dipped under, not the sudden disappearance that I’d become used to – more of a slide down into the peaty coloured water. I lifted the rod and immediately felt solid resistance, like an underwater brick that was moving. The fish kited across the front of me and then powered away, snapping my hook link – I’d never had a fish pull back before so I was totally unprepared; my drag wasn’t set for the breaking strength of line I was using and neither was the reel gearing set to allow for back-winding. Afterwards I realised that what I‘d hooked was a tench, something that Llyn Helyg was renowned for at the time, and so began a bit of an obsessive period of chasing these solid, green, pink-eyed fish. (If we weren’t in lock-down I’d go to my parent’s house to look for some pictures to accompany this FP of a very young me holding a tench or two).
Another very memorable fish was my first sizeable bonefish. My first ever bonefish came from Mexico and was caught, with the help of a guide, from a shoal of probably 30 or 40 small fish. Still memorable for a number of reasons (e.g. the mullet showers we saw as schools of fish fled an unseen predator) but not in the same league as my first ‘lone’ bonefish.
I think it was the year after we’d visited Mexico and Tracy and I were DiY fishing in Eleuthera. We’d found a beautiful flat towards the north of the island that could be accessed by road and then a hike along the shoreline. We’d both caught small fish from shoals before they’d dispersed and headed deep into the mangroves. We subsequently met up to discuss our morning and have something to eat on a small sand bar that was exposed in the middle of the flat. I distinctly remember the conversation being about the disappearance of the shoals that we’d been regularly seeing when I spotted a single large bonefish tracking parallel to the bank we were stood on. Its position called for a really easy cast of no more than 30 feet, which I landed at the perfect position – close enough to be seen but not so close that it spooks. After two slow short strips the bonefish nosed down on to the fly and then took off. This was my first experience of what a bonefish can really do, and I’d never seen that much backing disappear out of my rod tip before. I recall reeling for what seemed like an age before my fly-line came back into the guides and I remember that feeling of elation as the fish was released and slowly swimming away. I suspect this fish weighed 5 or 6 pounds.
I’m going to save some more memorable fish for next week, as I’m pretty sure I won’t be out catching anything between now and then. I’d like to read some other stories on the board in the meantime.
Stay safe, James.