For me, fishing has been a massive part of my life etched into my heart and soul since being a small boy and my earliest fishing memories from around 5 or 6 years old of my dad taking me to either Eastern Kings or the local docks float fishing for anything whatsoever. Millbay Docks in Plymouth back in the late 80s had mackerel boats coming in daily unloading their catch with masses of waste and lost fish spilling into the deep water on a daily occurrence. This effectively ground baited the area and made it a haven for an array or species that was enjoyed by many but, I can’t think of many more perfect scenarios for a young lad enjoying fishing with his dad.
Garfish, mackerel, pollack, coalie and strangely lots of flounder all coming to strips of mackerel, float fished at various depths. This had me hooked almost immediately and soon became my favourite thing to do with my dad. As I got older, the addiction was taking hold fast and luckily my dad embraced it and took me as often as he could.
We would go out on his small boat with cool box loaded with sandwiches and snacks, heading out with live eels to try for bass and pollack. The feathers always came out for an easy catch for me and I was happy struggling with strings of mackerel over and over again until my arms could take no more, then at the end our day we used to get the boat back on the trailer and drive to my grans where she would let all the other old dears in the street know that we had a bumper catch and we would proudly stand aboard dishing out fresh fish. Then it was home to mum to show and tell her about our amazing trips. I can remember once telling her about a basking shark that swam alongside the boat, amazed by the wonders of the sea. Mum had her end of the deal also as she loved to eat rock salmon (dogfish,) so a few were always kept for the table.
I grew up near a small creek leading off the river Tamar. It was here that my friends and I started to learn how to fish solo. Dodgy knots, rusty hooks and stones as weights with our fibreglass rods complete with eyes taped on or broken. We caught bass and flounder and we couldn’t get enough! The more we went the more we wanted and any time we were not fishing we were digging ragworm or lugworm for bait. As our knots and techniques got better we naturally wanted better rods and other tackle, thus Christmas and birthday money soon became entirely fishing related.
With passion growing fast we started collecting and selling worms and peeler crab to sell to fund our needs and by 13 I was going down and doing my crab pots before and after school and just couldn’t get enough! My mother complained constantly about my clothes thick with creek mud but nothing would stop me, I was an outdoors kid as most were back then and looking back makes me nostalgic.
In my early teens I joined a fishing club and soon another world opened up to me. Chances to fish new marks for new species soon took hold and we took every opportunity going. I can remember being dropped to marks and catching dogfish all night and being picked back up in the morning ecstatic that we had caught and keen to get back out and do it again! By now, dad was taking me mullet fishing as he knew I had patience and was keen enough to go out for first light. Those eerily quiet summer mornings were amazing. Tiny stick floats bobbing about on mill pond like waters is when I gained a massive appreciation for my surroundings and the solitude that came with it.
Unfortunately in this new age technology has prevailed and has created distractions and entertainment for kids and the sport now lacks youngsters in a massive way which is a crying shame as a lot of my life lessons were gained from these trips and explorations, camping, cooking, fires and so on at the time. There was no social media, just a weekly write up in the local paper, fishing magazines and stories and much was left to the imagination with trips based on what you wanted to do, not what was getting caught.
As the years rolled by, knowledge grew from trial and error, friendships were made and information shared. Ultimately results improved and this just fuelled the hunger to catch bigger and better fish. I am a dedicated person, when I set my mind to something I want I will give it my all and fishing gave me that platform to persist to achieve my goals and then set new ones and to keep evolving.
Adulthood then opened up the horizons again with money from a job and getting a car. The obsession grew stronger and now we could go for longer and further away new challenges presented themselves daily. Before I knew it, big fish were the only thing on my mind. Again my compulsiveness driving me to achieve my goals. By this time I was out as often as I possibly could be and I couldn’t get enough, though club fishing had dwindled my interest as competition fishing was getting very bitchy and myself and Carl decided to fish for ourselves and be in competition with nobody but ourselves.
Over the past 5 years we had upped our fishing to ultimate dedication level, getting out 3 to 5 days a week chasing specimen fish, travelling far and wide on the uk shoreline. Long walks, climbing, abseiling, camping as well as including fishing trips abroad to South Africa and the Canaries has given me some incredible memories and experiences with my most recent achievement being the holy grail for me which was breaking a British record.
One of the most appealing things to me with fishing has always been the solitude in rural untouched coastline but, again things have changed. Social media has boosted interest in the sport massively with many anglers being able to see what is achievable and information given freely is a good thing right? But with every positive a negative follows and now these untouched marks far and wide are now heavily fished, solitude removed and littered rocks and crowded marks replacing it. Plans of trips now have to be made factoring in other anglers dedication as well, and now it’s at the point that to get a spot you want that you would normally fish from say low water up, we find ourselves getting there at high to make sure we have a spot! It’s annoying but necessary when you’re travelling 100 miles at 2am to make this happen. I finally find it’s finally taking its toll on me and my interest is dwindling not in the sport but in the level of dedication required to simply get on my chosen marks.
Some life changes this year have made me take some time out from fishing and if I’m honest I’ve been glad to be out of the rat race. It’s given me time to reflect on my relationship with my beloved sport and I’ve decided that I have to reduce my time spent and when I do go, try to go back to my roots and fish for enjoyment. I am still going to hunt specimen fish as I still enjoy it, but more simple short fishing trips is what I’m going to concentrate on for the time being. Hopefully I can get back to getting my solitude and escape from every day life in the same way I did in my younger years, as I feel the effort required now is consuming too much time, thus making the fishing less enjoyable.
But with this in mind I look forward to setting myself some new challenges on other species I do not normally target and when I do get the chance I would love to target a skate and a stinger, as a personal milestone achievement to try and get 8 uk shore caught species over 20lb. Through dedication, I’ve been extremely lucky and fortunate to have had 6 over 20lbs, so seeing that skate and stingers are viable targets for my challenge when the opportunity does arise I look forward to trying to tick them off the list!