Memoirs of an Angler of No Importance Part 12
Davy North had a great dad who was a good friend as well as an inspiration to his fishing - and he almost landed a record chub.......
MY DAD AND A MONSTER CHUB
Those of you who have been following this series will realise what an influence my father was on my life. As far as angling goes for those first formative years he was my sole partner. Totally without any angling experience, and purely because it was my infatuation to fish he became a very capable angler. In fact much more of a capable angler that I gave him credit for.
Except for his time spent on National Service with the RAF he'd worked all his life in the local steel industry, starting as an apprentice, and by the time he became another casualty of Mrs Thatcher's brave new world he'd worked his way up to Mill Manager.
In December 1984, three years after losing his job, he died of cancer aged 49. However I would much rather celebrate a life than mourn a death.
I'd like to think I've inherited a few things from my dad, and not just stubby fingers, and short legs. Having said that he always maintained his legs weren't short but just the right size, seeing as they reached the ground, and you can't argue with that. The great thing about him as an angler was his simplicity, and pure love for all branches of the sport. He seemed as happy dropping a pound of lead over the side of a boat, as he was trotting a stickfloat down a river. It was on the riverbank I think he felt most at home, and the place I always associate with him. Perhaps the love of running water comes with maturity, because at the time I was much happier fishing stillwaters, no doubt because in many respects they are easier. Nowadays though the magic of running water has me firmly under its spell.
Although I can now look back and admire my dad for his angling simplicity, there were times it could bug me more than just a bit. This was especially true when I started match fishing (something that was never his thing). While I was looking at ever more complex tactics, and taking myself far too seriously he just carried on doing what he did, and doing it well. Of course the thing that actually bugged me was when we did actually fish together - and these opportunities were getting fewer- he was more than capable of whooping my butt. I think I missed a valuable lesson there.
The old feller could always spring a few surprises. He once landed a tench of 5lb from Marske Reservoir on one of our Friday evening trips, on his typically simple sweetcorn, running leger, and swingtip. If you don't think a 5lb tench is anything special you're not fishing in the North East of England, not to mention twenty-five years ago. It was, and still is the biggest tench I've ever seen.
On our boat trips out from Redcar in the small inshore boats I only ever saw two double-figure cod landed, they both weighed in at 14lb and dad had them both, on the same day! I was about eleven at the time, and being early summer I knew there would be a fair number of people on the beach when we returned. I planned to stride ashore with those two fish over my shoulders leaving the day-trippers with open mouths and melting lemon tops. Unfortunately as we reached land a large and ominous thundercloud robbed me of my audience. Still undaunted I jumped from the bow and marched up the beach like Henry V at Harfleur, except he did it in full battle armour, and he didn't have a codfish over each shoulder. Perhaps history would have been different if he had.
However the most awesome fish my dad ever came in contact with he didn't actually land. This is not just another one that got away story, because over the last twenty odd years I've tried to rationalise what I saw, and perhaps try to shrink the fish in my own mind. The incident took place in the Piercebridge area of the River Tees, it was early April and we were trout fishing - fishing for trout with maggot was allowed then. Perhaps a more telling term would be attempting to fish for trout, because they had other ideas, not to mention that although Spring had officially sprung it still felt like January. With this in mind, and in an attempt to get warm I decided to down rod and go off and do a bit of archaeology. A year or so before a friend of mine had found a flint arrowhead in the shingle on this stretch of the riverbank, and I was very keen to find my own, (actually I'm still trying).
I'd only gone about fifty yards shuffling through the pebbles when I heard dads familiar whistle, I turned round to see him stood up, rod bent almost double winching in what I could only imagine was a dead weight. The rod he was using was his old glass float rod, one of the first he'd made himself, and to be honest it was a bit of a poker, it took a good fish to put a slight bend in it never mind lock it up. I walked back to him laughing and shaking my head, just waiting to see an old branch, or fertiliser bag break the surface, but when I got next to him he assured me it was a fish. I still didn't believe him, it was just a weight, no sign of a fight, but to my amazement slowly a fish did come into sight through the clear peaty cold tea-tinged water, and I couldn't comprehend what I was looking at. The thing was we were fishing quite a long way up the Tees, the area is a series of shallows, riffles and glides approaching the upper limit for coarse fish and much more suited to trout and grayling. So why now was I looking at a carp, a good fully scaled golden common carp? My question was soon answered when the fish broke the surface.
My identification had been somewhat askew, the golden colour was a trick of the peat stained water, the fish was actually quite silver, and when it opened its huge white mouth I realised it was a chub, an enormous chub, and by the look of it, it didn't know it was hooked. I grabbed the landing net, which looked a bit on the small side, and dad drew the leviathan painfully slowly towards it. It was only when the fish was inches away from the net, and the rod well past vertical that it realised its predicament, and did a quick about turn. It was also the moment that my dad's usual coolness left him, it was also the moment he wished he'd removed the anti reverse on his ABU 506 like he said he was always going to. Instead of slackening off the clutch, or even dabbing the line release he grabbed the line above the float. I shouted a warning, but it was too late. With one thrash of its huge tail it broke the totally inadequate line as if it were the finest cotton, and drenched us both. All we could do was stand there dripping, and thinking we'd missed the chance of landing the biggest chub anyone had ever landed, ever.
Seeing as this happened in the coarse closed season it wouldn't have counted as a record, but over ten years later the Tees did take the record at 8lb 10oz, the thing is I think the chub we saw on that day was bigger. Not long after our encounter in the early 80's the Tees suffered a bad, and hopefully its last, pollution, in which thousands of fish died. Amongst them, reportedly if not verified were chub over 10lb. A lot of people didn't believe it, but I did, because I think we saw one.
After that day I don't suppose we had that many more together. Shortly after he was made redundant he spent a year working away in Nigeria. When he came home he was already ill, and about eight months later he died. Altogether we'll only have had had something like twelve years fishing together, but I value them dearly. I'm also well aware I'm lucky to have had such a good relationship with my parents for many are not so fortunate.
I was, I didn't just have a great dad, but also a great friend, and now a great inspiration to love my fishing for the simple joy of it.
By the Same Author
- The Birth of a Piker
- Memoirs of an Angler of No Importance Conclusion
- Memoirs of an Angler of No Importance Part 12
- Memoirs of an Angler of No Importance
- Memoirs of an Angler of No Importance Part 11
- Memoirs of an Angler of No Importance Part 10
- Memoirs of an Angler of No Importance Part 9
- Memoirs of an Angler of No Importance Part 8
- Memoirs of an Angler of No Importance Part 7
- Memoirs of an Angler of No Importance Part 6