Funny old world we live in… I had a bloke say to me a couple of weeks ago, “You don’t seem to be putting the time and effort into your fishing like you used to.” Well if the last ten days are anything to go by, I’d hate to be fanatical about the sport. Just for the record I’ve travelled close to a thousand miles, visited 17 different counties, walked enough miles to kill a Camel and fished four days as well. The fishing bit was something special though (more of which later.)
It all started with a casual call from my old mate Jon Bannister. “What you doing next week?” Having not planned anything special I made the mistake of saying, “Nothing in particular” to which the reply was, “about time we did some angling mate, we haven’t had a session for ages.” Well for those that know JB you will know where this is leading, for those that don’t, let me just say this, JB never ever does things by half measures. It’s either full on or not at all and when I’m involved with the proceedings it’s always the former.
I set off on the two hour journey at 4am on the Tuesday. Everything went smooth, hardly any traffic on the road, a pleasant sunrise, and the old van behaved perfectly. I got to the gate at the allotted time, where’s JB? A quick call soon eased my fears. “I’ll be there in ¼ hour, better still meet me at the Tesco Express – it’s only a mile or so up the road, we can get some provisions.” Sounded like a plan to me so off I went, even found Tesco’s without a hitch. Shopping done and enough food to feed an army I got back in the van and turned the key, nothing, not a sign of starting. This was more like it. About an hour or so later we eventually managed to get the old girl going. I followed JB to the gates and through we went. At first sight the lake looked large, on second viewing it looked massive, at least a mile long and probably 600 yards wide at the widest point.
We arrived outside the caravan at which point my illustrious chum suggested we have a brew. As we sat on the patio with a coffee, I felt the need to ease my fears, after all I was only here for 5 days and at 200+ acres the joint looked a little bit daunting to say the least. “Nice looking lake mate, where we going to start.” “That’s not our lake, the one we are going to be fishing is at the other end of that, well actually that’s not strictly true, it’s at the end of the lake on the end of this one, not far really only a couple of miles”came the reply. A couple of miles? I don’t go that far for my holidays! Still I put on a brave face, not going to let him know that this was in anyway going to faze me – afterall I walk up the stairs at home at least twice a day. I mean what’s a two mile walk with more tackle than most shops, and without a barrow too… “Best we get started mate, it’s going take time to get all the gear up there plus we got the bait as well” to which my pal looked somewhat bemused. “Do you think it’s worth dragging all that gear up there just for the day, after all weve got to go to Greys in the morning and to get there for a reasonable time we are going to have to leave fairly early – it’s a 4 hour journey from here.” To be fair JB did mention that we would be going there, just that in all the excitement I had forgotten about it. “What I thought we should do today was go up and put some bait out then get a good nights kip, I’ll pop into town and get us some fish and chips later, there a great shop in town they do two Panga and chips for a fiver, amazing value and the fish tastes great too.” Now that sounded like a plan after the exertions of the morning, I was feeling worse for wear.
With a rucksack full of bait and a baiting spoon off we set across the Melling road and into Beaches Brook. At the far end of the big lake a flock of black headed Gulls look like Sparrows in the distance, as we walked across the marsh land a pair of Oystercatchers came into view. The wildlife was truly stunning. “See that big hill in the distance, they call that cardiac hill, a real killer. I walked up there the other day and it nearly killed me – thought I was going to have a heart attack.” I could not help chuckling to myself – it didn’t look like much of a climb, maybe if a fit bloke like JB was struggling to walk up a small mound of dirt there was hope for me yet, maybe I was not as unfit as I thought! Forty minutes later that small mound of dirt now looked like Ben Nevis, I broke into a sweat just looking at it. But what actually happened was at that point I realised the scale of the undertaking – after all we were only a little over half way to our intended destination. What had I let myself in for?!
Eventually we did arrive at our destination. The pure toil that was involved was worth every arduous step. The lake was truly stunning, one of those forgotten paradises that you occasionally find. No swims cut out, no trodden bank side vegetation, just pure tranquillity. At that moment in time the size of the lake’s inhabitants paled into insignificance, just a Carp, any Carp, would be a real achievement. All too soon the baiting up was completed and the time had come to make the journey back to base. Somehow the return journey seemed less arduous, as we swapped opinions about the lake’s possibilities.
Back at base the time had come for some grub, and the subject of fish and chips soon cropped up. The anticipation was almost unbearable as we queued for our meal. Unfortunately that’s about as good as it got. Panga whatever the hell it is must be without doubt the worse tasting fish in the world, no wonder it was only 30 bob in real money, in fact I reckon at two bob (10p for all you young ‘uns) we would have been robbed! Bloody stuff should come with a health warning. Still all part of the adventure I suppose.
Still at least the bed in the caravan was nice and all too soon the alarm sounded and the adventure was to continue. We even managed to set off before the scheduled time which in itself was a real achievement. “Up the M6 is our quickest route, then we just need to cut across country further up, did it that way once before, was a doddle.” Who was I to argue I get lost coming home from work. Though it did seem slightly strange that we were on the A1 (well almost) and our destination was also on the A1 but like I said what do I know. Manchester came and went; the Lake District also came and went. “Take a look at the map and see what junction we need, find the shortest route.” Now reading maps is definitely not my forte, I have a sat nav so don’t get to practice as much as I should but still can’t be that difficult can it. A quick study of the map soon showed the most direct route. “Come off at Junction 38 then we just head sort of North East” I said. Just as we were approaching the exit, climbing a really steep hill, JB’s bus decided to have an epileptic fit. Shaking so violently that my tobacco and lighter jumped off the dash board. The next 4 miles were like something out of Star Trek, when the Klingons bombard the Enterprise with death rays. “Don’t worry my mate the mechanic said it’s nothing too serious, only some bit of rubber missing from the engine mountings.” Don’t worry? That’s easy for him to say, it got to the stage where I almost took my false teeth out just in case I bit my tongue off. Then as suddenly as it started it stopped again, and some form of normality returned.
Now when I looked at the map the roads after Junction 38 looked good, a short stretch of A road then a few minor B roads, easy. Doh. The A road was fine the 17 miles soon got eaten up, the B roads on the other hand, I’m sure they are sheep tracks. The North Pennines must be some of the most stunning scenery in the United Kingdom but whoever set those roads out must have had a skin full. To make matters worse the fuel tank suddenly went from just under half to reading empty. “We will have to get some juice” said my driver. “There are a few towns on the way, pull in at the first garage and we can fill up.” “There’s a village coming up in the next few miles – there’s bound to be a service station there” I said. Well the village consisted of two houses, the next one not much better that had six houses, and so it continues for the next 60 miles. For someone like me who tries to make sure these things don’t happen, this journey was becoming the trip to hell. If we ran out of juice, we may never be found, the only time anyone would know we were missing was when the wife ran my bath next Easter and I was not there.
Just as we eventually got to a largish town, the bloody fuel gage went up to half full. “I reckon we have got enough to get there” said JB. To be honest I was at that stage pretty much past caring with my nerves shot to pieces. Fair play to the man we did actually complete our journey and arrived in Alnwick 6¼ hrs after we left. Although I need to say I got in the van that morning a young man at heart, I vacated it a grumpy old man. As surprising as it may seem we did come home via the A1 in little more than 5 hrs at that included calling in to see Rob Johnson for the best part of an hour. Back at the van I asked JB, “Even by your standards that must of been a hectic day.” To which he replied “pretty much normal son.” Hence the title of this piece ‘So you want to be a full time angler?’, well for me if that’s the norm you can shove it where the sun don’t shine. I’ll get back into LJ’s world. As for the fishing well I’ll let JB recall that tale.
The point of this story is sometimes we don’t have a clue what’s involved in fishing for a living. We are often quick to say “It’s ok for him” or “no wonder they catch they are in some privileged position.” The truth is its hard going at times and living the dream can sometimes be a nightmare if you don’t have the right frame of mind and you’re not mentally cut out for it. I have known JB for more years than I care to remember and I have often thought he is a complete lunatic, well that’s just been confirmed to me yet again. I know I work hard for a living but when we got to that swim I was all bar finished but JB worked at it all night and was up at 5am the next morning and yep, you’ve probably guessed it, first night on an unknown massive pit and he caught a beautiful common. There is no such thing as luck, these boys get exactly what they deserve, top respect.