I fish because my grandfather did. It’s a simple and honest statement and one that many who come from a family of fishing folk will be able to relate to.
He was a man of few words, and even fewer expressed emotions. If he spoke his words were considered, measured and not uttered lightly. Small talk was not a part of his repertoire. A miner by profession and a gardener of some repute, his singular drive was provision and the pleasure that providing brought. Whether it be cod, coal or cabbage, he made sure that he was keeping us fed, warm or both. Towards the end of his life, 14 years ago this month, it became clear to me just how much that drive kept him alive. Once immobile he went downhill rapidly both mentally and physically, speaking and moving less in equal measure. Having said that, he managed to retain his dry sense of humour until the end, his last words being “You thought I’d gone then, didn’t you?”, after having been revived for the last time.
He never frowned upon my coarse fishing, but I always caught a glint of proudness in his eyes when I brought home a trout from the river or whiting from the beach. He was primarily a boat angler, always fishing for the table though he evidently got pleasure from it. He was very fond of one particular charter out of Solva in west Wales and this was one of his regular trips with the local deep sea angling club. I still have his diaries listing dates and catches back to the early 70s.
Amazingly I only ever managed to fish with him once. He was strangely private about it. It was his ‘thing’ and I can relate to that, although I do try and encourage my children to come with me. I can remember nagging him to join me at a local mark shortly after I’d passed my my driving test. My step father came along also. We pitched up at the roadside on a local estuary and spent the day catching whiting and small flatties. It was handy for him as he could sit in the car and watch his rod, a bright green, glass fibre Sealy with about as much flexibility as a lamp post which now lives on the shed wall. He still caught though and had a good day.
Looking back, I realise now that fishing allowed me to emulate him and in doing so cement our relationship. Despite being very close, I always felt that I wanted him to let me in more, and fishing talk did just that. I remember being 7 or 8, lying on the living room floor with one of his books and asking if he’d ever caught each of the fish, one by one. “No, no, yes, no…”, his exasperation was evident but he always had a wry smile on his face, and so did I.