From mackerel fishing off Chesil Beach to a ‘full bag’ landed at Lyme Regis - fishing in many guises

PUBLISHED: 08:38 20 July 2020 | UPDATED: 08:38 20 July 2020

Dick Sturch fihsing in Finland. Picture: DICK STURCH

Dick Sturch fihsing in Finland. Picture: DICK STURCH

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If I was to count the hours I have spent fishing by the number of fish I’ve caught then my pitiful return definitely does not warrant the effort I’ve extended, writes Dick Sturch.

Though if I look at it another way, most of those hours between each fish caught, for me, were of relaxation. There were exceptions.

Fishing for mackerel with feathers off Chesil Beach was quite a strenuous exercise although this was soon compensated for when those same fresh mackerel were put straight onto the barbecue of our friends who lived just 19 minutes away and the accompanying glass of cooled Sauvignon Blanc made it all - well, heavenly!

As you will probably surmise from my recollections I am not now a regular fisherman. I’m really an opportunist who takes advantage of those who are far more enthusiastic and can provide the venue and equipment, though in my younger years I was brought up in the company of avid anglers.

My earliest fishing memory is from when I was 5-years-old and trips to the River Tern near Wellington, Shropshire. My Uncle Joe would take me, sat on the crossbar of his bike, to which the rods were also tied. The rest of the tackle and bait would be in the bag on his back.

Joe was a keen angler and, on a Friday night, after finishing work, he’d cycle down to Atcham. Once there he would stake out his pitch on the bank, light up a cigarette, have a chat to anyone near and set up his rods for whatever fish he was after. This stretch was good for barbel, roach or perch.

Having laid the keep-net in the water he’d light his small primus stove for a brew before settling down to enjoy a night of fishing.

I went with him several times, riding there on my grandfathers heavy, pre-war bicycle.

After I moved to Devon, fishing became an integral part of growing up. Living on the ‘Camp’ at Millwey Rise, the Axe was in easy striking distance as was Millbrook and the ponds that are now underneath the Cricket field at Cloakham Lawns.

It was these ponds that provided a good return on time invested in the form of tadpoles.

Armed with jam jars tied with string we would scoop up these black wiggly things several at a time which were then transferred into another jar full of water to carry them home.

We surreptitiously fished many stretches of the Axe, from above Weycroft Mill down to Cloakham always with one eye out for the farmer or water bailiff.

I have to say our rewards were usually disappointing! A good day would be a couple of eels caught on a worm at the end of our home made tackle.

Only once did I have the excitement of catching a trout worth taking home, but then never had the heart to kill it and so put it back in the river.

Where the Axe flows beside the railway line close to Millwey Rise football pitch was where we swam and sailed our raft. This was constructed of oil drums, wood and rope and provided a great platform from which to fish.

The eels loved the worms we used but it was a real pain to get the hook out of their mouth after we caught them.

The famous ‘Devon Belle’ train came past our pool at 3pm everyday and the driver would always sound the whistle if we were there and we would wave and watch the unique rear observation cars disappearing towards Axminster.

Then possibly collect the penny, now squashed, that one of us had put on the track before it arrived!

When our relatives came down from Shropshire for the summer holidays sea fishing was definitely on the cards either at Lyme Regis or Beer.

At the latter we would all climb into a hired row boat, or if someone was feeling rich, one with an outboard motor.

My father was always grateful for a boat with an engine as he was the only one who could row, so always landed up with the job. Hand lines were provided together with slices of mackerel for bait and rarely would we return without any fish.

When Joe was staying with us his specialty was ‘soused mackerel’.

My favourite destination was the Cobb, Lyme Regis where we would go out on a boat with a skipper.

Two hours for ‘five bob’ (25p) with everything provided and share the catch. On one occasion my father and I went out together with half a dozen other people on board. We left in reasonable weather and had spent about an hour with rods and lines out and the catch looking good. Then the wind got up and the boat began rearing and rolling as the sea began to get rougher.

It wasn’t too long before we had our first casualty with his head over the side. Once one started everyone else, bar the skipper, my father and me, followed suit.

Very soon the general consensus was they wanted a return to land as the boat rose and fell even more in the ever climbing waves.

The skipper made some suitable comments to my father and apologised for having to cut the trip short.

The outcome was when we got back to the Cobb, the others were so keen to disembark they never bothered about their share of the catch and so the skipper turned to Dad and aid: “Looks as if they’re all yours.”

Then he provided us with a sack to carry them home in. It didn’t take Dad too long to dispose of them at a profit when we got back to Millwey Rise!

Beach fishing I found most relaxing. Casting out then settling back knowing full well the chances of any reward were remote. The only beach, apart from mackerel at Chesil that I have caught fish from is Charmouth where, one afternoon, I landed three whiting.

My only experience of fly fishing was an absolute embarrassment!

I was invited out one evening by my new senior manager to join him fishing on the Exe.

I turned up casually dressed with my 6ft rod, reel and accoutrements still in the same plastic cover in which I had bought them.

I was horrified when I met him at the designated rendezvous to find he had already changed into his waist high waders, camouflage jacket and a hat bedecked with lots of different flies. His rod was about 10ft long and the alloy reel looked enormous and the line made mine look like cotton thread.

I apologised profusely and spent the evening watching him flicking a selection of artificial flies as he attempted to lure the uncooperative trout in the river, but without success. I think this was the foundation on which we built an excellent working relationship over many years.

I suppose the pinnacle of my angling exploits was fishing off a remote island in the middle of the Baltic Sea.

My company had been bought by a Finnish enterprise. To stimulate and bond managers of both companies we joined them at their headquarters in Turku and spent a couple of days getting to know their personnel and product range.

We were then taken for further presentations and relaxation on a long boat trip to an island they owned somewhere in the Baltic.

There seemed to be an excess of alcohol on the boat and it took a long time to reach the island so not too many of us were in a fit state for the introductions to the line of dignitaries waiting to greet us on the jetty.

I remember shuffling past them shaking hands, still dressed in my swimming trunks and carrying my holdall. I quickly retired to a quiet spot for a ‘nap’ and woke up next morning to find they were ‘quite worried’ that I had disappeared overnight. I was instructed to have a sauna and then jump off the end of the jetty into the freezing cold Baltic before I had breakfast. It worked as you can see from the picture of me fishing a little while later, but what I can’t claim is that I caught a fish in Finland. After that whenever their management came to visit us I was always reminded of my trip to the island.

I don’t think I was a ‘born fisherman’, but I have never participated in a sport where relaxation provides so much reward for the effort it takes! Tight lines; Dick.


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