My first REAL fishing experience was over sixty years ago . We had moved into a new house and our next door neighbor, a guy called Jeff, just out of the army after the second world war, asked me if I would like to go fishing with him and his mate Joe who worked in the local colliery. The only "fishing" I had done till then was catching newts and tadpoles in a nearby pond, I did not even own a fishing rod. I had noticed Jeff loading his tackle onto his bike most evenings in that summer and could not wait to go with him.
We went to what was known locally as a Marl Hole, all I know is that it was a small lake that I think had been formed when some sort of disused quarry had filled with water. I watched as Jeff and his pal sorted out all their tackle and throwing lots of mashed up stale bread into the water. It was not long before they were catching fish which I was told were a variety of roach, rudd and bream, nothing big but quite a few of them. Jeff let me hold his rod and sure enough I got a bite, hooked and landed a small roach. From that moment I was hooked on fishing, Jeff said if I could persuade my dad to buy me some tackle I could go with them regularly. Fortunately I had a birthday coming up fairly soon and I made it clear to my parents that the only thing I wanted was some fishing tackle. Sure enough on my birthday there it was, a two piece split cane rod, a very basic wooden reel and a small selection of hooks , floats and a line
My first trip with my new tackle Jeff told me was going to be to the local canal, the Trent and Mersey, where we were going to try and catch some carp. By now it was winter and as it was dark by 4.30pm and not light till 8.30am most of the fishing was done at the week end. This Sunday morning we were leaving just before dawn and it was a real winters morning, thick frost with temperature below zero.
We arrived at the canal as it was getting light and I was surprised to see steam rising from the water. Jeff explained that hot water from the nearby colliery was pumped into the canal at this point, locally known as "The Warm Hole", which made it an excellent spot to fish plus we could sit on the pof sign up with our wellington booted feet in the water which was great. The main London -Manchester railway line ran alongside the canal and Jeff and his pal had collected some coal from the tracks, all steam trains then, and with plenty of wood available they soon had a good sized fire going on the bank behind us so with our feet in the warm water and a fire behind us we were very comfortable even in the freezing temperature.
Jeff explained that as we were trying to catch carp we would be fishing on the bottom so set my float up for me so that it was just half cocked. As usual we were using bread paste as bait but Jeff also had a few maggots that he had got by leaving some meat in his garden hut, you could buy them if you were lucky enough to go to the local tackle shop when they had some in stock. It was not long before Jeff's pal had a fish but it was not a carp just a small Gudgeon which I soon learned were a bit of a menace as there were so many of them. My eyes were glued on my float which I was willing to move which it eventually did but not by a fish taking the bait but because the lock gate not far from where we were fishing had opened and a barge was on its way.
In those days the canals were still used extensively for moving mostly coal but also many other products. Sure enough it soon came in sight and we had to withdraw our lines to avoid losing them. I can still picture the guy sitting at the back puffing on his pipe and shouting a greeting to us as he passed no doubt with a long day ahead of him even on a Sunday. Luckily it was one of the engine driven ones because had it been the horse drawn type we would have had to take our feet out of the water and move out of the way while it passed