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 Coarse fishing once enthralled Richard Bryson, and while it is no longer a hobby, he remembers the magic and challenge of waterside vigils in West Suffolk
Fishing was something to pass the time in my mid school years, that period before you discover girls, pubs, clubs and alcohol. Looking back it was a
fun, healthy, outdoor hobby and surely much better than being glued to a mobile phone for hours, or playing a computer game?
My first expedition, with cheap rod and line, was to the pond beside the Mill Hotel in Sudbury. We were in search of gudgeon, a very small, rather unremarkable fish, but quite easy to catch.
At that stage species like perch, roach, carp and pike seemed almost exotic. There was great excitement one day when the comparitive calm of the millpond erupted into much splashing and shouting. Someone had got a jack pike to take his spinning lure and instead of being tamely wound in like our humble gudgeon, this scaly predator leapt and dived to avoid being captured.
The latter emphasised there were bigger fish out there, so in the following years I fished the Stour by Sudbury’s ancient watermeadows, Rodbridge Pits, near Long Melford and - after school at Culford - a lake near West Stow. I must have reached my peak angling obsession when rushing out one Christmas Day, with new rod, tacklebox and keepnet, to spend a few chilly hours by the riverbank.
What was it that kept me sat by the waterside, staring at a float gently bobbing in the currents?
Probably the fascination of
a world beneath the surface. What was going to take my bait? How big a fish would it be? Would it put up a struggle?
With lake fishing it was the stillness of the water, the clusters of lily pads, perhaps a dragonfly darting by, or the comical quacking of a duck. Sunlight enhanced the surroundings still further, but grey, cloudy days tended to be best to catch fish.
Sometimes you caught nothing, but then there were the occasions you struck
lucky. A 2lb roach from the Stour, some decent sized perch and an 8lb pike from Culford lake. The latter was caught
using live bait which is now, thankfully, illegal. The fun of catching a ‘freshwater shark’ weighed against the cruelty of using a small, dying fish as a trap. Perhaps it was then that I began to lose interest in angling.
There was though, once last fling - a fishing holiday on the River Deveron in Scotland where, more by luck than skill, I hooked an 18lb salmon. In a hot, dry
summer the fish
were trapped in
pools rather than
able to move
about in full, fast
flowing waters. I
think it took my
bait through boredom and my father helped me land it.
In later years I occasionally joined my father trout fishing at Hanningfield reservoir and Rutland Water. It was more to keep him company than really enjoying the fishing. A hobby that once reeled me in had now floated away.
  Reflections of a one- time angler
The River Stour on the Suffolk/Essex border

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