I think my first fishing rod came from Woolworths. It was white, telescopic, made of a plastic and fibreglass composite and measured 5 feet fully extended. What was appealing to me was the fact it came with a plastic reel, a float, some split shot, some spade ended hooks to nylon and a spinner but above all else, with the money I had saved from pocket money and various menial tasks I had endured in order to obtain my set up, I had enough left over to buy my weekly copy of the Beano and a sherbet fountain with the change. The time elapsed since that purchase ensures the price has eluded me but I remember the comic cost six pence and the sherbet treat only four.
I lived at this time in a small village in East Sussex which had a convent/all girls school run by nuns and within its grounds sported two small lakes. In able to fish these lakes one had to write attaining special permission from the Mother Superior. I dread to think of how my letters were worded but I suspect perhaps
that I would paint a very "rose tinted" picture of an angelic choirboy who hoped to fish only after attending Sunday school and my chores and homework were completed! What ever treacherous lies I penned seemed to work and a week later the postman would be greeted by me at the gate where I sped from my stake out position by the stair window getting a good view of his bike wobbling up the hill en route.
Upon tearing the letter open and acknowledging granted permission with a grin would waste no time in dashing to the kitchen cupboards and grabbing a bowl, a bag of flour and a tablespoon and fork to make up
my paste bait, a formula of three spoons of flour to one of water.
Having made a jam sandwich and a bottle of squash would put the bait and the rest of my tackle, all which fitted snugly in an old tobacco tin, inside a carrier bag and hung it from the handlebars of my bike. The rod
I lashed to my crossbar with a bungee cord and off I'd go. I don't ever remember taking a coat as I am sure anybody over forty would agree, every day was sunny and warm.
The first of the 2 lakes was just inside the entrance and I had been informed that contained the bigger fish but this was of no interest to me. I fished it a couple of times to no avail, the fish being bigger were wiser and far to smart to be out witted by a dumb Tom Sawyer like waif with no decorum, grace or finesse. Besides, I on my last try there, was greeted by a two foot grass snake that appeared to swim straight at me. I used to give the lake a wide berth after that.
The second lake was quarter of a mile across the grounds and hidden among some matured trees where I on occasion collected hazelnuts, sweet chestnuts and beech nuts to eat as well as a handful of conkers for my pockets.
I am not sure what fish dwelt in this lake as my targeted prey were beautiful golden crucian carp no more than two or three inches long. I would set up my rod at the bank and clamber down onto a tiny island which was only a foot and half across, just being big enough to stand or squat on and catch literally thirty or forty of them at a rods length out. After admiring each one would release it back into the depths of the lake. I would continue to fish until either my bait had run out or I had no more hooks to fish with. I remember trying to fashion a hook from a safety pin in order to carry on and piercing my gum trying to bend a shank into it with my teeth!
I have since visited my childhood Mecca, and as with wagon wheels and the curly wurlies of our youth appeared somewhat smaller, resembling mere ponds instead of lakes.