And now by way of a change, for some light relief (and a modicum of self-indulgence), it’s time for a little fishing. Last week my attention was drawn to some angling nostalgia via Twitter, the name Mr. Crabtree suddenly invoked numerous childhood fishing memories…
Most anglers in the UK, over a certain age and passionate about their sport, can’t have escaped knowing that Mr Crabtree Goes Fishing, if they did, they missed out on the wonderous tales, at least for a child, which ultimately inspired a generation to go fishing. There can be few anglers, who were brought up in the 50s and 60s, who weren’t influenced by the adventures of Mr Crabtree and his son Peter. Indeed, I was immediately consumed by a tide of childhood fishing memories which came floating back.
Mr. Crabtree Goes Fishing: A Guide in Pictures to Fishing Round the Year
Recollections of wandering along the river bank in the morning mist, with my split cane float road and a hand-me-down centre-pin reel, whilst looking for a prime spot. Sitting by a clump of rushes munching on my cheese sandwiches, my eyes firmly fixed on the homemade quill float bobbing up and down in the ripple of the stream. Waiting for that exciting moment when it plunged to the depths of the river, hopefully because of a fish taking the worm.
But it didn’t matter if that sudden indication was due to a snag in the river bed, or some piece of partially submerged debris or rotting vegetation. No, the fun and relaxation was being at one with the countryside and nature. Listening to the birds in nearby bushes, or the rumble and clanking of a farmers tractor in the fields across the opposite river bank, whilst experiencing the warmth of the sun break through the morning mist and creat sparkling patterns in the surface of the river.
Catching fish was almost, but not quite, ancillary to the overall ambiance and experiences of the day. There were many days then, and still a few since, when I’ve trudged home slightly despondent due to a lack of sporting ‘action’ however; any time spent fishing is better than working. It always brings a broad smile to my face.
The very personification of the perfect fisher-father. Every boy dreamed of being in Peter’s boots, of being taken to the riverbank, to a pre-baited swim, to fish for “Glass-Case” specimens with this master angler. These experiences are as real and relevant to today’s angler as they were when Mr Crabtree first appeared in the Daily Mirror, and later in book form in “Mr Crabtree goes fishing” (1950)…(amazon.co.uk)
Regular readers of The Angler’s Mail will already be aware, the story of Mr. Crabtree is set to reappear on TV screens soon. John Bailey a UK angler, writer, and photographer is to present a new TV series created in homage to the late Bernard Venables and the legacy of Mr. Crabtree (see here). The search is also now on to find a modern-day ‘Peter’ to star in the new TV show (see here).
Childhood memories of Mr Crabtree also made my mind wander to other angling nostalgia, characters like the author and 1960’s TV presenter Jack Hargreaves (a friend of Venables). He was probably best known as the gentle-voiced presenter of the weekly magazine programme Out of Town, which followed the success of his 1959 television debut with the B&W series Gone Fishing. Hargreaves loved angling and was concerned at that; due to “sociological, technical and financial” reasons, angling had become tribalised by class and species. He wrote “Fishing for a Year” which was published in 1951 and argued “for regression” – the pursuit of different fish, in separate places and varied methods throughout the licensed seasons.
More recently my fishing memories were enhanced by the angling career and writings of Chris Yates, another man with a true Passion for Angling – his love of fishing was turned into a much acclaimed series by the same name for the BBC. Chris, a record holder in Carp fishing, along with another famous angler, Bob James, took us on a wonderous fishing adventure across Britain. The voiceover to the series by Bernard Cribbins still hums through my ears…
It’s through the dreaming eyes of childhood that most of us are captured by a passion for angling.
The greatest series of films ever made on fishing. The magic of Hugh Miles’ photography and the contrast between Bob James and Chris Yates captured anglers and non-anglers alike…(Angling Times 2003)
Going further back in time than Chris Yates or even Mr Crabtree, the 17th century English writer Izaak Walton was probably one of the first to write about angling as a pastime. His book The Compleat Angler was first published in 1653, but Walton continued to add to it for a quarter of a century. It was and is a celebration of the art and spirit of fishing in prose and verse, one that many have heard of but few have actually read.
All this passion for the sport, although centuries later, was the obvious inspiration for the production of a similarly named film (see below). The Complete Angler documents the adventures of an American student and angling enthusiast, who visits England to follow in the footsteps of Walton.
I hope this bit of angling nostalgia has in some way explained my drive and desire to go fishing, along with illustrating how it has influenced my love of the sport… Tight Lines!
- Cerys Matthews hooked on angling (thesun.co.uk)
- Buying your first fishing rod. (ladiesfishing.co.uk)