MY old mate Doug ‘the ancient angler’ Millsom called me up this week to chide me for ignoring his fellow fishermen.
“You only ever write about boats and boat-owners,’ he said, “while us poor fishermen are being pushed off the river. There are notices springing up everywhere saying ‘no fishing within 20 metres of this sign.’ It used to be the case you could fish virtually anywhere but those days are long gone.”
I do take Doug’s point – certainly down on the Weybridge towpath opposite the weir at Shepperton where Doug used to fish regularly, there do seem to be a host of restrictions, which have appeared since the new boat moorings were constructed.
But to prove that I have nothing against the rod-dangling fraternity, how about this for an excellent fisherman’s tale?
Tim Carter from Weybridge Sailing Club took his son, Joe, 23, on a fishing expedition back in October – before the river got into its present state.
Joe, an operating department practitioner in a local hospital, had only recently taken up angling so the chance to spend a few days with his dad, a very keen fisherman for many years, was an excellent opportunity to learn from an expert.
I’ll let Joe take up the story.
“We went out in our boat, ‘Old Lucius’ and ended up just downstream of Chertsey Weir.
“Dad had taken four days off work and this was our first day out. We’d been fishing for a while when I felt a pull on the rod and I knew it was something big. It took me a good five or six minutes to land the fish but when we got it into the boat I was amazed – it was just huge.”
The ‘it’ in question was a very handsome pike that weighed in at 16lbs 14oz. The picture shown here is of Joe with his prize catch that he and his dad put back into the river to swim another day having recorded the proof.
Tim Carter pointed out: “This is not a particularly big Thames pike. Every year Thames weir pools produce pike in excess of 20lbs. In 1987 Bill Rushmer, of Francis AC, caught a 33lb 6oz pike out of Teddington weir pool, which remains the tidal Thames pike record.”
I asked Joe how his dad had reacted to his triumph. Joe replied quietly: “I think he was just a little bit envious.” I’ll bet he was!
GOING back to Doug Millsom, he was telling me the story about a feature he called ‘the hot water tunnel’ which emptied into the Thames just by Desborough Island.
He said: “When I was growing up in the 1930s and 40s me and a lot of other youngsters often went swimming in the river by Desborough Island. Just by the end of the island where the pumping station is, there was a mound that had a big concrete tunnel emerging on the bank. We used to crawl up it a little way – we wouldn’t go too far for fear of getting stuck but we used to call it the hot water tunnel because the water around it was always warm.
“There was a story that it was originally a bolt hole from Oatlands Palace when the royals used to stay there but I don’t know whether that’s true.”
Do any other readers remember this tunnel – and can anyone enlighten me (and Doug) as to what it was really built for?