Angling memories

Words by:
Barry Grantham
Featured in:
September 2023

I am looking forward to taking a friend fishing soon. He’s coming from the Netherlands for a couple of weeks’ coarse fishing and is hoping to christen the new pair of matching split cane rods and reels that I have made especially for him. I will take him as a guest to one of my favourite places to fish, not far from where I live. The place holds many memories for me.

I remember my father taking me there in the days when you could fish on a day ticket. Even then, I could appreciate the history and the atmosphere of the place – and atmosphere it certainly has in abundance!

While fishing there one night, I had a very unnerving experience. Imagine the scene: the daylight had faded and darkness had stealthily crept in, blanketing everywhere with an eerie, echoey film. It was so dark that I could not see anything. My sense of smell and hearing became more acute. I could hear the gentle plip plop of the fish as they rose to the surface of the water and I could have heard the proverbial pin drop. I was there, in the middle of nowhere, in the dead of night, all alone except for my faithful dog.

My tackle was all set up, bite alarm set at the ready, and all of a sudden I felt a cold chill go through me. I was absolutely terrified, yet I didn’t know why. I had heard nothing unusual, seen nothing out of the ordinary. To this day I have no idea what had made me feel so frightened that I could not move a muscle.

The whole atmosphere felt oppressive and threatening to me. After a while, the feeling eased. I have never felt like that again while fishing at night in the dark. Just the atmosphere surrounding the place I expect.

I did have another, less scary experience there on another evening, which was due to a hungry and very cheeky badger who I realised was helping himself to a boiled potato or two from a container that I had by my side, to be used as bait.

For a while I wondered what the snuffling noise was until the moon came out from behind a cloud and I could see the potato thief in action!

Now, I’m not too sure as to whether ghosts do actually exist, but if they do, they are certainly alive and kicking at this lake.

Some years ago, an old friend of mine asked me to take a few photos of the lake for him, since he had been very ill and most likely would be unable to ever go there himself again. He asked me to take various shots, particularly one or two of a very tall oak tree which was at the side of the path which surrounded the lake. I took my camera with me and tried to photograph the tree but my camera refused to work, it seemed to have jammed. After walking around for a while, I thought I would try one more time – and this time the camera worked at once.

My friend rang me as soon as he received the photos through the post. He said that he thought it was very clever of me to have taken the shot with my son standing beneath the tree, thus giving an indication of just how tall the tree was. But my son was not with me that day – nobody was, I went alone. When I told him this, he looked more closely at the photo. There was definitely someone standing near the tree, he said. He then showed it to his wife who instantly recognised the person as a young lad who fished the lake regularly but sadly had been killed many years ago in a motorbike accident. I then dug out some very old photos of the lake that I had been given some years ago and lo and behold, there he was, with a group of his friends. He was wearing a very distinguishable hat that he always wore, and that the lad in my photo was also wearing!

As if this isn’t proof enough of spooky goings on at the lake, another friend of mine called one day to show me a photograph that he had taken there. The photo was taken from underneath a tree which hung out over the lake and had a good deal of bracken growing near a path which was close to the tree. My friend asked my young daughter if she could spot anything unusual in the photo and immediately she said “yes, a girl and a boy standing in those ferns. They’re wearing funny clothes.” I thought no more of this until some years later, when I was told a very unsettling, but true, story.

There had been a weekend house party held in a local country house quite near to the location of the lake. A young boy and a little girl must have been bored with all the adults’ company and decided to sneak away and have a bit more fun. When it was discovered that they were missing, a search party was sent out to find them. Having scoured the area the pair were finally found, both drowned in the lake underneath the horse chestnut tree which was in my friend’s photo. Now I knew why my dog was very nervous whenever I walked him past that tree.

On a lighter note, I’m sure that you, like me, have many happy memories of favourite places where you like to go fishing.

I recall one night there, while camping out with my wife next to the lake, we were treated to the most amazing meteor shower that we had ever seen; shooting stars, beautiful colours lighting up the sky like a spectacular firework display. A memory made and never to be forgotten.

we had just enjoyed a bowl of home-made stew and a glass of wine with another friend of ours. The three of us marvelled at the most fantastic sunset, as the sun slowly dipped down behind the trees on the opposite side of the lake and it slowly became dark.

Fishing is a wonderful hobby to have, but it’s not just about tackle or techniques; it’s about enjoying and appreciating the surroundings that you find yourself in as well. It’s about making memories of the places where you have enjoyed fishing and the people whose company you have enjoyed too.

I hope my Dutch friend not only takes home two new rods and reels with him, but also a few happy memories of fishing with me.

Next time, I will tell you more about tying flies and the formation of the Lincolnshire Fly Dressers’ Guild.

Words: Barry Grantham

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