Far Bank The talk of the Thames...
With the appeal of vintage tackle and a classic rushing weir pool, Dom Garnett can’t pass up the offer of a boat trip with Steve Roberts
IS THERE a more evocative place to fish than a rushing weir?
It’s the smell as much as the relentless sound and movement. Water tumbles, leaps and hisses. Rowing our way towards the bubbling sill of the weir, I wonder if Thames guide Steve Roberts has the best job in the world.
Back in the day, city gents from London would board trains and flock here for fishing trips, providing a whole fleet of boatmen with customers.
Today the only punters are myself and Irishman Garrett Fallon, while Steve is the only working angling boatman on the river. Fittingly enough, he inherited this status and every boat directly from Roger Barnes, a legendary Thames angler who smoked and drank heroically while catching scores of large chub, barbel and salmon.
It’s probably with a touch of sacrilege that I warm up by casting rubber jigs with modern carbon. There are perch everywhere, ready to spring out and grab
hold. But the main event will be a crack at some river pike with a twist, because this is no ordinary guiding operation.
It’s easy to chuckle at tackle many decades old, but using vintage gear is an intriguing proposition. If the weir pool wasn’t classic enough, the split cane rod, complete with Fishing Gazette pike bung, seals the deal.
“Cane just feels different,” Steve enthuses. “It’s a living material, and those wooden fibres transmit a magical sensation.”
We gather a few bleak for bait as Steve positions the boat just where the fast water tails off and the water deepens. For a while, we are content with the sight of the float tips and sheer anticipation. Odd that in the midst of so much endless motion and boiling water, the world has never seemed more perfectly frozen.
But the peace doesn’t last. The floats start to bob nervously, before cane bends and battle is drawn in the swirling water. Perch bites come thick and fast but it is Garrett’s lean, fit river pike that steals the show and really tests his old cane to the extreme.
The action continues on an autumn afternoon when, for a while at least, time appears to stop entirely. We continue until the light is dropping. Dead leaves and darkening skies tell us that winter is coming, and that we’ll miss the train if we have one more of those “last casts” by the weir.
A classic autumn day on the Thames.
Perch remain an autumn favourite.