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

Angling Times (UK) - - WELCOME -

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.

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