Back Along The Way - Part 1
Hutchy’s friend, Tim Paisley, takes an indepth look at the life of one of carp fishing’s giants, in this first of a two part tribute
Rod has been so much a part of Carpworld over the years that I was going to get together with him to tape some material for this 30th birthday issue of Carpworld. Then, tragically, he fell ill, was taken into hospital and died suddenly the week before I had a trip across to Louth planned to see him. His passing was a shock to everyone, and has left a void for family, friends and the world of carp fishing which can never be filled by one man. He was charismatic, influential, larger than life, and has left behind such a body of work that to do him justice in print is impossible. He was a talented, inventive, perceptive, intelligent carp-fishing pioneer, and I hope his writing will be accorded the place in history that it deserves. His writing was inspirational, and in this issue, and next month, we’ll revisit some of his work in his own words to illustrate his remarkable angling mind, and his extraordinary sense of humour.
Public figures, actors, film stars and writers live forever in the public psyche, and awareness, because their aura and their body of work never go away. Sadly, we’ve lost Rod Hutchinson but his presence will always be with us through his achievements, and his writings, which I have become very familiar with over the years through working with him on interviews, features and books, and publishing his last three major titles.
My first involvement with Rod on books was in 1982 with The Carp Strikes Back, which I proofed and helped collate. I have two strong memories of that book. One is sitting on Rod’s spacious livingroom floor at Marsh Chapel creating order from Rod’s disorganization, and compiling the files for each chapter. The second is that he didn’t have a title for the book until late in the day. He wanted a play on a film title, and I’m pretty sure it was daughter Emma who came up with The Empire Strikes Back as the film title Rod wanted to reflect.
By the time Carp Now and Then was nearing its final stages in the late 80s Rod’s domestic circumstances had changed and he was with Annie, and living in Union Street, Louth. I recall going across with Mary to do the final proof reading, which means there is an anomaly here. According to the lead pages Carp Now and Then was published in 1988, the year Carpworld was launched. As Mary and I didn’t get together until 1989 that publication date must be incorrect. It must have been published in 1989.
There was a period in the early 90s during which Rod was wrapped up in his business, and his annual magazine, Carpscene. I wrote for Carpscene, but I’m not sure I saw a lot of Rod in the early 90s. I think we were just ships that passed in the night for a few years, a course we were both well capable of sailing down! Eventually we got our act back together for the Hutchinson Tapes, which ran for two and a half years in Carpworld, compiled in Rod’s latest – and final – spacious living room,
at Legbourne. During these years he was collecting material for a tribute book dedicated to his heroes; those who had inspired him down the years. Earlier this century he asked me if I could help him with that book. I was willing to try!
He was living at Legbourne, near Louth, with partner Coral by this time. I went across and came away with boxes of pictures, hand-written material, and typescripts. I was stunned by the contents of the box. It included material from Rod’s inspirational heroes Maurice Ingham, Fred J. Taylor, Brian Mills and Jim Gibbinson, among others, but at that time there wasn’t enough material for a book of the ilk that Rod had in mind.
To my complete and utter astonishment, in that box was some material hand-written by Rod which he hadn’t even mentioned in connection with the tribute book. I read it in amazement and went back across to see him about it. “Oh, that?” he shrugged, “I wrote it in the sixties when I had aspirations to be a writer and it’s been lying around ever since.”
As it had been written almost 40 years earlier, and had arrived at Legbourne via Huddlestone Road, Grimbsy (an address I used to write to in the late 70s with some really dumb questions, which he always patiently answered), Marsh Chapel and Union Street, Louth, it was a miracle it was still ‘lying around’. It was autobiographical and in reality it was only partly to do with fishing, but I thought it was marvellous and needed publishing. The problem was that it certainly didn’t fit with the tribute ‘inspirations’ concept, and wasn’t really carp or angling magazine material, so where to from there?
That was how the Carp Along the Way books came into existence. Rod’s writing had always been inspirational. Among his early ‘carp life’ articles, ‘Along the Way’ and ‘Further Along
the Way’ had hooked me as a lover of Rod’s writing. His material made you think, smile, and frequently laugh out loud. His one-line punch lines could be epic, and some of them had stuck in my mind 30 years on from when they had first appeared in print. “How about we revisit those articles and couple them with the ‘rediscovered’ autobiographical material from the sixties?” He liked the idea, but was slightly resistant to the ‘Carp Along the Way’ title, which I’d actually dreamt up for my next book. He still wanted to use the ‘Somewhere Along the Way’, or ‘Back Along the Way’ idea, but the publisher in me wanted ‘carp’ in the title, so Carp Along the Way it was. To me it reflected the idea that carp were fairly incidental to the general tenor of the material, a fair reflection of much of Rod’s written work.
In fact the lost material, which gradually morphed into carp material with Rod’s growing addiction to carp fishing – and then the discovery and inspiration of Pinetrees Pool – comprised the first 21 chapters of Carp Along the Way – Volume One. It was material that had been lying unseen for nearly 40 years!
We started working together on his books in 2006. Carp Along the Way – Volume One was published in 2008, Volume Two in 2009, and, a mere 17 years on from its inception in Rod’s mind, Carp Inspirations in 2011. They were years during which my moods varied between frustration, near nervous breakdown, and euphoria at the quality of the material I was dealing with, and the end results. On reflection the euphoria prevails. Rod was charismatic, and larger than life, and to have worked with him over such a long period of time, and with such results, is a matter of considerable pride.
To make any attempt to summarise, or do justice to, Rod’s written body of work is impossible. In the event I’m going to include some extracts from his book material in the hope that will alert some of you, who don’t get it about Rod, to the scope of his talents. I’ll start with the one-liner that hooked me on Rod’s ‘life’ writing, which appeared in a Coarse Fisherman article in the early 80s. His car has broken down for the umpteenth time during a Norfolk holiday with wife Sue:
They were years during which my moods varied between frustration, near nervous breakdown, and euphoria at the quality of the material I was dealing with, and the end results
BELOW Early local success for Rod, the emerging carp angler
LEFT Rod, book and magazine signing, during the Carpscene years of the early 90s