Caught by the River

Shadows & Reflections – John Henderson

30th December 2009

In which, as the year comes to its end, our friends and collaborators look back and share their moments;

An odd year. I know it’s been a busy one as I couldn’t really say where it went. Other than that, when it comes to sitting down and thinking about the highs and lows, it hasn’t been straight forward this year. I can think of allsorts of things that happened, but isolating those that are interesting enough to write about is much harder. Hmm…

Perhaps the greatest sadness is the death of a family member. Something we unfortunately experienced this year with the passing of my last grandparent. She was a tough old bird, stubborn and difficult at times, but warm and caring at others. A product of that war generation who answered their call to duty, did so, and without fuss, got on with their lives afterwards. Nan was a staff driver during the war, taking the wheel of all sorts, she always liked to drive. Wartime threw her and my islander grandfather together and, when it was all over, she led a full and happy life on these shores. From her Devon roots, she went on to become a mother of two, grandparent of four, ran a Spar shop, then a charity shop, became a ladies golf captain, and also a keen supporter of old Maggie! It must be said, she often drove her husband, son, daughter and granddaughter mad. We still loved her dearly of course. She will be greatly missed this Christmas.

But where the life of one determined lady has ended, another has just begun. I won’t go into all of that mushy stuff, where people spout on and on about their own children, because I know it’s pretty nauseating for anyone else to have to read. I will just say that two is a wonderful age.

I guess related to this was the decision to step back from doing the site. Three years is a long time in internet land. Balancing career, family and fishing is never easy, and ultimately making a change had been on the cards for a while. Sometimes things have to give, family must always come first. It was a great time though, and I will always be grateful for the friendships and people it led me to. My thanks go out to all that took part and contributed over the years. There are still gentleman in angling.

Somehow it doesn’t really feel like finishing the site was a ‘shadow’ however. Perhaps because there was a certain freedom in not having the responsibility for the site anymore, but also because I’m really looking forward to seeing where a friend takes the same idea. Sometimes you get a better view from the top of the bus than from behind the wheel. In addition, a fitting send off will be the first (and last) so called PP ‘fish-in’ (sorry horrible term I know) day in February next year. A day I’m really looking forward to.

Enough of the down heartened stuff then.


Fishing trips were rare this year, but the ones I did have were very enjoyable. I’m lucky to meet up, and fish a few times a year with a group of gentleman that have never spoken a cross word to each other in over 3 years of angling together. Well except the incident with the Milbro Enterprise…but that was soon forgotten. In between we correspond via email on allsorts of nonsense, almost always non-serious in nature, but just occasionally offering a kind word of support to each other when not. The kind you would get from your mates down the pub I suppose. This year we only all met up in any significant number twice. The first time at a frozen lake for pike, the second at a rain swept Blenheim. Both trips were as enjoyable as ever.

On a similar note, I must thank Robin, for again showing me how the other half fish this year. A superb day in early June on one of the southern chalk streams. That he takes me to these places knowing I don’t really have the skill to do them justice, and risk his reputation also, is very much appreciated. At least I insist on buying lunch.

For the second year in a row, I also got lucky with the weather on a spring visit to the West Country. Managing to find a tiny, spate stream in perfect condition. Just one of those days, when catching tiny trout, on even tinier dry flies, is more than enough. Overgrown and mostly un-tendered, you don’t even feel embarrassed when your fly gets caught in the trees…

The summer was mostly spent introducing a couple of friends to the joys of throwing a fly rod around our coast. It was great to see the renewed passion for angling in two anglers that were perhaps slightly jaded by the carp scene. It wasn’t long till they started to outfish me… The rumour is next year we’ll mount kayaks, mostly because we lost count of the times we had to wade back, against a flooding tide, with fish still around us. The only sadness is seeing the average size of bass going down each year…I wish it was just us being rubbish anglers…but it’s the same in the local fish mongers. Let’s hope we never see The End of the Line locally. Join B.A.S.S if you fish for them.

The Royalty at Christchurch continues to be the thorn in my side. I’ve fished it twice this year and blanked both times…an Avon barbel is proving rarer than an X-Factor No1 this Christmas. A friend even had the audacity to flick a bait upstream from my swim, and got a bite whilst reeling in. Rolling meat my ****. Did you ever get the feeling somewhere wasn’t going to be your water?

It did all come together one night at a Yateley pit this summer though. One of only a few trips made on a stupidly expensive ticket, and for that I should be thankful. Likewise a bunch of us made it through the hurricane at the Lower Itchen Fishery a few weeks back. The worst (most dangerous) conditions I think I’ve ever fished in. All driving rain and falling trees… trotting was a challenge, but we managed to catch fish. I don’t have much luck when organising trips, the conditions are nearly always rubbish, then there’s that awful feeling that follows… you’ve somehow let everybody else down. Even when choosing a date months in advance.

Perhaps ‘rationalisation’ sums up my fishing year. In more ways than one. There have been less trips but of a higher quality. Whether that was in terms of time spent in the company of friends, progress, or particular venues. I’ve also had a dam good clear out of any fishing tackle I didn’t really need. Things had got a bit silly really, I’m not a collector by any means, and everything was more or less used, if only occasionally. But I still had more rods and reels than were ever realistically going to see ‘regular’ action. Having witnessed what parenthood (and a job change) can do to available fishing time, some of it had to go. Yet I’m still left with everything I need. It’s a nice feeling, sort of like when you tidied your tackle box as nipper, but on a larger scale.


Amongst the books I’ve enjoyed this year have been; ‘Downstream‘ by Tom Fort, ‘Fishing Bamboo’ by John Gierach, ‘Roving for Barbel’ by Andy Orme, ‘Powerlines’ – by Dexter Petley, ‘The Longest Silence’ by Tom McGuane, and this sites own ‘Caught by the River’ compilation. That all of the books I’ve read this year have been fishing related is very sad. I know there are a couple more under the tree… that’s not very culturally diverse is it?

As for music, parenthood has taken over again. We never made it to either of the big festivals held locally, or any gigs for that matter. I can’t even remember either of us buying a single album this year, actually I can’t believe that, but as I can’t name one, it must be true. I think we must be getting old.

Here’s to 2010. Merry Christmas all.