Caught by the River

Pike: Luke Jennings

23rd July 2010

Originally published in the London ES magazine on the 14th of February, 1997.

There is something both melancholy and fascinating about a fish in a glass case. What, I always wonder when I see some blackened old pike hanging in a pub, were the circumstances of its capture? Who, a hundred winters ago, saw this fish shining and thumping on the bank?
A recent catalogue for a sale at Bonhams of ‘Fine Fishing Takle and Cased Fish’ contained some intriguing lots, including several specimens caught by one Joe Lane of the Dalston Angling Society. In three consecutive weekend outings in November 1948, I discovered, Lane caught a barbel of 12lb 4oz, two chub of 6lb and 6lb 5oz, and two roach of 2lb and 2lb 4oz. In January of the same year he landed a 16lb pike. All came from the Hampshire Avon at Christchurch and were mounted by Cooper’s of Radnor Street, EC1.
I decided to go to the sale, and there I met Fred Jones, the current president of the Dalston Angling Society, and his son, Young Fred. The Society, founded in 1879, is one of London’s oldest working-men’s angling clubs, and until recently was based at a pub in Liverpool Road. When the Kings Arms was pulled down and no new home could be found for their cased fish, it was regretfully decided to auction them and to buy a lake for members’ outings. ‘There were tears in my eyes,’ Derek Feltham told me. ‘I’d have bought them all myself if I could.’ Derek has fished with the society for 43 years, and I asked him about Joe Lane.
Lane was a publican, I discovered, and famously free with his cash. As the weekend approached, he would telephone the Avon bailiffs and order a barrel or two of the worms poured into his favourite swim. He had his best fish mounted, and presented them to the Society.
As the Bonhams sale proceeded, Fred and Young Fred and Derek took turns to nip out for a nervous smoke. One of the first fish to be auctioned was a huge pike of 30lb 6oz, caught in 1928. Nearly 70 years later, it still looked splendidly daunting. In the end the Society’s collection did them proud, raising more than £13,000. Joe Lane’s Avon specimens alone went for £7,000. He may have been a bit flash, but they’ll remember him gratefully in Dalston.

Click here to read previous ‘Pike’ entries.
Luke’s book ‘Blood Knots’ (Hardback) is on sale in the Caught by the River shop, priced £15.00