Tuesday, 26 August 2008

The Winter of '63'

The first two days of January 1963 started with strong easterly winds. This trend was to dominate the rest of the month bringing in bitterly cold weather. Deal pier was closing most evenings because of lack of anglers.

Folkestone pier was the only venue that produced any fish; and they were dabs. Lugworm became hard to get and Brazils of Dover was selling 3 salted lug for 2/- (10 pence) as opposed to 2/- a score. Diggers used to get 5/- (25 pence) a hundred in those days.

On the 7th only four anglers turned up to fish the Deal Angling Club 1919 pier comp, therefore it was cancelled. Also cancelled was the beach comp on the 21st when only one angler turned up (OK so I was a glutton for punishment).

With the cold easterlies, snow and sea-ice, things started to wash ashore. Quite a few congers, lobsters and a porpoise were found in a frozen state. I heard that some were taken, thawed and eaten, I won’t say by whom, but he’s still alive and still fishes Royal Marine comps. On the 19th a mine also washed ashore at the top of Brewer Street.

There was not one fish caught on Deal pier throughout January and the ‘Fish of the Month’ was a 2oz starfish. It would not be until 13th February that the Pier staff recorded a fish being landed and the boats would not see a fish caught until March.

Tackle shops only just survived and diverted angling business by selling shotguns when some of the anglers turned to wildfowling and pigeon shooting. In those days it was easy to acquire a shot gun licence for about 10/- (50 pence) from the post office.

When the novelty of shooting wore off we decided to practice long distance casting. Duncan Finn (anybody remembers his tackle shop in the High Street) made a magnificent cast of 120 yards at Walmer Green. Duncan always said it was his technique and not brute force, however, believe me, you needed brute force to cast those rods.

The only decent production rod you could buy in those days was a 12 ft hollow glass monster made by Modern Arms of Bromley. It was mellow yellow in colour, had a fully corked handle with a chromed brass screw winch fitting. The rings were made with ‘Regalox’ eyes, supposedly unbreakable (strange why the tackle shop sold so many replacements), and it weighed a ton. The only way to enhance your cast was to use a Penn 150 Surfmaster, complete with 30 lb line.

So there you have it, the grimmest ever January for fishing at Deal and also for the local angler. Shortly after, the Celocant went out with the tackle shop owner’s daughter. I suppose that was combining pleasure with pleasure, anyway that’s another story.

Friday, 15 August 2008

The dogfish skinning contest

Many years ago fellow skipper, Allan Booth, owner of the Ramsgate based charter boat ‘Bonaventure II’, came around for a couple of beers.

On the sink unit in the Celocant's abode were two un-skinned dogfish that I had brought home to eat. The wife was going out for the evening but made me promise that I would not make mess of her kitchen.

A couple of beers turned into a session and as skippers do, we started to ‘swing the lantern’. A friendly argument arose on who was the better boatman and who was the most professional with a filleting knife.

To decide the best man, a dogfish skinning contest begun. My timed attempt was 28 seconds – although I did have a problem when its head parted from its body. Nevertheless, this was the winning time with Allan three seconds behind me.

By this time, all of the beers had been consumed and the task of cleaning up the kitchen had to be attempted before the wife came home. Between us, I thought that we did a splendid job. Not a bit of mess could be seen.

However, when Mrs Celocant entered the kitchen, she went berserk. Bewildered we asked what was wrong – the sink unit was spotless. It was then she beckoned to the ceiling. There was a red streak of blood and guts hanging above the sink. Needless to say, I blamed Allan.

Morale of the story – make sure the head stays on the dogfish when you skin it!!!!!!

Before anyone brings any dogfish around for me to skin – the answer is NO.
After the many thousands of dogfish and skate that I have had to skin for anglers in the past, I now have arthritis in both my thumbs.