Having found myself suddenly single and at a loss, I decided to test the old proposition that there are always “plenty more fish”. No, not by cruising tinder for hookups, but by actually going fishing, something I hadn’t done since I left New Zealand. My cousin Andy supported me in this goal, and proposed a trip to Hythe to fish the well-known canal there.
I was a little concerned when I woke up that morning to a grey day and howling wind, but Andy was still optimistic. So we hopped on the bus to Hythe, a coastal town to the west of our home in Dover.
Disembarking in town, we made our way straight to Mick’s Tackle Shop where Andy helped to furnish me with the required equipment. Used to trout fishing with spinners in my home country, I was baffled by the array of floats, feeders and baits. With some coaching I selected my starting kit and even got a discount from the nice Singaporean woman looking after the store. Andy then enquired if she could supply maggots, for which she directed us to another shop further up the road.
I never thought I’d see the day I’d spend good money to obtain a box of writhing live maggots, but life is funny like that.
Fully kitted out, we proceeded to the Hythe Military Canal, a 45km long canal created between 1804 and 1809 to render the Romney Marsh unconquerable during the threat of Napoleonic invasion. Conditions were still a little dreary but not too bad as we headed up the path along the south bank of the canal, searching for a decent fishing spot.
Andy demonstrated the use of a feeder which produced no results, then decided that watching me fish was no fun and ran back to the shop to obtain a rod of his own (having recently lost most of his gear). He returned with rod and the obligatory package of ciders to help us while away the hours.
Next we trialled the use of floaters, loading our hooks with the lively maggots I had so grudgingly acquired. And at this moment I experienced the triumph of catching my first fish in Europe!
Tiny tench returned to the water (hopefully to survive!) we moved up the bank and tried the same strategy again. Thankfully, my tribulations of touching the maggots in order to thread them on to a hook once again proved worthwhile, and I pulled an even bigger fish from the canal!
Andy identified it as a “skimmer bream” as I showed it off before releasing it. Now the competition was on, as we both pressed our efforts to catch the next one. As we waited we were greeted by the bailiff’s wife, who requested five pounds off each of us for fishing this stretch of the canal. Never have I more respected Jock McKenzie, who not only championed “land for the people” but also “fishing for the people”, bringing the notion of public ownership of coast and riverbanks into legislation.
We saluted an elderly couple rambling along the bank and they asked us if we’d seen any kingfishers. Apparently they’d not seen any for quite some time. But all it took was for us to stand still a while before we saw the tell-tale blue flash as an angler of the avian variety flew past.
But never mind that! We are here for the fish, and soon I pulled my third from the murky drink!
I prodded Andy, suggesting that perhaps he should take lessons from me rather than the other way round, which he received with the dignity one would expect from the English race (the word “bollocks” only figured approximately once).
Bu the tables were shortly to turn, as Andy’s lure was the next to bob down below the surface, and he pulled out his first fish of the day!
By that time things were starting to get late, and it was time to bus our way back to town, satisfied with our achievements for the day. I stopped only for a kebab and a drink at the local pub on the way home (for the true English experience) before falling into bed, slightly damp but highly pleased with my first day of fishing in Europe.