It is with much sadness that my time on the Thomas Turner websites has drawn to a close. For me it has been a fascinating adventure and I’m eternally grateful to the Hewitt family for making it happen. It hasn’t all been good news. Like many who experience web vitriol from time to time, I wonder where it comes from, why detractors bother, why they feel the right to be abusive. Constructive criticism and even-handed debate are both eminently desirable, but nastiness in a sport we purport to love has left me frequently disturbed. I don’t think that I ever wrote a word I did not believe in and hoped would be helpful or interesting. I guess too I was always disappointed that those who did engage did so to be negative and little more.
But enough of that. John Stephenson has been a Trojan in at least helping me to understand the intriguing fascinations of tackle collecting. I’ll never get my head round why one Perfect will cost a hundred quid and another goes for a thousand, but that is JS’s lifetime experience for you. I loved the Redditch Tackle Fair, and my high point missed was my near-purchase of an Andrew Davis Avocet cane rod… looking back, God knows why I didn’t buy it on the spot. What actual fishing pleasure it would have brought me bankside in my declining years. I love the sustainability concept behind vintage tackle, and of course the new gear that a genius like Andrew can create. Fishing is a sport that feeds the soul and tackle of distinction only enhances the feast.
The sites have allowed me to air my views on conservation, which I know might have seemed half-baked. However, I feel deeply that today’s professional fish/water experts speak with huge academic weight, but not always with an equal experience of how habitats actually work in reality. The Wye and the Wensum are the rivers I love most and I vary between frustration and fury at the glacial slowness progress takes place… when in fact it does. Is either river in a better state than when I knew them in my childhood? Almost certainly not, despite a whole conservation industry that has sprung up within the last thirty years.
In keeping with the Thomas Turner ethos, I have tried to keep alive the memory of great anglers from the past. I suppose the best example of this hope would be the examination of the letters between Fred Buller and the Rev. Alston through the Seventies. When we were children, the heroes of even Victorian times were remembered. In the digital age, anglers come and go and are forgotten overnight. In the process, we have forgotten many of the essentials that make angling so important.
Angling literature has always driven me since since childhood and I have tried to spark interest in something like a TT Book Club… and largely failed. Anglers were historically readers, but I’m unsure if they are now. Angling and art continues to exist, if not flourish. I’ve looked at today’s eminent float makers, and admire Andy Field and Ian Lewis beyond words. Paul Cook also makes angling artefacts to gladden the heart. Roger Brooks carves your trophy fish copies for a ridiculously small sum… when I catch my 15 pound Wye barbel I will be hammering on his door.
Talking of barbel, TT’s websites have given me a platform to describe my own angling quests and challenges, notably attempting the capture of a barbel in each of the winter months. I’m sure this privilege is what drove me on to complete the job… had I simply been doing it on my lonesome, I would have given up in November!
Yes. The last fifteen months have been a joy – for me at least! I bought a new camera, and took photography seriously again for the first time since leaving film for digital. And how I loved settling down around 7.00pm, perhaps with a glass of something, roughing out thoughts for the next day’s website offerings. I wish TT and all who sail on with her well. And most of all, I thank the many of you who listened to my ramblings these months, even those who told me exactly what they think of me!
Here’s to fishing and the succour it can bring to another challenging year. Tight lines all of you!