The Letters of Reverend E C Alston

Part 5 – January, February and October 1972

I do not want to spin these out, and the following three letters are not perhaps of the utmost importance. However, there are points of interest that I will try to highlight – if my deciphering skills are up to it – and there are some issues now and later where help and further information might be forthcoming from the readership I hope. Talking of which, thank you for some nice comments on these letters. They will not change angling today, but they do take us back to a calmer age and perhaps reintroduce us to the giants of the recent past.

January 15th (18th?) 1972

January 15th (18th?) 1972

Alston talks about a photo “of the instrument used to make hair lines”. Any ideas?

February 8th 1972

February 8th 1972

Any ideas, too, about the “diary of Lord Carnarvon” that Alston talks about? He and his parties had “some wonderful bags”. I presume of salmon?

The Reverend also talks of Buller’s trip to Scotland in search of “that large pike”. Is this the trip that he made to Lomond with Richard Walker, Pete Thomas, Reg Sandys and Bill Giles? If so, I have a story here. Reg and Bill were Broadland pike heroes of the old school, and Buller mentions them in his book, Pike. I fished a lot with both of them in the Eighties, during the great days of piking on the Norfolk Fly Fishers’ lake at Lyng. For many winters this was perhaps the most productive big pike stillwater in the country, with two fish at 39 and several more thirties taken during very limited fishing opportunities.

I became especially close to Bill who eventually gave me a Christmas present in around 1989. In the carefully wrapped box were a dozen hour-long cassettes that Bill had recorded during a trip to Lomond, as I have just mentioned. It seems that the five of them lived in caravans but came to Bill and Reg’s van for dinner and chats. Hence the tapes produced by Bill’s machine, placed on the table.

It took me time to realise what was going on. 70% of the conversation was dominated  by Walker, often speaking in different dialects and accents, which explains my confusion initially before I had realised fully the extent of his personality. Buller and Thomas contributed around 10% each and Reg and Bill simply talked about putting the kettle on!

Around 1995, I gave the tapes to Buller because he requested them and I felt they were going home, so to speak. I haven’t seen or heard them since so I can only say that, from memory, there was pike talk but not exclusively so. The Ouse cropped up a lot, as did the Thurne, which had just suffered from a prymnesium disaster. Obviously, I wonder where those fascinating tapes might be now..?

October 19th 1972

October 19th 1972

Well, speaking of Walker, here he is again, this time brought by Buller to meet the Reverend himself. Obviously, the event went well, with Alston liking him hugely, and what a coming together of greats took place in Warminster that autumn.

The majority of the letter is about a picture of a fox and a pike in 1723, and I would have liked more on Walker! It would seem that a good-sized pike was attacked by a fox, and to defend herself, fastened her teeth into the animal’s snout. Did this happening take place in Germany… ”the Countship of Waldslum”? Somewhere the story rings a bell in my mind but I cannot place it. Once again, I hope a memory is stirred out there.

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Dave Coster’s Fishing Diary – January