All that was long ago

Contributed by Donald Walker (copyright)

In my younger days I was in the Royal Air Force and my fishing was not so developed then, but I do have a couple of stories from those times. After my square bashing and trade training, I was posted to RAF Bishops Court in Northern Ireland. I recall feeling a little peeved at the time, because the 2 airmen on the postings list before me, were posted to RAF Fonteinbleur in Paris. This was 1956 and I can recall being on guard duty at Bishops Court against the IRA even then, so what goes on there today is nothing new. Just a lot messier.

Bishops Court was a new type of RAF Station where the installations were spread out over a large area. This was to hide it in the countryside. Not too good for those who manned it though, we had miles of travelling every day, and as I recall it rained a lot -still, that's why Ireland looks so fresh and green I suppose.

The station was on the coast and although there was a small river running across the airfield I never ever saw a fish in it. So my fishing at Bishops Court was sea fishing. My lack of experience of rock fishing limited my success somewhat, although with time I did improve. There was a little salmon fishing off the beach, which I used to help with when my duties allowed. This was net fishing where the net was loaded into a rowing boat, leaving one end of the net pegged on the shore, the boat pulled off the beach until all the net was in the water hanging on large cork floats. The boat then turns back to the shore in a large U. Once on shore both legs of the net are pulled in decreasing the U and trapping any salmon, hopefully. When the last bit of the net is being dragged up the shallows it starts to get exciting, everyone craning forward to see what has been caught. Well they never caught a salmon when I was helping but they did catch plenty of other fish, most of which they seemed to throw back into the sea.

I got friendly with an old fellow who lived on the cliff top in a little wooden cabin. This chap had a 15ft rowing boat that he used to work crab and lobster pots in the bay before he retired, Now his boat was out of the water and he could only float it with help. This help was usually me and a couple chums who liked fishing. He didn't allow new fangled rods and reels on his boat we had to fish his method. The deal was he would take us fishing but he kept all the catch; fair enough, what would we do with it anyway on a RAF station? So we would drag this boat into the water and set off into the bay. We never went far. This old chap was a genius at finding fish. He would just look around for a few minutes then head off. I could never see a reason why but he obviously could. On arrival at the chosen spot he would just say "Right lads, get the lines in here" The lines were attached to 15ft poles and were a special length, so that when you got a fish you just lifted the end of the pole straight up, and the fish came hurtling out of the water, whizzed passed your ear to be caught by the old guy who unhooked them like magic and the feathered hook was back in the water- all in one movement. I really enjoyed these times but I'll tell you, after you've caught 5O fish in this way you just cannot go on. It floors you.

Another boat trip with this old chap took us to a wreck just off the point. You could see the masts sticking out of the water at low tide. We went at high tide and fished with silver sand eels. After a very short time I hooked into a heavy fish, which at the early stages when the fish was fresh and strong, took out all my line down to the last few turns. However, I managed to retrieve, as the fish grew tired. The old chap was quite excited and shouted that he could see the fish. I never saw it, for as the old chap lunged for it with his gaff, the fish must have seen him for it dived under the boat. The line rasped along the keel and parted, the fish was free. The fish was a Ling and according to the boatman it was the best fish he'd seen caught around that wreck. All that was long ago, perhaps though that wreck is still there. Wouldn't it be good to fish there again? Do I feel a holiday coming on?

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