Over Christmas I was sitting with some old mates in the Leeds Anglers Club and, as usual, we were chatting about the old days and one of the topics that came up was the characters that we used to have in the sport. These days they are very few, if any.
Between us we started to compile a list of people that we knew who stood out from the rest – if not for their angling prowess then for the capers that they got up to.
Such names as Joe Sapcote, Howarth Sidebottom, Dudley Adamson and many more came to mind.
Joe Sapcote was an ex-miner who had to retire after a pit accident and to supplement his pension he had a number of sources of income.
I well remember as a young lad in my teens going to the old club when it was situated in the market buildings and joining the queue to buy my hand-tied fishing hooks from him. In those days there were no such things as spode ends and anglers had to learn to tie their own or purchase them from the tackle shop. But Joe’s were a much better and cheaper alternative.
One of his other sidelines was to peg out the society fishing contests and seeing that he had a motor bike and sidecar he had no problem in getting to any of the venues.
In those days paper pegs were used which had to be put in the day before any contest and the Ouse at Dunsforth was a very popular spot, as it is today.
Also at the time, both banks of the river were used so to get to the other side a ferry was used, usually manned by a couple of local farm lads.
But one day when Joe turned up they were nowhere to be seen, and after he had put in 100 pegs on one bank he still had 50 to put in on the other side.
It was a scorching hot day and Joe was fed up with working so without any hesitation he stripped off and swam to the other side, towing his gear behind him in a plastic bag.
With his job completed he repeated the process for the return journey.
When Joe eventually passed away his job was taken over by a chap from Rothwell called Howarth Sidebottom and he too was a bit of an eccentric.
He did not have any transport so to get to his destination he had to use public transport and to get to such as Dunsforth entailed the use of four buses plus some long walks. Sometimes when he had finished it was getting dark so he regularly used to sleep in an abandoned caravan which had been left at the back of the local pub and on the Sunday after the match he would regularly scrounge a lift from someone who had a spare seat in their car.
It was rumoured, at the time, that before he used the old caravan the nearest convenient haystack would suffice!
They do not make them like that any more.
That pegging out job would be redundant these days as most venues are permanently pegged out with numbered wooden stakes. Another one who comes to mind is Harold Cutts, another ex-miner.
He was a lovely guy but was prone to exaggeration about his catches.
He fished near to me one day on the Wharfe at Wetherby and caught hardly anything but the following day in the tackle shop he was telling all and sundry that he had had over 20 pounds.
When I had a quiet word with him afterwards about his alleged catch he replied ‘I had a good last hour’ – with a straight face.