In 2003 I had the good fortune,In less than fortunate circumstances,to meet John Darling shortly before his untimely passing.John was being treated In the same hospital as Jan and ,I bitterly regret that,although recognising the man,I did not have the courage to strike up a conversation with him until the last day of the week long treatment.
My own childhood memories of 'JD' were of his appearances as a relatively young man, on the BBC's highly amusing 'Fishing Race' during the mid 1970's where he competed alongside other big names such as Clive Gammon,Ian Gillespie,and Jim Gibbinson,Brian Harris and Dennis Darkin for the 'Golden Maggot' trophy.An accolade awarded to the pair of anglers, who could catch the most species of fish over a fixed time period.From memory,I believe it Included the capture of goldfish from a garden pond.There's a picture of the group in John's book on bass.
With Ian Wooldridge's Inimitable 'dry humoured ' narrative,It was very much a programme of Its time,appealing to a far wider audience than just the angling fraternity.It was certainly essential family viewing in my household.Why don't they make T.V shows like that anymore,or am I just viewing the past through rose tinted spectacles.
John, who was 'press officer' with the NMC way back in the early years, was enthusiastic to hear that the club was still flourishing,and was 'chuffed to bits' to receive a spare copy of 'Grey Ghost' that I just happened to have brought along with me.We discussed both mullet and bass fishing in Sussex (John resided in Seaford), and he was kind enough to share with me a few favoured local marks.I even scribbled down a few pencil jottings on an O.S map.
What struck me most,In the short time that we chatted, was that John was far more angry that his disease had curtailed his fishing exploits,rather than holding his life in the balance.A true fishing 'nut' Indeed.
One of JD's favourite marks,and Indeed a regular pictorial highlight in his books,was the stunning beach at Cuckmere Haven.Despite it's obvious heritage ,I'd tried several times last season accompanied by Simon Pickles,to get a bass from the venue,but had failed miserably.The only notable capture being a smoothound which gave me the runaround on my light estuary rod.Simon had felt equally frustrated by the lack of fish,having had some superb bass from this venue in previous visits.
A couple of recently reported 'doubles' from around the East Sussex reefs this week had fired me up again to give the bass another go.The tides and conditions looked perfect on paper,so I phoned Simon on the off chance that he'd like to join me .My original plan was to try the reefs to the east of Brighton Marina ,but Simon had already earmarked this particular tide,and persuaded me to return to the Cuckmere.I agreed, and arranged to pick him up at 9-00pm, and we'd be able to fish around the top of the tide from 10-00pm to 2-00am
Coincidentally when we arrived,and much to Simon's frustration,there was another headlight twinkling under the chalk cliffs-our Intended spot.Luckily ,it was a familiar face.Robin,who I'd spoken to earlier in the day, had the same idea, and brought along a client too.We fished hard with big squid and mackerel baits on the beach,and then moved along to the reef casting to a gully only ten yards out but, had nothing at all.Robin had a similar result to ourselves, and was unfortunate enough to have been fishless throughout the day, having tried several marks.
To cap it all, on returning to the van we came across a Chinese angler fishing from the Golden Gallion bridge,obviously struggling to deal with something attached to his line.He asked for our assistance as he had no net and, whilst I held on to his gear ,he retrieved the fish,a nice bass of about 3lb, from below.
On returning to the roadway,and to our surprise,he lay the fish down on the grass verge next to another bass of equal stature.Despite his crude kit,it looked like he'd already broken one rod,we couldn't help but admire the fact that he obviously knew exactly what he was doing fishing bubble float and prawn,'dangly down' from a road bridge at three o'clock in the morning.
A lesson learned again.
One day, I WILL catch a bass from here.
Right then......three blanks in a row....time to catch a fish.