Perch Cigarette Card
During the school holidays, circa 1996, a number of different elements came together which led to me catching my first coarse fish; my first six, in fact.

In stereotypically traditional-style, all were perch caught on lobworms dug from the garden.

• On a Sunday bike ride with my dad, uncle and cousin to Pinkneys Green I discovered the clay pits and my old man told me that he used to fish them for tench when he was a boy. I remember those bike rides that summer fondly. Occasionally we’d stop at the pub and my dad and uncle even fell off their bikes a few times. Not that I realised at the time, but they were clearly both shit faced.
• I acquired a set of fish cigarette cards. No idea where these came from. Before this I probably didn’t know what coarse fish looked like.
• Whilst my Dad had stopped fishing and sold his all his gear. My friend’s Dad had stopped fishing and had tackle in his garage and lots of it, I can remember digging around the garage and finding all this gear pretty exciting.
• I rediscovered the rod and reel from when my Dad first took me fishing.

Friends were called, my Mum was begged for a lift and one morning we were away. Armed with end tackle half-inched from my Friend’s Dad’s garage, a tin of sweetcorn and some lobworms dug up from the garden the night before, a group of four intrepid young piscators arrived at the pond….

The moment when the float slides off stops your heartbeat every single time and I can recall the first time so well even now. I wasn’t quite sure what the fish was but, fortunately armed with my cigarette cards our group ID’d it as a perch. I caught 5 more that day. Not to be too childishly smug but the other three lads blanked. When my Dad arrived that evening he plumbed the depth and sorted my rig out properly to try for a tench. I cast out into the pond and hooked another small perch, the fish tugged about and I recall seeing it in the clearer upper layers of the water before it was engulfed by an explosion. A pike had taken it and bit off the line in the process. You couldn’t make a more exciting end to the day up.