There was an old hut on the pier at Ilfracombe where I used to fish along with many local anglers. I had forgotten all about the hut until joining a discussion reminiscing about fishing from the old pier that was demolished close to twenty years ago. The pier could be fished at all states of the tide and being high above the water was a safe place even during winter storms.
During those cold winter nights as the waves pounded against the pier’s concrete pillars, the hut gave a place to shelter. Huddled within anglers would pour a hot drink and enjoy a smoke as they glanced frequently at their rods resting upon the ramparts. The hut and its surroundings had a strange aroma of stale bait and urine. Despite this there was a certain comfort in this old hut. The camaraderie of anglers enduring the worst of the weather whilst sharing that dream of big fish and embellishing stories of battles won and lost over past seasons.
The talk of the old hut on the pier stimulated me to remember other fishing huts and lodges I had visited over a lifetime of angling adventures. At Stafford Moor trout fishery during the late 1970’s I recall the large fishing lodge. Its stark breeze blocked walls and large windows that allowed in plenty of light. Old leather chairs and sofas encircled a scruffy old wooden coffee table that was strewn with old copies of Trout and Salmon magazines. During the cold days of early spring the lodge gave a welcome respite from the cold winds that swept across the windswept moorland. Back then many trout fishers still tended to fit a certain stereo type of upper class gentlemen who talked in that distinctly old English way. As a young long haired youth, I soon learnt that fishing is a great leveller with the shared interest melting any barriers of class or age.
On North Devon’s rivers there are many splendid fishing huts my favourite being an old Tudor styled hut that sits beside the River Torridge at Little Warham. The hut is situated well above the flood line and looks out over the ever flowing river. It is not grand but has a certain timeless charm and has undoubtedly been a place of refuge for anglers over generations and I can imagine the Majors and Generals contemplating the complexities of wartime as they took a break from the pursuit of the once prolific salmon. The tranquillity and perpetuity of the ever flowing stream must have brought solace in those troubled times.
On the River Test in Hampshire I joined two friends for a days fishing from its manicured banks. The immaculately decorated hut was plush and clean in contrast to that grimy old hut on the pier. Further up river we came across an old wooden shelter with an old bench on which were carved the words, “ Sometimes I sits and thinks and sometimes I just sits”.
On the Lower reaches of the River Taw there are the remains of the Barnstaple & District Angling Clubs hut. Its corrugated sides and roof were painted green. Today it is in a sad state of decay and most of the club anglers who gathered there have long since departed. The rod rack remains empty and ivy and brambles have encroached taking back the old hut. The river still flows majestically past through the seasons though sadly the once prolific salmon are few and far between. There is something about angling huts that is hard to put into words.