Old picture captures moment Derek was hooked

An old blurry black and white picture taken by a riverside in Shropshire 75 years ago captures the start of Derek Sturch's lifetime relationship with fishing.

The start of it all for five-year-old Derek, fishing on the River Tern near Wellington in 1947.
The start of it all for five-year-old Derek, fishing on the River Tern near Wellington in 1947.

Although now, at the age of 80, he says he is not a regular angler any more.

"I'm really an opportunist who takes advantage of those who are far more enthusiastic and can provide the venue and equipment, though in my younger years I was brought up in the company of avid anglers," he says.

"My earliest memory, which I have a photograph of, is fishing in the River Tern, near Wellington. I was probably around five years old when my Uncle Joe – Joe Tudor, my mother's brother – would take me, sat on the crossbar of his bike, to which the rods were also tied.

The start of it all for five-year-old Derek, fishing on the River Tern near Wellington in 1947.

"The rest of the tackle and bait would be in the bag on his back. Like all early memories everything seems much bigger and the river was no exception, though now no more than a stream.

"Joe was a keen angler and his favourite stretch of water was the River Severn below Atcham Bridge. On a Friday night after finishing work at Sankey's he'd cycle down to Atcham.

"Once there he would stake out his pitch on the bank, light up a cigarette, have a chat to anyone near, then set up his rods for whatever fish he was after.

"This stretch was good for barbel, roach or perch. Having laid the keepnet in the water he'd light his small Primus stove for a brew and then settle down for a night's fishing amidst the winking night lights of other anglers up and down the banks.

"I went with him several times riding my granddad's old, heavy, pre-war bicycle but by the time I got there the only thing I wanted to do was sleep, which I did waking up cold and damp several hours later."

The year of the picture, 1947, was also when the family moved from Wellington to Devon, where he still lives today, albeit with fond memories of his Shropshire roots.

His mother was Jean Sturch, nee Tudor, but divorced – later to remarry and become Jean Spiller – and his early childhood home was 8 Ercall Gardens, Wellington, where they lived along with Uncle Joe and his wife Mary, and Derek's grandparents Mr and Mrs Bill Tudor, whose house it was.

Derek Sturch.

With the fishing bug firmly planted in his Shropshire days, in Devon it became an integral part of his growing up, ranging from catching tadpoles in local ponds to surreptitiously fishing many stretches of the River Axe, always with one eye out for the farmer or water bailiff.

There was also something Devon has that Shropshire lacks.

"When our relatives came down from Shropshire for the summer holidays sea fishing was definitely on the cards either at Lyme Regis or Beer. At the latter we would all climb into a hired row boat, or if someone was feeling rich, one with an outboard motor.

"When Joe was staying with us his speciality was 'soused mackerel' They were delicious and I can still taste them even now."

Derek's mum Jean and her sister Dorothy Campbell, known as "Peta," try their hand in Ladram Bay, Devon.

Derek says the pinnacle of his angling exploits was fishing off a remote Finnish (no pun intended) island in the middle of the Baltic Sea on a company trip, although he can't claim to have actually caught anything.

He adds: "I don't think I was a born fisherman but I have never participated in a sport where relaxation provides so much reward for the effort it takes."

Derek on a fishing trip to Finland which was memorable, despite drawing a blank

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