fly fishing sport fishing freshwater fishing
Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


22/10/2019 - From Starting Life to Achieving a Dream

Walnut and Ebonite Coxon circa 1910


From Starting Life to Achieving a Dream

I am one of those fortunate boys who having lost my parents during WW2 I didn’t end up in a children’s home, I was adopted by a couple who were told they couldn’t have children, as I didn’t know my parents being far too young, I just assumed Mum and Dad were as described, I was around 11 years of age when I learnt I’d been adopted, by this time I had 4 brothers and 2 sisters like me three others were adopted. Mum during her lifetime fostered nearly 400 children. Many for just a week or two until they could be found a permanent home. There were several times when I was asked if I was bitter at not knowing my real parents? No way, why should I have been, in fact as I said in my book ‘Up Against It’ I was lucky I had two sets of parents, so why feel bitter even more so as I didn’t even know my original parents.

Great Role Models

Both my grandfathers were anglers and keen shots, what I did find out as I got a bit older they were great role models, who would often take me with them to try and catch some eels, as it was a long walk I was often on grandads shoulders. I was fascinated by these long wriggly like worms that both granddads caught and liked to eat, sometimes the air raid warning would sound, then one of them would pick me up and run for the nearest air raid shelter. I was about 4 years old when I got taken on my first fishing trip by Uncle Len who was on leave from North Africa, we fished the Alpha cement works clay pit, I caught 7 small rudd, as the saying goes “I was hooked for life” During that first fishing trip, a huge flight of German bombers and fighters were flying overhead as they headed for the London docks, today when I look back on that momentous day, I can hear and see the Spitfires and Hurricane’s with their powerfulRolls Royce Merlinengine going skywards to destroy the hated enemy. From that day I have been an angler, sadly Uncle Len was killed in North Africa fighting Rommel’s Afrika Korps. I have always felt grateful to have been born well before WW2 so I could experience of living through the blitz V1 and V2 rockets known as doodlebugs, we boys were never worried or frightened, neither did we need counselling, we just got on with life, though our parents might worried about us, for us boys it was school in the morning, then we were free to roam the countryside, fishing where we wanted, ferreting was another pursuit every rabbit we got was meat on the plate or worth sixpence in old money from neighbours. Many nights I would sit in the air raid shelter watching the search lights trying to seek out German bombers, one night there was a big raid close to home where some parachute mines, which really did do a lot of damage, causing a loss of life including some boys that night, the target was a rail junction but thankfully it didn’t get hit.

Catching Eels Flounders Roach Rudd and carp

Many days after school I would head off to one of my Grandads for dinner then it would be off to help on the allotment, but this was rewarded by going fishing. Sometimes we would fish from a pier for eels and flounders, I just couldn’t catch the latter fish which was the big prize, eels were easy to catch. If I was lucky we would go and fish a local pond in an orchard where there were a few gaps between the trees that allowed us to fish for carp, a big fish would be 2lbs. Floating crust was the usual bait, but sometimes we would use cooking flour and water to make a paste, but bread crust was the most successful bait. Sadly after the war the orchard disappeared and is now a housing estate. Other times we would fish the local marshes for rudd, or a gravel pit for roach.

Learning and Learning All The Time

I was on a fast learning curve through my grandfathers, various uncles and other anglers returning from the war, at the age of 7 years I would visit the adult library using my dad’s card to take out fishing, shooting and natural history books. My favourite book of the day was Fine Angling for Coarse Fish, by the age of 10 years I could tie my hooks to gut, make quill floats, whip a new ring on a rod, use both the Nottingham and Wallis cast, though I wasn’t so good with the latter often having over runs. I been taught how to use a line winder to dry and wax my silk line, look after my rod, reel, basket, gun and dog without being told, it wasn’t a chore but a pleasure.

Coxon Aeriel Reel

Grandad Tuner’s friend who was known as Old Bert, certainly one of the best anglers in the area who was well known for winning club matches and catching lots of fish, he was another angler who guided me along with Mr Carrol and Mr Roberts, others were Harry Rowlands, Len Cuckoo and Dennis Trim all very good local club anglers. ‘Old Bert’ fished with a Coxon Aerial, since the first day I watched him fishing the River Stour, I marvelled at his skill in trotting a float along the far bank catching roach and dace without doubt ‘Old Bert’ was certainly the master of the Coxon Aerial reel. One day ‘Old Bert’ loaned me his reel for a local club junior match he also took me to the match in his Ford 8 car, I won the match with 5 “Goer Roach”. Since that day I’ve wanted a Coxon Aerial. Sadly when I had the money, I couldn’t find the reel of my choice, when I did, I had no spare cash.

I Now Have A Walnut and Ebonite Coxon circa 1910 To Use

A few weeks ago not knowing how long I have left to fish, I decided to try and achieve the buying the reel of dreams, first point of contact was Colin Cully, a friend of many years, if there is someone I could put my confidence and trust in, it would be Colin, who was also an expert on various items of Antique tackle.

After a long conversation Colin said “You can have the use of my Coxon until you stop angling then Sharon your daughter can return it”. After talking a bit more we said our good byes. For some days. Often well into the night I thought about Colin’s offer, I kept asking myself the question “Should I take up Colin’s kind offer” A few days went by during which I discussed the reel with Sharon, who thought it was a wonderful gesture by Colin, and she wouldn’t have a problem with it. I then contacted Colin who said “It will posted registered and insured”. So on my birthday 27th October I will be fishing with the reel of my dreams, how lucky is that and what a great birthday trip it will be.



Another view of Coxon reel

Third view of Coxon reel

Back to the News List

Martin James Fishing
Email: [email protected]