BARRIE RICKARDS RIP
It was with a heavy heart that I heard the news this morning that Barrie Rickards, a true colossus amongst UK pike anglers, and more importantly, a good friend, had died.
Our American and Canadian friends will I hope forgive me if I mark the passing of a good friend and a man who has been an inspiration to many, many people in the UK. His writing in newspapers and magazines, and especially his books which became the standard works on lure fishing brought lure fishing to many. Our lure fishing business we ran in the UK from 1991-2004 owed much to his advice and insight.
Dr Barrie Rickards was a professor of paleobiology at Cambridge University and at the same time a man of the people. A man who never hesitated to give his advice or opinion. Honest, frank, and with a depth of knowledge of lure fishing for pike very few could hope to rival.
I first met him forty seven years ago on the banks of the Great Ouse Relief Channel at Denver Sluice in Norfolk, pike fishing (what else?). I stopped fishing and just sat behind him bombarding him with questions, as he reeled in pike after pike.
Later I was to see him pioneer the use of spinnerbaits in the UK amid widespread hilarity, wide-mesh pike-friendly landing nets, and many other innovations.
The word legendary is much used these days to describe the departed, and sometimes those who are still with us. Just occasionally, that description fits. This is one of those occasions.
I don’t cry much these days, but I did this morning.
OK you want to hear what happened last night? To recap, I was fishing off our dock for a snapper for supper. Readers will know that our dock has been surrounded by baitfish for some days now, and it seems that the snappers are getting well fed as a result. Still, no harm in trying. Sitting on the end of the dock, beer in hand as the sun goes down is not a bad way to end the day.
So basically, no dice this evening. Until, that is, I threw my remaining half conch that I had been using for bait into the water. A large head appeared from under the dock, and inhaled the fist- sized lump of conch. It just sat there in perhaps four feet of gin clear water. It was a Giant Grouper (aka Jewfish) which Sue and I estimated at around forty pounds.
What follows next was not smart. It was not good fishing either.
After cursing that I had just thrown my remaining bait away, I remembered that my baited rod was still nodding away quietly in its rodrest. So I reeled in, and without a further thought, dropped the bait about two feet in front of our grouper’s nose. It edged slowly forward, and the hookbait just disappeared. I had of course tightened my clutch up and struck into this fish. There was an almighty surge as the fish did a lightning fast U turn and ran straight through the dock. My line parted.
So apart from the obvious what have we learnt? Well we have long suspected that large fish come round the dock at night. My last blog illustrates the point. But there have been many stories of night lines being wrecked, and of course, other tales of the one that got away. I had suspected large rays, or possibly sharks. It could be we now know the truth.
The previous day we had cleaned some ducks, and the bits and pieces all went in off the dock. That almost certainly drew in our grouper, four feet of water or not.
So today is a day of reflection, of what might have been, and in the case of Barrie Rickards, of what was.