A story of a fishing friendship
There was a time, long, long ago when I didn’t even own a centrepin and always fished with fixed spool reels. I would like to share with you my journey into the world of centrepins, especially as the man who played a major part in that journey has just passed away.
Back in the early nineteen eighties I had just completed my two or three year transition from soldier to policeman with all the upheaval of family life that this involves and was settling down to a much more stable lifestyle than had been possible before. Luckily this meant more time for fishing and it is during this period that what ever skills I have started to develop.
In those days there was a total closed season for coarse fish on both lakes and rivers, so if you wanted to go fishing between the 15th March and the 15th June trout fishing was your only option. Some clubs stocked their waters with a few token rainbow trout and everyone carried on as normal using coarse fishing methods and tackle but saying they were fishing for trout, if challenged. I chose to learn to fly fish for the trout on more heavilly stocked fisheries that specialised in providing trout fishing.
It was during one closed season that I met Roy Meincken. He worked in an office on my beat at Heathrow and we started fly fishing for trout together. One day, some months later, I called in to his office for my usual cup of tea and he showed me a reel that his mother-in-law had bought him, thinking it was a fly reel.
It was, as you can see a very fine and expensive centrepin reel made by a firm called Adcock and Stanton, but I soon discovered it was not the sort of centrepin I had known as a boy, this one ran on ball bearing races and was as smooth as a pint of Dublin Guinness.
I had to explain to him what it was for and a week or so later found us on the banks of the river Colne at West Drayton where I showed him how to trot a float with it.
I don’t remember what effect the demonstration had on him but I do remember the effect it had on me – I was captivated and I wanted one of these for myself. Also on this day I think I became a confirmed river angler!
Shortly afterwards I bought a replica Match Aerial, a traditional centrepin (but I now know, not a particularly good example) and whilst this was fine for legering and trotting a big float on fast water for barbel, it would not perform as well as the Adcock and Stanton with a lighter float on a more gentle stream. I just did not have the spare cash for a better reel and of course, there were not so many being made then, they had yet to become fashionable, John Wilson was unknown and most people would ask if it was a sea reel or a fly reel when you used one in public.
A year or so later, after the breakdown of both our marriages, Roy and I fished together a lot more ( I caught two hundred barbel, including my first double, in the season after my divorce) and became much firmer friends. Roy had found a new partner and I was filling my spare time, between work and fishing, by rebuilding a boat. Roy offered to help financially as well as all the hard work and advice he had put in but I refused because he had done enough. It was on this boat on the river Thames that I really needed a free running centrepin but had to make do with the aerial.
At that time we were doing a lot of barbel fishing and Roy was looking for a second hand Graham Philips barbel rod and I managed to find one for sale in the Anglers Mail. He made the arrangements by phone to collect the rod the following week and told me that the chap selling it also had a second hand Adcock and Stanton for sale. I immediately expressed and interest but Roy said he wanted another one.
A few weeks later he invited me and my youngest son to Silverstone for the Touring Car Championship and when we arrived at his house he produced the newly aquired Adcock and Stanton to show me. I was a bit miffed to say the least until he told me to turn it over and look at the back.
I now have more centrepins than I am prepared to admit to but this reel was my first good quality reel and was the start of my enthusiasm for trotting a float on a river.
Shortly afterwards his health began a gradual decline, starting with a double hip replacement at the young age of thirty eight and the time we spent fishing together became less and less as the years passed. We remained very close friends but the physical demands of our sport just became to great for him. Yet you will see from his comments on this blog that he still loved fishing.
He was a really gifted chef and Jan and I spent many New Years Eves at his dining table and he would often pop in for a coffee on his way home from work when we lived in Shepperton.
We said goodbye to him last month at the age of fifty three after a series of strokes and he will be missed by many more people than just me. He was a big man, both physically and in his effect on those who called him friend, he will leave a big gap.
Last weekend his wife Jane asked me to sort out and dispose of his fishing tackle. Much of it has not been used for over ten years and as I loaded it into my car the memories tore at my emotions with each new discovery. But there was one piece of equipment that I found that will help me remember him to the end of my days. The original Adcock and Stanton centrepin reel that started it all.