Macclesfield Canal fishing memories
Dear Sir, — The Macc Canal was always lined with anglers starting from the Congleton station bridge all the way to what was called white bridge, which crossed the canal leading to Dead Wood. White bridge was just before the main railway line to Manchester.
The pet shop on Lawton Street is where you could buy a permit for the day at a cost of 1/6d, and get a tub of maggots for 6d.
Off I set with my tin of maggots and my fishing rod tied onto the crossbar of my bike. Sod the permit, I wasn’t paying 1/6d to go fishing on the canal.
The water bailiff lived in a cottage further down the canal near to the locks and was responsible for opening and closing the lock gate to allow movement of barges and also collecting the fee.
His other duties were making sure the waterway was clear for barges and checking if all fishermen had a permit.
I left my bike parked at the station, got all my fishing tackle and headed down the slutchy, mud-puddled tow path.
I found a good spot just by Oakes’s corn mill, just past the big iron bridge that carried all the heavy steam trains.
Bait on, with a size 18 hook and a luminous float, a line with a two pound breaking strain; all set to go. Time to just settle down with a bag of cheese and onion, sit on my squeaky wicker basket and hope.
I’d just finished the bag of cheese and onion and there he was: “Permits please!”. The bailiff! He asked me where my permit was and I told him I don’t have one. “How many fish have you caught?”
He checked the keep net and threw it up onto the embankment along with my rod and wicker basket.
With a swollen thick ear, I rode my bike home wondering if it was worth all that hassle for 1/6d. (That was nearly a week’s pocket money — for one day’s fishing?)
I went to the pet shop on Lawton Street to get some food for the mice I was breeding. I had a black male and a white female. They bred faster than the water going over the weir on the River Dane.
Don was great at the pet shop. He would take all the new-born young mice and sell them but my mother was considering throwing me out of the house if I didn’t get rid of those mice.
So as not to be evicted I gave all the mice, wheels and the little huts to a friend called Bob.
Bob was on a career to middle management, as he had passed his 11-plus. He was studying at a grammar school where the boys had to dress in army uniform once a week and be drilled. Fantastic discipline for some, destined to succeed through education.
Bob said he had never been fishing.
We met at the station bridge on the Biddulph Road and parked our bikes at the wall just opposite The Railway Inn.
That damn slutchy and muddy path leading to the canal was a bit of a problem for Bob. This time I had made sure I was fully licenced to fish; I’m wasn’t going home again deaf in one ear.
After fixing my rod with line and hook, I started to show Bob how to line his rod, which he had bought from Woolworth’s. It was a one-piece rod, everything included except the bait.
With a flick of the wrist I cast my line to the left and along the length of the canal.
Bob tried to flick his rod to the right, along the length of the canal, with a plop to the nearside bank.
Making swishing sounds through the air with his rod it was like someone wielding a whip, but his endeavours were in vain.
Frustrated, Bob gave it one more almighty fling to get his bait and line to descend where he thought he might stand a chance of catching a fish.
The rod snapped at the cork base and Bob was left holding a two-feet piece of rod with a tuppenny reel, and a line stretching out into the murky waters of the canal. With shock on his face he looked at me and said that what he was holding was not much use. I could only agree.
In disappointment and frustration, he decided to throw the remaining part of his rod into the air and kick it into the canal. With a swing of the leg that only a professional footballer could achieve, Bob’s boot connected with the remaining part of the Woolworth’s rod.
It was at this point that his well-fashioned Chelsea boot parted company with his foot and sailed through the air in slow motion. Spladoosh, it at least went further than where he’d succeeded in casting his line.
The look on his face that made me laugh. “How can this happen to me?” he asked, and “What should I do?”
When I had recovered from the pains of laughing, I was thinking to say, “Do what a rabbit does, hop it”. Instead, I carried Bob piggy back up that bloody slutchy, muddy path, I would sometimes lean to one side, to hear his frightened reactions.
Bob left the canal with one shoe and no fishing rod, and never went bobbing on the canal again.
With his 11-plus skills, he became a politician. — Yours faithfully,