in the river, the Arun, and later, having joined the local sea angling club, occasionally out into the Channel when I could persuade my old Mum to part with the hire fee or as a freebie when boat owners were persuaded to keep us kids off the street and out fishing during summer holidays. On one of the latter trips, there was the skipper, his pimply callow mate and four of us boys all around twelve. Getting the rods organised on the way out Torin 1 supplier of harbour, we noticed that the mate was gearing up with a steel trace and huge hook. We asked what he was fishing for and, smirkingly, he said ‘congers’ that were known to live in an old sewerage pipe between our home port of Littlehampton and Worthing. On arrival, baited hooks were lowered, the mate trying to tempt a conger out of its pipe with a whole mackerel. After about an hour’s fishing, the mate’s rod suddenly bent so ferociously that I thought it was going to snap. But, he persevered and another half an hour later he had a gaffed conger at the surface, which he and the skipper now, possibly unwisely in hindsight, eventually managed to get into the boat. It was not so big as the Torquay
individual but, to my young eyes, it PD-0332991 mw was big enough. I would say well over a metre and a half in length, as thick as my waist and, most importantly, not yet dead. Suddenly, it awoke from its torpor and begin thrashing around the boat’s well, snapping at anything and everything. Us boys, me in my brother’s cut-down trousers and plimsolls, were up on the boat’s gunnel before you could say ‘knife’, hanging onto the bits of safety rigging any way we could and cautiously making our way onto the cabin’s roof where the spectacle in the well beneath us could be better enjoyed. The mate was trying to beat the conger
to death with the boat’s club but, not to be outdone, the conger bit him on the toe of his Wellington boot and refused to let go. We now had the spectacle of the wildly thrashing conger shaking the leg of the mate who, in turn, while hopping around on the other one, was still trying to club it senseless but was acutely aware of his own predicament. No more smirking Non-specific serine/threonine protein kinase either, I noted with quiet satisfaction. Eventually, the skipper grabbed hold of the club and was trying to also achieve the conger’s demise, but with a wide-eyed mate now even more frightened of the nightmarish consequences of his catch. It seems like an age later but, ultimately, by dint of discarding his boot to the conger, the beast was overcome and we boys descended to inspect a dead fish in a well of blood and gore and two badly shaken fishermen. It was thereupon decided that that was enough fun for one day’s angling and the boat turned for home. On the return trip, us boys returned to the cabin’s roof to gigglingly mull over the spectacle we had just experienced while the mate tried to clean up the blood-soaked deck.