Match fishing is not an easy sport to partake in when you’re not old enough to drive. This was the case when I was an aspiring match angler at the tender age or 13. I was lucky enough however to be asked to join the highly respected Lincolnshire team, Harlequins and a few of the older anglers used to take turns giving me lifts to matches.
This was the perfect situation as not only did I get a lift to the match I got an hour to pick the brains of the county’s top anglers on the way to the match. It really did seem perfect, well that was until a rather eventful winter league match on the upper Witham near Lincoln.
Paul Oglesby was my designated driver and he picked me up, had a quick flirt with my mum and then we went off to the draw. We drew in different sections which was often the case so Paul dropped me off and went to his own section of the river.
The match turned out to an average winter league match I caught a few fish weighed in and carried my gear to the bridge to wait for Paul to pick me up. Other anglers started drifting off after the usual after match post-mortem and I soon found myself alone on the bank. I didn’t think anything of it as Paul was often the last angler off the bank and had to drive a couple of miles to pick me up. After 30 minutes and as darkness firmly set around me I must admit to becoming slightly concerned as to Paul’s whereabouts.
Luckily mobile phones had just started to become popular and my mum and dad had bought me one in case of emergency. I sat and wondered for a few minutes as to the actual definition of the word emergency and came to the conclusion that due to the fact I was 13, alone in the pitch black, and in an area I didn’t know, it must therefore fall into the category of emergency.
Now Paul wasn’t 'down with the kids' and didn’t own a mobile phone but Mark Griggs who also used to take me fishing did. Unfortunately there was no answer and after 15 minutes of trying him I decided it was time to call the parents.
My mum answered and before she had time to give me a lecture on using all my credit and the fact that money doesn’t grow on trees, I managed to mention I'd been abandoned! Ever conscious of the cost of credit she rang me back and then we tried to get our heads around what was happening. I think the full magnitude of the situation hit home when she asked me where I was. “I’m near Lincoln mum!”
“Where in Lincoln?” was her response! Now I was 13 and I couldn’t drive so, as far as I was concerned, knowing I was near Lincoln and was fishing the upper Witham was all the information I could have possibly have needed at the start of the day. If she’d asked me what rig she needed for fishing bread punch I’d have had all the answers!
The truth was I really didn’t have a clue where I was and both my mum and dad and I were starting to panic! I was beginning to feel uncomfortable sat alone in the dark and even with a trusty bank stick by my side I didn’t feel totally safe. It was at this point that mum began to really panic and decided to call the police! This was beginning to get serious! All the while however I was still wondering what had happened to Paul. Was he ok?
By my dad’s account this is when they kicked into full rescue mission mode. My dad stopped short of dressing up in a full SAS outfit but they did dive into the car and set off in hot pursuit of their missing child! Recollecting the story now I can only laugh as I imagine the sight of my dad breaking every speed limit possible between Boston and Lincoln while my mum was actually on the phone to the police who had assured her they would set off in search of me and check every vehicle access point along the river for a child, dressed head to toe in waterproof clothing, clutching a bank stick!
My mum rung to inform me the police would find me and then direct them to me. By now it was six o’clock, over three hours since the match had finished. Time seemed to stand still for the next 15 minutes when I spotted a set of head lights coming towards me. I can’t describe my relief as I saw it was a police car. It pulled up alongside me, asked if I was Craig. By now slightly emotional I confirmed I was indeed the abandoned child.
What followed was possibly the most bizarre piece of police work I had ever witnessed, after checking I was ok they informed me they would give my parents directions to enable them to get me and then… they drove off! Once again I was abandoned and alone.
Now I’m not normally a negative person but being abandoned twice in the space of three hours is enough to drive anyone to despair! An emotional phone call to my mum followed and she ensured me they now knew where I was and wouldn’t be long.
Twenty minutes later I was possibly the most relieved teenager in the world as I was reunited with my parents. We loaded up the car and as we still didn’t even know if Paul was safe we decided to ring his house phone to see if his wife had heard from him.
Now to say I was shocked when Paul answered the phone was an understatement. Even the sound of my voice failed to get any sort of reaction from him. It was at this point I told him I was still at Lincoln and enquired as to why he hadn’t picked me up. The line was silent, and then came the two words that will amaze and confuse me for the rest of my life: “I Forgot!”
Apparently after a terrible day’s fishing he couldn’t wait to get home and totally forgot he had travelled for an hour to Lincoln with me beside him just hours earlier. Even my trainers in the boot hadn’t sparked even the slightest notion that something wasn’t quite right!
Obviously countless apologies followed, both to me and my parents and he ensured us it wouldn’t happen again! I thought that was very considerate of him. Suffice to say the next Sunday when he walked in the pub (alone, I may add, as I decided it was best for me to get a lift with Mark Griggs), he was subjected to the most intense 45 minutes of Mickey-taking I have ever witnessed!
We all forget things when we go fishing – bait, clothing, tackle… but never thought I’d be included in that list!
Craig Butterfield is a Middy consultant from Boston, Lincolnshire, and a regular columnist for Match Fishing.