Baltic Sea

Old picture captures moment when Derek was hooked

The beginning of it all for five-year-old Derek when he was fishing on the River Tern near Wellington in 1947.

Although now, at the age of 80, he says he is no longer a regular angler.

“I’m really an opportunist, taking advantage of those who are much more enthusiastic and can provide the location and equipment, even though I grew up around keen anglers when I was younger,” he says.

“My earliest memory that I have a photograph of is fishing in the River Tern near Wellington. I was probably about five years old when my Uncle Joe – Joe Tudor, my mother’s brother – took me and on the bar sat his bike with the bars attached.

The beginning of it all for five-year-old Derek when he was fishing on the River Tern near Wellington in 1947.

“The rest of the gear and bait were in the bag on his back. Like all early memories, everything seems much larger, and the river was no exception, though now it’s no more than a stream.

“Joe was a keen fisherman and his favorite stretch of water was the River Severn below Atcham Bridge. One Friday night after finishing work at Sankey’s, he cycled down to Atcham.

“Once he got there, he would stake out his spot on the bank, light a cigarette, chat to someone nearby, and then line up his rods for the fish he was after.

“This stretch was good for barbel, roach or perch. After putting the keepnet in the water, he lit his little Primus stove for a brew and then settled down for a night fishing amid the blinking night lights of other anglers up and down the banks.

“I’ve ridden with him several times on my grandfather’s old, heavy, pre-war bike, but when I got there all I wanted to do was sleep, which I did when I woke up cold and damp a few hours later.”

In the year of the picture, 1947, the family also moved from Wellington to Devon, where he still lives, albeit with fond memories of his Shropshire roots.

His mother was Jean Sturch née Tudor but divorced – later to remarry and become Jean Spiller – and his childhood home was 8 Ercall Gardens, Wellington, where they lived with Uncle Joe and his wife Mary and Derek’s grandparents Mr and Mrs lived in Bill Tudor, whose house it was.

Derek Stuerch.

The fishing beetle was ingrained in his Shropshire days, in Devon it became a staple of his growing up, from catching tadpoles in local ponds to stealthily fishing many stretches of the River Axe, always with an eye on the farmer or the water bailiff.

There was also something Devon has that Shropshire lacks.

“When our relatives came down from Shropshire for the summer holidays, deep sea fishing was definitely in, either at Lyme Regis or Beer. For the latter, we all boarded a rented rowing boat or, if anyone was feeling rich, one with an outboard motor.

“When Joe stayed with us his specialty was ‘roasted mackerel’. They were delicious and I can still taste them now.”

Derek’s mother Jean and her sister Dorothy Campbell, known as “Peta”, try their hand at Ladram Bay, Devon.

Derek says the pinnacle of his fishing success was fishing off a remote Finnish (no pun intended) island in the middle of the Baltic Sea on a company trip, although he can’t claim to have actually caught anything.

He adds, “I don’t think I’m a born fisherman, but I’ve never played a sport where relaxation is so much a reward for the effort it takes.”

Derek on a fishing trip to Finland which was unforgettable despite drawing a loophole