Fishing in the clay pits – submitted by Bill Goldthorp

The Tetley gang. All born in 1933, myself, 46 Wharf Road, Laurence Lowthorpe, Mike Maw, both lived at Tetley, Chippy (Brian) Chapman, 60 Wharf Road, Roy Strachan, the doctor’s son and a few others from the age of 7 or 8 spent the majority of our time messing about, making sure we were not caught around Tetley and the clay pits, and occasionally, now what would be called vandalising the brickworks and the diesel engine that pulled the trucks. The vandalising was not intentional but the result of finding out how to start the deisel engine, some how it or the trucks always hit something and left the railwy track. It was similar to the deisel tractors that some of our fathers or uncles owned.

Then their were two pits. The deep old pit to the east of the brickworks and the new pit to the north on land owned by the Ramsdens of Tetley. This pit gradually approached Tetley Hall but close to the Hall the clay seam became thinner and not worth working.

The New Pit had been the source of our tiddlers or sticklebacks that we caught in the drainage channels and small ponds in the pit, but there was nothing bigger.

About 1947, the new pit was worked out and allowed to flood whilst a fresh pit was developed to the south of the old pit. Much to ourannoyance the cricket pitch in front of the Potato Factory was dug up. The top soil was dumped into the old pit.

We started fishing, without a licence, when we were around 9, first with a bamboo rod, string, safety pin and worms but quickly moved on to proper fishing rods. None of us were flush with pocket money but somehow we mannaged to acquire, proper rods, lines, reels and hooks. I would use the terms begged, borrowed or acquired. Stolen seems a little too strong, as it would be family members they would be obtained from. Our fathers, elder brothers and uncles were unaware that they had lent them to us.

The River Torne and Double Rivers were easy to reach on our bikes, we preferred the Torne, then there were plenty of fish and not much weed, whereas now with the run off, of nitrates, used on the land, has filled the Torne with weed.

As we were licence less and did not feel they were really necessary, fishing the Torne did leave us exposed to the warden for whom we had to keep a careful watch. The canal seemed a much safer palce, though not if our parents had known about it. We always fished on the railway side, with massive trains thundering by a couple of yards away and above us.

On these occasions we walked to the brickworks, crossed the east drain over a rickety ancient wooden bridge, carefully looked both up and down the railway track and then crossed to the canal.

In this was we were immune to the warden. No one fished on the railay side and it was too dangerous for him to walk along it. He walked along the other towpath side and all he could do was swear at us from the other side. As he had to walk half a mile to the nerearest bridge it gave us ample time to clear off.

No one had ever fished the Old Pit, there were no fish in it because it had never been stocked. No one thought about gulls and other water fowl, who went foraging in the mud at the edge of the canal or the drainage dykes, getting their legs covered in mud containing one or two fish eggs and then flying and foraging in the mud at the edge of the old pit. That had been going on for a good 20 years or more.

One summer afternoon four us had been trying our luck fishing in the canal with little success. it was well after teatime, when we decided to head for home, already aware we were in for a telling off for being late. We had not dismantled our fishing tackle but were carrying them over our shoulders. We were walking past the place where topsoil full of worms was being tipped into the old pit. I think it was Mike Maw, he still had maggots on his hook, which he decided to dangle in the water, within seconds it was taken by massive perch. We all joined in and pulled out perch, roach and one or two others in all sizes in about twenty minutes.

We threw all the smaller ones back in but each took four or five large ones home, hoping the present of fresh fish would reduce our mother’s anger. As we were all expecting to eat freshly cooked fish for our tea that was a forlorn hope.

At that time a fishing licence included an 10 inch marking on the side because you were allowed to take fish home that were above a certain size.

The old pit promptly became our only fishing spot, but like all boys we could not keep our mouths shut and were boasting about our catches left right and centre.

Fishermen came in droves from all over the place, the fish rapidly cottoned onto the danger of fishing lures and our catches became minimal again. The Old Pit still remained our favourite fishing and swimming spot until we were 18 when most of us went away to university or college and the others to National Service.

It had a deleterious effect not one of us took up fishing as a hobby, it is boring, we were too used to pulling something out every 10 to 15 minutes.

Bill Goldthorp.




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