I started fishing on the English side in 1979. Billy Fraser was kind enough to give me a hand when I started. He helped with fishing equipment and advice. I still fish with him today.
Once in the early days I broke an end leg on my haaf beam and I had to walk back to the car park. It was foggy and I ended up a couple of hundred yards down the road. I realised it is very difficult to walk in a straight line without landmarks. I always try to make a point of carrying a compass now.
Another time, on the ebb one night, the fog came down. It took a dozen men over 20 minutes to find two tractors and a quad bike that were only parked 200 yards from the water’s edge. We only found them 10 minutes before the tide came in!
I have seen men turn up full of drink on a Monday morning, not the wisest thing to do but they seemed to get by all right.
I work for the railways and find haaf netting makes a pleasant and relaxing change from the pressures of work. I enjoy the beauty of the Solway and you get the bonus and benefit of the exercise. I have seen young peregrine falcons chasing ducks; I didn’t see them catch any but the drama was fascinating to observe.
Catching fish is enjoyable too. I have always found fishing a hem for a few trout to be productive. In the past I have caught sparling, which smell of cucumber, but are quite rare now. When I started haafing, there were a lot more fish so conservation wasn’t an issue. It is a lot more conservation oriented now.
I would advise someone who is interested in taking up haaf netting to give it a go and see what you think. I have always enjoyed my fishing but it is not everyone’s cup of tea. For example, I do not like cold hands on a frosty morning; I have never found a way to keep them warm. I would strongly advise that you find an experienced haafer to introduce you to the hobby and learn from their experience.
I think it would be tragic if haaf netting were ever lost. Haaf netters have been around since Viking times. It is very important that it continues so that the knowledge can be passed on to future generations to enjoy.
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