GET HOOKED: I reserve hero worship for just one angler

I WAS digging through some paperwork in the Man Cave recently and found a bundle of magazines in the Angling Times’ Legends series.

These, if you missed them, celebrated the contributions made by some of the leading lights of the sport – Ivan Marks, John Wilson, Dick Walker and the incomparable Chris Yates, among others.

I enjoyed them; I’m a sucker for biographies and autobiographies anyway, and fishing-related examples of the genre are rare things (notable exceptions being the Medlar biographies of Walker and Hugh Falkus – both superb).

To many, these men are heroes. It seems daft to idolise men who live in waders and smell of maggot dust like the rest of us, but many do.

My feelings towards them are of admiration, respect, gratitude certainly, but not hero worship. I reserve that accolade for one angler only. My cousin, Ricky Fraser.

Ricky took my brother and me fishing when we were five or six and he was 12. He was already an expert trout catcher, and ensured that we winkled a few trout from the Highland burn where he lived. Brother and I were smitten, and have been returning to Scotland to fish Ricky’s waters for almost 40 years.

He’s still there, and still catching, but those intervening years have been hard. Ricky lost his sight to diabetes as a young man, and is currently waiting for a second kidney transplant. He’s had operation after operation, and has suffered at the hands of poor diagnoses and incompetent consultants more than once.

He’s worked with some brilliant medical professionals, too, and when he turned 50 earlier this year we thought of those who have helped him, but we know all too well that Ricky’s future will involve less days on his beloved river than ever before. His mobility is not what it was, and life is now quite a struggle.

If you met him, though, you wouldn’t know any of it. He’s forever upbeat, and still casts an exquisite line with a single-handed trout rod or a longer salmon model. And he’ll keep doing so, until it becomes impossible.

So I’ll be thinking of Ricky over the festive season. The family is proud of him, of course, and my brother and I are forever grateful that he made anglers of us. And that makes him our hero.

Have a Merry Christmas, wherever you may cast.

Catch reports: jon_s_berry@yahoo.co.uk.

Twitter: @jonberrywriter.

Website: www.jon-berry.net.

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