LAST weekend I lost a truly good friend, a past confidante, a fellow fisherman and a man that I always looked up to - Mr Peter Hodge.

When I learned of his passing I was not surprised, as was any of us, Pete was always outgoing and those of us who were fortunate enough to know him as an intimate friend would never expect anything than frankness from him.

He freely spoke of his illness, it seems ages since we first found out. A couple of years ago we were sitting in the Newmarket pub having our breakfast at the onset of his beloved Durleigh festival. Quite simply we joked that we thought he had been on the bevies celebrating his success a little early, we thought he was drunk, there was something a little different with his manner and speech, as was Pete he joked it off and we thought no more of it.

However, over the next two years we all saw his brave fight against his Motor Neurone disease, we didn't know anything about it then, we had never been in close contact with somebody who had it and boy was Pete open about it, he knew what was coming and he wore it on his sleeve, no hiding away from it for him!

I can picture him now, sitting on his box either on his beloved Huntspill River or Durleigh or King Sedgemoor Drain in nothing more than his underpants lapping up the sunshine, smiling away. Wherever there was slabby Bream, you would find Pete with his customary 100cwt of ground bait, ready to bombard the fish to get them feeding.

At the beginning of a match the whistle would go and we would all wait for it, balls of ground bait the size of babies heads, dozens of them would go up in the air like huge old fashioned cannon balls, crashing into the water with a huge splash, the standard joke was that there was a freak Huntspill Bore just on the days when Hodgy was fishing.

We used to swear that after the final match whistle blew and his fish were weighed in, the water level would be at least an inch higher than when the match started, it was a theme to the man who did everything in a big and cheerful way.

Always willing to share his secrets, whether it be tackle or bait presentation, young and old have learnt so much from this giant of a man. Now he is no longer with us I know his legacy will live on in Bridgwater, in Somerset and throughout the angling world.

This town had been his home all his life and the town is the richer for it. Whether it was fishing, darts, euchre, skittles, rugby or football, in one way or another this man has left his mark.

I have been proud to call him my friend for over half my life and I will, as will many thousands of people, truly miss him. Our thoughts are with his family and I thank them now for allowing us to share his life, because we all know what sacrifices families make when there is a fisherman in the family.

There must be thousands of fond memories shared by equally as many of us who knew him, but two recent things come to mind.

Last year he was talking about how much time he had left, but he said he wasn't worried for two reasons, first reason was he would be reunited with all his family and friends he had lost over the years, second reason was that he knew he was going to heaven and with all the bloody water that the heavens had dumped on Somerset over the years there had to be some Bream up there, if there was, he would catch them.

One other thing, haircuts are now so boring!

Well, tight lines old friend, see you on the Huntspill.

Mike Burgess Cranleigh Gardens Bridgwater