Fishermen use their feet to flounder for a prize: Sensitive toes are all you need to become the world's champion 'tramper'. Keith Elliot reports

WHENEVER members of the Clark family are in the mood for fish, their father's unique talent means that they will never go hungry. For Chris Clark, from Kingholm, Dumfries, can just pop down to the nearby Solway Firth and catch supper with his feet.

On Saturday, Mr Clark's sensitive toes earned him the title of world 'tramping' champion for the third time. He caught the largest flatfish, a 2lb 2oz flounder, in the 21st annual championships at Glen Isle Sands on the Solway estuary, beating more than 100 competitors and maintaining the Scots' dominance in this eccentric sport.

Tramping - catching flatfish with your feet - is a traditional sport in Cumbria, eastern Scotland and in parts of North America. The quarry, the flounder - a plaice-like flatfish without the red spots - lives in shallow estuaries and can swim upstream into fresh water. The fish are sometimes captured in the Thames at Richmond, more than 30 miles from the sea.

Flounders are often too lazy to swim out with the tide so, relying on their camouflage, which can change chameleon-like from sandy white to muddy black, they bury themselves in creeks and rock pools. This is when the tramper sets to work.

Walking slowly through the water with bare feet, he feels for a smooth shape, rather like treading on a jellyfish.

'You don't always tread on the middle of the fish,' Robin Tilson, runner-up last year, said. 'You have to move your foot to the middle. It wriggles a little, then stays still. You reach down into the water, feeling for the head and tail, and bring it slowly up and out of the water.'

The fish is then put into a plastic bag or, in the case of some eccentrics, into their swimming trunks. Mr Tilson, who regularly fishes at Glencaple, further down the estuary, has caught more than 100lb of flounders in a tide.

There are hazards. Fortunately, Britain's only poisonous fish, the weaver, is unheard of in the Solway Firth, but crabs, which feel like a flounder at first, betray their presence by nipping your foot. All the competitors on Saturday bore crab scars.

This year's event is a triumph for traditional methods. Over recent years, there has been a trend towards using a liester, or spear, to stab the flounders. ('This is called the world tramping championships and I don't think spearing should be allowed,' Mike Clark, from Carlaverock, said.) Last year's event and the pounds 150 top prize was won by a spearer, but this year, the feet-only men dominated.

'We try to discourage using a liester, especially by the inexperienced, because there is a chance of putting the spear through their feet,' Harry Ellis, the organiser, said.

'But there are some areas where you can't fish without a spear because of the depth. And we try not to have too many rules.'

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk