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
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: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test