Fishing: A fish called Bernard

Fishing lines

An Amusing tale reached me this week about two Norfolk guides almost coming to blows when they found themselves about to fish the same stretch of river. It didn't quite get as far as the aquatic equivalent of road rage (trading punches is quite tricky from boats, especially when there's 10 feet of water beneath you). But they threw herrings at each other and bandied words along the lines of "I was here first," and "This is my bit of river," with sundry adjectives.

The tale was told to me by a third Norfolk pike guide, Richard Furlong, who's been doing it for nearly 10 years as a full-time job rather than a way to make a few quid that the taxman won't find out about. For ages he was the only horse in town; indeed in the UK. But suddenly guiding, especially for pike, has become immensely popular.

It's always been part of salmon fishing, where the guide is called a gillie or ghillie. But the trend towards expert help has spread to all areas of fishing. It's not just those who like fishing for a particular species and see a way of getting others to pay for it. Over the past few years some top writers have headed in this direction.

Last week I wrote about the author John Bailey, who runs trips to locations where the group get the chance to catch exotica like mahseer, sturgeon and arctic char. Two days later I went to a slide show where the doyen of angling broadcasters, John Wilson, was exhorting people to join his next trip to Lake Nasser, Egypt, in April and to Lake Kariba in September.

A trip with Wilson would be good value even without the lure of tigerfish, vundu catfish and Nile perch. In April his seventh series with Anglia TV starts. The care he puts into ensuring each programme has more than Man v Fish has seen him survive where other angling series have risen and died. Small wonder that his travels have attracted audiences of up to three million.

Lake Nasser is not the prettiest place in the world. It was formed by flooding a Nile valley to produce a 15-mile lake that is up to 10 miles wide, with depths of 200 feet. The views are, well, lumpy sand and rock, but the shoreline is scattered with relics from hundreds, even thousands, of years ago.

The main attraction is a fish with a mouth like Bernard Manning. A 50lb Nile perch could swallow a three-course dinner without any of the plates touching the sides. A 300-pounder could probably swallow the waiter too. Fish of 100lb can be caught from the shore on lures and even on a fly. They are not hard to hook, though getting them out is harder.

For variety, you can play historian, tangle with tigerfish which have teeth straight out of a Hammer film, or go croc-spotting. "If you're going to wade in the shallows, don't bother buying a return air ticket," says Wilson. "Some of those crocodiles are huge." Losing a fish is one thing, losing a client is quite another.

I am indebted to C B McCully's fly-fishing dictionary for putting me straight about how gillie should be spelt. I've tended to include the "h" because otherwise it looks the girl's name. But McCully is in no doubt, quoting my favourite bed-time reading, John Jamieson's An Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language (Volume Two). Because it's from a Gaelic word meaning manservant, it is spelt gillie - most of the time. But I'll let McCully explain it. "The orthographic 'h' is due to misuse: in Gaelic, 'g' is aspirated after a preposition or when it is used in the vocative case, and then it is spelt ghillie." Now you know.

For more information about John Wilson's fishing safaris: Tailor Made Holidays, 5 Station Approach, Hinchley Wood, Surrey KT19 0SP. Tel: 0181- 398 7424.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Supply Chain Administrator

£8000 - £10800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Supply Chain Administrator is ...

Recruitment Genius: Client IT Account Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Client IT Account Manager is ...

Ashdown Group: Management Accountant / Analyst (CIMA finalist/newly qualified)

£32000 - £38000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Management Accountant / F...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - .NET

£27000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of a mark...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor