Fishing: It pays to keep mum about the hot spots
Sunday 27 June 1999
I took my duties very seriously. I talked to all the local tackle shops. I fished the area almost every evening, homework or no homework. Weekends too. Twice a week, I cycled the length of the towpath, a distance of perhaps seven miles, and chatted to anglers. I introduced myself as the Angling Times river reporter. A few were impressed, and asked advice. Most, I suspect, thought I was a jerk.
Two incidents stand out from those halcyon days, when the Thames wasn't emasculated by over-abstraction and polluted by farm chemicals. (Studies last year showed that 99 per cent of Thames roach were female, which is great if you're a male roach, but not too promising for the propagation of the species.) Doing my twice-weekly check towards the end of June, I asked one angler how he was doing. "Haven't caught a thing," he said. "I can't understand it. Angling Times said it would be good here." On that occasion, I recall, I didn't volunteer the fact that I was the guru in question.
But sometimes I got it right. Probably the most sought-after species in the Thames then was barbel. My area was a good one for them, and in the autumn, if you knew where to go, it wasn't unusual to catch four or five in a session, averaging 4lb.
To give you an idea of the barbel's appeal, there was a knock on the door at 5am one September morning. I was still living at home at the time (on a reporter's salary, it was that or a ditch). My father, bleary-eyed, poked his head out of the window and saw one of my mates on the doorstep. He came in and woke me. "It's one of your bloody fishing friends," he snarled. I went down (Thank goodness I wasn't wearing the Sooty pyjamas that night.)
It was Clive Evans, better known to his mates as Flasher (that's another story). He didn't say: "Sorry to wake you up", but: "I've just caught 18 barbel." My response was exactly what he wanted. Not: "Do you know what the bloody time is?" but: "What did you catch them on?" and: "Where were you fishing?" God, I had it bad in those days.
Knowledge is a dangerous thing. At the time, I used it widely, but not wisely. If one area were fishing well, I would pinpoint it for the greater good. For days, often weeks, after the magazine came out, it was impossible to get near the hotspots. It never struck me then, nor when I went to work on the local paper and highlighted undiscovered lakes and ponds. I'm wiser now.
Reading the latest book by probably the finest angling writer alive, the American John Gierach, brought this all uncomfortably back. In Standing in a River Waving a Stick, he discusses the problem of revealing unspoilt locations. His words left me with the feeling you get when you polish off a child's Easter egg without them knowing. "The fact is, anyone who's been in this business for a while has probably ruined a couple of once- good fishing holes by writing where-to-go and which-rock-to-stand-on stories about them - usually early on, before it sinks in that people are actually reading this stuff."
But I'm helping people to better fishing, I argued. J G again: "In terms of journalistic ethics, you can always invoke people's right to know and that all you're supposed to do is tell the story, but that can become a cop-out. A public official with his hand in the cookie jar is one thing, while a secluded beaver pond with 20 brook trout that could be fished out in a single afternoon is another."
Well, I'm off fishing on Tuesday. But I'll be damned if I tell you lot where I'm going, or what I caught.
Latest in Sport
Frank Lampard equalises for Manchester City against Chelsea: how Twitter reacted
All Blacks Aaron Cruden misses New Zealand flight after drinking session, has brilliant excuse
Manchester City vs Chelsea match report: Frank Lampard shows no joy after denying Chelsea victory
Leicester City 5 Manchester United 3 player ratings: Leonard Ulloa? Radamel Falcao? Jamie Vardy? Angel Di Maria? Who was the star man?
Leicester City vs Manchester United match report: Jamie Vardy runs lopsided United ragged in amazing comeback
- 1 All Blacks Aaron Cruden misses New Zealand flight after drinking session, has brilliant excuse
- 2 Kim Kardashian 'nude photos' leaked on 4chan weeks after Jennifer Lawrence scandal
- 3 'F*ck it, I quit': TV reporter Charlo Greene quits live on air in spectacular fashion
- 4 Alicia Keys leaks nude photo 'to create a kinder and more peaceful world'
- 5 Clothes store Joy angers mental health campaigners with Twitter exchange on bipolar disorders
Scotland could still declare independence – even without referendum, says Alex Salmond
Scottish referendum results: Cross-party consensus collapses amid Tory-Labour spat on the 'English question'
Hilary Mantel 'should be investigated by police' over Margaret Thatcher assassination story, says Lord Bell
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Plebgate MP Andrew Mitchell called officer a 'little s**t', claim court documents 'exposing ex-Chief Whip's 'record of abusing police'
Archbishop of Canterbury admits doubts about existence of God
£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...
£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...
£50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...
£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...