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
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...
Loic Remy to Arsenal? Gunners close in on move for QPR and France striker - reports
World Cup 2014: Neymar's agent launches scathing attack on Brazil's Luis Felipe Scolari, labelling him 'an old jerk, arrogant, repulsive, conceited and ridiculous'
Brazil vs Germany match report World Cup 2014: Utter humiliation for hosts as Thomas Muller and Toni Kroos help Germany hit seven past Selecao
World Cup 2014: The 50 best players of the World Cup
- 1 Howard Jacobson: Let's see the 'criticism' of Israel for what it really is
- 3 Belgium fan Axelle Despiegelaere lands L'Oreal campaign after World Cup viral photo
- 4 Britney Spears sings 'Alien' without Auto-Tune in embarrassingly brilliant leaked audio clip
- 5 PornHub begs users to stop uploading video clips of Brazil getting beaten 7-1
Sustained immigration has not harmed Britons' employment, say government advisers
Australia facing international condemnation after turning around Sri Lankans at sea
7/7 memorial defaced on anniversary of 2005 attacks with ‘Blair lied thousands died’ graffiti
Even when it brutalises one of its own teenage citizens, America is helpless against Israel
There’s a nasty smell in the political air – and it’s coming from the Tories
Vanessa Feltz criticises 'vile' reaction to Rolf Harris allegations
£100 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Health & Social Care T...
£100 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Temporary Teacher of RE require...
Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: PSHE Teacher required in Devon - Star...
Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: SEN Primary Teacher required Devon