Fishing Lines: Best time to cast me a line
Sunday 17 January 1999
I don't mind the ones that tell of fishing adventures in exotic places. (Many of these, in fact, come from non-anglers.) I enjoy the ones where people berate me for talking a load of tosh. (At least it shows someone out there is reading my golden words.) It's flattering when readers ask me technical angling questions. (I usually don't know the answer, but it's easy to phone up the appropriate expert, then pass the opinion off as my own.)
But there are also the other letters. I am sent deeply complicated lunar charts showing the best time for sea-trout fishing in west-flowing rivers.
One reader detailed all the mentions of fish and fishing in the Bible; an eight-man match group in Somerset sent in a sponsorship request with the promise that their team would be called Taunton Independent Match, or somesuch (get a life, lads).
Then there are the veggies who insist I should eat lettuce rather than fish, and that by writing this column I am depleting our natural resources; the man from Nigeria who was a keen fisherman and wondered if I could put him up for a few months while he came to England to continue his studies. PS: Could you send pounds 1,000 for my air ticket?
There are several columns in these and similar correspondence. But they are all readers, so I reply politely to every one, even the total fruitcakes who write in capital letters and coloured pens.
Thank goodness for a sensible letter like that from Douglas Maclean of Edinburgh, who has written to various angling luminaries as well as myself, trying to solve some of the mysteries of fishing and life.
His questions were deceptively simple:
l What is the best time to go fishing?
l The best place?
l The best bait or fly?
l The best fish?
It seemed a serious project, so instead of delivering a series of off- the-cuff, glib answers, I thought carefully. And this is what I wrote...
"The best time to go fishing is when you need to. I have fished in perfect conditions and places, and my heart hasn't been in it. At other times, when the top of your head is about to blow off, the only remedy is to find water and angle in it. Whether it flows like the Spey or trundles like the Grand Union Canal doesn't matter a jot. Nor does it matter if you are casting a fly on coral shallows for bonefish; trolling for marlin on a boat that costs more than you will earn in the next 20 years, dangling a maggot after gudgeon in the village pond or shivering on an east coast beach in January. The main thing, the whole thing really, is being there."
I'm not sure this is what he wanted. In fact, I suspect my reply will be about as much use as a chocolate hand-warmer. But I really don't have a favourite fish or place or fly. I used to think the best time to go fishing was at least an hour before dawn broke, working on some cockeyed theory that the fish weren't quite so alert first thing in the morning. Now I think the best time is probably any time after a decent breakfast.
The other morning I chatted to the milkman as he delivered his early pintas. "Gets harder to get up this early, doesn't it?" I remarked. "I used to do it all the time when I went fishing."
"But you didn't have to do it," he said.
Ah, but I did. And I still do.
Next week's column, technology permitting, should come to you from Florida. A week's pure fishing. The siren call, you see. Just days of black bass fishing... and no lunatic letters.#
Latest in Sport
Paul Scholes: Emirates was the easy option for Mesut Ozil. He needs a leader - and Arsenal don't have them
Gareth Bale reveals the two things he hates about Real Madrid: 'Getting nutmegged and Spanish spiders'
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao
Cristiano Ronaldo shows off his dance moves, including the moonwalk
Terminally-ill Club Brugge fan Lorenzo Schoonbaert delays euthanasia appointment to see his beloved football club 'win one last time'
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Ex-head of MI6: 'We shouldn't kid ourselves that Russia is on a path to democracy'
Most people think legal tax avoidance is just as wrong as illegal tax evasion, poll suggests
Nigel Farage promises Ukip will not 'stigmatise' would-be migrants – and says he wants 'everyone to speak the same language'
£28000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A luxury fashion retailer based in W...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Systems Engineer - East Riding of...
£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This retail and hospitality til...
£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly expanding IT Manag...