Fishing Lines: Best time to cast me a line

MOST OF the mail I receive from readers makes me wonder whether I am writing for Fortean Times rather than a great British newspaper. Recent correspondence has included photographs of a dog holding a salmon in its mouth; another with a reader standing proudly by the Jaws model in Universal Studios; yet another of a tench with two tails. And they're only the photographs. Then there are the letters.

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.#

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballStriker in talks over £17m move from Manchester United
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
i100
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
boksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Implementation Consultant (VB,C#, SQL, Java, Eclipse, integ

£40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SQL Impl...

SQL Technical Implementation Consultant (Java, BA, Oracle, VBA)

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: SQL Technical ...

Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, Fidessa, Equities)

£85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...

Lead C# Developer (.Net, nHibernate, MVC, SQL) Surrey

£55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead C# Develo...

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor