Fishing Lines: Me and my pals are like penguins - it's down in black and white

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The Independent Online

Let me introduce you to some of my penguin buddies. First, Andy. An excellent fisher who has made videos showing others how to do it, he's one of those generous souls who will call you if he is catching so you can share his good fortune.

Even when times are tough, Andy approaches everything positively. If we have a blank day, his assumption is that it's bound to be better tomorrow. Top penguin.

I taught Mark to fish. A classic case of the pupil outstripping the teacher, nowadays he usually catches the biggest and the most fish. What makes him such an ideal companion is that he'll rearrange family commitments to join me. Wife's birthday? Sorry, love, going fishing. He's even sorted out his own fishing grounds, and generously shares them with me. Just last week, I caught a 16lb pike from his favourite spot. Prime penguin.

David is the man who gets me into places I could normally only dream about. With contacts in all the right places, he's so astute that he swims effortlessly through the turbulent waters of angling politics. He's by far the most erudite of my elite set, happy to discuss Nietzsche, Cicero or Harry Potter. An educated penguin.

Good-natured, unfazed by adversity and, best of all, loved by all things that bite and sting, Charlie is my darling in wild places. Mosquitoes, wasps and blackfly normally home in on me – but not if Charlie's onhand. Food penguin (rather him than me).

The oldest of my compadres is Clive, who's seen it all, done it all and these days, alas, is showing signs of mortality. But he's generally caught them bigger, fiercer and in wilder places than any of us and can tell wonderful campfire yarns about it all. Senior penguin,for sure.

John seems less interested these days in catching fish than observing them. He's undoubtedly the fittest of the group (runs marathons for fun). He's the one who climbs mountains, swims rivers, risks life and limb for his fish. At heart, he's a gentle soul who (he won't thank me for revealing this) listens to pan-pipe music to calm his troubled soul. Mystical penguin, maybe.

I never realised our affinity with the Spheniscidae family until I read about Synchronised Group Association in 'Little Penguins', a study by Australian researchers. They discovered that penguins make friends and team up with their mates when they go fishing.

Little penguins, the smallest species, cross beaches in groups of between five and 10 birds. (Being in a gang probably protects individuals from predators.) The researchers, from the School of Biological Sciences of Monash University, also found that these groups fish co-operatively. The academics claim it probably helps to share knowledge of feeding sites, but I reckon it's a bit deeper than that.

So how come I can see a close link with the penguins? Well, it turns out that only middle-aged penguins get together for fishing parties. Older and younger penguins, who are less likely to be good fishers, are never picked to be part of the team.

And youngsters in particular would be embarrassed by their elders bellowing out that traditional birthday ditty "Freeze a Jolly Good Fellow".