Spring brings mayfly, a monster halibut and tricky land reform

Just as my last column was flying to the presses, news broke that a monster halibut had been caught.

Just as my last column was flying to the presses, news broke that a monster halibut had been caught. I read with wonderment,then sadness that the 8ft long, 20st, 35-year-old fish had been netted in Scotland. Sad because the more I thought of this grand old fish (I think being nearly 35 myself made me more empathetic) and how it had evaded being caught all that time, the more I wish they'd put him back. He probably wouldn't have lived anyway, after the trauma, but none the less.

Instead he went to be gobbled up by diners in an Aberdeen restaurant. It's enough to make you turn veggie. Almost. But my Italian meat-eating genes are so much stronger than sentiment. This got me thinking about halibut because it's not a fish I have much to do with. Salmon we all know I'm obsessed with, trout I catch a fair amount of so I'm pretty familiar with them, ditto grayling. But halibut? I don't fish for them ­ although I know some people do avidly ­ and I can't remember the last time I ate one.

Halibut really have a dreadfully boring image. They're quite ugly, but that's not the reason because look at pike. It's just that halibut don't seem to have anything romantic about them. I mean, has any poet ever written about them? Funny I should ask, because yes one has. William Cowper did in the 18th century ­ 'To The Immortal Memory of the Halibut on Which I Dined This Day' ­ although his verse doesn't have quite the passion with which Ted Hughes wrote of pike. (If truth be told, I think Cowper was taking the pi-pi somewhat.)

Halibut, being a flat fish and a demersal fish at that (fish that live on or near the bottom, like cod or haddock) have a face slightly like Frankenstein's monster. I feel mean writing that, but it's true. They have both eyes on one side of their head. But not in a symmetrical way like ray fish. Rather in a squashed, afterthought way. One eye is where you would expect it to be, the other above the 'snout'. Look at a halibut (which, incidentally, means 'holy flatfish', it was much eaten on holy days) next time you're at the fishmongers and you'll see what I mean. No point looking for one in the supermarket because if they sell halibut it will be filletted to within an inch of its life.

Anyway, much other news to catch up on. This week the 10-week ban on cod was lifted. The ban was imposed by the European Union. The news was greeted with glee by fisherman, and who can blame them if their livelihood depends upon it. But I can't help thinking that 10 weeks isn't really that much time for a fish that's endangered to recover and there are so many other other fish issues that the EU still needs to address.

And a bit of a tussle is going on in Scotland. A proposal in a draft bill currently before the Scottish parliament ­ the Land Reform Bill ­ would give crofters the right to buy the land they currently rent. Great news you may think. Well this depends on whether you are the crofter or the landowner.

The landowners argue that the crofters right to buy should extend only to the land, and not to the fishing rights. The crofters argue, not all but most, that they should be able to buy the fishing rights too. It seems a curious business. On the one hand, having dealt with some incredibly snotty owners of Scottish river fishing beats ­ they've always been English ­ I think "Ha! You won't be so posh and grand and have such an ungenerous attitude now, will you?" On the other hand, if I were such a landowner with fishing rights, I would be really very miffed (the crofters have to pay a 'fair' price but still. And there's nothing to say they won't in turn either let everyone fish it which will bring problems of its own, or be just as snotty.) It's a situation I'm glad I have no part in although I intend to watch what happens with a keen interest. If anyone wants to read about it go to www.scotland.gov.uk/landreform and have a look, it's really quite interesting.

Now for some heartening news that maybe spring is on its way (although it's well hidden, isn't it?). I have reports that some hatches of mayfly have been spotted on the Avon and the Test, so good for you if you have 'early' bookings on those rivers. Imagine fishing for the mayfly on a river that hasn't been fished for months ­ as is the case with some ­ it'll be doubly exciting. Take smelling salts.


Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol
art'Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' followed hoax reports artist had been arrested and unveiled
Life and Style

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

Stephanie first after her public appearance as a woman at Rad Fest 2014

Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Endangered species spotted in a creek in the Qinling mountains

peopleJust weeks after he created dress for Alamuddin-Clooney wedding
Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Leonardo DiCaprio talks during the press conference for the film

Film follows park rangers in the Congo

Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
Adel Taraabt in action for QPR against West Ham earlier this month
footballQPR boss says midfielder is 'not fit to play football'
First woman: Valentina Tereshkova
peopleNASA guinea pig Kate Greene thinks it might fly
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Systems and Network Administrator

Negotiable: Randstad Education Leicester: We are recruiting for a Systems and ...

English Teacher

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Group: English as an Additional Langua...

Nursery assistants required in Cambridgeshire

£10000 - £15000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Nursery assistants re...

History Teacher

£60 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: Job opportunities for Seconda...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album