Fish may not be very bright, but as for fishermen...

Share
Related Topics
TIME moves in mysterious ways, as anyone with a bus schedule will tell you. Every year, it takes less time to reach Australia but longer to drive to work. A minute equals 60 seconds, except when someone says "Just a..." And UK National Fishing Week, which started yesterday, lasts 10 days.

Anglers see nothing strange in this. Too much time spent stretching their arms out wide and turning sprats into mackerel, I guess. What other activity is there (except male lap-dancing) in which enlargement is not just accepted but welcomed? But then there is more to National Fishing Week than merely hauling in our finny friends. Among its 4,993 events (compared with the mere 114 when it started in 1992) you could - if you didn't fancy learning to cast - try maggot racing instead.

Either way you will not be alone. More than 450,000 people will be dangling a line during the week. That bible of outdoor activities The Big Breakfast has been trailing it heavily in a series called "Reel Men".

Whether you're a sad old git, a yuppie, a psychotic, a snob or a hooligan, fishing has something for you. But you do need to choose the discipline - game, sea or coarse - that fits your personality. Mix with the wrong set and you will be treated worse than a Kosovan refugee in Dover.

Game fishing means trying to catch trout and salmon, usually with bits of fluff wrapped round a hook. Looking the part is very important. Designer clothing and tackle with names such as Hardy and Orvis are de rigueur. They cost a lot, but then so does the fishing: a week chasing salmon on a prime Scottish river can set you back more than pounds 1,000, and in Norway it could be three times that. Hampshire's river Test - "clear as gin, and twice as expensive" - is the place for trouters to be seen. Affecting a posh voice, talking loudly in restaurants and signing petitions for the return of the death penalty will all help your cause.

All game fish can be eaten and usually are. Unfortunately, this results in waters without stock. But being able to afford the crippling costs, and to cast like the characters in A River Runs Through It, is infinitely more important than catching anything. You can always buy salmon and trout in your local supermarket if you really want fish, and you'll get free parsley thrown in.

Whatever trout fishers claim, their quarry is not very bright - indeed, only a little smarter than those who seek to catch them. Most trout come from fish farms, where they are fed twice daily on high-protein food. Such fish exhibit all the natural cunning of a rock. Fishing a river near Seattle, I had farm salmon actually swimming up to me, looking for food, which rather reduces the "challenge" of fishing. Still, if you want to get on in PR or the City, game fishing is your only bet.

Sea anglers fall into two groups: shore and boat. The former sling a weight out to sea from a beach and catch nothing, because in-shore trawlers have hoovered up all the fish. They also dangle lines off piers, and catch crabs. They are highly gregarious. Walk to the end of Southend Pier, start to fish and the only other angler on the pier will set up right next to you.

Boat fishers catch about the same amount, but go farther out to sea to do it. This is a very macho sport where big rods, huge hooks and thick lines demand regular weight-training. Heavy drinking is encouraged, preferably while the boat is rolling in a force eight. Don't expect sympathy for seasickness, either. It is a cause for tremendous merriment among your companions.

Coarse anglers pursue all the species that the game set would like to see extinct, such as roach, perch, pike, carp, chub, tench, bream and sticklebacks. All are inedible. Try a chub if you don't believe me. Oven gloves taste better. Most waters still hold coarse fish. You fish for them... and put them back. Pretty pointless, huh?

Except a whole new industry has grown up around returnable fish. At its most extreme, specimen hunting makes the Masons look like a Citizen's Advice Bureau. Even naming the county where a big carp or catfish was captured is seen as too specific. This week's Angling Times typically talks of a large carp caught "at a secret Southern pit". If you think they're out to get you, join a carp-fishing syndicate and prove yourself right.

Certain very big fish are caught so often they acquire pet names. The record carp is called Mary. He - sex does not figure highly among coarse anglers' interests - has been captured several times between 40lb and 55lb. Tempt Mary, or Stumpy or The Pig, six times, and you can claim to have caught half-a-dozen 50-pounders - even though it's the same fish.

But such success is achieved only by spending weeks, sometimes months, beside water, living in a bivvy. Ultra-specimen hunters equip their bivvies with televisions, carpets and even fridges.

Still, carp fishing offers wonderful scope for invention, especially in baits. Chum Mixer, marshmallows, pepperoni, mung beans, even flavoured rabbit-droppings have all caught fish, but to really impress those who fish for days at a stretch the trick is to make your own. A chemistry degree helps here. A typical ingredient list reads: five large eggs, 16oz Seed of the Weed mix, 5ml Forest Berry, 10ml Aminol, 2ml Supersweet and one level teaspoon of Betaine. But this recipe, taken from a carp magazine, is probably no good because someone else already knows about it. Secret baits are always better.

At the other end of the scale are match anglers. These are the green umbrella brigade, a familiar sight on canals and rivers, spaced every 20 yards as far as the eye can see. You can't move from your spot for five hours. Picked a bad area? Tough luck. Their quarry is anything with fins. I know one match fisher who won a competition with 600 minnows weighing 5lb. This branch of the sport is ideal for those with extremely good eyesight, who can bet on drops of rain running down a window.

Of course, you could just go down to the local river, dangle a piece of bread and hope for the best. This is contemptuously called "pleasure fishing". Expect scorn from all the other groups if you consider taking this route. It means feeding swans with your sandwiches, forgetting your reel and tying your line to the end of the rod instead - and losing all sense of time.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Office Administrator is requ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - Commercial Vehicles - OTE £40,000

£12000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion and growth of ...

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - Sheffield - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer position with a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Leader - Plasma Processing

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Operations Leader is required to join a lea...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: Most powerful woman in British politics

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
All the major parties are under pressure from sceptical voters to spell out their tax and spending plans  

Yet again, the economy is the battleground on which the election will be fought

Patrick Diamond
Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders