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

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

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: HAMPSHIRE MARKET TOWN - A highly attr...

Ashdown Group: IT Systems Analyst / Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

£23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

Ashdown Group: Junior Reports Developer / Application Support Engineer

£23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

Recruitment Genius: Client Support Officer

£10 - £11 per hour: Recruitment Genius: The candidate must be committed, engag...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Should it be okay to split infinitives or does it chop up the English language too much?  

Sometimes it's okay to chop and change the way we write. But most of the time, it isn't

John Rentoul
A man rescues his belongings after his home was affected by floods in Marcovia, Honduras  

Still not sure about the devastating effects of climate change? Then let me tell you what's happening in Honduras right now

Daniel Fine
In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible