I’ve always tended to be a bit of a loner when it comes to sport and things like that. I was never much good at cricket, soccer and rugby, though tennis wasn’t too bad because I was basically alone, playing the bloke at the other end of the court, and all I had to do was shout numbers at him, like, “40-15, 30-luv”, and things like that. Because of my peculiar attitude I became a fan for the more ‘lonely’ sports, like flying and to a certain extent caving, which you usually do with others, but have to rely solely on your own ability in tight situations in order to survive!
Sandwiched between my early days of caving and my later flying, and overlapping both of them, I spent many years on another sport (though I tend to think of it more as a hobby than a sport), and that was fishing. This of course was way back in the time when I was still living in England (though I do still indulge myself occasionally here in Australia). England is the greatest place in the world, in my humble opinion, for fresh water fishing, of which there are several types.
There is course fishing, which is the ‘everyman’ part of the sport involving going to the river to hunt course fish, as the name implies. Course fish are roach, dace, pike, perch, tench, and the Australian imported ‘enemy fish’, the carp, the destroyer of many an Aussie waterway! Then there is game fishing, which is the sport of the English gentleman and entails the capture of salmon, trout (brown and rainbow), and grayling. The waters where these fish are caught are almost exclusively private and the fisherman pays large sums of money to the owners of such waterways for the privilege of spending a day there, with no guarantee that you will catch anything. There are several other ways to catch fish in England, but most of them are illegal, some of them requiring dynamite, so we won’t go any further into that!
To get back to me though, some of the most important qualities of fishing that attracted me, weren’t so much the catching of fish, as the pleasure of the environment. There’s no better enjoyment to be had than settling down on your own folding stool beside a quietly flowing river, on a warm summer’s day, freshened by a gentle cooling breeze. Lay out all your necessary accoutrements around you (bait box full of maggots, landing net, keep net, large umbrella in case the weather changes and a Tupperware box full of sandwiches) and you are instantly transferred to an earthly form of heaven. You can watch your float, gently drifting past you in the current, or you can watch small birds flitting about just above the surface of the water, catching insects, or you can become absorbed in the movement of tree leaves all around you, quivering with delight at all the delicious sunshine they are ingesting. Or you can just sit and think pleasant thoughts, carefully avoiding anything to do with work, problems with the car or the row you had with the wife last night — still unresolved because you left home for the fishing before she had woken up.
It’s nice of course, during all this reverie, if you occasionally see your float dip sharply below the surface of the water, telling you there is something live down there, messing about with your maggots. It takes your mind off all the things you had been taking your mind off and gives you a few moments of excitement, until you either catch the fish, (about 10cm long in most cases), or it gets away and you return to the serious business of thinking.
Of course, there are people who take fishing very seriously, entering competitions, or travelling many miles to try a new stretch of river, lugging thousands of dollars-worth of gear around with them, but you’ll have guessed by now that I am not a subscriber of that school of thought. As long as I am alone, the weather is nice and I have some food and a couple of beers with me, I won’t be asking for more! Fishing is different here in Australia anyway, most fishing seems to be sea-fishing, from a boat and I can’t afford a boat, plus I can get seasick anyway, but it’s nice to reminisce about the golden days of fishing in the Avon River at Lacock.