Thursday, September 12, 2013

“I, with my angle would rejoice…” (Izaak Walton 1653)

A message recently arrived asking me what is seemingly a straightforward question:  What kind of fishing do I prefer? I say seemingly straightforward, because my love of angling is best defined by one word.  Freshwater.  Oh, that doesn’t mean to say that I don’t fish in salt water.  On the contrary, I have spent many a content hour with a fly or a spinner in the creeks and small bays to the north of here, and one of my greatest vacation pleasures on Manasota Key in Florida is spinning off the beach, usually in the early morning, in the hope of catching something.  Perhaps breakfast for the heron that often walks with me up and down the Key.  In fact on my last visit I amused myself by catching flounder with a fly on a sinking line just a few yards from the beach!

But that’s about the extent of my saltwater enjoyment.  I have tried other means and methods of course.  Beach-casting (surfcasting) for example off the beaches of Selsea, England, as well as on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.  Using a nine foot rod to throw weights and baits over, or often in my case into, the waves, and waiting patiently for something to happen.  It did so very rarely, and on cold Sussex afternoons I was grateful for this as it gave my time to unscrew the thermos and sip tea. 

I have also tried numerous styles of boat fishing.  I’ll start with the most boring and, I believe, unsporting: Fixing a rod with line and lure into a rod-holder mounted on the rail or transom and sitting back, chatting away, while the skipper powers gently, or not, up and down the bay until a fish strikes.  I have also been a part of a chartered fishing trip where the guide put the bait on the hook, cast to the right spot, and then handed me the rod.  And wreck fishing?  Well, I may try that again if someone else pays for the charter, but the skill surely lies in the positioning of the boat and not in the hands of the fisherman.

No, I am at my happiest when I am on the bank of a river or lake (or even canal) with an appropriate rod in my hands.  Fly fishing is my ideal, but I will fish with other methods and baits, natural or not.  And for me fishing is not ordinarily about catching “the big one.”  I have shaken with excitement after landing large pike, rainbow trout or carp.  But I can also be blissfully happy sitting on a grassy bank with light tackle catching small perch, or pumpkinseed, or in the UK, roach and rudd. And sometimes I don’t fish at all for periods of time, but find a place to sit and munch on a simple sandwich – wondering what lies underneath those distant lily-pads. Or walk the bank, studying, planning, thinking.

I hope this answers a straightforward question, albeit in a roundabout way!


  1. Just to make you feel really ill - at a recent auction in Kendal, a fishing rod that had belonged to Arthur Ransome (with provenance) sold for just £90. If I'd been there I'd have bought it for you!

  2. Such a shame. Had I known about it I might have tried to bid via email...