People I love and know

The man who puts maggots in his mouth

Hey, Ashley – tell me why you love fishing.

The question on everyone’s lips I’m led to believe is ‘why do I go fishing?’ The honest answer is ‘I don’t know’, I’ve never stopped to think about it. It’s something I’ve always done from a small boy and assumed it was a natural Father/Son type scenario, but let’s break it down. I thought about the easy get out clause, the mountaineers who cite their reason for climbing Everest as ‘because it’s there’. Now that I’m forced to delve into the deepest darkest parts of my mind,  I believe I can shed a little light on the matter. From as far back as I can remember, my Father was a staunch sea angler, with his own boats, and donned the stereotypical attire inclusive of the big knitted jumper, woolly bobble hat and wellies. Sea angling naturally culminated in bags of dead fish in the kitchen and trophy shots of lifeless specimens. It is here that I think the first of my distinctions can be made. I hated the killing of fish and would run around the boat trying to revive the multitude of deceased Mackerel that lay strewn about the deck, having met their grizzly end in such unceremonious circumstances. I vividly remember my Father making me hold an orange Tupperware bowl with a lid on encasing a flat fish of some sort which flapped occasionally in defiance of its inevitable end. To this day I don’t eat fish of any kind and still find the sea fishing ethic very hard to stomach.

So assumption number one is the thrill of the chase. I am extremely competitive by nature and as ridiculous as it seems to the uninitiated, the odds are heavily stacked in the fish’s favour when fishing with rod and line. Think about it; they live primarily in an environment which for the main part has the ability to sustain them without the need for the introduction of artificial baits. They have complete control over their environment, know it better and can survive long periods without food at all. FishingCartoonIt is down to the angler to entice the fish to feed on an unnatural bait on many occasions which needs to be presented in such a way that it is appealing to the fish over and above a food item that is not impaled on a hook. Fish like Carp in commercial venues, which is what I am primarily referring to, also have the ability to learn by association and, therefore, treat various food items with extreme caution. Add to this barometric pressure, weed, snags etc and you can begin to see my point. The moral of this particular section is that I find the extreme challenge of targeting individual fish a major factor in what keeps me going back week after week. Being able to have a cuddle with one of the most sought after fish in the venue that hasn’t been seen for sometimes years is all the reward I ask for. There is as much satisfaction in returning the fish unharmed and treated as the initial capture. It is at this point that I have to face the inevitable challenge that placing a hook in a fish’s lip isn’t synonymous with ‘unharmed’ but I would point out that in the main this is nothing more than an inconvenience to a creature that spends its life with a face full of gravel, mussels and general debris. If you want to test my point, run an open zebra mussel across your finger and you will soon come around to my way of thinking. I cannot defend the stress element that is inevitably placed on the fish during capture, but the trade-off is the most nutritious bait available placed into the water in abundance, sometimes years without capture and an array of treatments for the fish by the angler, on its visit to the bank, for all manner of ailments and justifies the inconvenience to some degree in my mind.4ed453b907def.image
Your personality heavily influences your experience as an angler and I am primarily talking big fish angling here. You need to be very comfortable with your own company whilst spending long periods of time relatively inactive but remaining ever vigilant and capable of reacting at a moment’s notice day or night. This is reflection number two as I love the time alone watching the world go by in a multitude of beautiful places both home and abroad and could in many ways be considered a loner, although I have a very active social life in most other forms. Fishing talk and discussion forms a big part of my pub time much to the disgust of my partner, but the draw of the outside is always there. Nicholas Lyndhurst played Jack Sparrow, and accidental time traveller in Goodnight Sweetheart and I once described arriving at the lake as this type of teleportation into another world, far removed from the stresses and strains of the real world.

Ashley is not alone in his love for fishing.  Whilst soccer is the most popular spectator sport, fishing is the biggest participation sport.  Fact.  I bet you also didn’t know that Many fish – such as carp, chub and minnow – appear to have no teeth but in fact, have teeth in their throats, called pharyngeal teeth.

Reflection number 3 must come in the form of none angling time, which for me is quite considerable. I have written lengthy magazine articles on preparation and the influence it has on your results. I have written similar articles on preparing for trips abroad in a similar vain. I take tremendous satisfaction in all aspects of my time spent doing fishy things, be it lead making, rig making, re-spooling reels with line etc. The feeling of anticipation and adrenaline leading up to a trip is often unbearable. I cannot stress enough to the uninitiated the complexity of the rigs and tackle that we use and the tactics employed with baiting and fish location. It’s akin to a track driver preparing his engine all week, fine tuning the equipment to squeeze every last bit of speed out of the car ready for the weekend.12355319_10153683269656885_1864126167_n
This moves me on nicely to my final reflection which is the sheer exhilaration felt when finally holding the prize in front of the camera and receiving the accolade of friends and fishing acquaintances. These big fish can be over 40 years old, many of which have a place in angling history, featured in many books and magazine articles and are revered like the jewels they are. It is a privilege to share the experience with such magnificent creatures and they are treated with all the dignity they deserve (hook in mouth scenario aside). I don’t know if this brings you any clearer to understanding why I have such a passion for fishing for big carp or whether it has just exposed my warped mind. Either way, even writing articles such as this gives me a sense of satisfaction which can’t be a bad thing can it?




One thought on “People I love and know

  1. That was an inspiring account Ashley! It brought back vivid memories of the many years your dad spent sea fishing. An ever increasing array of expensive rods, reels and all the paraphernalia that went with it. Long trips to the coast, towing a boat for miles. How could I forget? But, I was pleased that you took up the sport and got out there in the fresh air, rather than being stuck in front of a computer. You have achieved an impressive knowledge and understanding of angling. As for the sea versus coarse fishing topic – Dennis’s fish never died for nothing. We ate them with relish!
    Ironically, in latter years, I find myself partnered with David, who is a successful match angler.
    Following his exploits as a member of some of the finest Southern match teams, he moved to Newark in 2002 and formed a new club, which he subsequently led to third place in the National Championships (out of 65 teams). He speaks the same language as my son! So I know better than to liken fishing to dangling a rod over water. But the question still remains in my female mind. Why do they need so much equipment? The answer: “Same reason you need so many clothes!”


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