I have, it has to be said, had few fishing experiences on which to base this rant all of which were disasters. For example as a young boy holidaying in Scotland, my Father decided in his infinite wisdom, to take my two brothers and I fishing for the day on Loch Lomond. He rented a rowing boat rather than one with an engine and a rudder. Why a rowing boat? Could it have been to be at one with nature, to embrace the great outdoors, to leave the contraptions and gadgetry of modern life behind and hunt like our forefathers; silently and stealth like. Or was it simply cheaper to rent the oar option? Who knows?
Anyhow there we were with simple drop lines, a selection of hooks and bait, oars slicing ‘silently’ through the steady waters. We young boys filled with the expectation of landing something big, anticipating that rite of passage, that moment in time we would remember for the rest of our lives; our first catch. We chatted excitedly, watched the ripples span out towards the ever diminishing shoreline, no doubt ran our fingers through the cold clean water as Father rowed laboriously on, ever deeper into that vast expanse.
Finally the oarsman relaxed his stroke, placed the oars in the already cramped vessel and dished out bait to his eager brood. We, if I remember rightly, enjoyed several moments of quietude and tranquility before disaster struck! Someone and I don’t remember who, had the good sense to read aloud a sign that had appeared portside. The sign, which I now assume to have been tethered to a buoy, simply warned not to stray past it, on account of the fact that those waters were reserved for firing live ammunition by the Royal Navy! No Panic!
My Father being a Naval man himself and therefore in possession of a stout constitution and an unyielding nerve; panicked! Not I would expect from the possible horrors that may await us beyond that sign, but from the possible horrors that would greet him should he return ‘sans infant’ to my darling mother.
The moments that followed play like a silent movie reel, some slapstick comedy of yonder year. First he loses an oar but continues to row sending our craft in ever decreasing circles and getting nowhere fast. Then cleverly opts for a rather more Canadian technique and therefore passes the oar from one side of the boat to the other. Good thinking, only with each switch of the remaining oar he clobbers my younger brother over the head. Younger brother protests as one should when being clobbered repeatedly with an oar, but his cries fall on deaf ears, Alas I don’t believe he has ever fully recovered from that incident.
With a massive joint effort, hands in water paddling like mad, we reach the nearest outcrop of shore and my wet feet touch dry land. Marooned my Father decides to strike out alone in search for help. This I should point out was well before the arrival of mobile phones and satellite navigation devices. No sooner had my Father gallantly disappeared over the rocky horizon we boys descended into ‘William Golding’ territory. We soon became savages, arguing over who should rule this piece of land and who should succeed; accidents happen. Finally exhausted we slumped despondently into private thoughts of violence and revenge. Then, when the flame of our hope was but a dying ember, my Father returned with news of a rescue boat, but we would have to walk. With a heavy heart I flung my unused line over my shoulder and began to walk, only the three pronged hook at the end of the line – placed there earlier with such hope – embedded itself ironically in my calve! The only thing I managed to hook that day was myself.
But I have hooked something since, many years later, on the other side of the world. After a year of travelling through Australia I ended my trip by stopping off in Sydney once more. My Girlfriend at the time and I stayed with her cousin a keen sportsman and fisherman ‘to boot’. He wanted me to go back to England with a story, a story of how I landed a fish from the shores of Bondi beach!
Every evening for two weeks we would trundle off in his cramped MG spitfire with fishing rods and cold beers, hoping that I’d land something; anything! We fished from the beach, and as the antipodean sun slithered into the Pacific Ocean, silhouettes of other optimistic anglers could be seen along the shoreline.
Each evening, with a smile that boasted perfect dentistry, my host would effortlessly haul in supper, but alas I was left wanting. Then finally on the last night I waded waist high into the moon lit sea, cast out without hope or, to be honest, reason and felt a tug on my line….a big tug. All my training and preparation kicked in, my Jedi senses were working over time, my will against this, as yet, unidentified fish. My cunning and my strength were tested like never before, I sensed Hemingway’s presence beside me; a story like this even the dead will sit up and watch! I soon realized though that this was a battle I couldn’t win alone, this fish, this monster from the deep, this tyrant of the seas equaled my own strength and so, not wanting to lose it, I called for help. Hemmingway shook his head in despair and slunk off to whence he came.
With two of us reeling and tugging we slowly made our way out of the water and onto those hallowed sands of legend where a new parable was born. It was then, my body aching and wet with sweat, that I noticed what could only be described as a Chinaman shifting across the beach on his belly. Holding onto his fishing rod with an iron grip his expression changed instantly from one of hope and determination to one of realization and despondency…..as did mine. We silently and awkwardly untangled our lines, he trotted off back down the beach and that was that!
Fishing for fun is an oxymoron; there is no fun in fishing. I have nothing against those that fish for a living, all the best to them, they haul in my supper after all. Other than that it’s just laziness dressed up in rubber trousers, lounging about on a river bank all day eating sausage rolls and drinking tea from a thermos. Sitting on your arse all day at home doing nothing would be frowned upon but sitting under a bridge, by a dirty canal, in the pouring rain, well that’s different, that’s doing something. ‘Well did you catch anything darling?’ Answer ‘only pneumonia’.
A little solitude is a good thing; we could all do with more time to reflect on life’s conundrums, but do it when you’re dropping the kids off at the pool like the rest of us! As for night fishing, come on, what’s all that about, why would you? There has to be more rewarding pastimes out there; collect hospital ward names, train cats to sing, learn to speak Welsh but fish at night? I’ll tell you what it is, it’s a boredom addiction, gotta be, end of.