Who am I?

An individual, of no great importance, who is unable to see the natural world as a place for competition. I catch fish, watch birds, derive immense pleasure from simply looking at butterflies, moths, bumble-bees, etc - without the need for rules! I am Dylan and this is my blog - if my opinions offend? Don't bother logging on again - simple!


Thursday 29 January 2015

Deliberate deceit, laziness and does it matter?

Angling has always been synonymous with tales of "the one that got away". Are all anglers liars? Or do all liars fish? - I've lived with this concept of fishermen, by the onlooking general public, since my very first recollections of picking up a rod. The bailiffs and fishery owners with "you should have been here yesterday" or the bloke in the pub who, over hearing your conversation, butts in with a tale of a fish larger than anything you've ever seen. All part and parcel of the tapestry of angling legend. Every now and again, there is a whiff of truth - but for the most part it is just a web of deceit and lies.

An absolute masterpiece of angling research and writing.
That I am owner of both volumes puts me in a very elite group of pike anglers.
I am currently reading the second volume of Graham Booth's "A History of Pike Fishing"  (a masterpiece of angling writing) and have become rather drawn by the role of Dennis Pye in the development of the pike angling on the R. Thurne, and associated Broads, in Norfolk. Catapulted to celebrity status, by The Angling Times, he felt duty bound to live up to this billing and, despite his obvious talent, felt he had to embellish his reputation by making claims of captured pike which were so outrageous as to see him fall from grace when the Norfolk bonanza was cut short by the 1969 Prymnesium outbreak. It resulting in an almost total fish kill throughout the entire river network. He claimed to have captured in excess of twenty twenties per season for a decade or more - the result being he was, at least, ten times more successful than any other angler fishing during that same period. For a season - it might be possible; for a decade - not a chance! Colin Dyson (A guy I met whilst he was the Editor of Angler's Mail) has made the comment "What a shame we can't destroy the record and not the man himself". Dennis was a very talented pike angler who allowed fame to get out of control.
It was whilst on a holiday, in Ireland, that Dennis was to show his true colours when boating a pike and saying that's a 20! It was weighed, without Dennis knowing, at 14 lbs and so began the era of guestimation by celebrity anglers. I watch many Youtube offerings and remain amazed at the regularity with which decent fish are returned to the water without ever having been weighed. Glib (generally carp, but not always) anglers commenting "it's just a low twenty - a scaper thirty!" Unbelievable - these fish are returned to the fisheries, nowhere near the weight that is claimed and, yet, accepted as such by the angling public who, in turn, do the same. No scales and no cameras - yeah I had a twenty yesterday - where will it end?
My only river twenty - 20 lbs 1 oz of River Thames joy
8th January 1987 - 1/2 Herring (tail section) flavoured - Bruce & Walker 1.75 lb T/C rod with
an ABU Cardinal 66X and 20lbs b.s. Marlin Steel trace (green) size 6 Mustad trebles
If it had weighed 19 lbs 15 oz - I'd have been just as delighted by the encounter.
Let's get this right. If someone is prepared to lie to themselves - nothing will stop that. Is it important that a fish gets weighed? Again, very emotive. For me, as an individual; if I've made the effort to catch a fish then the least I can do is pay it the respect to give it a weight. There are obvious exceptions, but for the majority of my captures scales and a camera are of equal importance to the rod and reel?
Away from the commercial trout fisheries, a twenty pound pike remains a very rare animal. For a wild fish to attain such weight requires a very special set of circumstances. Since 1981 - I have captured just eight fish in excess of this weight and witnessed another dozen, or so. They are truly magnificent creatures which deserve the greatest respect. If 19 lbs were  the bench mark? I'd be a champion, (I've had a darn sight more 19's than I have 20's) - I must be one of the greatest exponents of the art, or is it because I weigh all of my fish and have no room for guess work? Jim Gibbinson made similar comment in his 1983 "Modern Specimen Hunting" - he alluding to the fact that guestimation was playing an ever increasing role in fish recording. Quite how many folk would be prepared to guess at a 19lbs 12oz pike is open for debate!  You got it - nobody would because 20 is that magic figure to which the vast majority of pike anglers aspire.
Benno with the first Scottish 20 I'd ever seen.
Already seeing the modern trend to push the fish away from the angler, thus towards
 the camera, in order to make the fish appear larger than reality?
It might simply be an age thing - my insistence for registering an "accurate" weight against my captures. My photos are a relic of times gone by, in as much as I make absolutely no attempt to push the fish towards the camera. If anyone had used that technique in the 80's they'd have been accused of deliberately cheating. Today holding a fish at arms length is all the fashion and no-one bats an eyelid. All of a sudden there are loads of "big fish" photos which, as impressive as they look, are deliberately fraudulent. The true scale of a fish's size is only obtainable when it is photographed in the same plane as the anglers' body. Some of the images in the weekly rags are outrageous - carp can appear to have the body proportions of a rhino - until you realize that no-one has yet evolved with fingers of the same dimension as a rolling pin!

My very great mate, Tom B, showing all the tricks of the trade - a Loch Awe pike 21 lbs 2 oz
He couldn't get it any closer to the lens because his arms wouldn't stretch any further
At a very base level, of course it doesn't matter that an angler chooses to guess the weight of a fish, it doesn't particularly matter that the guess is miles off the truth, and it certainly doesn't make the slightest difference if there's a photo, or not! Well that is, if the same angler is happy to keep this information to themselves? If this stuff enters the public domain then there are all sorts of repercussions! Fishery owners will look to use "big fish" stories as a way of promoting their business (ref: 34 lbs + Pike from Cottington Fishery nr. Deal: mid 20 at the very best - photos on show in Dragoncarp, Ramsgate), the angling media will stoke the flames and create a desire, from a section of their readership, who are prepared to travel in order to achieve similar captures. Very simply, time, effort and hard-earned cash will be spent in pursuit of utter fiction by anglers who are more easily fooled than their quarry.

A lot more years ago; than I care to recall - a small (5 lbs-ish) pike from the Grand Union Canal at Bourne End, HERTS.
This silly blog post will change absolutely nothing - "What do I know?". The modern angling scene is nothing like the one in which my roots are set and my heart still clings to - the modern angler is no more a countryman than the average man on the street. Today; anglers are technicians - purely geared up to do battle with fish, of immense size, in the artificial arenas provided by modern commercial fisheries. I cannot offer any realistic argument against this situation - just lament the passing of time and the role that the generation of angling countryman played in my past and, as such, shaped my future and accept the simple truth they will no longer exert any influence on my "brothers of the angle". This could go on for ever! Perhaps it's best that I quit whilst I'm still able?
Angling and liars = birding and stringers; I'm confident that there are many other interest groups in which this dubious info can cause a major problem - fortunately I'm out of that loop!


  1. I think that you've hit on a subject that could just as easily be applied to some elements of birdwatching Dylan. The twitcher that manages to "see" a rare bird when no one else is about and then goes home and writes up field notes from a book. And also like some modern fishermen who are not true countrymen, so some modern birdwatching has changed whereby many birdwatchers are alerted to rare birds while sitting indoors listening to a pager, rather than being out in the countryside finding stuff themselves, especially if it's cold and wet.

  2. Dylan,

    Perhaps in the words of John Gierach "All Anglers are Liars". Just do your own thing, fish for yourself( as many, many still do), look back and laugh and the utter trollocks that is peddled at times. Get up, go fishing, look and listen. Blank or not, who cares.

    But yeah, I do get your point.