Having had the privilege to learn my skills, via a prolonged angling apprenticeship, I have also been very fortunate to have been shown a "bigger picture" of the hobby and what's on offer. This will be the root cause of my intolerance of modern angling and anglers - it's not their fault that this type of journey is no longer available, even if they wanted it?
Modern equals instant - and is dominated by a single species; carp! Other species also have their devotees, but they are fringe players in the modern era. Then there are us old farts - stuck in the past, clinging to the notion of being part of a tradition. Sporting countrymen who seek challenges in idyllic surroundings and see their quarry as creatures of mysterious cunning who need to be treated with the utmost respect in order to get a bite. Romantic twaddle for the most part. In short, I can't get any more enjoyment from my approach than a modern carp angler will from theirs - it's the same, but different!
Do I have a favourite species? No, I don't think that I do. I love angling for big fish, but I also gain great pleasure from simply being outdoors, fishing or not. My appreciation of a bigger picture becoming more important with the passing of time. Seeing the world through the eyes of my Grand-children gives a whole new dimension to what's on offer. I will, however, attempt to give an overview of my current thinking on my angling priorities and the species involved.
|Lean, mean, killing machine - a Loch Awe pike from our 2011 trip.|
Any surprise that it was a pike which re-ignited the spark that got me back into angling?
Esox lucius - the Northern Pike, a species which demands respect simply because of the way it looks. Physically big, the un-blinking stare and needle sharp rows of teeth within the enormous gape, even to non-anglers they are impressive creatures. The apex predator in the freshwater environs of the UK, they are capable of testing the tackle and techniques of any angler who seeks the challenge - just steer clear of the obese specimens within trout waters, unless weight is more important than enjoyment? Not the hardest fighting species in our fisheries, yet a fish which for me will always be associated with wild places and wild weather.
BARBEL - A conundrum of some complexity. Yes I do enjoy catching barbel, and yes I have been very lucky to have landed some extremely large individuals in the past couple of years. I think that it would best be summarised by the fact that I do gain immense pleasure from my barbel successes, but I have no great love of the challenge of fishing for them in The Kentish Stour. My memories of so many happy sessions on The Royalty Fishery (Hampshire Avon), King's Weir on The Hertfordshire Lea, The Windrush and The Thames all cherished and stored indelibly in my mind. The trials of the Kent campaign being a serious blot in my angling story - I must try harder? They are a species with which I associate centre-pins and Fred Crouch (the two being inseparable in my former years) - to have landed four, of my five, doubles on such reels is what makes the Kent successes so much more bearable, I have a link with the past.
That I have this challenge, right on my doorstep, is why I can't simply walk away and ignore it. There are fish in the river which are, even by National standards, extremely big barbel - has one got my name on it? Summer of 2015 might just be when I discover some more about the R. Stour barbel and myself in the process? Their fighting abilities are legendary, they are able to test tackle and angler to the very limit - I hold them in very high esteem, although the Kent fish are bastards!
TENCH - I would be lying if I said I didn't once have a favourite species! In the Tring years, tench were it! To have been part of that era is a privilege which very few were lucky enough to experience. My time and memories of those events are as vivid, today, as they were over thirty years ago - it was a magical period and I was part of it!
|An 8lbs+ from Wilstone Res. Tring, HERTS|
In the mid-80's there was only one place in my world - the centre of the angling universe.
I will never live through, and be part of, another period of discovery like this.
BREAM - I'm not sure if I'll ever make another serious cast in an attempt to catch a big bream? Such is the way of the modern angling scene. In my crazy past, these fish were much sought and prized - a double being the "Holy Grail" amongst the chosen devout followers. My quest for such a beast was a leap of faith - an angling puzzle of equal complexity to any other that I faced.
To have captured double-figure bream, by design, is one of the highlights of my angling career. That modern carp anglers dismiss them as "Snotters!" is a very sad indicator of how the sport has lost its' way.
|11 lbs 2 oz of hard earned Bream|
Taken on tackle suited to the task - the fish provided all the challenges I required.
3 lbs b.s hooklinks - maggot/bread cocktail on a size 14 hook
Not winched in on modern carp gear!
WELS CATFISH - An introduced species with which I enjoyed a very successful period in my earlier years. Fish of unthinkable dimensions are now present in UK fisheries - a thirty was the fish of dreams in the 80's. Do I really want to use sea fishing gear to catch fish in a UK coarse fishery?
These introduced foreign monsters don't sit easily with my current thinking - I'm happy to give them a miss. The Claydon years were everything I could have hoped for and, once again, I was there when it mattered. The subsequent generations of anglers, that have followed, know no different and the thrill of modern cat-fishing is no less exciting than my recollection of those times gone by?
|Why do I struggle to get enthused by fish like this?|
|Floating crust on a centre-pin and a tench rod - commercial fishery fun|
|A Fenland "Zed" - October 1985|