Fly fishing gear

John Bailey: So why exactly are we going fishing?

6:00 a.m. December 29, 2021

I’m not sure if you managed to sneak into a viewing of the Mortimer and Whitehouse Christmas special, but as a so-called consultant it was important that I did.

I watched it with my 20-something step-sons who were unusually quiet throughout. I felt from them that they appreciated the scenery and that they liked the more reflective moments, but that deep down, they could not quite “understand” why the gentlemen of Paul’s age and Bob (and mine, I hasten to add) actually want to catch fish in the first place. In their language, “it is what it is” and they did not bother to go further, but the fact remains that I went to bed meditating on their question. tacit. Is fishing really all about a line with a booby on one end and a worm on the other, or is there really a deeper resonance to what we love?

Of course you and I, as fisherman siblings (I can’t mention the Brotherhood of the Angle anymore!) Know that we are thrilled to catch a fish, that for us it is the ultimate thrill filled. of excitement and challenge. Throwing a fly or scampering a chariot is a valid physical skill, just as elegant as a cover shot in cricket or a half volley in football. Plus, as anglers, we know that catching a fish is the pinnacle of natural history puzzles, and you have to understand your prey to hook it.

The pleasure of fishing, summarized by Bob Mortimer
– Credit: John Bailey

Hmm, not enough for millennials, so I would add that what Paul and Bob enjoy is a sport that gets you out, a sport that you can play and improve on until the day you die, if you have the ability. luck. Fishing takes you into the real world, especially kids, and anchors and teaches you over a hundred Attenborough films about how the natural world actually works.

Still skeptical, then? Well, we’ve always said it’s part of our nature to hunt and fish, and we’ve been doing it since time immemorial. Following this line of argument, you could say that as hunter-gatherers killing what we catch to eat is quite defensible as the Burger King branches continue to thrive. We still live in an age where animals are killed, often inhumanely, for us to eat and to grab a fish supper with our own cane can hardly be considered a bad thing. Until all of us are vegan, angling is tamper-proof … but wouldn’t a 30-pound carp rather be returned with love than stuffed in the oven?

Today we are much more open to discussions about mental wellness than we used to be and there seems to be a reliable body of opinion that fishing is a great therapy and remedy for stress induced stress. our modern digital existence. Personally, I agree with this: when I feel under siege, nothing is calming like a day by a river, the water washing away my worries.

The charity Casting For Recovery has been instrumental in introducing people with breast cancer to fishing, with apparently excellent results. And there is more to this. We now know that loneliness is a curse that many endure and that a day by the river is such a great way to bond and connect with each other that I know. My guide career has been built around parents and children or old friends looking for a day of fishing together. Look at Bob and Paul. They are like bookends, adjoining parts of the same puzzle. Fishing did it for them, even despite the stresses that filming necessarily places on them.

I have always firmly maintained that the fishermen are the keepers of the creek. I have no doubt that the ONLY naturalists who care about wild fish, who know a tench from a trout, are anglers. You could say it’s self-interest, that we protect wild fish just to catch them, but there’s more to it than that, I swear. Fishermen love fish, although most of them are creatures on a slab or in a pot. I live in a world of conservationists and although I often disagree with their methods, I have never disputed their motives. There is no question that fish are the poor cousins ​​in the conservation world and they would do even worse without us. Even without the Environment Agency perhaps!

I don’t think we should take the theme of this piece lightly, and I promise you this is not an exercise in semantics. The Animal Welfare Bill (Sentience) is currently circulating around Westminster and aims to give new rights and protections to any vertebrate creature, including fish, of course. The start of a new year isn’t a bad time to whip up some resolutions and one of the things my step-sons loved was Paul and Bob’s lightning salmon release. “And Away” should be a motto we all perhaps embrace as we make our sport even more human than it is now. It’s worth considering, don’t you think?