In his latest blog for the Eastern Daily Press, John Bailey muses on having watched Mortimer and Whitehouses Christmas Special with two young men who don’t give two hoots about angling.
“My 20-something stepsons who were unusually quiet throughout. I sensed from them that they enjoyed the scenery and they liked the more reflective moments, but that deep down, they could not quite ‘get’ why gents of Paul’s and Bob’s age (and mine I hasten to add) actually want to catch fish in the first place. In their parlance, “it is what it is” and they didn’t bother to take it further, but the fact remains I went to bed pondering their unspoken question. Is fishing really all about a line with a fool at one end and a worm at the other, or is there truly a deeper resonance to what we love?”
John goes onto ponder the reasons us anglers love to wet a line so.
“We know that we thrill to the catching of a fish, that to us, it is the ultimate thrill riddled with excitement and challenge. Casting a fly or trotting a float is a valid physical skill, every bit as elegant as a cover shot in cricket or a half volley in football. Further, as anglers, we know that catching a fish is the peak of natural history conundrums and that you have to understand your quarry to hook it.”
Yet he gets that we know that the sport isn’t attracting anywhere like enough new Millennials.
“I’d add that what Paul and Bob enjoy is a sport that gets you outside, a sport you can indulge in, and improve at, until the day you die, if you are lucky. Fishing drags you into the real world, kids especially, and it grounds you and teaches you more than a hundred Attenborough films ever can about how the natural world actually operates.”
Of course such online pieces give the opportunity to respond, to all. And the ‘anti’ brigade is much more organised than the ‘wet a line’ brigade.
A Felicity Danbury Do-Gooder was on the case straight away:
John concludes: “I’ve always held strongly that anglers are guardians of the stream. I’m in no doubt that the ONLY naturalists that care about wild fish, that know a tench from a trout, are anglers. You might say that this is self interest, that we protect wild fish merely to catch them, but there is more to it than that, I swear. Fishers love fish whereas, to most, they are creatures on a slab or in a pan. I inhabit a world of fish conservationists and whilst I frequently disagree with their methods, I have never challenged their motives. There can be no doubt that fish are the poor relations in the world of conservation and they would fare even more poorly 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 it’s not an exercise in semantics. The Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill is shuffling around Westminster right now and it aims to give new rights and protections to any vertebrate creature, and that includes fish, of course. The start of a new year isn’t a bad time to whip up a few resolutions and one of the things my stepsons did like was the lightning release of Paul’s and Bob’s salmon. “And Away” should be a motto we all adopt perhaps.”