Caught by the River

A Passion for a Passion for Angling

14th August 2009

I’m gonna share this with you. It’s a letter that I received the other day. Most non-anglers either struggle (or simply don’t care) to understand our obsession, Nick on the other hand…..well, I’m looking forward to taking Nick fishing.

Hi Jeff,

I wanted to tell you how much I am enjoying reading your book, which I bought with Chris Yates’ Out Of The Blue over the weekend. Listening to you talking about it has reopened a long forgotten cultural vein for me; I had forgotten how much I enjoyed A Passion For Angling when it was on – the misty stillness of the early morning river, a recollection of them catching an enormous pike – actually weren’t there two pikes in that pool by the weir, the second a real monster? – the gentle ribbing humour, the beauty of the whole thing. And earlier than that: looking back I don’t really ever remember being an Independent reader, but I do remember buying what I think must have been the Independent On Sunday in the early 90’s just so I could read the fishing column on the back page (can’t remember by who – not Chris Yates again?). Friends thought I was joking when I said that’s why I bought it because I don’t fish, but I was really disappointed when the column came to an end and I stopped buying the paper.

I’ve only been fishing once, a sea trip off Essex with a group of people I didn’t like but had to go with out of politeness. It began in a state of shock, squeezed into the back of a transit van on plastic garden seats with cans of Special Brew at 6am, and deteriorated from there. I caught a dogfish, the first of only three fish caught by us all in the whole day, and didn’t know if I was expected to put it back in or what. While I was trying to work out how best to save this lovely fish the brute of a skipper came over and killed it by punching it repeatedly in the head, covering me with blood. At the end of the day our host ended up dumping all the fish on some stranger in a pub like discarded leftovers, no one was interested in them. I was appalled by the whole thing. It was a world away from the first few beautiful stories I’ve come across in your book.

Now I look at fish from the other side – I’m mad for diving now and think of little else, either deep sea wrecks in the Channel, or in flooded quarries when the wind’s too strong to go out in a boat. Bib, cod, bass, and pollack (my favourite to swim with) out at sea, but it’s hard to beat settling down for a few minutes on the bottom of a quarry a few feet from a pike as it checks out which minnow to go for. And then with a flash it’s off!