Caught by the River

Fishing: Luke Jennings

14th November 2010

STOP PRESS: very short notice this but Luke is having a ‘do’ in central London on Monday the 15th. He’ll be talking about his memoir ‘Blood Knots’ and he’ll be joined by Caught by the River contributors John Andrews, Charles Rangeley and David Profumo. It’s at a restaurant in Marylebone, there’s a talk and drink option and there’s a plus supper option. Call the restaurant for details – 020 7935 5929. Hopefully see you there.

Originally published on January 15, 1999, this was Luke’s final column for the London ES magazine. It’s been our pleasure re-publishing them.
Also, we would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Luke on the success of his book, ‘Bloodknots’, which just recently became the first book on angling ever to be shortlisted for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year award.

A mail-shot arrives from an insurance company, offering me low-cost angling cover. If I am killed while fishing, as long as I am not at war, flying in a private aircraft, insane or on drugs, I get £5,000. I am tempted to dismiss this until, five minutes later, I read in the paper that Harris Simbawa of Johannesburg has been found dead on the banks of the Chungu river with a fish and a stick protruding from his gullet. Simbawa, it seems, had been about to bite the head off his catch when it jumped down his throat. Attempts to dislodge the fish with the stick had only driven it deeper, and the unfortunate 28- year- old had choked. Would Simbawa’s family, I wonder, have pocketed five grand if he had been insured, or would that little matter of trying to bite off the fish’s head have qualified as insanity? My suspicion is that he would have got his money in Jo’burg, where head-biting is apparently a conventional method of killing your catch, but not in London.
Try chomping the head off a roach or a tench on the Grand Union Canal and the local Waltonians will get very shirty indeed. Not that all London’s coarse fishermen practise catch-and-release. At Upper Maynard Reservoir in Walthamstow, where I was after pike, I met a man with glittering eyes who told me that he had eaten raw carp from a lake near Woking and found it good. We had a short but intense conversation, in the course of which he referred to pike as ‘deep dragons’ and explained to me that unless a man’s soul exited the body by means of a gaping wound it could not enter the White Kingdom.
I’ve met other fishermen who talk in these apocalyptic terms, and noticed that it is the ruthlessness of the pike which particularly inspires them. ‘The Brotherhood glorifies strength,’ the glittering-eyed bloke confided, which would have worried me more if he hadn’t had one of those little trolleys with extendable handles for wheeling his tackle about.

Click here to read previous articles by Luke.