This is a piece about nature, now I know you may decide to read no further but indulge me just for a moment. Blogs about nature tend to be very worthy or even prescriptive bemoaning the state of the nation and the fact that (pretty much like fisheries) all politicians haven’t a clue about what’s actually going on in our green and pleasant land. So thank goodness this isn’t one of those – more so this is a blog about why going fishing isn’t all just about the fish, and why that matters (and matters more than we realise).
Angling tends to mean different things to different people and sometimes each actual session means different things too. We may leave home in high spirits only to find out the conditions at our chosen mark are not ideal in some inexplicable way, so we downgrade our expectations and (perhaps) enjoy ourselves just a little bit more because the pressure is off. Do we look at the ocean differently; notice a little bit more and get something out of the session that we never realised. It’s a personal thing – but being in small boats more than on the shore puts you frequently at the heart of the ocean ecosystem. Whether that is surrounded by dolphins, or surrounded by small bait fish being preyed upon by unseen (and seen) predators beneath, there is always something to make you think that humans really are just a part of nature and not nature itself.
This is why I always feel a bit sorry for people of who aren’t anglers. Most never get the opportunity to be in wild dramatic places, places that often make you just stop and stare. Being immersed in these places gives you a different view of your own day to day (perhaps pretty boring) life and possibly a different view of our fragile place in a tiny part of an insignificant portion of just one of a few billion galaxies in the universe. Perhaps there are many anglers who also don’t get this, but they should. I think it would make them better fishermen. Now maybe that doesn’t mean they will catch more fish (though it might) but the ones they do catch may mean just a little bit more.
The nature around you plays its part in so many ways that most of them don’t even register. Clearly the moon plays its part in the tides that we depend on but what about the gulls that fly over, the various birds in the sea itself and even the ocean mammals that often pop their heads out of the water at various times just to see what that alien human is up to. How many of us even realise that everything we see tells us a story, we just need to be able to understand it. Sea birds are a classic example. Their eyes are much better than ours and I have lost count of the number of times I have followed the direction of a seagull or a tern’s flight only to find that the pot of gold at the end of their flight is a seething mass of busting bass.
But it isn’t just the birds. Are seals in your swim a good or bad thing? Not sure, and I reckon it depends on the mark but I never tire of seeing them and at the end of the day it’s their world not ours. They need to find fish to survive so I suppose you can congratulate yourself that at least you are in the right place.
Some would say of course that finding pleasure in things that aren’t fish when you are fishing is a ruse to make you feel happier when you blank, but of course it isn’t. If you ignore the nature around you, or even worse are ignorant of it, then you miss vital clues that help you catch fish. Noticing and understanding these clues may help you become a better angler and good anglers not only use the clues to piece together the answers, they become part of the answer themselves. It’s a crass and over-used phrase but ‘being at one with nature’ doesn’t mean hugging the nearest mollusc when out on the shore, it just means keeping your eyes open and appreciating what you see and of course if what you see helps you decipher these clues and catch more fish then that’s not a bad result either.
Words: Julian Fox Pictures: Matt Spence