GET HOOKED by Cotswold angler Jon Berry
LAST WEEK I found myself answering the telephone and being asked to ‘hold for the BBC’. This was a new and unexpected experience.
The caller, it transpired, was not the whole BBC, but a young researcher. And she wanted to know about barbel.
More specifically, she wanted to know about the history of the fish, and of the people who fished for them – ‘and if there are any anecdotes suitable for a tea-time audience, that would be great’.
I got the call because of a book I wrote for the Medlar Press in 2007, a history of barbel and barbel anglers. It was a niche interest affair, and not something that I imagined would ever interest the Beeb. But it seems that Auntie is considering a little feature on fish and fishing, with a historic perspective. Just the sort of thing that fascinates me – though book sales suggest I may be in a minority. I regaled the charming and patient researcher with three of my favourite barbel-related stories – one about W.G Grace, another about a notorious London flasher, and the last a grisly tow-path murder – and I wished her well. There was no hint that they would need me in front of camera if the feature comes to fruition, but I’ve ironed a shirt . . . just in case.
I’d almost forgotten about barbel since we moved here. They are one species with which the region in not especially blessed. They are close by, in the Severn, Middle Thames, Kennet and Bristol Avon, but I would be hard put to go out and catch old whiskers in the heart of the Cotswolds. But if anyone can prove me wrong, I’d be delighted to hear of it.
And that, rather circuitously, brings me to this: just how many species of fish are there to catch in the Cotswolds? I’ve made a quick mental calculation, and I think it is about a dozen. It could well be more.
In these days of single species myopia, when we are all too quick to label ourselves ‘carp specialists’ or ‘trout purists’, we may just be missing the fun of a traditional mixed creel; I’d like to hear your thoughts on this, especially if you have caught a Cotswold Dozen (as I’ve decided to call it). And if you haven’t, give it a try – it has to be more fun than staying in and watching TV.
Catch reports: firstname.lastname@example.org.