Jon Berry's December 19 angling column
I MAY have mentioned this before, but there is trend within US angling to fish without hooks – or to fish with hooks that could never land a fish. Yes, really.
Its advocates take a pair of wire cutters to their expensive flies and snip the bend off so that a rise results in no more than a brief moment of contact before the fish disappears in an indignant vortex. For these anglers, the bite is everything.
I do get their point, to some degree. The principal skill in fly fishing is to present an artificial offering in such a way that a trout (or salmon, large-mouth bass or whatever) is fooled into thinking it is the real thing. The landing of the fish is almost an epilogue to the real story.
But I could never subscribe to it. When I lose a fish, in any angling discipline, I invariably turn the air a shade of blue (a state comprehensive education equipped me well in this regard) and chew a little on the brim of my hat.
Deliberately losing fish...well, its madness, however laudable I thought of this American trend last weekend, when fishing for pike on the Bristol Avon near Malmesbury. Looking back at the ten winters I have spent there in search of esox, it is the bites that have lasted longest in the memory.
The take from a pike bite is always a leisurely affair. It develops slowly – a bob or two on the float, an excruciating moment of stillness as the fish repositions the bait in its mouth, and only then the sideways descent of the cork bung in to the depths.
There is time enough to register the enquiry, to say a brief prayer and prepare for battle. And as those seconds pass, there is time to get excited, too.
It happened three times as I wandered down my favourite beat at Dodford Farm. Each time it did, I had a chance to say to myself ‘perhaps this is my 30-pounder’. Now as it turned out, the biggest was only half that size but at least I had the chance to find that out.
If those beguiling bites had led to nothing, deliberately or otherwise, I’d have remained forever intrigued at what might have caused them. And my faithful old hat – well, that would have been reduced to tatters.
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