It’s complex, confusing and loaded with jargon. We describe it as both a sport and a hobby, a science and yet also an art. It is as complex as the female psyche. It attracts both casual devotees and total fanatics of every age and background. Jesus did it- but then again, so did George Bush. I am of course talking about fishing. From the outside looking in, we probably resemble a state of chaos on a par with the back of the a fisherman’s garage. From a long list of categories and subcategories, complete with strangely named tackle, our world can be a confusing one. Many of own early lessons came from dated, techy volumes in the school library- by God how we could have done with a starting point that had less dust on the cover and diagrams that looked less like torture diagrams done in biro. Quite how anyone might attempt to encompass the fundamentals of coarse, sea and fly fishing all in one neat volume is a mystery, but that has been my exact task working on “Fishing For Dummies”. It might seem a bit like trying to fit a lion, a gorilla and Arsenal reserves all into one toilet cubicle, but we’ve had a bloody good crack.
The best selling US version provided a great basis to start from but as you might imagine, British angling has some big differences. Wagglers and boilies are as alien to the Yanks as bluegills and bobbers are to your average Brit. An American angler doesn’t “blank”, they “get skunked”. They call multipliers “baitcasters” and their monster fish are not specimens but “trophies” or “lunkers”. Stateside, a “fishin’ pole” is exactly that- a piece of wood with line tied to the end, as opposed to thirteen metres of carbon fibre. Perhaps the biggest and funniest culture clash of all comes with carp however. We spend days trying to catch them, treat them to exotic baits and even give fish names; to the Americans they are an invasive species likened to “giant goldfish.” Would hopping a hugely successful book across the pond be a devilish task on that basis? Not necessarily, because so many other parts of fishing are universal. The ability to find trout on a river, for example, or the art of plug fishing for pike. Or understanding watercraft and fish behaviour. Hence I’ve tried to keep all the wisest words from the US book, while giving the whole work a distinct UK bias. What does this encompass? Anything and everything from shotting a waggler, to picking sea fishing baits or casting a fly. “Dummies” is an affectionate term rather than a derogatory one, and in fact we take the reader to some places which are anything but village idiot grade. With the rise and rise of carp and predator fishing, for example, I felt I had to give the reader a friendly grounding here. Nor is the book strictly a “beginners only” volume. If you’ve spent the last decade drowning maggots, you might want to try tackling a trout stream with flies? If you’ve always fancied a crack at sea fishing, you’ll find the whole scoop from ragworms to wrasse. As my other half knows through hard experience, there’s always another fishing trip to make, another rod or species to try. Fishing for Dummies is thus a friendly grounding for any reader- rather like having a mate explain things clearly and give you a laugh on the way, so you don’t end up leaving the fishing shop with a pile of random tackle and a vacant look. Actually, that will probably happen anyway, but you get my drift. “Fishing for Dummies” is out now from Amazon and all major bookstores.
In fact the whole process has taken me back to my earlier days as an angler, and in particular some forgotten ponds I once cast into as an eager novice. The single biggest change since has been the sheer proliferation of commercial fisheries. Great news if you want a reliable source of bites or are a parent looking for somewhere safe to take the kids. Sometimes we sanitize things too much however, and I miss the way some of those old ponds once were. I miss sitting under the trees on Feneck Ponds and listening to carp suck at the lilies. I miss dangling bits of sandwhich under a bush and catching ridiculously cute and tiny tench and crucians. In the name of easy access and convenience fishing, we’ve done our best to hack everything back it seems. In doing so, we not only remove natural beauty, but the bug life fish thrive on. Personally I can live with the odd lost float- but I don’t want to live in a world where lakes are devoid of trees, water lilies and kingfishers.
Nevertheless, the fish still bite on a sunny morning at Feneck. Crucians are one of my all time favourites for so many reasons. For the games they play with a float tip. For the way they wiggle and turn bumping circles in the fight. For the sheer cute cheekiness they possess. They remind us why we fish- to retain that childlike joy at seeing something beautiful appear where there was just a float tip moments earlier.
More idyllic summer pictures are also on the way at my newly revamped site www.dgfishing.co.uk along with a whole range of other bits and pieces to enjoy. Whether you’re a fishing “Dummy” or already a fanatic, I hope you enjoy it. Do also keep an eye on the Angling Times in the coming weeks for more on the joy of old school pond fishing and some surprise catches.