SPINNING A LINE
James Delingpole meets an angler with attitude
‘ LET the (expletive deleted) run like (expletive deleted) ’ til you’re sure he’s got the (expletive deleted) live bait right down his (expletive deleted) gullet. Only when I say, and not until , you (expletive deleted), do you put down your bail arm and start reeling the (expletive deleted) in. Keep the rod up. And when the line’s taut, strike! Ready? Not yet, you (expletive deleted)!’’
You are reading an expurgated version of a pike-catching lesson with Mike Daunt, Bounder to his friends, complete (expletive deleted) to his enemies and some of his ex-wives, widely reckoned to be among the finest and (certainly the most foul-mouthed) fishing teachers in the British Isles.
I’ve probably made it sound scary — daunting, even — and it is a bit. Daunt works on the old-fashioned principle that if you terrify the bejesus out of your pupil the first time he makes a mistake, he’s that much less likely to repeat it. But he is such a delightful, jolly fellow and he swears so frequently about pretty much everything — when the line snags on a blade of grass, when the hook needs rebaiting, when there’s the letter Y in the day of the week — that you know he doesn’t really mean it.
Besides, his crossness when you get it wrong is as nothing to his ecstasy and unbridled praise when you do things even slightly right. ‘‘ My boy, WELL DONE!’’ he booms, when you execute a halfway decent cast. And you should have seen the fuss he made of my nineyear-old Boy Delingpole during our day on the Kennet when he landed his first fish. ‘‘ You will blood him, won’t you?’’ remembers Daunt anxiously. So I smear Boy’s face with trout blood and he vows never to wash again.
Daunt is on a mission. Together with his best friend and co-author Richard Heygate, also known as the Bart, he wants to reintroduce Britain to marvellous rural pursuits and fascinating local eccentrics. Pike fishing would come high on this list. There are some ghastly snobs who’d say, ‘‘ Pike? Aren’t they just for those frightful coarse fishermen with green umbrellas?’’ Daunt says. But they don’t know what they are (expletive deleted) talking about.
Daunt does have snobberies of his own, but they have more to do with authenticity than social class. He is scathing about pheasant shoots, which he considers a dreadful sport. And he is not a fan of the vulgar rainbow trout, which was introduced to British rivers in the 1850s, and is as inferior to the native brown variety as the grey squirrel is to the red. It’s the classic New Brit fish. ‘‘ It’s showy, it likes fighting, eats too much, puts on weight quickly and dies relatively young,’’ he says. ‘‘ The punters love it, which is fine by me. Keeps them away from the places I want to fish.’’
You may fancy being taught by Bounder Daunt, though personally I think you’d be better off with his 10-year-old son. Not only is young Hugh Daunt a lot more polite than his old man, but he’s much more skilled at getting in the fish: three trout and a pike on the day, compared with his father’s and my measly zilch. The Spectator