James Del­ing­pole meets an an­gler with at­ti­tude

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Holidays Afloat -

‘ 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


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