Turning miniature fish into giants and muddying the waters of angling debate, ‘Fishing with the General’ is three years old this summer. Dom Garnett reports on a small angler with a big following...
‘The General’ returns...
THESE days, even the daftest of ideas can become an internet sensation. Even so, I’m fairly baffled by the response ‘Fishing with The General’ has received over the past three years.
It all started as a bizarre joke, as part of a challenge to catch as many mini species as possible with fish expert Dr Mark Everard.
Bullheads, bleak and ruffe were never going to look very impressive when held by two big, hairy men, and so The General was bought for the sum of 50p at a car boot sale. He was just perfect, and even had the outstretched arms of a big-fish man.
The prank certainly got plenty of laughs and from the start, quickly amassing hundreds of likes, shares and followers. One-ounce gudgeon suddenly became 20lb barbel, bootlace eels became congers, and although it was perfect nonsense, The General certainly showed a lot of forgotten, smaller fish in an entirely new light.
For my own fishing, it was also a healthy cue to lighten up a little. Angling in general is so obsessed with catching big fish that we forget about half the species going. It can be just as interesting to go for smaller, less common fish, too.
Not that little specimens are always easy. In fact, trying to catch those like pike, carp and chub small enough for The General to hold has been a challenge in its own right.
Perhaps inevitably, other creatures and props have been found or donated by friends to create further nonsense and occasional controversy. One week, The General would be grappling with an eight-foot-tall crayfish; the next he would be punching a shark or dealing with Himalayan balsam plants the size of triffids.
Aside from the cheap laughs, The General also became a great tool to poke some fun at the fishing world and its stereotypes.
Quite liberating, because a plastic army man can say the sort of things you or I would be arrested for even thinking, and nobody gets offended.
As a retired, Brexit-voting specimen hunter, The General’s views are somewhere between those of Nigel Farage and Genghis Khan. Crayfish and otters require a nuclear solution; nuisance fish should be used as fertiliser or landfill. As for his views on the use of bite alarms or immigration, we’d best not even go there.
Three years from the start, Fishing with The General has even spawned its own series in ‘Fallon’s Angler’ quarterly, covering various war zones, battles against invasive species and some of the worst fishing advice ever consigned to print. Where it leads next I can’t say, although I’m currently scouring eBay for a six-inch Donald Trump.
Maybe not everyone’s cup of tea politically, but at least The General reads Angling Times...