ONE of the fishing clubs that I belong to holds an annual photo competition, with a prize for the best image of a fish caught by a member.
The only rules are that it has a member of the club in the frame somewhere, either holding the fish or accompanying the captor in the frame, to prevent people entering images downloaded from the internet, and that it was taken in the past 12 months.
There’s always a good cross section of species and a variety of angles and poses, and the best dozen entries are made into a calendar, with the winner on the front cover.
In these days of cameraphones in almost everyone’s pocket, there are always plenty of entries, but one angler has a knack of winning the top prize on a regular basis.
Part of his success is down to his skill at catching big fish of a variety of species over the course of the year, even in extreme weather, such as after a fresh fall of snow has covered the ground and trees, or after a heavy frost, when morning sunshine is making it glisten.
But he is also adept at getting fish to do what he wants, so that they look their best for the camera.
I got talking to him beside a lake one day when sport was a bit slow and I had gone for a wander.
I asked him how he managed to get fish to behave so perfectly for the pictures that he took, which are always self-takes, using a camera on a tripod and a remote shutter release.
He said that all creatures can tell whether people are confident or not when handling them as soon as they start to pick them up.
He said it was like handling poultry, which he kept and showed as a child. If you do it awkwardly, this nervousness and inexperience communicates itself through your hands, and whatever you’re holding becomes aware that it’s going to get dropped and so it tries to wriggle away. He told me that blowing on fish often has a calming effect if they are proving difficult, and that wobbling fish gently as you hold them will make them stick their fins up and produce a more attractive image for the camera.
It’s what they do to stabilise themselves in the water if they’re being buffeted by strong currents. “If that doesn’t work I use these,” he told me, and he opened a drawer of his seatbox to show me a selection of small loops of monofil and elastic bands.
“They’re particularly handy for perch. The loop goes round my thumb and the front spine of the dorsal fin to hold it upright. “I then use computer software to erase the band from the picture. It’s a trick I learnt when I saw a famous angler doing it with a big perch on the cover of a magazine… only he left the band showing.”
Getting fish to do what he wants.