LADY LUCK ON THE LINE
Michael Wigan believes there’s little point getting caught up on someone else’s catch when so much of fishing is a game of chance
Michael Wigan finds there's little point getting bent out of shape by someone else's stellar catch
Anglers, of whom I am one, are a funny bunch. Rod angling is in itself a curious activity and humour is woven right through. So is expectation. As John Buchan said, ‘The charm of fishing is that it is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope.’
Maybe angling isn’t a sport at all. Sport has winners and losers. One could say that if the day was good it has been a winner. But it doesn’t always pan out that way.
I was flagged down by an angler who stuck his high-coloured visage out of the truck window. ‘This river is useless. There isn’t a fish in it. You cast over lovely water knowing it is a complete waste of time…’ I mumbled that I was surprised to hear so, made sympathetic noises and came home. Enquiry revealed that the self-same angler had caught 12 salmon. It was only Thursday night, he had two more days to go. There are possible explanations. The most likely is that someone else had caught more. It is extraordinary how unsatisfactory catching is defined so often by what someone else has caught, not one’s own total. Recently a group of anglers went home in woeful sorrow complaining about a poor week. In fact, other anglers, fishing the same water in rotation, had done quite well. Maybe that is why rod angling shouldn’t be a sport. Lady Luck plays a part.
It is said that older anglers look for size not numbers. Less able to handle physical challenges they seek them more. The phrase ‘portmanteau salmon’ is based on the idea that the achievement can be framed for posterity.
Without knowing quite why, I took myself off to a north Norway river not long ago where
‘The charm of fishing is that it is elusive’
salmon are famously large. The party of six duly waded into the boulder-strewn river and propelled line for days. Nothing occurred.
The day after I left, one of them hooked a salmon which was so big it cartwheeled out of sight round a far-off corner leaving the angler, who was young, unable to get out of the river and even address the fish. All he had experienced was a jolting rod and a distant glimpse of airborne fish. His precious tackle was defenestrated, his role in the event peripheral.
I asked his father about him recently. ‘Och, he’s fine, got a new girlfriend, the previous one tried to stop him fishing.’
If you go to a big-fish river you are reminded of basic rules, usually too late. Norwegians often fish from boats to be able to follow. If the salmon wrenches his head driving down-river it is probably all over anyway. The river I went to was too rough for boats.
People say, ‘out of sight, out of mind’. But for anglers it is the opposite. What is out of sight preys on the febrile mind. No other hunter tries to catch what is invisible. Indeed, when it becomes visible a wave of relief washes over. The very sight of a fish can act like a painkiller.
One time I was on a loch which life had abandoned. I cast and retrieved like a metronome. I had become the figure in a wellremembered old photograph. A man in a raincoat is knee-deep on the shore of a featureless loch in grey mist. He is casting on the ripple-free water in a scene defining desolation. The picture is entitled ‘the loch mind’. I was reeling in when a huge trout rolled, lazily performing a dolphinsalute close to the shoreline I had assiduously cast over.
I trundled home completely happy. There was no need to ask what others had caught. There was no need to do anything except store the memory. I may be infected with the ‘loch mind’. But like you, I am an ordinary angler.
‘No other hunter tries to catch what is invisible’