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

Scottish Field - - CONTENTS -

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’

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