The truly great thing about species hunting is that it makes every fish really matter. This morning, when my alarm went off a five AM, I was as keen to get up and get out fishing as I ever was. I had had a late night the night before and I had a thirty-five-mile round trip ahead of me, but it did not dampen my spirits. I got up; I prepared my fishing tackle like I always do and I headed out with a smile on my face! Why wouldn’t I? I was going out to do one of the things I love, I was going fishing.
A Simple Adventure.
When I got to my destination, a stretch of the river Avon near Bidford in Warwickshire which comes under the management of the Birmingham Anglers Association, my enthusiasm still hadn’t subsided even slightly. I was early, and the sound of songbirds filled the air, I love that sound, particularly on a glorious summers morning, for me, it’s as much part of fishing as catching fish.
I wasn’t the first to decide to go fishing this morning, three other anglers were happily setting up their mountains of tackle as I wandered along the bank of the river looking for just the right spot. I know this stretch well and I knew just the spot I wanted to fish, my tackle and fishing technique wasn’t the slightest burden to me, all packing easily into a small rucksack, simplicity adds a magic to angling which, I think, takes a while for some to realise, and some may never realise it.
I caught my first fish using an old branch and a matchstick and my fishing has not changed much since. Sure, the old branch may have become an expensive imported Japanese Keiryu rod, but the principles are the same, hook, line, rod, me… No need to mess around with the tangles and annoyances of reels or hefty tackle boxes, at least not today, my fishing is an attempt to get closer to nature and, for me, all that paraphernalia gets in the way. That’s not to say I have never been a victim of the ‘too much’ or ‘tackle tart’ disease, I have, and I think it’s just a thing you need to work through if you want to get to a place where your fishing means something more than yanking fish out of the water. There is something inescapably spiritual about angling and the way to discover that, I think, is to have as little ‘stuff’ as possible between you and the fish.
Not so Bleak!
When I arrived at my intended destination, I was happy to find that no-one had decided to set up camp there, a glimmer of a smile may have danced across my face as I saw what, I doubt, many anglers would experience with the same enthusiasm as me today. The water was boiling, splashes and dimples on the water everywhere betrayed the presence of my first target fish of the day, the humble Bleak! I doubt strongly that any of my fellow anglers were out with bleak at the top of their list today, some see them as a nuisance, stealing bait and, some would say, spoiling a swim. They are not exactly difficult to catch, a tiny piece of bait on a tiny hook and you can catch them all day. They swim in what can sometimes become vast shoals which is why some match fishermen become specialists in catching Bleak, if you are fast enough and skilled enough, huge weights of fish can be made up by catching these tiny fish to hand.
This wasn’t to be my experience today, whilst I caught plenty on my no 22 hook, my Keiryu rod with its springy tip section, coupled with my reluctance to use barbed hooks for any kind of fishing, saw fish after fish spring off before I could swing it to hand. However, there will always be one fish that will hook up nicely and give enough resistance to be landed and it was not long, about a quarter of an hour before I had managed to catch three or four. Photo taken, it was time to move on to something smaller, yes, smaller.
A True Micro Species.
Near the spot where I had parked my motorcycle, I had noticed a mass of Minnows along with the frequent splashes of, presumably, Perch feeding on them. Like the Perch, I needed a Minnow too today, it was the second species on my list.
The same frustrations of having the wrong type of rod to hook a tiny fish prevailed for an hour or two. This time, small Perch or Bleak stealing the bait intended for the Minnow plagued me, and the minnow I did catch managed to wiggle off the line virtually every single time. No problem I thought, I can kill a few hours fishing here. I did, shockingly; it took me almost an hour and a half to get a Minnow, possibly the easiest fish to catch, to stay on the line! Eventually, I was rewarded with the fish I was after and it was time to head home. Mission accomplished!
Moral of the Story.
This story could have easily been about an epic battle to hunt down a specimen Pike or Carp. It could have been about taking a pristine Trout from a beautiful chalk stream or battling the torrents to land a Salmon of a lifetime, but it wasn’t. Instead, it was about the smaller adventures that await each one of us regardless of our means, about mundane fish from easily accessible locations. It’s about the most important thing in fishing, looking inside ourselves and finding epic adventures where others find nothing.
The gift of angling is the ability to interact with nature in a way that others cannot. Adventure is where you find it; it is in your heart, not in some far-off place or monstrous fish. Indeed, I would argue that, until you can appreciate these tiny adventures, others will have less meaning to you. I will end this piece as I started it. The great thing about species hunting is that every fish matters. Who else among us would spend time intentionally fishing for a Minnow. Go out there and find the adventure that waiting for you every day in the sport you love!