Zen and the Art of Angling
Hugo Curgudgeon has moved onto a higher level in his pursuit of angling nirvana, but is there more to Zen than he realises?
There are several stages in the art of angling.
Initially one wants to catch anything, then one wants to catch as many as possible; specimen hunting follows, and then concentrating on one species and catching a monster. After that one just goes fishing and catching is not so vital; it is just about being there.
I feel that I have moved on to a higher level...Zen and the Art of Angling.
Planning and preparing for a fishing trip has always been a pleasure but now the excitement and anticipation is as satisfying as fishing itself. It is a joy to make sure that the reels are full of good line, to inspect my hook/fly wallets and to put them in order.
I love going to the tackle shop to buy lobworms and sundry items. The tackle shop is traditional and owned by a married couple in their 60s. Mick is an acquired taste with a wicked sense of humour. The banter is enjoyable. He is an agent for Hardy’s and I ask him if he has any mahseer rods.
“We used to”, he replies, “but there is not much call for cane mahseer or tunny rods these days!” His wife has on occasions actually delivered the lobworms. You don’t get the same service with e-bay or Amazon.
I have two compost bins alive with redworms. They conveniently assemble in the lid and around the top of the bins; I collect molehills and put the worms in bait boxes half filled with that precious soil. It is also excellent for potting plants.
Half of an old freezer in the garage contains lots of frozen delicacies prepared to tempt the fish. Exotic pastes, hemp, pellets, meat, cheese and prawns and tubs of hemp are there for me to make a selection from. Another large, broken upright freezer contains most of my smaller items of tackle. Leads, floats, lures, feeders, bait boxes, spare forceps and disgorgers, ancient coffin and Hillman leads, the list is endless. They are all there, tidily arranged for ease of collection.
The garage also holds, nets, poles, seats, Barbour, Gore-Tex waterproofs and, most importantly, my fishing waistcoat. The waistcoat holds my Salter spring balance, still accurate after fifty years, forceps, scissors, lead shot, hook/fly wallet, hooks of all useful sizes in their little plastic envelopes and a lighter. I have had this waistcoat for many years and wash it every five, whether it needs it or not. There is also an aged tackle bag, which contains, medication, plasters, painkillers, permits, a small selection of ledger weights, pellet bands, Harrod’s plastic weighing bag, additional artery forceps and, most important of all, a wine waiter’s bottle opener/corkscrew.
Rods hang in my bedroom and reels in the study.
I load the Landover 2A, which already houses an unhooking mat, rod rests, a landing net handle, two floppy hats and a quilted jacket. We set off (yes I do regard the Landrover as a member of the family as she has been with us for 31 years) and the journey to the river is only five minutes. I tackle up in a lay-by; relishing joining the ferrules and marvelling at Edward’s workmanship. The trusty Speedia is lovingly fitted to the rod. Line is carefully run through the rings and a hook tied and checked. A swan shot is pinched onto to the monofilament and we are ready to fish.
I have relished every moment and we are not even on the riverbank.
But the highest level of Zen is required for joining monofilament line together. I am fine with anything down to six pound but go finer than that I am far from fine. The double blood knot has always been a challenge but now it is the final frontier. It can take me as long as an hour to tie such a knot. Failing eyesight and clumsy old fingers are so boring but when the knot is tied one has reached paradise!
On a recent fishing trip I attained an impossibly high level of Zen. It was connected with string and no, I do not have a collection of string. I have to wear spectacles to watch a float, or indeed for any distance work - like watching kingfishers when touch ledgering - but I do not otherwise use them (I suppose I should also have a pair for tying hooks) so they are attached by a cord. I also normally wear a floppy hat with a string to stop it falling off.
On this particular occasion I fished into the dark and was using a head torch. Everything became entangled and when I removed my spectacles both my hat and head torch also came off...I bravely continued fishing and did not redeem the situation until I reached the sanctuary of the Landover.
Clearly there is more to Zen and the Art of Angling than I shall ever know.