Welchy Weighs In - October: Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word
Welchy is getting a bit hot under the collar about manners, or rather lack of them, in the modern angling world so best you shape up or f*%k off...
I was fishing a classic snag swim on the river a couple of weeks ago and, as is usually my way when I’m in no hurry, had adopted a bait and wait approach and set out a larder of crushed boilie bits with a smattering of hemp and tuna a few metres upstream of the feature; I like to knock on the door and wait for the barbel to come out rather than crash straight into their living room – far more civilised!
Planning to draw the fish well out of the cover I had set up my stall well upstream of the structure and having got a good few droppers on the spot and set the rod up ready to fish I was actually having a little doze before putting on a hookbait and making a start (well, I had arrived very early and I am getting on a bit these days...)
I awoke, some ten or so minutes later, to the sight and sound of someone beginning to set up between me and the snag. It took a couple of seconds for me to realise I was not actually dreaming and there really was a person setting up right on top of the snag, between me and it, less than ten metres away. It was midweek, it was a three mile long beat of river and there was, almost certainly, not another angler present.
I’m rarely lost for words but momentarily I almost was.
At first I thought the angler may not have seen me but Realtree and low chairs are not that good and I couldn’t glimpse a white stick in his swim. I covered the distance between us in a few paces: “Excuse me, I’m really sorry but I’m fishing here.” was the polite opener to which I got the simple, “No you’re not, you’re fishing there.” response with the angler in question pointing at my rod just a few metres upstream of where we were standing; I knew straight away it was going to be hard work.
I enquired why, with three miles of river totally devoid of anglers, he had chosen to plot up next to me and was informed, “Why not? I’ve got a ticket I can fish where I like.”
In my youth I would, perhaps, not have remained calm but I’m a bit more chilled these days and pointed out that in a similar situation I would always fish well away from anyone else on the river but, if I felt the need to fish anywhere remotely in the vicinity, (and by that I mean within a two or three swim radius - never closer) I would always seek permission of the incumbent angler before doing so.
I was informed by the chap that in a match I would have anglers either side of me as close as he was now and I countered by pointing out that was exactly one of the reasons I was fishing a remote section of river and not sticking my paw in the drawbag at the local commercial. It was a stalemate which could easily turn nasty.
To cut a long story short the guy eventually relented and moved a couple of swims downstream. There was no word of an apology and the snag swim was trashed for a couple of hours by the two of us walking, talking and skylining right on top of the holding area.
The incident really made me livid and as I baited and waited to try and get some feeding confidence back in the fish I started to think about the lack of manners and respect amongst what appears to be an increasing number of anglers these days.
Back in the day you could bait a swim weeks in advance of the start of the season and ‘usually’ turn up on the 16th safe in the knowledge that the swim would be ‘yours’; other anglers respecting the fact your efforts had laid claim to it.
I say ‘usually’ because I remember one opening morning back in the 70s turning up pre-dawn in my pre-baited tench pitch to find another angler turning up who, unbeknown to me, had also been baiting the same swim! We doubled up, caught tench to well over 6lb (very big fish in the 70s) and remain good friends to this very day!
These days, on most waters, pre-baiting tends to have to be subversive middle of the night sorties when nobody is around or you risk being stitched up by your fellow anglers. Pre-baiting can be vindictive too with huge amounts of bait being dumped into a swim secure in the knowledge that someone else will be fishing it the following day.
‘Filling it in when you leave’ is not always done with the best of intentions and the least said about piling milks into a winter river when the barometer’s falling and the warm rain coming in and you know that you cannot fish on it the better – ever wonder why you have sometimes inexplicably blanked in perfect conditions? Sometimes, on pressured big fish rivers at least, you will have been ‘done’.
That’s when the counter-espionage used to come into play. The setting of tiny tripwires or arrangements of twigs so you could tell if someone had been into a swim since you last left it; making the traps fox/badger/hedgehog/rat proof was always the challenge!
Respect for another anglers’ swim is something which has come full circle, for me at least, in more recent years. On most fisheries, carp waters in particular, it has become accepted practice to leave a bucket or a water bottle in a ‘likely’ swim to reserve it while you had a good look around the rest of the lake. The rot started to set in when some anglers left a bucket in a swim all day whilst they enjoyed a ‘social’ with their mates elsewhere on the lake or indeed when a bucket was placed by a mate the evening before an angler arrived to fish.
I rarely fish lakes these days but when I did if a bucket was in a swim for more than someone ought reasonably have taken to do a couple of circuits of the venue I’d move it out of the swim and move myself in. Was I wrong?
Lakes, carp lakes in particular, are also the scene of several other swim-hogging tactics which can leave the ‘average’ angler looking to drop in for a short session somewhat peeved. ‘Going’ swims being stitched up by a team of anglers working a ‘rota’ system is galling enough, as is the tactic of fishing the far margins and, in effect, fishing two swims.
I’m sure we all know the scenario. Arrive in a cracking little swim with a nice margin feature, creep up, start to get set up only to hear a voice from an angler fishing the other side of the lake shout “Oi! I’m fishing there!” In the old days the other side of the lake was probably only a maximum of 60 to 100m away but in these bait boat fuelled times it could be 150m plus.
I fully understand why it is sometimes hugely advantageous to fish a margin feature from the opposite side of the lake, and have done so myself, but when you do it is surely common courtesy to accept that if someone turns up to fish the other side it is their right to do so – and you should have a ‘Plan B’ lined up – a second marked and baited spot that you can drop right onto.
As far as the angler turning up is concerned there needs to be an understanding of why someone might be fishing the spot you want to drop into and I also feel there is a need to weigh up the other possibilities on the venue before proceeding. And proceeding means starting off not by setting up but by going around to see the angler on the other bank and having a word.
The same applies to rivers too and there is often cause for conflict where there is double bank fishing, especially on smaller venues. I remember turning up to fish an evening session on the tiny St. Patrick’s Stream in Berkshire which, for much of its length, is only a couple of rod lengths wide and finding a match in progress on the opposite bank with virtually every spot I could fish from my bank having an angler pegged opposite. Wherever I dropped in would jeopardise the chances of the angler opposite winning the match, a real dilemma. The infamous Clash song immediately springs to mind...
On stillwaters restricted space often means anglers in several swims looking to cast to the same feature and there is, of course, the age old problem of ‘creep’ with other anglers casting closer and closer to your mark if you start to catch and they don’t...
Creep can be taken to extremes too and on more than one occasion I have been aware of having being followed by another car with another angler intent on finding out exactly where I was fishing and of anglers driving around various venue car parks looking for my car. It’s rare but anglers really can be stalked just as celebs can! I suppose if I had been honest about where I was fishing in the first place it wouldn’t have happened so mea culpa to a certain extent and perhaps I deserved it! I certainly ended up being seen fishing areas I really didn’t want to fish as a consequence.
Fisheries have got around the casting conflict problem in many ways with some issuing maps showing allowed or optimal casting lines, others by pruning trees and vegetation in such a way as to make casting anywhere other than at a certain angle difficult (although bait boats, where permitted, can negate this), others have even employed floating booms to delineate areas. But should angling really be regulated in such a prescribed and Draconian fashion? Surely we go fishing to avoid conflict, to fish where we want to fish and to enjoy ourselves without interfering with or being interfered by other anglers?
Syndicates, and by that I do not mean limited ticket commercial venues but ones where there are very few anglers and where new members are recommended by existing members and are vetted before acceptance, negate most of the problems and allow for anglers to fish together in a spirit of camaraderie with mutual respect. I am prepared to pay handsomely for that privilege but should it really have to be that way?
I don’t claim to be perfect and when I fished seriously I was guilty of at least one of the ‘crimes’ I have highlighted above so I can understand what drives anglers to be selfish, rude and bad mannered and when you are driven and single-minded in pursuit of a target fish it is sometimes possible to forget to look around and see the bigger picture.
These days I’m just a grumpy old codger. I really don’t want to see or talk to another angler so if you see me on the bank somewhere – just walk on by...
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