Mark Hodson

An angler since he can remember, Mark Hodson almost literally lives, eats and breathes fishing. A match angler in his youth, fishing for the junior Starlets, he turned to the dark side and joined the ‘floppy hat’ brigade in his college years. He worked in the tackle trade for ten years, on a part time or full time basis at Chaplains, one of Birmingham’s busiest tackle shops and managed the specialist department there for two years.

He now fishes just for fun, although the ‘floppy specialist hat’ still dominates his angling, his writing concentrates on getting the maximum enjoyment from your angling and trying something different from the norm.

Escaping the Fishing Rat Race

Live the dream
Live the daydream

You do see some really stressed out people on the bankside recently, they take it all so seriously, wearing a permanent frown and looking like the weight of the angling world is on their shoulders.

They glare and snort at you in disgust, the mere thought of anyone else daring to fish within a mile of their golden swim, which is their sure-fire ticket to angling fame and glory, makes their blood boil. They break rules, maintaining that “no night fishing” means you can’t stay all night, or bivvy up, but staying until 2am is quite acceptable. Or they haven’t just fired 5 kilo of Tiger nuts into a water they are banned on, they were re-constituted boilies especially designed to look like tiger nuts. They mock the lesser angler, shoo small children away when they curiously enquire “any luck mister?” And hoping that the small net they carry never turns into a rod, as this would mean more competition on their road to angling glory.

Take the family
Take the family

Angling isn’t about fame and glory, it’s not about having the best gear, or fishing the best waters, its about experiences, and sharing those experiences with others. Its about keeping your fishing “Karma” in check, making sure you put as much in, as you take out. Those who take out all the time are those who I talked about last time, those who are stuck in their angling cul-de-sac or are intent on racing down the angling motorway to the destination that is the big catch, the catch that will bring fame and glory. By keeping your “Angling Karma” in balance you will not end up trapped in the cul-de-sac, wondering where did all the fun go, or on the motorway in the sure-fire fast lane to angling burnout and self destruction. Instead you will wander endlessly down a dusty country path, passing grassy meadows that inspire you to put down the rod and admire the beauty of nature’s finest creations, and you’ll spend a lifetime gazing hypnotically at reflections in waters that remind you that its the simplicity of the angling experience that keeps you coming back for more, not the end result.

The MPH Angling Karma Scale

For those who are unsure whether their angling desires are good or bad, or are worried that their past fishing habits have already condemned them to a lifetime of angling misery, I have devised the “Mark Paul Hodson guide to angling Karma” or the MPH scale for short, which should ease a few worried minds or set those lost in the dissatisfaction of goal based angling back on the pathway to enlightenment. As you will see, both negative and positive actions are rated so ignorance will be no excuse for accruing negative angling karma.

Fishing a style that will bring enjoyment rather than results: an example would be a days stick float fishing to catch small fish rather than a day with the rods on alarms. Sometimes we forget that it’s the method we enjoy rather than the fish we catch using it, and remember one good fish on the float is worth ten on the lead (or bolt rig as it is all too commonly these days) – 20 MPH Karma points.

Keep it lighthearted - a right hook from a twenty
Keep it lighthearted – a right hook from a twenty

Standing in the water whilst fishing: nothing beats actually being in the water; it brings you closer to a true angling experience. In the summer if you can get away with bare legs and no waders, which is all the better, the sensation of being in the water cannot be beaten, it’s truly magical. When fishing canals as a kid I used to sit on the towpath with my bare feet and legs dangling in the water to keep cool whilst catching hundreds of gudgeon, small roach and veracious 2oz perch on a 2mtr whip; oh happy days. – 15 MPH Karma points.

Fishing a water that offers nothing: by this I mean fishing a venue that will not offer a new personal best or a new bigger total catch, but will offer a superior sensory experience, either through scenery, smell or wildlife. When we dream of angling locations we all picture mist covered estate lakes and bubbling chalk streams, or river glides in which the ghostly shapes of roach, dace, chub and barbel glide temptingly into view as the birds begin their dawn chorus. What we never picture are muddy man-made puddles, or pits and rivers where more bivvies or seatboxes line the banks than trees. Live the daydream, not the goal of bigger fish. – 20 MPH Karma points.

Introducing some one new to angling, or re- introducing someone who used to fish many years ago: nothing will give you greater pleasure than seeing the reaction on a child’s face when they catch their first fish, or the look of peace and tranquility on a friend’s face when they realise that the bankside, with its sensory theatre in full performance, is the only real way to relax. This is the ultimate way to achieve “positive angling karma” as you spread the enjoyment and positive experiences angling can give. – 50 MPH Karma points.

Taking the family fishing: angling can be a very selfish sport for those with partners and families. Modern day living means time with loved ones is often in very short supply at the best of times, without taking one, two or even three days a week away from them for fishing. Once a month, especially in the summer, plan a fishing trip around your partner or family. Pick a suitable venue where you all can do a bit of fishing, enjoy a picnic complete with the odd glass of wine, the partner can sunbathe or the kids can play footy or fly a kite. This way everyone benefits and the memories and photo’s of what would have been just another session stay in the family album, not the fishing one. – 40 MPH Karma points.

Observing the wildlife: often seeing unusual or rare wildlife beats catching fish. A day when I see a Kingfisher or bird of prey hunting, or a Water vole or snake swims across my swim, seems so much more complete. It’s these experiences that are so much more readily shared with other anglers, and non-anglers alike that we talk about them on the journey home or around open fires in country pubs long after the memories of another 20lb carp or double figure barbel have faded. – 20 MPH Karma points.

Enjoy the wildlife
Enjoy the wildlife

Doing something different: by this I mean an action such as the classic falling out of the tree or scarecrow tactic as in “A Passion for Angling”. I once swam across a Catfish Conservation Group’s water on a pre season work party so a “One ton” Barley bale could be towed across the lake into position with me atop. All caught on video and great fun, more memorable than the season’s fishing there actually, as was the opening night barbeque and drinks. Some of the best angling experiences have nothing to do with having a line or bait in the water. – 25 MPH Karma points.

Actions that accrue negative Angling Karma

I hope these should be obvious by now but for those who need a few pointers of what not to do.

Rule breaking: you’re cheating yourself. What do you gain or achieve from breaking rules at a fishery? Nothing, apart from the knowledge that the only way to satisfy your misguided appetite for angling success is to put your own, everyone else’s or even the fishery’s future in doubt. – Minus 50 MPH Karma points.

Falsifying weights of fish: is living with the knowledge that you’re a lying cheat and is the discredit it brings really worth the winning of an £ 80 tackle voucher, new rod or reel or a sew-on badge? – Minus 50 MPH Karma points.

Joining the circus and buying a ticket for the new “hot” water e.g. “Adams Mill”: you might as well get straight in the fast lane and head for the centre reservation on the angling motorway to fame and glory, because you’re a dead cert for angling misery. – Minus 50 Karma points.

I’m sure you all will have your own ideas on what will bring both positive and negative angling Karma, so design your own scale and evaluate your own fishing, it will save you from the fishing cul-de-sac and motorway. I reckon that if I get a day’s fishing with over 100 MPH angling Karma points packed into it, one of those I’ll remember on my deathbed, its got to be worth it.

Remember, the more you put in, the more you’ll take out.