In this Arctic weather they are an inspiration to all of us Take a long look at this photograph. Analyse it carefully - study the detail. Admire the statuesque pose of the anglers, the symmetrically cut rectangles in the ice, the bleak mid-winter light, the snow-covered ground that masks where earth gives way to water. Stare long enough and you can almost feel the icy chill of a north-easterly.
I don’t know about you, but it’s one of the bleakest angling images I’ve seen in recent years. But also one of the most inspirational too.
“Anglers,” the caption ought to read, “will not be beaten - no matter what the weather throws at them.” It’s matchmen, unsurprisingly, who are the stars of the show. I have never completely understood what drives men to sit side by side, on allocated, randomly drawn, pegs to fish to set rules and allotted time. It’s not that I dislike it, more I struggle to understand the motivation. Fishing, for me, has never been about beating the next man while under the confines of strict regulation.
Competition, I suspect, is the chief incentive, and numerous big-name matchmen have admitted as much when I’ve quizzed them about it - if they weren’t fishing they’d be competing elsewhere. It just so happens angling provides the vehicle for their desire.
But despite not truly ever grasping the ethos, there’s no denying match anglers are the most dedicated bunch of the lot. Who else would smash through ice on days more suited to polar bears than human beings to scratch around for a few ounces?
Take Dave Mallet as an example. True, he chose to fish a contest on a relatively ice-free River Salwarpe in Worcestershire, but he still braved the Arctic conditions for five brutally-cold hours to catch just a single 4drm perch. However, he was the lucky one. The rest of the field didn’t so much as muster a single fish between them.
And what about the 40 anglers who fished on the River Severn at Bridgenorth last weekend. Forget a fish, the entire field failed to induce a bite! But no-one complained, no-one asked for their pools money back and no-one left berating their luck. In fact, I wouldn’t mind betting they’ll all be back again next week. And they won’t be alone either. Match anglers across the country have continued to display a dedication that borders on madness over the last few weeks, making the rest of us who have opted for the warmth and comfort of an armchair and a TV look like wimps.
Their mantra is simple: “We will leave our families at home and drive miles through snow-covered roads. We will wrap up like Michelen men in a futile bid to stave off the cold. We will fish, Eskimo-style, through strips in the ice cut with chainsaws. We will spend the next five hours trying to get a solitary bite, never mind a fish. We will go home frozen to the bone to face ‘why bother?’ questions from loved ones, friends and work colleagues. We will, of course, struggle to justify ourselves, but, at the end of it all, our message is clear ¬ we will never, ever, stop fishing.” And that is what sets match anglers, the real dyed-in-the-wool, never-miss-a-weekend-no-matter-how-bad-it-is boys, apart from the rest.
Like the picture, you are an inspiration to the rest of us.