I got stuck chatting to a cricket bore down the pub last weekend who said that he couldn’t comprehend what so many of us love about angling.
“It’s so dull,” this Hooray Henry claimed, “all that sitting around and waiting. Nothing ever seems to happen. Where is the fun,” he dismissively concluded, “in that?”
I nearly spat my beer out. This, remember, from someone who follows a game that can last five days ¬ if it doesn’t rain, that is ¬ without a result and is largely populated by over-weight middle-aged accountants who spend countless hours doing nothing but fiddle with their googlies at daft sounding places like silly mid on.
Cricket. The very word makes you yawn.
I didn’t say any of that, of course. In the interests of politeness I just made my excuses and headed off in search of more interesting company...with the landlord’s dog.
Perhaps, though, I should have pointed the brainless bat-swinger in the direction of the story on page 3 of last week’s AT ¬ the one about the 16-year-old who came within an ounce of making history with one of the River Severn’s biggest-ever barbel. Because if ever a story summed up what is especially great about this sport of ours, then this was it.
Bare facts don’t really do the tale justice. Schoolboy Josh Roe, a lad from the West Midlands, was fishing the Holt Fleet stretch of the venue when his double red maggot hookbait, attached to just a 3lb hooklink and size 10 hook, was picked up by a fish that stands as the second biggest barbel ever to be caught from the Severn. In terms of historical importance, it’s a fish with few equals.
But the magic of this story isn’t really in the precise detail. Instead it lies within angling’s almost unique capacity for surprise. No other sport can come close to matching it and no other sport levels the playing field like fishing, either.
Just think about it.
What other past-time can you think of that would allow an inexperienced schoolboy, tackled up with very simple and inexpensive equipment, to achieve something of such historical significance? Like you, I can’t think of a single one.
You will, no doubt, read stories of bigger barbel, of bigger fish, this season, and the specimen anglers involved will have displayed more skill in achieving their targets. But
I’d wager that none will provide as much inspiration, or restore as much faith, as Josh Roe and his barbel have done.
In an era of the same faces catching the same fish from the same circuit waters, he lived out the ultimate angling fantasy and caught a specimen most of us have only ever dreamt about.
But, above anything else, he also provided a perfect example of what underpins why so many of us started fishing in the first place. It reminds us all that the next time the float goes under, the tip goes around, or the bobbin hits the rod butt, it might, just might, be the fish of a lifetime on the other end.
Angling, dull? It’s the most exciting, unpredictable and, above all else, fundamentally fair sport on the planet. If I see Mr Cricket again I’ll tell him that, too.