If Two Tone, Britain’s record-breaking carp, generated considerable interest when it was alive, it has, like many celebrities, enjoyed a whole lot more in death. It’s hard to believe any fish has been more famous in the modern era.
Bazil, Mary, Heather, Benson and all those other named specimens that have passed on in recent years will have to make room in that great lake in the sky ¬ the new king of deceased carp is coming.
Now, first things first. I am not going to spend the next 300 words trying to explain or understand how grown men can weep over a dead fish, or why 50 people travelled to Kent to gather around a commemorative plaque and take part in a ‘ceremony’ for a creature many of them had spent their angling lives trying to impale on a hook. Not because I haven’t got an opinion on the subject of idolising or humanising individual fish, but because I’ve already expressed it.
To reiterate, I think these people are bonkers. Completely and utterly bonkers.
You’ve only to look at how the BBC’s The One Show covered the story to realise what the greater public, indeed anyone outside the microscopic one-eyed inner sanctum, make of it all. They find it hilarious.
And please, don’t moan about the programme being an excuse for ridicule, either. Look, a bunch of sorry-looking adults stood around in the pouring rain to mourn a carp is funny. There was no need for any spin. If you’re prepared to attend what was essentially a wake for a fish and leave, of all things, a tub of pop-ups as a mark of respect, then you have to expect the worst. I don’t blame the presenters, the guests and the crew for laughing one bit. I would have done too ¬ if I hadn’t been shaking my head in bemusement. Is this really where fishing has ended up?
But this isn’t the real point that I want to make. No, the thing that really interested me about the demise of Two Tone was the immediate reaction of the national media. Because just as it did when Benson departed last year, it went into meltdown.
The dailies carried stories on Page 3, radio stations clamoured for ‘experts’ and ITN even sent a crew to the AT offices. For a couple of days Two Tone was bigger news than the floods in Pakistan. Crazy, but true.
Now, without wishing to get into a debate about the morality of what makes headlines, this proved one indisputable thing: the sport of angling is totally bomb-proof.
If the country’s mainstream media ¬ The One Show included ¬ is willing to stick the death of fish high up the news agenda, then no-one is going to tell me we need to be scared of the antis.
I get sick of spineless anglers running away from confronting issues that we need to tackle in-house ¬ like the gross overstocking of commercials ¬ because by doing so, in their opinion, we ‘play into the hands of the antis’. It’s complete rubbish. The antis are an irrelevance, a meaningless irrelevance.
Yes, the media might only look at fishing when it’s something quirky, and they may poke fun, patronise and generally have a good laugh at our expense ¬ but never, ever do they appear remotely anti-angling.
On the contrary, in fact. Fishermen, they may think, are slightly eccentric geeks with a strange obsession about things most people eat with chips, but under no circumstances do they believe us as cruel. And with public perception in the hands of these people, that means fishing remains totally safe.
Two Tone’s death might have meant everything or nothing to you, but wherever you stand, it should have acted in the very least as reassurance.