Keith Arthur: Ethics - a quality our sport lacks

The Times newspaper recently carried an article by its angling correspondent Brian Clarke that said almost exactly what I've wanted to say about certain facets of angling. The most important word in the piece is 'ethics'.

In it, Mr Clarke speaks of Richard Walker's 'research, reconnaissance and high angling skills' in catching the record carp of 44lb in 1952. He compares that to an angler catching five carp over 40lb in 48 hours from 'a commercial carp water', as was recently reported, and the intention of that fishery owner to stock carp up to, and over, the current British record.

Mr Clarke goes on to remark on the six-hour match haul of 682lb. The catch rate, as I calculated and commented on at the time, was approximately one carp every 90 seconds.

Of course, this isn't 'normal' fishing, or what the vast majority of anglers, you and I, really want. I'm not even sure you want to read about it, either, unless it's to raise a weary eyebrow and tut.

I remember when I first started working for Daiwa, way back in 1990, ironically the year I began writing for Angling Times.

I saw pictures of Japanese fisheries ­ basically square pools with pontoons where anglers in suits sat back-to-back, possibly in their lunch hour, with small poles. Oh how we laughed, talking about how many fish must be in there to allow any to be caught. Well, it's not a laugh any more ­ we have that right here. For a number of anglers, possibly a growing number of anglers, ethics may as well be a place between Hertfordshire and Kent. Catching isn't an important part of angling ­ it's the only part of angling.

I'm not even certain that anglers have decided they want to catch 100lb every time they go. I believe some fishery owners have decided that.

Quite a few years ago I berated someone for saying they'd rather have 3lb of canal roach than 100lb of commercial carp. I was new to the commercial fishery scene back then. Carp were exciting to catch, because I was catching them on slightly heavy roach tackle. I'd never caught 100lb of carp because I didn't fish waters where that was common. And I still don't. The angler who said that to me had a point because I would guess a huge percentage of fishermen (NOT anglers) who consider 100lb of carp a failure couldn't catch 3lb of canal roach if they stayed all week.

Now, in 2010, I can honestly say I would rather blank through lack of skill than catch 600lb of carp in a match. Hand on heart I can say I would rather catch a five-pounder from the Thames than a 60-pounder that had been stocked at 60lb, or artificially grown to that weight.

Maybe, like Brian Clarke, I am getting on a bit, but I want to enjoy fishing. In my matchfishing career I enjoyed success, hopefully through having the skill to use the good draws I had to my advantage. Now I fish to enjoy ­ including matches ­ and I honestly believe that throughout my career my angling has been ethical. I take more pride in that than any big fish, any match weight, or any competition win.