OVER the many years I’ve been writing I have always tried to let anglers know about my failures as well as my successes. It would be all too easy to give the impression that I am catching all the time – which is, of course, not the case.
For me, writing is about inspiring others to get out there fishing, improving their skills and, most importantly, enjoying themselves. If you are an average angler, catching just a few fish, the last thing you need to be told is what you are doing wrong and how people who write about the sport for a living never make the same mistakes.
With this in mind, I’d like to tell you about some of the sessions that went pear-shaped for me – there have been quite a few, believe me! Many times I have put in heaps of effort with only a big blank to show for it. I recall fishing a huge reservoir in France, my goal being a 60lb carp. All I achieved was an overturned boat, winds that nowadays would be given a girl’s name, and sunburnt legs and feet that left me sore for weeks on end.
Me and my mate fished eight days and seven nights, trying every trick and rig in the book, and never had a run between us. Then a Dutch lad told us about another huge lake nearby that was a lot easier. Guess what? We stopped over and gave that a go, and blanked there as well! I never did write a lot about that escapade…
Another carp trip that brought me down to earth was an ill-fated foray to Rainbow Lake, again in France. Yes, I did in the end bag a mirror over 75lb and a 60lb-plus common from this water, but not this time. Me and my mate were on peg 18, a known big-fish peg but one with a reputation for being moody.
Again, we tried everything – not forgetting the strongest pills for a bout of diarrhoea that plagued us for most of the trip, including the long journey home. To cut a long story short, we both chalked up a big fat zero. A 1000-mile-plus round trip and eight days away from home with no runs – well, at least not from a fish!
But I suppose those failures are nothing compared to my first trip to South Africa on the hunt for a 1000lb great white shark. Fishing with Richard Foster, we went to the southernmost point of Africa to a place named Cape Agulhas, where the warm waters of the Indian Ocean meets the cold Atlantic currents. This can be one of the most dangerous seas in the world.
For the first 10 days of the three-week trip we sat in our thatched bungalow, unable to go to sea because of mountainous waves that pounded the marina.
Eventually we went out, but the bad weather had sent the sharks to another area and we blanked big style for the remainder of the long trip. That session in 1996 saw us close to breaking point, and that 8000-mile flight home was a hard pill to swallow – but swallow it we did. We returned and caught the sharks of our dreams, but not without a lot of pain.
So, the next article you read of me with a monster fish, just remember – I don’t have it all my own way. Even writers can get it wrong!