Dreams. Superstition. Intuition. These things have always had a strong hold on anglers.
Lots of us struggle to sleep before a big fishing trip, to say nothing of the strange things that enter our minds as we drift off.
But do great anglers really have a kind of “sixth sense”? Could dreams really anticipate our success or failure? Or is this a phenomenon that can be explained by science?
What do dreams really tell us?
Far from being a random sequence of events, dreams serve an important function in human sleep. They are “a playground where we can test things out” according to Dr Daniel Erlacher, a specialist at Bern University.
“They’re a simulation of life, where we can rehearse our aims and desires.”
If you have a specific goal, or are engaged in a particular activity, dreams are often more regular and intense. A pressure situation, like a big trip or a major event, can be the trigger.
It’s not sweet dreams, but so-called “threat simulation dreams” that are the most common, however. They come from our survival instincts and almost everyone gets them, according to Daniel. This might explain typical dreams of getting lost, or seeing huge fish you can’t catch. For our distant ancestors, failing such a challenge might mean going hungry.
But can dreams, even of the stressful variety, help us face tomorrow or even predict the future? Studies have shown that in exams or athletic trials, dreamers often went on to real world success.
As for fishing, there’s a lot to be said for trusting your instincts.
Or, as Chris Yates would have it, “cast for your dreams”.
Ian Nadin: Pike dream comes true
Most of us will have dreamt about catching a monster fish of some kind, but pike angler Ian Nadin did this at Chew Valley Lake with an eerily accurate prediction. “The weather the previous day had been horrible,” he recounts, “so I’d been reading pike fishing books, and had a head full of daydreams and anticipation.”
That night, he not only dreamt the fish of a lifetime, but even got the exact location and depth! On the day itself, he and boat partner Julian Chidgey had already enjoyed great success, boating several impressive pike, before the wind got up. Ian decided to head straight for Denny Island, the spot he’d imagined.
“It was very vivid,” he explains. “Just like in the dream, there was 13ft on the depth finder when I got a slow run right behind the island. The fight was incredible!”
The fish also had a tussle with the anchor rope– and was hanging on by just one treble. At an astonishing 38lb, it’s a pike Ian doubts he’ll ever beat, although he adds: “I should keep a chunk of Gorgonzola by my bed from now on!”
Chris Yates: Carp premonitions
One angler who’s never dismissed dreams and strange instincts is Chris Yates. “Most fishermen have experienced the workings of the sixth sense,” he wrote in Casting at the Sun.
“Dick Walker and Jack Hilton were both convinced of its importance, and their recognition of it prepared them for some of their best catches.”
For Chris, a dreamlike vision or a sudden hunch was often the sign of something memorable to come. With one of his Redmire giants, then the second-biggest carp in Britain, he’d pictured it in his mind very lucidly the evening before. “I was convinced I was going to land a huge fish,” he wrote, “and I also knew this wasn’t going to happen until after sunrise.
Yates’ friend Rod Hutchinson was less convinced by these portents, however. “I told Rod about my premonition, but he just chuckled,” recounts Chris. “The trouble with Rod is that he’s just too rational – a very down-to-earth character who sees most things in black and white. But then he’s a northerner.”
It was ultimately Chris who was proved right, however, and his dream became reality at 43lb 12oz.
“It confirmed an image that had been swimming around my head since sunset, 12 hours before,” he later wrote.
Steve Ringer: A dream peg!
It’s quite common for competitors to dream about success or failure before a big event. Our own Steve Ringer can vouch for that, having had a premonition of success before his first Fish O’Mania title back in 1998.
“I had a dream on the Thursday night that I won,” recalled Steve after the event.
“The match went exactly like it did in my dreams!”
The winning peg – even his successful technique, the Method feeder – felt eerily familiar. Having missed out on two previous occasions, once by just 4oz, he’d won his dream prize in more ways than one.