IN COMMON with most anglers, I’m often asked the question: “What’s your biggest fish?” Yet it means so little.
For instance, if you’ve had a 17lb barbel it doesn’t follow that you’re a better angler than someone whose personal best is 12lb. I know barbel anglers who have taken fish to 13lb on the Severn, and they’ve forgotten more about barbel fishing than anglers who have taken seven doubles in a day and fish to 16lb on other rivers.
It’s much the same for all species, because there are some mediocre anglers with great fish lists. Now, I’m not saying they’re trying to make out they’re the best in the business, but it’s easy to see why others might think so. It’s possible to fish waters holding lots of specimen-sized fish, and eventually catch a few, without ever improving your angling skills.
I’ve been a guide for a good few years now and so I know all about anglers who’ve caught big fish and yet have to make five attempts to cast across the river, which will very often entail killing a fallow deer on the far bank! Their catapult skills are such that the bait goes in the same place at least 50 per cent of the time.
These anglers will persevere for months until they catch a trophy fish, but from the day they arrive on the water to the time when they get lucky they won’t have improved any of their skills.
Ours must be one of the few sports where this can happen, and maybe that’s a plus point – anyone can catch a big fish.
As for me, even at the age of 70 I’m constantly trying different things and taking myself out of my comfort zone to learn new skills. That, to me, is more important than any big fish.
Over the past couple of seasons I have been spending a lot of time catching river fish on the float up in the water and I’ve had barbel to low doubles, chub to just over 6lb and roach to well over 2lb.
But I know for a fact that had I spent that time on other waters on the bolt rig and boilies I’d have caught much, much bigger fish. But it doesn’t matter – this floatfishing has made me a better and more competent angler and given me a lot of enjoyment.
This autumn and winter I want to become a better buzzer angler for trout and not use a bite indicator, just a sinking hooklength. I’ve caught many double-figure trout on the buzzer, always with an indicator, but next time I’m going to leave this little tell-tale device at home.
I also want to cast further – don’t get me wrong, I class myself as a very accurate caster on stillwaters and rivers, but I do lack distance at times on the big carp lakes using heavy rods and big leads. I need to right that, and I will.
There is so much more to angling than having a big fish list to brag about.