Are we what we do?
I have just watched a new television advert for a bank, in which it is stated that we are what we do. Not the line I would take given the recent “goings on” in the banking world, but, maybe that particular bank is the exception to what seems to be the rule. Anyway, what has all that to do with angling? You may have noticed that Natural Resources Wales (NRW), which is a combination of the old Environment Agency Wales, Forestry Commission Wales and Countryside Council for Wales, has been in the news recently following a number of serious in river pollution incidents, which resulted in the poisoning of many thousands of fish, including salmon, sea trout and brown trout. Rivers are also being polluted by runoff from fields, which result in small suspended particles of soil, what in the air would perhaps be dust, being washed into the rivers and clogging up gravel beds into which fish lay their eggs, that then rely on the water passing through the gravel to provide oxygen to the maturing eggs. The clogging of these gravels prevents the water running through the gravels, and thus the eggs die. When these incidents happen, it is the responsibility of NRW to investigate and take whatever action may be necessary to remedy the damage caused. Now I am sure that these incidents are for the most part accidents. The land owners and farmers I meet in my wanderings up the local rivers seem to me to be as concerned about nature and the protection of our environment as anybody: probably much more than most as their livelihood depends upon fertile land that is well managed. NRW are charged with protecting and enhancing our countryside, rivers and woodlands, however having taken the decision to close all but one hatchery, in which fish were bred from eggs to fry or parr, there is now no supply of small fish to replace those lost in these accidents. When one considers that salmon and sea trout stocks in Welsh rivers are at real danger of not being self sustaining, due to falling numbers, one has to wonder at the wisdom of that decision. Or was it all about saving money?
So many of us are totally preoccupied with just getting on with life and making a living: making ends meet, that we have just lost our connection with nature and the land have become detached from that which actually sustains us. We are not “detached” from nature and the environment; we are an integral part of it. I clearly remember one hot summers day, some years ago, when about to leave one of my favorite fishing spots, I stood at the edge of a pool gazing over the shimmering water to the fields beyond, when an otter surfaced next to me and was about to literally walk over my wader foot, when I looked down at him and said “Hello beautiful, what are you doing here”: I know, talking to animals is perhaps not a good sign, the otter looked up at me for a startled second before doing that classic somersault you see in films on the telly, and disappeared from site. That image is burned on my memory: it made that day, indeed the whole season that year. I have experienced the delight of a kingfisher attempting to land on my fishing rod, until seeing me it went into rapid reverse and sought another perch.
For those of you that are kind enough to take the time to read my contribution to The Times, you will be aware that my aim is encourage young and old to at least try fishing in one of its many forms, and so may be wondering exactly where this piece is going. I believe that we are what we do, or at least what we do makes us what we are. There are many forms of angling, from what we call coarse fishing, that is fishing for freshwater fish in streams and still waters, where one can simply select a waterside spot to sit and try to tempt fish such as roach, rudd, carp and many other fish species to take a bait, their interest being indicated by the bobbing of a float or the sudden bouncing of a rod tip, or sea fishing when one finds a spot on a beach or perch on a rock and try to tempt a bass or a cod to take a bait. These sedentary approaches are deemed by most I suspect to be what fishing is all about. There is also fly fishing, where fish are tempted to take an artificial fly or lure, but the angler, to do this, walks for miles along a river bank or around a lake. Whatever approach is taken the end result is for the most part the same. The angler becomes part of the countryside, aware of the wonders around him or her, and oblivious to the day to day hustle and bustle that has become so much of the today’s busy life. Relaxing and enjoying our environment is for me a medicine and a source of great wonder and pleasure. I for one would like to think that I am indeed moulded and changed by what I do.
Enjoy your summer and perhaps have a think about “wetting a line” as we fishermen say. Perhaps you will find a little island of peace and contentment to which you can retreat when life becomes a bit of a chore. Tight lines!”