Wednesday, 15 July 2015
Britain’s historic canals are a fine piece of work. Dug to keep the French out and generally keep the people in their place, grafting coal, immigrants and gunpowder around the country on barges, they are something of a British institution.
Not that today’s canals have quite the same nostalgia. These days they are mostly populated by boatloads of pensioners, stag parties and regrettable sloan types who quaff tins of Stella and accidentally smash the paint off hired narrowboats. It brings a quiver of animal fury to my usually stiff upper lip, every time I visit my half brother Ken, on the Kennet and Avon Canal, aboard his shabby boat, the Half Nelson.
In spite of the threat of the British public on a Saturday, I nevertheless decided to go fishing. I began by assembling a short but sturdy pole, and a delicate rig (40lb line, size 10/0 hook). Having no time to waste on small fish, I baited the hook with enough bread to give a man constipation for a week, like this:
Now, I’m well aware you might have seen fools such as Bob Nudd fishing pathetically tiny baits for miniscule roach on canals, but if you want quality you have to think big. There are some huge fish on almost every British canal, if you are only brave enough to think like a military general.
For some time though, those pissed students driving boats and aimless, elderly dog walkers played havoc with my best laid plans. A group of Oxbridge tossers smashed into the far bank feature I had been targeting, before a Dalmatian ate my sandwiches.
I was just about to reach for my service revolver when the float dipped and there was a mighty surge. Something was thrashing violently in the canal’s central track. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I pulled out this titanic rudd of over forty pounds:
But the better surprise was yet to come. Among the detritus on the canal, I had noticed various dead things. Not just the detritus of nearby Bath, but a drowned rabbit. A perfect bait for any giant scavengers, or so I thought.
The afternoon was painfully slow, as more sloans, Essex stag parties and assorted human detritus floated down the canal. Even with my legendary stiff upper lip, I was almost driven to one of my outbursts. And then, just as it couldn't get more annoying, my war wound started to play up. A bottle of port took the edge of this, but I still found myself biteless, and wondering if the dead bunny would ever produce a run.
At around 4pm the float suddenly sloped away. I struck, and there was such a tidal wave of force, every boat within half a mile rocked. One of the boats slowed down for a look.
"Oi mate, what have you hooked? Is it a carp? I fish for them, and nothing else ever because basically I'm a bit of a twat."
"I am a military general, not your mate," I replied. "Please desist and go away. I have sunk far bigger vessels than yours, you young scullion."
The fight was dogged rather than spectacular, and I soon drew an enormous Tommy Ruffe into the net. A superb fish at thirty-seven pounds, three ounces, eight drams and six point 5 mili-drams, I was naturally delighted, and broke into my first wry smile for five years. Another British record- and further proof that I am an amazing big fish angler, better than all of you in fact:
Thursday, 2 July 2015
After the horror of my last adventure on a commercial fishery, I decided to head back into the wilderness this week, where a man is free to shoot animals, burn meat and climb hills without being disturbed. You might see a few sun-burned pensioners, cretinous foreigners and boy scouts up here too, but Dartmoor truly belongs to our military elite and the rather sadistic training exercises I tend to set. You see, I usually come up here for the distinct pleasure of watching young recruits sweat and burn while running it twenty miles across the moor with a standard issue rifle and rucksack. But actually, these days I prefer a spot of trout fishing.
Damn it all to hell, you can stuff your manicured commercial carp holes, give me real fishing any day of the week. Give me rocks, bogs and bracken. Give me my hip flask, a fly rod, a dated Ordnance Survey map and an unlicensed firearm.
The terrain can be one of the biggest challenges, but personally I enjoy dangerous quagmires and barbed wire. They remind me of my childhood, and I have passed many happy hours in the bogs of Dartmoor. I met my wife in one, in fact, the night I was arrested near the Two Bridges Hotel, in 1973.
So anyway, where was I? Ah yes, bogs. Well, I climbed free but was absolutely bloody soaking by the time I got to the river. Grasping my rifle in one hand and my tackle in the other, I waded up to my conkers, into the River Dart.
Smart arsed angling writers and fishing guides often describe these places as "paradise" or the trout as "jewels". But they are not. These are primeval killing grounds and the trout of Dartmoor are amongst the most vicious and verminous in the world. They hide under rocks, before springing out to maim, kill and inconvenience.
After catching around seventy pathetic little trout and drinking a pint of whisky to steady my nerves, I came to a giant pool that I could never remember seeing before. I tied on the biggest dry fly in the box and aimed it into the rocky mouth. Shit the barracks, what a trout it was that seized the fly!
The fish fought titanically, but a shot to the head with my service revolver silenced the giant. I admired its beautiful golden sides and colony of black spots, before kicking it in the face just to make sure it was dead. A new world record trout at eighty-one pounds, I couldn't decide whether to eat or mount it, so I did both.