Thursday, 2 July 2015
The General fishes Dartmoor
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.