Wednesday, 27 April 2016
Sometimes, even as a fictional military general, freshwater fishing simply isn't exciting enough. A real man needs that unmistakable tang of the sea. There is something about the coast that stirs the blood, you see. The manliness of sailors. Fish and chips sold at less than four quid. Women with nautical tattoos. Petty criminals who are still friendly. Cafes where a nostalgic general can be surrounded by elderly white people drinking tea. The bright flashing lights of low quality gambling establishments. Huge amounts of fudge, all of it British. Pubs where it is not so much acceptable as compulsory to swear, drink poor quality spirits and engage in arm wrestling and tales of "the good old days". And yes, fishing. Not namby pamby small stream fly fishing, but sea fishing, with waves, gales and seaweed. British seaweed. For all these reasons and more, I love the life of the salty dog.
I could easily have been a great naval commander rather than a conventional general, come to think of it. But sadly my great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandfather was dishonorably discharged in the days of the Spanish Armada after his part in a depraved episode involving a shipment of opium, the Earl of Wessex's daughter and a live haddock.
But I digress. I tell you, these days I can hardly tell you what happened last week, let alone the days of the Spanish Armada. But my shrapnel wounds are so severe these days I'm rarely sober. Somewhere in the middle of a bottle of rum, however, I suddenly remembered childhood holidays in Lyme Regis, where I would go fishing with my Uncle Robbie. Or at least that is what he told my aunt.
Back in those days the seas were crawling with huge fish. Twenty pound bass were common and a top of the range beachcaster cost 5p, while you'd even find the odd marlin off the south coast. That was before the English channel was plundered by the French, the Spanish, the Dutch and, worst of all, the Cornish.
Nevertheless, I was curious to return to the Dorset coast for some sea fishing. Partly to see if anything was left and partly because I wanted to pick up my new Fifty Plus Ultimate Big Fish Warrior Mark 4 Twat Scales, which weigh fish up to half a metric ton. They will speak the weight to you and even read out your PB list so that you can bore the shit out of passers by to the nearest gram, which is another nice feature. The only drawback is the use of Kilograms, because I much prefer the comfort of dated and confusing imperial measures. Anyone who disagrees is unpatriotic and should stop reading immediately.
Again, I digress. I returned with a heavy beachcaster just in case, although I doubted I'd catch a sprat sixty odd years after the last time I had cast here. On that occasion I caught a fifty pound tope and was beaten up by my uncle, who had caught nothing and got jealous. I decided to be realistic and just see what was about this time, by rigging up with a two-foot-long king ragworm and casting it out to a reef two hundred yards away.
Within seconds I had a bite and reeled in a fish that was ugly as it was disappointing. Global warming has created an influx of dirty, inferior and invasive species from other countries. I believe this fish was a Patagonian Sludge Goby. Either way, I was disgusted with it, in spite of its near 40lb bulk. Quite inedible too, I'm afraid. I shot it twice in the head, before ordering the local coastguard to tow the body to France.
Regardless, I baited up again and this time cast nearer to the shore, by a large rocky outcrop. Again, I only had to wait mere seconds for a bite, which didn't so much shiver the rod tip as nearly pull the rod into the sea. This time I had a real battle on my hands, especially as I was only using 100lb line. In the two hours or so it took to beat the fish, a small crowd had assembled outside the amusement arcades, momentarily distracted from their love of gambling to watch the epic battle unfolding. By the time I hauled the monster to shore, my muscles ached and my uniform was drenched in sweat.
It was an enormous wrasse, but was it a British Navy record? Unfortunately not. At only eighty-nine pounds and seven ounces, it was almost a pound an a half short of the specimen caught by Rear Admiral David McKenzie in 1896. The crowd were impressed but, naturally, I was disgusted. I had the fish destroyed, before going to Spar to buy a bottle of sherry.
A rum do, I'm afraid chaps. But alas, sometimes all that lies between eternal glory and a night in a carpark is eighteen ounces. Sometimes I think the good old days are never likely to return, frankly. The Empire is gone. Discipline is fading. Soon there will be nothing left for it but to bypass the dented tins of lager and out-of-date spirits at Spar altogether and walk directly into the sea. That will show Johnny Foreigner.
Should you wish to hear of some of my more glorious bygone days, however, you may enjoy the new edition of Fallon's Angler (issue 6). Within its glorious pages you can read about my fishing adventures in Cold War Berlin. It was a most strange and exciting time, I must tell you, doing battle with not only the communists but genetically modified experimental fish created by Soviet scientists. And meeting fishface himself, Prince Charles (below), just round the corner from Checkpoint Charlie. I urge you to buy it. In fact if you do not buy it now you are almost technically stealing since you are gaining entertainment from my writings without paying a penny. I would quite happily shoot you for this myself, if this were a public library and I caught you doing it. Britain didn't rule half the world by allowing people to read everything for free, damn it.