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Why all shooters should try fishing

Giles Catchpole makes that case for why all shooting folk should also go fishing

The pursuit of wild brown trout requires fieldcraft and patience; a valuable lesson for shooters

In these days of thermal imaging and night sights, pigeon magnets and whirligigs, and when you can book a day’s shooting and confidently expect a bag of several hundreds of pheasants or partridges, it is probably more important than ever that those who shoot also go fishing.

Not, I would venture, to a lake stocked to the brim with trout or a pond stuffed with carp, but to a proper river or stream, or the sea, and cast a line towards a wild fish.

The Atlantic salmon — the king of fish — used to be called the ‘fish of a thousand casts’. I haven’t counted how many times I cast in a given day when standing in a noble river up to my nethers in pursuit of a salmon. But last time I was in the company of some experienced anglers, we worked out it had taken us, on average, 20 days of fishing to connect with a fish.

And these were no rank amateurs but resolute fisherfolk who know what they are about. Three weeks of fishing — with all the travelling and accommodation and tips and expenses that involves — before there was even the sniff of a fish.

And that’s why keen Shots should go fishing; because it might reintroduce them to the virtues of patience and a degree of fieldcraft too.

Not that there is a great deal of fieldcraft in salmon fishing, if I’m honest, though a shedload of patience is essential. The pursuit of wild brown trout, however, requires fieldcraft in abundance. First you have to consider the environment — time of year, time of day, air temperature, water temperature. Then you must check what the fish are eating — species, colour, on-the-water or in-the-water — after which it is necessary to find a fish by sidling up the bank, peeking through the reeds several times to check the flow beyond. Only when all of this has been undertaken do you actually get the chance to start fishing.

(Looking to start fishing?

Then you get one cast to bamboozle your quarry and if you deliver a lure akin to an anchor being dumped midstream, then all the fish will scatter. Your next chance will be either an hour later or half a mile up or down the bank. It is, in short, damned hard work.

And it is a far cry from being decanted from a commodious Gun bus a few steps from your peg, over which a steady stream of game will make stately progression before you have settled yourself on a shooting stick.


Wild places

Many shooters say visiting wild places is part of the attraction. Well, rivers are wild places all right and the view changes with every passing ounce of water. Was it Confucius or Buddha who said that “no man ever enters the same river twice”? Neither actually. it was Heraclitus and he was right. The river changes and we change too; but because we spend time on the river it is possible to observe and appreciate those changes. Angling is contemplative.

Stalking comes close, of course. Watching the sunrise from a woodland high seat is a comparable experience, but it is a fleeting thing compared with a day spent beside a river.

It is also the case that women are notoriously far better at connecting with salmon than are men. All the records are held by ladies. Which is also something to think about when putting in the hours of step, roll, cast, mend, repeat.

Some say it’s luck. Some say women exude a pheromone irresistible to salmon; particularly males. Others suggest that they are more diligent in their casting and more delicate in their fly presentation.

I have no idea, but it’s not the sort of question you have time to consider while you are shooting.

And that I do know.