The Unity of Fishing
For me one of the greatest aspects of life on the river is the people I meet and the vast diversity of people at that. It’s no longer just the preserve of the rich. Yes, like many, I’ve fished with dukes & earls, one prince and more hedge fund managers than you could shake a stick at. But, I’ve also fished alongside bus drivers, butchers, bakers and believe it or not, even a candlestick maker (although, admittedly this was her hobby, not her career!) This is the wonderful thing about salmon fishing, despite what some politicians would have us believe, it’s actually pretty classless. Where else can you rub shoulders with such social extremes whilst sharing a common goal? You can put a group of people together on the riverbank who, on paper, have absolutely nothing in common but invariably they’ll hit it off. The common ground of fly fishing is just that, it’s grounding. It creates a great bond between us all, it doesn’t distinguish between age, class, gender or colour. It unites and perhaps some of our river managers and politicians would do well to learn from that.
It’s not just the social standing or career of those paying to cast a fly that differ so much but also that of the ghillies and guides, the river workers, too. More often than not when you strike up conversation as you wade down a pool or cast a fly from a boat you’ll discover that you actually have far more in common than you thought. More fool anyone who dismisses a ghillie as “just a ghillie”. From 16 year olds fresh out of school, those with degrees in subjects as mind boggling as philosophy, to retired solicitors or bank managers, they’re all out there sharing the same passion and way of life. I recently fished a top beat, at prime time, where the ghillie regaled me with tales of his extensive collection of prestigious cars, having just greeted his rods for the day who arrived in a
selection of old bangers! A role reversal of people’s expectations perhaps and, to be honest we fishers were a motley crew indeed, but the lunch was one of the most fun and most memorable I’ve known on the river.
And what else do we all share, rods and ghillies alike? Well, we can laugh at bad casts, share tales of the ones that got away, swap tips on the best destinations, the best rods, lines, flies, clothes etc. But, it’s the camaraderie that brings us together. We’re the people who are most passionate about the countryside, the riverside, not only the sport but also about the quarry. Without fishermen and all that they bring to the wider economy, there would be no-one to fight for the conservation of these magnificent fish and now, more than ever, we need to keep reminding the wider world of that.
Now with the threats to our native salmon stock ever increasing and some of the most disappointing catch statistics on record this season, we need to unite more than ever. Regardless of status, age, colour, creed or car! Stand up and support any way you can, but keep fishing. Without fishermen (or women!) the way of life that we all love won’t be there for the next generation.