There are three main branches of fishing: sea angling, coarse fishing and game fishing. Both coarse and game fishing are practised in freshwater, differing in the fishes. All freshwater fish, other than salmon, trout and sea trout, are coarse fishes. The fish species sought by the angler run into hundreds, and there are as many techniques for fishing for them. There are complete books on the various baits and the choice of fishable waters extends from the deep sea through huge manmade reservoirs, mountain streams, rivers, ponds, featureless Fenland drains—such a range would occupy volumes. Here we concentrate on essentials.
Fishing the sea is free, the fishes themselves creating seasons when they are absent, either seeking warm water in our winter, moving to more prolific feeding grounds, or heading for longestablished breeding places inaccessible to the rod and line angler. Therefore there is no sea angling licence, although many authorities make charges for fishing from piers, so check beforehand.
The general close season for coarse fishing is March 15 to June 15 inclusive, but some water authorities, such as the South West, have no statutory close season and in some areas anglers can fish for the coarse species all year.
The seasons for game fish vary according to authority areas, but in general salmon can be sought on rod and line from between 30 September and early November to late Januaryearly April. Trout seasons are as varied, beginning in October and ending March or April in the North and in AprilMarch to SeptemberOctober in the South and West. In all cases, anglers should check with the local water authority controlling the fishery before setting out.
It must be remembered that while a licence allows the possessor to fish, it does not automatically allow him access to the water. In the case of water authority reservoirs, the licence includes permission, but where a riverbank is owned privately, the angler needs the appropriate licence and a ticket to fish, bought for the day, week or season.
One way the newcomer to fishing can help himself is by joining a local angling club. Most clubs have access to waters either through leasing their own or by coming to agreements with riparian owners. All the club angler needs then is the correct water authority licence. Most tackle retailers will have good information on local fishing and in many cases can sell licences and day tickets.
The management of fishing interests in Britain is overseen by the National Anglers’ Council. This body is the angler’s link between himself and those responsible for fishing legislation. The NAC has all the major bodies within its committees, including the Federations and Associations to which most clubs are affiliated. The NAC also runs what is probably the most criticised body in angling—the British Record (rodcaught) Fish Committee. Under a series of carefully drawn up rules this body accepts or rejects claims for record fish to be published in the official listings.
The beginner must remember when handling fish that these creatures have a complex nervous system. We do not know for sure whether they can feel pain as we understand the word, and we must not therefore infer that because they do not shout ‘Ouch!’ when a hook is being clumsily removed no pain is felt. Never treat a fish in such a way that pain may be caused, either in the process of unhooking, handling or even in being confined in a keepnet that is too small. One of the fish’s protections against disease and parasitism is its mucous covering and its scales. When these are torn off, or fins are frayed by thrashing about in a small keepnet, the mucus is removed, leaving the fish exposed to disease.
When fishing a venue for the first time, make yourself aware of the regulations controlling fishing. On trout reservoirs note the Fly Only rule, nonobservance of which will have you thrown off the water immediately. There will be size limits to observe on both game and coarse fisheries; certain baits may be banned, or spinning only possible at certain times. The number of rods allowed in use at the same time will usually be one—or two for those to whom ledgering is the preferred method.
All anglers need to know a few important knots, for one of the properties of nylon monofilament is that unless knots are tied in a special way they will not hold.
One important rule is TAKE YOUR RUBBISH HOME WITH YOU. It may not be put that way, but many a beautiful riverbank has been so spoiled by anglers’ discarded tins, paperbags, sandwich wrappings, bits of tackle, old groundbait, that the owner has banned all fishing. The many suffered from the actions of the few. Certainly the gravest mistake an angler can make is to leave coils of unwanted nylon on the bankside or hanging from trees or bushes. There are some very sad photographs showing dead birds hanging from branches, their claws or bodies trapped by a few strands of nylon. Take it home and burn it.
Lastly, never hesitate to ask for advice from those more experienced than yourself. Do not, however, choose to walk up to an angler with a question at the moment when his concentration is focused on the tiny float, quivering and bobbing a split second before it dips to record that bite he has been waiting hours for. Your footsteps may well put down a fish about to take the bait. He will lose the fish and you will lose a friend.