One day, someone will come up with an answer to the question: ‘What is “coarse” about coarse fishing?’ So far there has been no satisfactory explanation, for every freshwater fisherman will tell you that ‘coarse’ is the last word one could use to describe today’s float rods, lines, hooks, to say nothing of the finesse and delicacy needed to lure an ultratimid carp from the haven of a weedbed to take a morsel of floating crust.
So ‘coarse’ is the word we use to provide some means of telling the fly fisherman apart from the seeker of any species not belonging to the salmon and trout family. One facetious comment cannot be avoided though. Anyone who has tried eating a roach or bream will agree with the writer who said that coarse fish tasted like cotton wool stuffed with needles.
The beginner to fishing will, then, go to his local tackle dealer and buy the essentials of the angler’s craft: a rod, reel, line, hooks, leads and floats.
A word of advice—buy carefully and do not necessarily buy the cheapest of the available range. Go for good quality at a reasonable price, and listen to the advice of the tackle dealer. He lives in a world of fishing tackle and knows, like all sensible retailers, that a satisfied customer comes back. He will willingly help the beginner to select a sound, basic range of tackle to start out on a life of infinite pleasure in the open air.
One of the most colourful displays will be the serried ranks of floats large and small, dull and brilliantly coloured. Attractive though they may be, halfadozen, again recommended by the dealer, will suffice.
A hundred yards of 5 lb breaking strain (b.s.) nylon will do for line, while some hooks sized from 16 to 12 provide a range that will take maggots, bread and worms, the baits best used at first by the newcomer to the sport. Not absolutely necessary, but useful, will be a couple of plastic bait boxes and a disgorger.
There are many other gadgets and accessories but they can wait until some proficiency has been attained, together with an understanding of what kind of fish will be sought, where the fishing will take place and which techniques appeal most.
The important fish species are described together with the basic angling equipment needed to catch them. Unfortunately, space prohibits the inclusion of the crucian carp, an ornamental introduction from the East a few hundred years ago.
Anglers wishing to catch eels should seek any farm pond or backwater, for this still incompletely known fish wriggles over the land to find its eventual homewater. The muddy waters of the Fens and Broads are places where a ledgered worm is almost guaranteed to be taken by a wriggling, slimy bootlace impossible to hold and unhook. The secret is to lay it on a sheet of newspaper, where it will lie still while the hook is removed. Larger eels are another matter, and it is likely that any beginner who reels a thrashing doublefigure eel to the bank will quickly seek help to subdue the slithering monster.
A branch of fishing not covered here is matchfishing. Simply, matchfishing is competitive angling where anglers vie with one another to catch more fish, or a greater weight of fish, in a given time.
The number of coarse fishermen has increased hugely in the past decade. This means that the available bank space is diminishing. Newcomers to the sport would be strongly advised to join a local angling club and gain the benefit from waters that become available by virtue of this membership. Clubs often affiliate to the large federations, and so the range of waters is increased. In clubs, too, beginners will find that all their questions— and there will be plenty—will be discussed and solutions offered. It is a known fact that each time an angler describes a recent catch the weight of the fish increases; not so well publicized is the fact that the beginner who joins a club and goes on fishing expeditions with the members will increase both the weight of his catch and the knowledge of his chosen sport.
Fishing is controlled in British waters by River Authorities who have the right to issue licences to anglers wishing to fish their waters. Licences range from day tickets to those covering a complete season. Most tackle shops sell these licences both for local waters and for other River Authorities. As well as the licences, the angler must also have permission from the owner of the waters, for all water other than the sea is owned by someone. This is where club membership is so important, for the member is able to fish his club’s waters and only needs the River Authority licence.
Good quality tackle is not cheap. After every fishing trip check your reel and rod. Wipe off all bankside dirt, especially gritty mud. The reel mechanism needs to be absolutely free of abrasive matter, so wipe it over then apply a fine coating of oil. The rod ferrules should be given the same treatment.
Lastly, the beginner must remember that there is a close season for coarse fishing. From 15 March to 15 June fishing for freshwater fish other than trout and salmon is prohibited. The period was originally conceived to allow a threemonth respite for the fish during their spawning season. But it seems that nobody told the fish, for tench have been known to spawn in July, as have other species well outside the statutory close season. Record sizes have been claimed for fish whose bellies were swollen with eggs, and while there seems no legal argument against such claims it is surely against the spirit of sporting angling.