[caption id="attachment_1859" align="aligncenter" width="500"] (Photo by the Denver Post via Getty Images)[/caption]
There’s an old saying, ‘If you want to travel fast, travel alone. If you want to travel far, travel in company. But if you want to wind up stuck in a hedge in a furious rage, take a fishing net.’ Or something similar.
It’s one well worth bearing in mind as we look ahead and, with a little help from the appropriately frosty Hillingar effect, glimpse the spring that lies just a touch beyond the horizon. We can – in our mind’s ear – hear the steady drop-drip and trickle of the thaw.
Far out under the slate-grey surface of the North Atlantic, the salmon are returning. In the still and silent depths of lochs across Scotland and in the icy rush of England’s swelling chalk streams, the trout are just beginning to wake. Soon enough, those anglers who’ve become impervious to cold during the short winter days spent pike fishing will swap out their tackle, and as the days begin to lengthen and the frost recede, they’ll be joined by the rest of us.
One travels light if one can, of course: a favoured and well worn canvas and leather bag over the shoulder containing the various reels, leaders, fly cases, scissors and so on, a flask - perhaps of coffee or something stronger - and a chunk of chocolate and a couple of meticulously crafted sandwiches; a rod case in one hand; the other hand free to deal with gates or, in anticipation of rough or boggy terrain, carry a thumb stick. Add to that minimal luggage the appropriate footwear and weatherproofing, one can be up and out in a matter of minutes.
The question, of course, is whether to take a net.
The most obvious drawback is a practical one. Does one attach it by some improvised sling? Does one hang it off one’s bag and put up with the constant clatter as one walks? Does one, as one edges along the bank, really want to get caught up in the slightest suggestion of a hedge?
But the other, more serious drawback is a spiritual one. Is one tempting the fate? Is one thumbing a nose at the notoriously capricious deities that govern the fates of fishermen?
Nonsense! one reminds oneself. One is merely going prepared, sensibly following the dictum that it is better to have a net and not need one than to need a net and not have one. And besides, it’s the responsible thing to do, for a net helps to ensure the [theoretical] capture and release of an unharmed fish. Arrogant? What hogwash! one counters: Fishing is intrinsically optimistic and fishermen must be, too.
But like as not, as one oils one’s rusty casting action and finds one’s rhythm, the amateur has a fifty-fifty chance of catching something other than his prey, be it a tree, the bank or his own infernal, ridiculous, what-was-I-thinking-bringing-this-damned-contraption fishing net.