I’m no fisherman.
The extent of my fishing experience extends to a childhood spent dredging the canal with a net and hoping for sticklebacks, and one teenage afternoon at the local river with a split cane rod and a bag of worms. Looking back, I can’t honestly say that on either of these occasions I felt any kind of communion with nature or achieved the kind of zen-like inner calm that many fishing fans talk about.
As regular readers will know, my time is taken up with a full-time job, a family life, and as many hours as I can possible justify riding my beloved bike. Leaving little time for fishing. Or anything else for that matter.
Luckily, I have never had any real desire to go fishing. To my mind, fishing falls into the same category as golf; I don’t doubt that many people get a lot of pleasure, camaraderie, and good honest fresh air from these pursuits, but they’re not for me.
So why am I rattling on about fishing, you might be asking?
As a cyclist, the beauty of living here in Lancaster in the north of England is the sheer variety of truly great cycling roads (ok, so sometimes the road surface itself leaves a bit to be desired, but the landscape is hard to beat).
We’ve got quiet and traffic free lanes, great swathes of rolling salt-flat farmland, and testing climbs out through the Forest of Bowland, and across into Yorkshire and Cumbria. We’ve also got a windy and dramatic coastline giving you the chance to blow away the cobwebs and breathe in some salty sea air.
From Lancaster I often follow the line of Morecambe Bay out to Arnside and Sandside, and spot the fishermen who line the tidal inlet at the Kent Channel. If you happen to ride past when the tide is in, you’ll see a whole rogues gallery of old boys lined up against the railings; rods in their hands and smiles on their faces. I have an old friend who regularly heads out to this spot, rod and tackle over his shoulder, telling me he’s off to catch Sea Bass.
He’s something of a wise old sage is my friend, and he clearly loves the ritual involved in all this; getting his bait prepared, polishing his rod…
Look, I have no idea what the ritual is – as I’ve explained, I don’t fish – but whatever it is that these people do to get ready for a day spent dangling a worm into the water, he loves it.
He also loves sharing a bit of quality time with his mates. I have a mental image of him and his fellow fishing types reeling in great hulking Bass, and filling their home freezers with plentiful supplies; I imagine they smirk at the rest of us who pay over the odds for this privilege of eating this fine fish.
One day, I asked my friend all the questions that a non-fisherman can think of when quizzing a fisherman: How many do you usually catch? What’s the biggest Sea Bass you’ve ever landed? How on earth do you fit them all in your freezer?
To which he answered, with a glint in his eye, “Sea Bass? Haven’t caught one yet, lad”.
“But I thought you said you came out this way to fish for Sea Bass?” I replied.
“I do lad, but I never said I caught any”.
To these boys, whether they actually land one of these semi-mythical sea-dwellers is incidental; they’ll still come out here and spend some time, crack a few jokes, and no-one need mention the lack of fish for fear of breaking the spell. Just because my friend has never caught a Sea Bass, doesn’t mean he isn’t a Sea Bass fisherman.
Who knows, maybe when I reach their age I’ll have moved on from pedalling my way from café to café via the hills and valleys of Lancashire, and taken up fishing? Or maybe golf?
But I doubt it.