Fishing used to be a pastime I would enjoy on most mornings and evenings way back in the 1990’s…
But as with everything else, time moves on, and priorities change. In today’s climate I can already sense the reader’s “You did what?” yells of disapproval. But hey, wait a moment before unfriending me as I consider myself responsible in that department! One of the key motivations for the mass slowdown in my fishing efforts was the introduction of ‘catch and release’.
Personally, I go fishing NOT for the ‘sport’ but rather for the meal that may result from the time and effort put into catching an edible fish. I am after all a carnivore!
Having been taught how to competently ‘spin’ for salmon, trout and sea trout on a couple of Devonshire (UK) rivers by a third-generation fisherman, it wasn’t too arduous to become fairly expert at knowing, on those rivers, where such glorious fish would hang out, and when! Over time one learns to sense the approaching ‘witching’ moment when migrating fish, which tend not to eat or hunt once they have entered a river, become susceptible to the flash of a spinner, the wriggling worm or a man-made imitation of a fly that may have just hatched on a warm summer’s evening. The moment when by outwitting a fish I might – and this was not always the case – be able to provide myself with a real fish…
It usually takes people to inspire me to write about things other than books or literature, so it should come as no surprise that through talking to my current hosts in Sweden – an awe-inspiring couple who have a lot of shared history in Montana – I’m reminded of the Hollywood blockbuster “A River Runs Through It” by Norman Maclean, in which one of the major themes is fishing! Personally I prefer to fish on rivers, but I have fished a couple of times on lakes, with varying levels of success and failure; indeed, when invited to take part in the RAF fishing competition, I won! Given the high level of experience of the other competitors I considered this an incredible fluke rather than a great achievement! Once again though, the general theme remained; all the fish caught were eaten.
So, to today!
Well, the lakes in Finland had thawed more or less a fortnight before Jen and I arrived at our last volunteering residence. I won’t go into detail about our project there as you’ll be able to read about that in due course on Jenny’s eco/travelling blog. A few days in, our lovely host Carl “Micke” Renlund offered us the chance to go fishing in the lake. *Yayyy*. Reminiscing about days past, I could already visualise the smoked trout on the dining table, and minutes later I was given a lesson on the local species of fish. We were to fish for pike, perch or a cross between the two: pike-perch!
My heart and stomach sank momentarily. Ermmm, really? We don’t eat those in the UK; they are known (I believe) as coarse fish and once caught they are returned to the water. This isn’t my type of fishing… or so I thought!
Carl, or Micke as he was known to us, duly purchased the necessary licence and prepared some form of nets for the trip. We mustered and climbed aboard his small rowing boat (whooooa – wobbly!). I then rowed us about 2km across the lake to what was recommended as the top spot for netting.
Thankfully Finland was unusually sunny the week we were volunteering on Micke’s eco-project, and aside from the physical effort of rowing, it was a really wonderful and scenic journey to the ‘witching’ spot on the lake. Micke arranged the nets, dropped the marker and then it was time to head back to shore for a quick, cold swim before resuming the real work!
Early the following morning we rowed back out to the nets and, ‘boy oh boy’, it looked a long way out in the distance! Our chatter during the 2km journey – an exchange of points of view on varying topics, some eco-related, others about culture in general – now gave way to quiet. It was time to get down to serious business, and the atmosphere could have been cut with a knife as the net was slowly hauled in. And ‘bingo’! From the depths emerged a pike-perch, a local delicacy and something of a rare find. Micke respectfully uttered a few words, essentially thanking the fish (I think) for its sacrifice, and we returned home to smoke and eat said fish for breakfast. This was an enlightening experience and very different in ritual to anything I had previously witnessed in the U.K.
Micke appears to be at the forefront of eco-development technology, from his biogas-fuelled Volvo to running almost every conventional high-tech appliance in his household (does that make sense? Lol) in the most ecologically friendly method possible. It was a real eye-opener, and a privilege for somebody such as myself to play a tiny part in the development of his eco-project. I very much look forward to reading Jenny’s blog post about our stay…
So, we moved on to our current volunteering project in Sweden, Stjarnsund to be precise, where we met and are still volunteering on a permaculture village and eco-project. The community here is already well established and the host’s passion for fishing as strong as my own!
Within 24 hours of my arrival I accepted an invitation (or did I harass my host into offering one… hmmm!?) to head off for a few hours of fishing! Believing we would probably have quite a cycle ride ahead I was initially a tad envious of my host’s battery-operated bicycle versus my single-gear manually operated equivalent… but hey ho, David was not only carrying fishing gear but also a battery-operated chainsaw that he was to lend to a friend en route. That route was astonishingly shorter than expected, which was fairly lucky… As we arrived at a small private jetty I was slightly taken aback by the amount of water in the boat. “Nope, we‘re going on the other one!” called David…
These days I wear glasses since my eyesight deteriorated largely, in my opinion, from working in underground bunkers in the 1990’s. However, I do still have pretty good sight in both eyes and felt rather foolish at not being able to identify another boat on a small private jetty. Then it struck me! We were to go fishing on the only other thing existing around the jetty. A craft I can only describe as a floating veranda, equipped with table, chairs and of course… an eco-friendly solar battery operated outboard motor! My eyes lit up, and I simply had to pedal back at top speed to get Jenny who had initially turned down the rare opportunity to go fishing with ‘the boys’… funny that!?
We headed out around the lake and it wasn’t long before David hooked a fish… Not quite a tiddler but certainly too small to eat, so David, handling the fish carefully, released it to live another day.
Several minutes and several hooked rocks later and ‘BANG’ went my rod… Now, in my defence here, there is a huge difference between hooking a rock and hooking a large fish. Aside from anything else, rocks don’t run away at speed once hooked. The upshot of several minutes of wrangling was unfortunately just that…I ended up snagged on a rock.
I guess I will never know what was on the end of my line; a large pike sounds most plausible, and as I’m not strictly a fan of the species perhaps it was better that it won the battle rather than I! So, the fishing resumed. There were six of us aboard and it was our host who finally hooked and caught the fish of the day: a pike of around 4lbs.
I can now say that I have eaten pike… The taste was perhaps not my favourite but it was far from inedible. I do now wonder why the British don’t eat some of the fish readily available in many of our lakes rather than play with them via ‘catch and release’?
I was treated to yet another fishing outing two days ago, this time to a trout lake… spinning! I am often guilty of setting my expectations way too high in many activities and simply the word ‘trout’ got the adrenaline going!
Three of us went on the outing, which doubled up as a driving lesson, but sadly the fish weren’t in the mood for anything other than taunting us! I can think of few things as frustrating as trout that appear to know how far one can cast a line and, like observers, remain a couple of metres on the wrong side of a fisherman’s range… But the afternoon was not wasted, and turned out to be quite educational. Not only did I find a cray pot containing a good-sized crayfish (the first wild one I have seen as I recall), but also an eco-friendly fish feeder (below). Yes, it looks like something straight out of the movie ‘Deliverance’!
I backtracked to find David, to show him both the crayfish and the fish feeder. It turned out that crayfish were out of season and the poor chap could have been there for some time, so we removed it. As for the fish feeder: what you see in the picture above are the remains of dead animals. These remains decompose attracting flies, and then the flies land on the water and attract fish. Where there are fish you generally find fishermen who catch the fish (or on my case try!) and food is brought to the table…
It must be said that I’ve enjoyed several types of fishing so far on this trip, mainly new to me, eaten two new species that I would otherwise have thought inedible, and re-housed another.
Having had this experience I have found myself asking the question “Are we (the Brits), as a nation and as consumers, brainwashed into the merits of eating ‘factory-bred’ fish?” The answer of course is self-apparent… We are tempted at great cost by the pink flesh of supermarket salmon. Flesh that is actually created by dye fed to the fish within their food. Fish that are bred in cages on lochs and swim above the ever-increasing piles of their own faeces. Fish, which have to be fed antibiotics to stop them becoming infested with sea lice… Hmmm, I think I’ll stick to the natural version myself!
How about you?
Simon Duringer is an award-winning blogger, interviewer and author. His own books can be found on Amazon too by clicking any of the following icons…