Saturday, September 12, 2015


The season of colour is rapidly approaching. I had to go hunting to see what the leaves are doing but time is on the very cusp and there were only a handful of leaves on the turn here and there, just enough to make this sculpture. But sure enough the plants and trees will draw back into their roots and trunks ready to hibernate until the days lengthen again.

In the midst of all this I am left asking myself so many important existential questions:-

Why am I covered in gnat bites and would I be able to feed myself if I lived on an island and the supermarkets were permanently closed?

I went sea fishing the other day for probably the last and definitely the first time.

I used to go coarse fishing as a youngster (it didn't involving swearing at the slimey ichthyoids, coarse fish are freshwater pond, lake and river dwellers)  but I gave it up eventually for a number of reasons: I was very bad at it; I spent many a summer day from dawn to dusk catching absolutely zilch: that's near enough 15 hours staring at the water's surface per session water staring fans; and a fair proportion of that time untangling line from tree branches, getting it stuck around an unseen submarine log, being a rich food source for the local insects and getting rained on. But the thing that really got to me was the abuse of the fish: the catching them at all thing, the throwing them back as it was only for my amusement thing, the sometimes swallowing the hook and needing to dispatch the fish thing, well the whole thing thing. So I gave away all my rods and tackle to someone who may be able to put those things aside.

Nowadays I live near the sea and I have been idly pondering what it would be like to fish in the ocean.

I live just to the south of the Lake District and on the northern edge of Morecambe Bay. The tide would come in only for a few short hours so I would need to be on my game.

I parked up on the promenade with the sea lapping at the base of the wall. I had been swotting up on the internet and watching how-to-fish videos, what could possibly go wrong?

I have a great deal of trouble concentrating when I am being observed, or where there are a lot of distractions. A spot of peaceful fishing would be just the ticket then as I remembered fondly those halcyon days of golden youth sat on a tranquil river bank whilst the water voles swum around in little circles, happily in denial about my seeming inability to do even a passing impression of someone who knows how to fish.

I put together all my kit whilst trying to ignore the heavy and noisy traffic a few yards behind me and carefully unwrapped the carefully folded newspaper bundle containing fresh bait, the innocuously named ragworm.

Oh god, the ragworm, these little critters really creep me out. They have mouth-parts that extend out and bite and they wriggle almost as much as my skin crawls in response. I dare you to google for a video on how to put a ragworm on a hook but believe me when I say it is entirely unpleasant both for me and the poor bloody worm. Nail number one in the will-Richard-go-fishing-again-likelihood-coffin. I'm still shuddering now at the thought of those little blighters. Euurggh.

Finally I hook up a worm and I'm ready to go, I'm not putting another one on so this one will need to get me a fish. Rod held aloft I make the first cast.

Not bad for a first go but I need more distance to get to where the fish are so I try again and for a third time.

Still not far enough so I start reeling in for a fourth try until the line went suddenly very tight. It seemed to be caught on something, I tugged and tugged and tugged as though I was struggling against Jaws himself but it just wouldn't budge.


I eventually cut the line and tied it off to the railings next to me so I could retrieve the tackle once the tide had gone out. This seemed to be going really well.

During all this a van had pulled up along side my pitch and the driver in between bites of his sandwich gawped at my attempts at angling. It wasn't helping.

I rigged up again: new hook, new weights and oh god, another ragworm and tried to cast again. On the positive side my casting was very consistent. I had the right skill level to cast the same distance each and every time. This would be very useful if I needed to cast 15 yards but it really needed to be 100.

I unpacked my folding chair and sat down deflated under no illusion that I'd catch anything except some nasty ragworm-borne virus with my bait only 15 yards out from the shore. Especially as the tide had receded for 5 of those.

It was a showery and blustery day and the wind whipped up as a large black cloud threatened overhead. I imagined myself stoof proud on the prow of a fishing boat, complete with beard and yellow sou'wester, the plumes of spray carrying away my words as I shout 'thar she blows!"

My reverie was dashed on the rocks as an especially large gust blew straight underneath my chair and lifted the newspaper parcel beside me before depositing the wriggling ragworms all down the sea wall.

I actually thought this was quite funny. I now clearly remembered the real reason I gave up fishing. Fish welfare was the least of my issues. Ineptitude was a much bigger barrier to breach.

A couple of minutes after this an old guy in a clapped out car parked even closer than mr van man, wound down his window, perched an elbow on the sill and pointedly shot a toothless grin right in my direction.

Call it ESP but I could hear his thoughts in my mind: "what you caught then? Anyfing big?"

By this point I was pretending to actually fish. I'd reeled in the tackle I had left, put it back into the tackle box and retied the stuck tackle to my rod and line. All I was doing now was waiting for the tide to go out so I could retrieve the stuck mess and go home.

I wondered to myself how I would like to spend the next cringe-worthy hour pretending to fish in the sea? Well for starters I would like to have at least two people watch me do that and one of them in particular should be found to be staring at me every time I turned round to catch his eye, with a grin and a nod as if saying "eh, eh, fishing, hmm, eh?"

Yes those things would make time absolutely fly by and being a very nice way to spend one hour that would actually feel like several decades.

And finally when the tide did eventually go out I'd want them to witness me go an retrieve my tackle snagged beneath the tiniest of pebbles as if that is what real fisherman do.

Sea fishing? Nah.

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