John Bailey: I don’t match Brad Pitt on TV

6:00 am November 2, 2022

You mentioned the excellent Simon Cooper and his great newsletter at Fishing Breaks.

Recently, he launched a reader poll to nominate the best angle photography on screen. I’m obviously shocked that my stellar performances over 30 years on ITV, BBC, Sky and Discovery are barely mentioned, but I’ve recovered now and feel strong enough to try this column on the subject.

In the lead, the electors in the “fishing breaks” put a river running through it. This 1992 film adaptation of Norman MacLean’s 1976 semi-autobiographical novel was beautiful and charming and showed the hunt in a desirable light, but the presence of Brad Pitt’s star and a budget of trillions certainly gives this choice an unfair advantage.

Equally second, I think, came the ’90s series Passion For Angling, featuring Chris Yates, Bob James and the great camera work of Hugh Miles. John Wilson joined them, as you’d expect.

Mortimer and Whitehouse came fourth, throwing back glory for me there, and there were honorable mentions of Out Of Town, Jack Hargreaves’ country calendar from half a century ago.

Interestingly, no mention is made of the hunting race of the 1970s and its follow-up, The Golden Maggot. Not a single vote went into any of the hype, meltdown, and stuff ITV4 routinely shows, and even Jeremy Wade’s heroic River Beasts got no support (I love Jeremy so much and the fact that we were at the bottom of the heap encouraged me a bit!).

Most importantly, it seems that gentle, contemplative, beautiful, and selfless representations of our sport are what thousands of voters love. Yee haa hipster fishermen yelling over monster fish are not to my taste and it seems like I’m not alone. Monsters are not what most of us hunt and are not what we want to see, and certainly not all of the time. There is a difference between ambition and simple ostentation.

This survey reminded me of the old days when I worked with venerable processing company Hardy as a member of their Creative Team. We sent out a survey to several thousand customers asking them which type of fishing they like the most. We expected the obvious favorite to be catching clone rainbows from standing water, the kind of thing all the magazines focused on. None of that. Something over 90 said their love was the humble brown salmon from Little River Dancer.

It was quite clear to us that the silent majority liked to use gentle handling in gentle places for the gentle fish that were born there and were not brought on a truck as an offering.

Of course, there are plenty of anglers who only want a big fish or big bags of fish, and their circumference is irrelevant, provided their buoyancy continues to dip and the tip of their rod turns endlessly.

I spoke a while ago with an evergreen match fisherman in Norfolk who impressed me with his river skills in the 1970s. He has completely moved away from running water and has become so addicted to commercials that he’s had 4lbs of carp per sachet and 100lbs at the Keepnet by lunchtime. That’s his right, of course, but I don’t understand him. Hunting and soccer have taken over my life (a ruin?) and can you imagine winning 10-0 every time you wear leg bandages? Nice for a while, but the risk is definitely what both sports are basically about.

Slowly, perhaps painstakingly, I managed to get around what I wanted to say. It’s called hunting what we do, not hunting, and there is much more to who and how we hunt than what we hunt, at least to some extent.

I never would have imagined this column as a place to go into the nitty gritty of technology, thinking that not many readers would like to picture the floating shirt button style. However, I do see myself on some mission to bring attractive methods back to rough hunting, in particular, and so I am happy to announce that for at least a while I have a place each week on the excellent Thomas Turner. Here I will discuss all kinds of interesting and tangible ways to fish without a whistle or latch device in sight.

I’d love for you to join me there, starting in the next week or two. Who do you know? I might even get a TV hole in the back of it!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *