There come times for most anglers where you get rather out of your "comfort zone." It's extremely healthy to learn new things, even if that sometimes comes at the price of a fall or two. It also means taking a few risks and casting where you never thought of doing so before- and that can be a confidence tester. Most recently for me, I've been well and truly tested but also highly taken by two challenges- one totally new (kayak fishing) and one I've returned to only to find a total revolution taking place (saltwater lure fishing).
Looking back, I think some of my better articles have come from this sort of leap of faith. It can be exciting if you shed this idea that "I have to be world champion/ highly experienced to write about this." Because in reality, it is only by jumping into something new that you can see things with a fresh perspective. Once you've done a method a thousand times, you forget all the seemingly daft questions you had and challenges that other anglers also face, not to mention the sheer excitement of it all. And yet this idea prevails: the writer has to be a total expert on everything they cover.
Here's the secret though; I am not. My writing and general fishing skills may have slowly developed, but there are still areas where I am like that kid in the tackle shop, peering at all the strange bits of kit in wonder. This is a great position to be in. Such has certainly been the way on recent lure fishing missions to the coast, where I've been scaling right down and watching experts like LRF wizard Andy Mytton with a keen eye, and more than once a sense of total bafflement.
Close control using cute rods. The neatest and freakiest of little lures. Bonkers presentations involving special split shot rigs, dropshot weights and knots I'd never seen tied before. I've thoroughly enjoyed lure fishing for most of my life, whether it's casting for pike or bass. But I've been blown away by the current light lure fishing scene- what is happening currently is little short of revolutionary and incredibly exciting. You can read some of my musings on the "joy of the diddy rod" in my Angling Times slot this week- but suffice to say there is a lot more to come and I am enjoying feeling like a kid again.
Perhaps my favourite recent catch, in fact, has been one of the smallest in the form of this sea scorpion. I'd both enjoyed and endured a cold spring session with the tiddly lures with Andy and the sight of this critter brought back great memories of childhood fishing off the rocks. Circa 1991, I was afraid to touch these fish. But they are quite harmless. Furthermore, if you are brave enough to place one in the palm of your hand you could get quite a surprise. Not only do they go all puffed-up and defensive like perch; they actually vibrate. I thought this had to be b****it at first, but it's perfectly true- it's like holding a fish that has swallowed a mobile phone! Must be a defence mechanism?
Other lessons from my trips are also stacking up quickly, whether it is a timely reminder that evening and night fishing are often better than daylight in the salt, and that it is well worth fishing low and even dropping tides for different species.
I guess you appreciate the smaller stuff even more when sport proves slow- but that's the great thing about lighter tackle: everything fights energetically, even a tiny pollack!
More to follow in print and online on various topics shortly, but suffice to say that at the moment it's very much a case of "the more I learn the less I know" on reflection. And I love it that way. Because I don't have to be a world expert to enjoy it and write about it any more than you do to try it as well. And the only way any of us gains real "expertise" in any area of fishing is to have fun, experiment, ask other people and generally get stuck in. The same has been utterly true of kayak fishing- where I'm still testing the water, not to mention my limits and balance, quite literally. Another dunking for me this week I'm afraid (note to self- while standing on a kayak is possible, it is highly advisable to stay sitting on your arse when casting!). Even so, I broke my duck with two Wimbleball rainbow trout in a short tester session! More on the Channel Kayaks site and blog shortly, along with listings for special kayak fishing days on the lake.
The only other news of note was a talk at the 2016 Barbel Society Show, where one of my main topics was this concept of new ground in fishing and putting yourself in the position of a learner. This was certainly the case for much of my experience with coarse fish on the fly, particularly the unusual species- including barbus barbus naturally. It's still one of the most exciting and tricky things I've ever done. But while I wouldn't advise the newcomer to start with barbel or zander or one of the other oddballs, they are all catchable.
In fact, perhaps my favourite backhanded compliment about Flyfishing for Coarse Fish of all time was a rather spiky review from a guy who wrote "anyone with a bit of experience could have done this." Totally. That was the point, wasn't it? To try new things and enjoy your fishing. Otherwise it's just an ego trip for the author.
It was a great show in the end, even though I felt a bit off-colour on the morning. I'd already had a bit of man flu, but also I partly blame Garrett Fallon for that "quiet pint" the day before which, in that wonderfully mysterious way, materialised into six, complete with a rambling converstaion on angling, politics and the meaning of life. We had a lovely afternoon's fishing on the Oxford Canal too, where he used a vintage cane rod for a spot of (I kid you not) dropshotting! The results we had were a big shock to say the least- but more on that another time. For now I'll leave you with a little glimpse of a classic canal and a rather classic rod: