Coping with the frustration of losing your ‘fish of a lifetime’

The name of the game its all about a fish safely in the net. Picture: SUBMITTED

The name of the game its all about a fish safely in the net. Picture: SUBMITTED - Credit: Archant

I talked one of my long-term fishing companions into having a session after carp, something we very rarely have the time to do.

However, I'd got a bay primed and knew some big fish had become used to entering it and feeding there.

As a result, with a certain amount of reluctance, Simon, a near 60-year-old lawyer, moved in with a single rod. After 12 minutes he was in to what he knew was the biggest fish he'd ever had on the end of his line. A couple of pulsating minutes later, the hook hold failed. The man was devastated. He said it was one of the worst experiences of his life.

The following day, Simon emailed me. 'Two separate things happened yesterday. First and contrary to all my expectations, even though I was fishing for it, I hooked and played a huge carp for perhaps 60 seconds. That was exciting and awe-inspiring and I can still feel the sensation. It was possibly one of the most exciting 60 seconds in all the fishing I've ever done. Secondly, the hook pulled out. That was sickening and gut-wrenching. I couldn't believe it and I was close to tears. I can still feel that sensation, too. So I am alternating between excitement and despair. Currently, excitement has it by a whisker.'

Fishing can do that to any man. I suppose the obvious answer is not to lose the fish in the first place. Perhaps Simon didn't check the sharpness of his hook sufficiently or perhaps his rig was just minutely flawed. We'll never know, but, obviously, if you are after serious fish you take serious precautions. A hook, the knots, the presentation, the line and your strategy has to be perfect. At the top end of the fishing game, there is absolutely no room for any mistake whatsoever. It's no surprise that it is the biggest fish that get away most often. It's simply because they are the most powerful and the most difficult to subdue and any shortcuts in your preparation are going to be found out pretty soon, often in the first bull-like rush of the hooked fish.

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There is an old platitude that you can't lose what you never possessed, but I think that's nonsense when it comes to dropping the fish of your dreams. Back in the '70s, one of my carping associates actually had a nervous breakdown when he lost a fish that he'd been after hooking for more than three years.

I'll finish with one bitter tale, back from the days when I used to take many trips to India for the mighty mahseer. Paul was a young traveller, desperately ambitious for a big catch on his first trip to the subcontinent. He lost two monsters in his first three sessions and with another two weeks to come, his spirits were high. However, we got to the last day and no more leviathans had picked up his bait. The lad was as low as I've ever seen any angler before or since.

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Then, late on the last afternoon, his reel screamed, his rod bent and the pool he was fishing rocked with the hugeness of what was on his line. News spread like wildfire up and down the jungle and soon an audience of 50 congregated to watch what was an epic battle. Afternoon gave way to dusk and dusk gave way to night. By the light of torches, we could see the line coming in foot by foot and we craned our necks to see the massive golden scales emerge.

With a gasp, all was revealed.

Paul had hooked a turtle. A giant turtle perhaps, a PB one wag pointed out, but it still didn't have fins. That was many years ago and he talks about it still. You can just catch the sob in his voice.

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