Fishing helps to soften week of sadness for visitor Kate

I spent a couple of days just before the weekend fishing with Kate, an extremely keen, intelligent and enthusiastic lady angler.

I have always said that fishing could do with more ladies in the game and Kate is a case in point. She’s just fabulous company and was desperately hoping to catch her first serious tench, if possible on a float and preferably on a centrepin, close-in. Words and ambitions indeed to soften my heart.

But there was some sadness there. Kate lives and works in Manchester, trying to bring that Government dream of the Northern Powerhouse into reality. As one of Manchester’s players and as a caring, lovely human being, she was inevitably down, still shocked by the bombing outrage in that city where, incidentally, I was born and lived for a short while in my childhood.

Sport can do wonders and, she explained, Manchester United’s professionalism in the Europa Cup final lifted spirits to a small degree. Kate had come to Norfolk, too, to find more peace, some succour and some answer to her grief.

We caught three fine tench. It wasn’t easy, though. The crystal water and bright sun made for a trying time. In the end, I managed to catch her tench with her on a float, which she wanted, but had to resort to a boily on the hook about which she wasn’t sure.


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However, when the going is tough, the boilies get going. Importantly, as a piece of angling, I found it was vital not to have any shot on the line, rather letting the weight of the 10ml boily act as an anchor. In water like gin, tench are hyper-suspicious of any shot within their field of vision.

I’m hoping I sent Kate back to Norwich station and to her train north in happier spirits than when she had arrived. True, she was somewhat sunburnt and there is a lesson for us all in that these coming three or four months. Nothing, though, compared with the trauma of what she and Manchester had suffered earlier.

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My fishing had brought me into conflict with terror long ago. At the end of the 80s, I was hired to make a film about fishing for mahseer in the Ganges and for wild brown trout in the rivers of Kashmir.

Kashmir, back in 1989 on the eve of the political troubles, was a precious, fragile place that you couldn’t help but realise was in the gravest of dangers. Shooting around the capital city of Srinagar at night, bomb attacks, an exploded bridge, a bus queue sprayed with machine gun fire in front of our very eyes, left none of us in much doubt that anarchy was just around the corner. I, probably like you, belonged to one of those few, cherished generations in this crazy, violent world that has avoided war, so I can’t begin to fully understand its enormities. Nor do I take politics seriously: in Britain, all my adult life at least, one party has seemed much like another – taxes go up, the National Health Service and education stay the same and everybody blames somebody else for everything.

Nor, being white, do I understand much about the horrors of racism. Being nominal Church of England hardly entitles me to diehard religious views either. But, even though I might be seen as apathetic, liberal, bourgeois and self-serving, my angling has made me sure about this.

A guide in Ireland, a river-watcher in Kashmir, a water bailiff back in the old days when Yugoslavia was a country, cares more for the safety of his family, the prosperity of his village and the fatness of his trout than he does for a thousand pronouncements by politicians, religious leaders or hot-headed fanatics. The only sharp steel an angler wants to feel is the tip of a fishing hook.

So I hope that tench helps Kate personally and in her work and helps us remember that there are good people out there everywhere, in every land. And a lot of them like to go fishing.

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