John Bailey: Casting far and wide or close to home?

This great chub proves there’s excitement enough in Norfolk

This great chub proves there’s excitement enough in Norfolk - Credit: John Bailey

I call the period  between 1989 and 2014 my travelling years, simply because I fished in 64 countries in that time. Amazing (mind you, I have counted Wales, Scotland and Ireland as three of those so I’m not as Indiana Jones as I care to think).

Had I known what the future held for me as a kid I would have died with excitement. Quarter of a century old adventures I now look back upon with disbelief. Did I really do those things and catch those fish? It truly seems another life and I am reminded of it simply because I’m helping compile a list of the world’s very greatest fishing experiences. Suddenly I am back  in Africa, Asia, Oz and the Americas in my head. But know what? I’m kind of glad my travel now is in spirit rather than body...

John Bailey with one of his angling adventure books from the 90s

John Bailey with one of his angling adventure books from the 90s - Credit: John Bailey

The internet has changed everything. In 1990, if you wanted to fish in Nagaland or Nepal, you searched in books or magazines or phoned a score of folk along the bush telegraph. There were no outfitters to hold you by the hand and you plunged literally into the unknown, sometimes successfully and sometimes disastrously. Either way, you came home lucky to have survived and with tales to tell. You weren’t quite looking at a map of a flat earth studded with “here be monsters” symbols but it wasn’t far off that.

Today? There’s barely a fish or a destination you can’t find on YouTube and as likely or not, you’ll even know which rock to stand on when you do make it to the Orinoco or Ganges.

And we didn’t think much about carbon footprints back then. We hopped on and off airplanes as many times as our funds would allow, without a care. There were no accusing glances when you let it be known you were off to Heathrow and in those days we even ate meat and thought sustainability meant how far could you walk.

Today, we are taught to analyse the justification behind any car journey - if of course we could afford one. And of course I have come to sympathise with the New Age Of Green. Part of me looks back at my days of bravado with distaste. How could I have been so selfish, so blind? And what about my footprint when I got to the jungles or the mountains? Did I really take nothing but photographs and leave nothing but footprints or was my presence in remote communities where Caucasians had never been seen far more intrusive than that?

As I sit here now soaring the world on my iPad, I also consider there is so much here of worth in the UK that any angler can be satisfied with lifelong. I need to see more bass. I ‘d love to get amongst North Norfolk sea trout again, a species I’ve barely cast for since college days. It’s not just catching but conservation too. How can you consider swanning off to hook some duck billed parrot fish or whatever when there are crucian carp to re-establish and our rivers to get right?

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Or, deep down, I fret this is simply my excuse for ageing, that I’m not nearly holier than thou as I am pretending. You do slow down with age,  though I shudder to admit it. You get tired in the afternoon, you don’t sleep as well as you once did, your comforts assume new importance and, frankly, Moscow airport at 2am becomes far less exotic now than it was then. Can I walk 20 miles in a day with a heavy pack like you need to in Mongolia and Siberia? Is my wading as stable as it was and would I be able to withstand the force of the Ganges current not long after the monsoon? Hmm, the more I ponder it the more likely it becomes my carbon footprint concerns are a mask for yellow bellied cowardice.

The hours I have spent  glued to YouTube - yes, I admit it - have fired my piscatorial lusts to a degree that has surprised me. Have you heard about Thingvallavatyn lake in Iceland? I found myself there 20 years back before the place was famous and the size, number and ferocity of the brown trout  still sends those old shivers down my spine. And what about Jurassic Lake deep in Argentina where the rainbows are the size of Wensum pit mirror carp? Never have I caught a peacock bass and just looking at golden dorado makes me go weak at the knees.

Old boy that I am, it seems that the whiff of adventure fires me still. Whether I am up to it or not, that is the question!