This article was written in the late eighties so bear this in mind as I have tried to update it to put into the present tense.
You will have to excuse me but I do get a little philosophical at times and try and insert my experiences and observations from life and try and relate them what I see happening to some individuals in our pike fishing community. This article tries to explain why some pike anglers enter our pastime with a bang, make a noticeable impact, and then disappear without a by your leave.
I believe that individual and unrealistic ambitions are to blame as I will try and explain.
At present I am watching “Gone With The Wind” on T.V. and I am desperately trying to figure out what is going on. There are a group of people who are living a life of luxury, they go to war, lose everything and battle for years to get back to what they had in the first place. Maybe they put too much importance on the wrong things.
That`s easily done as even in pike fishing you have people who set themselves unrealistic levels of achievement and when they find it impossible to attain the ambition destroys them. They then pack in pike fishing altogether and spend a lot of time and money setting unrealistic objectives in other pursuits. They never change. It`s common place in life also, the ambition takes away the enjoyment and then destroys the person.
The first visible sign of this in piking is the angler who catches a big pike and then curses because it wasn`t a twenty. He replaces the enjoyment he got from catching the pike in the first place with his expectation. The end result I that his day`s fishing is a waste of time and discouraged.
An over achiever? No, he has by self-inducement turned a good day into a poor day and this can`t be right. Life is too short to be unhappy at not fully attaining your goals.
Maybe the people depicted in “Gone With The Wind should have sat back and evaluated what is really important in life and acted accordingly. It would have saved them a great deal of trouble.
I am not moralising but trying to explain why I think that the objectives you set yourself should be put into perspective with the rest of your life. We have all met these people, fanatics who allow their ambitions to take over their emotions to a point where the catching of pike no longer enjoyable.
I usually evaluate what is important in my life whilst half cut and in a semi daze. I find really important things in my life become clearer. I spend a lot of time day dreaming as well, it`s been that way for a while now. It`s usually about pike fishing and it intensified during the 80`s when became aware of the battle to open Llandegfedd to coarse fishing and the opportunity to legally pike fish it. For many years I lived a stones throw away from its banks and watched it grow from a mediocre trout fishery into a premier coarse fishing venue.
I have been present when the then Welsh Water Authority tried in vain to remove the coarse fish from the water by netting. I was very aware of the battle to open Llandegfedd to the coarse fishing public and watched from afar when it produced those fabulous pike which will go down in pike fishing history. During the following Mach I had a days trout fishing there and was amazed at the change in attitude of the local hardened trout fishers saying that THEIR pike were the biggest in the country. From a Welsh trout fisherman that is equal to puling down the Berlin Wall.
I returned to Wales from Botswana eventually and Llandegfedd was open to the public at large and did manage to catch my dream pike, but this ambition didn`t eat away at me during my time away but took the form of a desire to attain and not a quest to achieve and to me there is a difference.
During this period and after getting married and proving I was a breeder my view of how pike fishing fitted into the rest of my life changed. It is still important to me but it isn`t the end of the world if I blank. I never get bad tempered at a blank or even losing a fish, - disappointed yes, but angry, never. My family and my work are now the center of my life with pike fishing a pleasurable interlude. That is why the ambitions in your life should be set at a reasonable level.
The setting of ambitions is a phenomenon in itself and they are always made when you are least able to fulfil them. You envisage battling through a tough, freezing cold Winter to catch monster pike whilst you are Tench fishing in July. How many times have you decided to go on a diet after devouring a huge meal? You foolishly make a New Years resolution to quit smoking, eating and drinking when you are smoking, eating and drinking. Not the best time to make promises to yourself which will drastically change your way of life.
I am at present lying in bed in a semi drunken state planning out what I will do when I return home to Wales. The tackle I will use, the waters I will fish, and the way I intend to fish for them, the big pike I will tame, and as I day dream I setting objectives which at the time seem so easy to make but not so easy the achieve. This kind of goal setting can be self-destructive as ambitions are like that, they can stretch you to peaks you you never thought possible, or they can drag you down so far that you never achieve anything near your potential.
Take me as an example, at 18 stone I will never ride the winner of the Grand National (unless the weight are drastically amended), or climb Mount Everest. These feats are beyond my reach and I have accepted that, but with fishing I can etch my name in pike fishing history. I can see it no, arise Sir Chris Donovan, one day unknown and the next famous. After all who had ever heard of Gareth Edwards before he caught the British Pike record? I rest my case on that issue.
In my working life I have few ambitions but the one that stands out above all the rest is my eternal quest to get through the day with as little exertion as possible. I share this with many, but with fishing my ambitions are clear, I want to catch a British Record Pike and I want to catch a Tigerfish. As I am unlikely to catch a pike in Botswana (where I was living at the time) my second choice will suffice. To catch a formidable Tigerfish.
This ambition has laid dormant within me for many years so I will try an explain how this quest started and how I attempted to fulfil it.
It was a bitterly cold November morning in 1981 and I was fishing a local water with Peter Climo. He was in one of his happy go lucky moods when a local lad came up to us and was about to ask what we had caught. Pete blasted him
“We have caught frigging nothing, this water is frigging useless, so why don`t you frig off” or words to that affect. I was astonished as you don`t always find Pete in such a good mood. A short period later Pete suddenly cried.
“Look at this beggar, his teeth are on the outside of his mouth”
After the previous encounter I was afraid to look, but I eventually turned around to see Pete reading the Angling Times. In it Chris Dawn had written an article on Tigerfish fishing in Africa and the main photograph was the cause of his excitement. I eventually got the paper of him (the first time I had ever had to fight to read the Angling Times) and the sight of this creature made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. It was then I decided that if the opportunity ever became available to me I would catch one of these beauties. Africa`s most feared fully aquatic predator.
I think I blanked that day but I will remember that article which gave me what I now feel to be an attainable ambition. It is now October 1989 and I am in bed dozing (again) dreaming of catching a Tigerfish. As I drift off into a deep sleep, I sub consciously re-enact how easy this was going to be.
The Kalahari Desert is dry and dusty with no rains for seven months. The wind and temperature are rising and everyone is waiting with baited breath in hope that the rains will come. I have decide to make the 1100km journey to fish the Tigerfish rich river Chobe which is situated in Norther Botswans near the then village of Kasane. The conditions for both fishing and driving should be ideal and I set off with great enthusiasm and expectation.
The kilometre’s roll by as I pass village after village, Kanye, Lobaste, Moropule and the larger town of Francistown before an overnight stay at Nata Lodge. I didn`t stay in Francistown as at the time it only had two hotels. One was called the Tati and the other The Grand – The Grand wasn`t and the Tati was hence my decision. The one thing that does strike you about this part of Africa is the distances between Towns and even landmarks. It is an enormous Country and you really have to take your hat off for the explorers how overcame the conditions to explore this then uncharted Continent.
I finally arrived in Kasane on the second day and was greeted by the usual snorting hippo`s in the distance. This area was full of wild life and the visitor wouldn`t be disappointed id wild life was their thing – mine was fishing. This area is also witness to the enormous damage done to the bush by marauding elephants along miles of destroyed bush along the banks of the Chobe River.
Back to fishing. My set up for the forthcoming assault on the local Tigerfish population was a small 8 foot spinning rod, a 30 pound wire trace on 20 pound main line culminating with a 4 inch spoon with a single hook. There is no point having multiple hooks as the Tigerfish`s mouth is 100% bone and the one hook gives you a better chance of hooking up (so they tell me).
The favoured method for catching Tigerfish is to troll from a small powered boat and at £10 an hour you had better catch quickly. I sett off with a guide four kilometre’s down stream to the rapids where the Tigerfish haunted the shallower water. Hour after hour we trolled the entrance to the rapids to no avail and just as my was running out a mighty Tigerfish struck the spoon. It dived and leapt out of the water on many occasions as I repeatedly struck to keep the hook in place. Yes, the rod bent like it had never bent before (I love that line). Yard by Yard this monster reluctantly neared the boat (I had to be quick as it would have cost me another tenner). Yes, I thought to myself, the culmination of nine years waiting was finally satisfied. I was to catch my first Tigerfish.
This feeling of sheer joy wad suddenly shattered by a large
bang. Had the line snapped??? No, I had fallen out of bed and banged my head on
the floor. This had been a cruel, wicked dream with me as the victim. There was
no trip, there was no fish, but there was still a desire and hope that one day
I would be walking away from the river with my head held high and not as it
presently was, entangled in carpet fluff. My ambition had not destroyed me, or
my love of fishing, it had just entertained me and helped me through another
sleepy Botswana afternoon. One day I will catch my Tigerfish and when it comes
along, I will be ready. If not today then maybe tomorrow. I will enjoy catching
that fish for the fun of it and the companionship of my friends.
So the next time you feel like packing it all in for whatever reason, remember those famous words from Scarlet O`Hara, who after all of her experiences and disappointments coined those immortal words
“Tomorrow is another day”.
What she really meant is that if at first you don`t succeed, lower your self-imposed standards. It doesn`t hurt that much. If you don`t just relax and enjoy your sport then that is your fault and to coin another famous line from “Gone With The Wind”
“Frankly my dear, I don`t give a damn”