Judging by the comments on the Angling Trust Facebook page and elsewhere the recent Guardian article on rights and wrongs of ‘Extreme Fishing’ have triggered quite a debate. The trigger for the article by the papers Environment correspondent Patrick Barkham was the publication by the Kremlin of yet another macho looking picture of Russia’s president Putin, this time with him holding a rather dead looking 46lb pike. You can read the full piece here..
Quite apart from the fact that nobody seemed to believe that Putin had actually caught the creature and that he clearly hasn’t got a clue on how to hold a fish, the story asked if the increasingly popularity of programmes featuring angling adventurers travelling to far flung locations to catch over-sized fish was actually damaging the image of angling in the eyes of the non-fishing public. There seemed to be a marked divergence of views over the worth or otherwise of the offerings from Jeremy Wade and Robson Green. Apart from, that is, John Bailey who branded them both as ‘a bit bollocks’ !
Chris Yates felt that the way people travel the world targeting huge fish “misses the point entirely”. Chris, one of the stars of A Passion for Angling, which celebrates its 20th anniversary next month and took four years to make, and is still considered the best-ever television programme about fishing, thinks part of the problem with extreme fishing shows is the nature of modern television.
“They are tearing apart whatever the beauty of the subject is and showing one populist image. No one in their right mind would make a TV film about fishing. I was insane to agree to do it. Fishing doesn’t translate into TV, unless you can somehow convey the sense of tranquility and mystery, as Hugh Miles managed to do. There’s this mystery about why you are doing it and there’s this unknown world happening below the surface of the water, and your line is connecting you to it.”
And here’s what our boss at AT, Mark Lloyd had to say:
“These programmes can have an important role inspiring people to go fishing and they are filmed to attract young people and are also apparently very popular with women, who have traditionally fished less than men. It’s great that fishing, one of the nation’s favourite pastimes, is getting some airtime on mainstream television. However, they do not reflect the vast majority of fishing that goes on in this country. Most people go fishing to relax, often fishing with good friends for the sheer joy of a shared experience in beautiful places. In the past, Robson Green has used techniques, such as shooting fish with a bow and arrows, that are abhorrent to most anglers, for whom the welfare of the fish is paramount. Most fish in this country are returned carefully to the water unharmed so that they can go on to spawn and maintain a healthy population. Perhaps it’s time for a less extreme, but more realistic, portrayal of our wonderful pursuit, which is all too often ignored by broadcasters and the media.”
Not everyone was critical though, here’s what one reader thought:
“These shows that have come out in the last few years have not only let most people fulfil their dreams by vicariously living through the hosts, but they have also given the general public an idea about what goes on under the water. Shows like River Monsters are not just about getting the big fish, it also spreads the message about loss of habitat and overfishing that plagues today’s remaining river monsters. I was inspired to take up angling myself and have traveled to remote places in South America and seen for myself if these creatures really do exist….they do. It’s also made me more aware of the problems that our freshwater fish face in our overcrowded world.”
For myself, well I’ve done my share of ‘extreme fishing’ in recent years so I’m reluctant to criticise others. What I can say however, is that my marlin, mahseer, sailfish, kingfish and giant trevally all went safely back to fight another day. The memories of those monsters will last me for the rest of my life and in the time left to me I plan to catch a few more whilst I’ve still got the strength to land them on sensible tackle.
So what do you think – how ‘extreme’ can fishing get ?