Saturday, 11 March 2017

Lessons For the Perennial Hobbyist

Today there has been a significant arrival of Wheatears, that perky herald of spring promise. In times past this blog would have tried quite hard to feature a nice early Wheatear photo. That's because its author was a keen birder back then. Quite what he is now I am not exactly sure. I wonder if there is a technical term for a fickle multi-hobbyist?

Not wishing to be accused of navel-gazing I shan't dwell on this thought any longer, but instead offer a couple of lessons from my long and seemingly capricious pursuit of various interests.

1. The Pleasure Principle
I've hijacked this Freudian term in order to state the blinkin' obvious: when the fun stops, change tack. You'd think this would be simple really, but surprisingly it is not. It is quite easy to pursue your hobby down a path of diminishing joy until you reach a dead end, at which point chucking it all in will seem like a good option. I have done this a few times. Here's one of them...

I took this vintage photo at Wilstone Reservoir, Tring, in (I think) 1983. Attached to a tench is Tony Chester, former UK record holder for that species with a 10lb 1oz 4dr fish from probably this very spot in June 1981

The scene pictured above depicts what I had aspired to, angling-wise, a couple of years previously. Like many kids of my generation I started fishing as a young boy, serving an 'apprenticeship' on ponds, rivers and canals which had modest potential when it came to really big fish. Slowly though, pursuit of the whoppers became an important goal. Tring Reservoirs was an obvious venue; despite being a lengthy drive away it was home to the biggest tench in the land, as well as monster bream, roach etc. However, in 1981 I was newly married, with the added responsibilies of a mortgage and a house in need of much DIY. At the age of 22 these circumstances precluded any serious involvement in the world of specimen hunting. What I should have done was adjust my focus and forget Tring. Instead I pressed on regardless and joined the Tring syndicate. Inevitably I wasn't able to dedicate either the time or the resources needed for success on such a challenging venue, and soon burned out. Fishing had stopped being genuinely enjoyable some time before this point, but I had failed to heed the warning signs. I'd like to say "lesson learned" but judging from the next 30-odd years it clearly wasn't!

Anyway, soon I was flogging all my fishing gear and taking up birding in a big and proper way. Within a short time I'd swapped Tring Res for Staines Res, and the rest is history.

2. Pass it on if you can
The love of a hobby is a precious thing. Having a passion that gives pleasure and a sense of fulfillment is a terrific antidote to many of the harsher realities of life. In addition, any 'success' in your chosen pastime surely builds confidence and self-esteem, never a bad thing in this thankless world. For example...

Me, aged 11 or 12, with 2 perch and a tench from Barn Hill Pond. Yes, I was taking the place apart with consummate skill, and feeling pretty good about it too. I was quite independent and would walk there from home with my sarnies, my bottle of squash and my serious fishing hat, and the day would fly by...

Here's a photo taken 20-something years later...

Rob, aged 12, brings a hefty Startops Reservoir perch to the waiting net wielded by Baz, then 9 years old.

Baz never caught the fishing bug, but Rob certainly did. Passing on that love of fishing is one of my great satisfactions in life. I've been pleasantly surprised at the positive effect on our relationship as adults provided by having a common interest in this simple pastime.

So, nothing profound there really, just a couple of lessons from many hours spent in the idle pursuit of various pastimes.

Oh, and Baz, meanwhile, shares my passion for carefully folding and knotting empty crisp packets, chocolate wrappers etc. To be fair, I am not sure if I deliberately passed this on or it's simply an inherited tendency to dispose of rubbish with obsessive neatness, i.e. a genetic thing. Whichever, apart from the obvious fact that the world would benefit hugely from having its waste packaging thrown away nice and tidily I cannot in all honesty advocate it quite as heartily as fishing, birding, cycling, golf, squash, running, playing the guitar, etc, etc, etc, etc...


  1. I thought this scene looked familiar Gav. All that gear in the foreground is mine.
    Note the mismatched outfit of Cardinal 66's and different rods.
    Those Perch were mad. Wasn't it cast lake wards and reel in a 2lb er?
    Must have been me behind the camera.
    I must get back there one day.

  2. That's right Ric, a special time perch-wise. And a family affair. Think I'm right in saying all of us caught two-pounders that day!

  3. I dispose of various wrappers in exactly the same way!