Saturday 25 December 2021

Keeping the Flame Alight

Exactly one year ago I spent the whole day fishing for Grayling on the River Frome. Blissful solitude and a few fish. Commitments this year dictated that I went yesterday instead. One other angler, a friendly 75 year-old. It rained a lot. I only caught one small Grayling, and got very wet. There were a few out-of-season Sea Trout though...

Small sample of solid silver Sea Trout

A pound and a half or so, and a bit more colourful

As a boy, fishing held a fascination I now find difficult to describe and impossible to recapture. While the adult me is equally content to spend hours attempting to extract some gleaming bar of wonder from its inaccessible world, to marvel at it for a moment, then slip it back, in my memory the boyhood version was so much more consumed by the whole experience. Now, I feel a little detached somehow. Like a grown-up in a childhood playground...

Still, I would like one day to catch a Grayling of 2lb or more, and the Frome certainly contains such fish. The chap I spoke to yesterday has caught three of that size in the last two months. I shall try again.

Interestingly, though I find it difficult to completely lose myself in fishing these days, birding is a different matter. And I see no danger of imminent phasing. The approach I've adopted this past couple of years has worked well for me. Its efficacy shows no sign of waning, so I shall stick with what seems a winning formula.

There are so many ways to 'go birding'. I follow a lot of birders on Twitter, and their various approaches probably embrace most of the obvious options. Some are basically glued to a patch, and rarely if ever go anywhere else except on holiday. Some travel a great deal, and every well-publicised rarity will at some stage appear on their Twitter output. Some are very focused on record keeping: BirdTrack, eBird, every BTO survey type thing going. Some are clearly very social creatures, and friends feature regularly. Some concentrate on photography, or sound recording, or specialise in certain species or species groups. Though I obviously cannot say for sure, I assume that these various approaches 'do it for them' as individuals, and they find the fulfilment they need.

Having struggled over the years - often unsuccessfully - to maintain enthusiasm for birding, I am quite conscious of that need for fulfilment, and pander to it all the time now. The best thing I ever did for it was remove the notion of 'boundaries' to my birding. Looking back, it was like taking off a straitjacket. Almost all my birding is still local, but now so unconstrained that calling anywhere my 'patch' feels quite fraudulent. That said, apart from work (which takes me to Seaton and the Axe Estuary) I am nearly always within 10km of home. This map pretty much covers it...

I live in Bridport (just left of centre)

So I'm a local birder, but don't have a patch. I count stuff sometimes and, after years of not bothering, now submit records again. I do not do any surveys of any sort - I have tried it and hated it. I do not chase lists any more - I have tried it and hated it. I rarely do company, much preferring solitude. I rarely twitch anything these days, though local birds have tempted me once or twice. However, if you met me in the field I do hope you would not think 'Strewth! This bloke is one miserable, non-conformist old so-and-so', but rather that I left a somewhat better impression! Anyway, this approach works for me. It keeps me sane and happy, and keeps me birding.

Finally, in this rambling post, I must mention something which caught my eye recently, and which seems to mesh nicely with my currently successful approach to birding...

#LocalBigYear - an initiative launched by Birdwatch magazine

It was so good to see an influential, mainstream publication say this:

Importantly, reducing our annual mileage has clear benefits for the heath of our planet. We must all look for ways to reduce our carbon footprint - and a greater focus on local birding is a fine way of doing just that, especially if you can do much of it on foot or by bike.

Best of all, there are no strict rules. Local just means local. Yay! No boundaries! There are prizes for local find of the year, local inland find of the year, local birding moment of the year and garden bird of the year. But nothing for big lists. Yay! No listing! There is a prize for green twitch of the year, but nothing to encourage fossil fuel excess. It sounds like something I could easily get involved in, without endangering my state of birdy zen.


  1. Well, there's certainly a few incentives for birding on a local basis there Gav. I can see the headlines now, as you collect your inevitable but well deserved runners up prize. "And in first place, and in all categories, Steve Waite, again" 😀

  2. Ive only caught two Grayling. One a small one at around 8 inches long the other a belter at a pound and a half! That one was 16 inches nose tip to fork. Taken on a bored fish less day so I decied I must catch something even a small trout so 'almost' free lined a bunch of maggots (two bb shot 12 inches from the hook) into a fast runnel of water on the River Till in North Northumberland. As it ran down the stickled water I thought I had snagged a rock until the rick began kiting upstream! That was when I was around 17 in 1981....

    1. Nice! Judging by your vivid account, that Grayling made quite an impression! Hopefully I'll get a big 'un one day... 😊

    2. Yes it certainly did. A rare fish for the fish list... :)

  3. The Frome is certainly the right river to try Gav, 'There be monsters' is quite clearly marked on the map.

    As for prizes for rare birds. Do you get a prize for being hit by a falling tree, meteor or piano? No, but it's all the same, just being in the right place at the right/wrong time and being able to identify a grand from a stand up. Prizes equal skulduggery, avoid that and let the kids just enjoy the outdoors.

    As for your returning theme of mojo and dedication mate, it's not compulsory, you are all grown up and can please yourself. If your blog is getting in the way of your enjoyment, step back from it. I haven't looked forward to fishing for a few months as I know it will hurt more than the rewards I am likely to receive, but, come the spring, things will change. Maybe.

    Have a great 2022 Gav, if you do post, I'll always read.

    1. Thanks Dave, you too. Hope you get back fishing again soon...

      For some reason the motivation thing intrigues me. Thankfully I still get a lot of pleasure from writing the blog, and don't foresee it lapsing any time soon. Likewise birding at the moment. I always feel like I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop though...

      The stretch of Frome I'm fishing has produced Grayling over 3lb. A 2-pounder seems like a modest ask. 😊