Truth is stranger than fiction

We anglers are famous for our stories. Non anglers would call some of them lies, but this would be to ignore the mythical element of our sport and I will try to explain what I mean.

Fishing is about much more than just catching a few fish. The angler, whether he realises it or not, is going back to his deepest roots when he ventures on to the river bank, seashore or lake side, he is dabbling with a world that in his not too distant past was full of mysteries. Many civilisations even worshiped water spirits and made votive offerings to their Gods by throwing valuable items into water. Only recently has science been able to explain what goes on beneath the surface of the water that covers seven tenths of our planet.

We rely even in these modern times on the water that is our rivers, lakes and seas, even now it is still a mater of life and death but in times gone by, without our knowledge of science you can see how water and the aquatic environment gained its air of mystery – and let us not forget that our most remote ancestors came from that same water. Myths and legends have grown up around almost every expanse of water from springs, to small streams, rivers, lakes and of course the sea. As fishing evolved from a means of feeding your familly to a sport it has encompassed this atmosphere of mythology and myths have become part of angling .Think how stories have grown around many fisheries about the huge fish that are purported to live in them – in my youth it was always pike but now huge carp or catfish have replaced them and how they devoured small dogs, even children, smashed tackle after fights lasting many hours and they seemed to live for ever. These stories often featured grandfathers who had seen these monsters as young boys and yet they were still said to inhabit the same waters fifty or sixty years later. Angling has never let science get in the way of a good story and even those of us who publicly laugh at these legends are intrigued by them and part of us wish they could be true.

Don’t we all hope to catch a fish much bigger than anything else the venue has produced, even if it is a recently dug and stocked commercial fishery? And for me, rivers have even more mystery as none one can say for sure what fish may be in front of me.

Can you blame the angler, immersed in this mythical world, who exaggerates the size of the fish he lost or adds a few ounces to the weight of one that he caught?

Now before my regular readers begin to wonder if I have lost the plot or gone all mystical I will tell you why I have written the above. Something strange happened to me in the wilds of Essex a couple of weeks ago when I was doing some coaching for Nick Watkins on one of the taster days he organised, that may well have been considered a myth had there not been a couple of professional coaches and a number of members of the public as witnesses.

I was demonstating to a student how to hit bites on eight metres of pole and for once I was holding the pole. I was fishing with an eight millimetre soft pellet on a size fourteen hook when the float dipped and I struck into what I thought was one small fish.

Two fish on one hook

As my quarry came to the surface I saw not one but two fish so I carefully netted them and called to Nick who was nearby.

Two fish on one hook closeup

You can see on this picture that the hook length goes through the lip of the small mirror carp and the hook is securely lodged in the lip of the bigger brown goldfish. Two fish on the same hook at the same time, first time in forty eight years of angling.

My explanation is as follows. The mirror carp took the pellet and while it was between in its lips the brown goldfish used its size to snatch the bait. The small fish must have been already hooked at this time, with the hook point outside its mouth and the larger fish pulled the hook through the lip of the smaller one only to have it lodged in his own lip.

Perhaps in twenty or thirty years time my grandson Oliver or his brother William will tell the story of how their grandad once caught two fish on the same hook at the same time. A myth… but we know better, don’t we?