Sunday, 16 September 2012

Fishing the Usk Pt6

So you've been reading about our adventures fishing the Usk, and you're thinking of coming to the UK to fish, or you're new to fishing and you're wondering how things roll 'stream-side'?

All The Gear - No Idea
There is no greater fear in the heart of the British [I know, this time I'm including them - as its the same for them too] Outdoorsman than to be branded with this epithet. In other countries a man fishing with his new £800 fly rod, in his £600 waders and £500 wading jacket is probably admired for his financial success or profligacy with a credit card, looked up to as someone who has invested seriously in the sport.

Here he could be rendered the lowest of the low with just a few words: if he was really good all you'd have to do is look  at the ground and say 'Tackle Tart' or if he was anything less than world championship standard, 'All The Gear - No Idea' would do it. Once dismissed like this I'm not sure there would be any way for him to bounce back without living on the riverbank for the next year, eating only fish he'd caught, but caught only after repairing his rod with Pine Pitch and parts culled from an abandoned washing machine.

For the real 'Aficionado' look your gear would look something like this:
Your Jacket: should look like it was; dived from a dumpster or belonged to your grandfather.
Your Waders: should be mainly made up of patches.
Your Rod: can be as expensive as you like, you may know the name of the brand, but certainly not the model and you should have a story to go with it about how you got it in a trade with some fool who thought they could buy their way into the sport but has now taken up something else, letting you buy the rod for 10-15% of its sale price.
Your Reel: anything more than 60% of the original finish left on the reel. We have a name for people like that.
Your Hat: like the dog dragged it in, and preferably you'll be seen using it as a dogs bowl at least once during the day.

Your Fly-Box; if you must insist on using a bought one, it needs a crack in the plastic, but better still a very old tabacco tin, preferably of a brand no longer sold.

Now we get to the difficult bit, how to conduct yourself. Any kind of success must be down-played, but the opportunity must also be used to demonstrate your ethical superiority. That 20lb fish was ' reasonable' but obviously was released to breed and so others could enjoy the majesty of caching it. However unworthy they may be. Where visitors from more expressive nations often come unstuck is that we have very strict rules banning: earnestness, gushing, emoting and talking about yourself. To prevent social disgrace where others would use the above, we use that most British of traits Understatement. If in doubt feign dry, deadpan, indifference at all times.

"The understatement rule means that a debilitating and painful chronic illness must be described as 'a bit of a nuisance'; a truly horrific experience is 'well, not exactly what I would have chosen'; a sight of breathtaking beauty is 'quite pretty'; an outstanding performance of achievement is 'not bad'; an act of abominable cruelty is 'not very friendly', and an unforgivably stupid misjudgment is 'not very clever'; the Antarctic is 'rather cold' and the Sahara 'a bit too hot for my taste'; and any exceptionally delightful object, person or event, which in other cultures would warrant streams of superlatives, is pretty much covered by 'nice', or, if we wish to express more ardent approval, 'very nice'."
From 'Watching The English', by Kate Fox. [Bright girl, not a bad read.] 

An antique shotgun of staggering beauty and fascinating provenance is "this old thing", a supermodel = not a bad looking bird, a vintage Porsche = 'my hack' and/or  'I'm keeping it on the road', a handmade suit would be 'the uniform' and a man who owns as far as the eye can see is 'a farmer' or even better understating the understatement 'a bit of a farmer'.

Another nation with understatement rules is of course Japan [aka the Britain of Asia]. I once asked a japanese girl how the notoriously polite japanese people cope with the english trampling over their social sensibilities. She smiled kindly "It's not your fault you're a barbarian"

More soon
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