The lockdown has been tough for everyone and those of us who enjoy outdoor pursuits had our own obvious reasons for finding this time challenging. The news that anglers in England would be allowed to fish again after 50 days of enforced abstinence, however, seemed to be greeted with a somewhat mixed response online. Most anglers were absolutely ecstatic but others warned that the restriction had been lifted too soon and a second wave of infections would result.
Regardless of the wisdom of the decision, the vast majority of anglers didn’t need to be told twice and soon, around the nation, we were heading to favoured venues to begin again where we left off. Of course, the Hookpoint team were among those anglers who cast their lines in the days following the lifting of the angling ban. Their fortunes were a mixed bag – this is fishing after all – but, to a man, all agreed that it was just good to be out again.
The fishing had been a long time coming once the lockdown measures had been eased. I was itching to get out (but respectful of the rules) during full lockdown. There were so many easy arguments to breach the rules but I figured that the more anglers that were doing so, the less chance we’d have had of being one of the first sports back out there doing what we love.
Once the rules permitted, I opted to stay local. Sure, travel restrictions weren’t in place by the letter of the law but it’s hard to justify that travelling across the country offers any more exercise than fishing locally.
It’s important to remember that it is under the remit of exercise that we are allowed back out sooner than other relaxations are made. It’s a privileged position and not one to abuse.
Onto the fishing itself, it started off much better than it ended up! Five minutes in and I had a nice schoolie bass of around 3lb in weight. No specimen, but I was just grateful my first fish back wasn’t a dog. A stream of codling to (at most) 1lb in weight followed and that was the session done. In the mud, not a lot to write home about but, most importantly, fishing again!
Like most other anglers, I was beyond delighted at the news that angling was allowed again. It seemed appropriate to resume my fishing at the same spot I’d last fished before lockdown – a rock mark not far from home with a good array of fish-attracting features. I wasn’t really expecting much – it’s been out of form for a few years and is more a place I go now because I like fishing there than because it throws out heaps of fish.
Walking out along the clifftop, breathing in the sea air and having that sense of freedom at last was a really special feeling. I took a few photos on the way too as, if there was a good chance that I wasn’t going to catch a lot, the least I could do was get a few shots out of it. I arrived at the spot, set up my kit and chucked out a couple of baits, noting that the conditions looked pretty good for a huss after dark.
I still had the camera out and I’d bought a new lens filter a day or two before and I was eager to give a try. I set up a tripod shot further down the rocks – high enough up to be safe but close enough to the water to get the perspective I wanted.
Unfortunately, I hadn’t spent enough time watching how the small waves were hitting the rocks and right in the middle of a shot, a wave caught the lip of a rock, kicked up and splashed right over me and my camera. Worse still, my bag with all my kit and lenses was sitting just to my right and was now soaked too. I quickly gathered everything up and climbed back up to where my bag and hand towels were. I wiped the seawater from the camera body and lenses as well as I could but it was obvious that the camera itself was a goner – saltwater is renowned as being absolutely deadly to camera equipment. The survival of my lenses now became the most important thing and I packed up in double quick time to get home and clean them up as best as I could.
I had work the next day but after seeking some advice from Simon Waldram (see https://hookpoint.co.uk/the-world-a-rod-and-a-camera/), I got my wife to set up my lenses in boxes of rice wrapped in sealed bags to draw out any moisture. After a couple of days and with a replacement camera body in hand, the moment of truth arrived and I was beyond relieved to find that all my lenses still worked and seemed undamaged.
I strongly believe in looking for the lesson in experiences like these and drawing something positive out of them. The most obvious lesson here was that I really should have taken more time and care weighing up the situation before risking my kit on a pretty ordinary photo. The other thing I realised though was how important photography has become to me and that there was never any question in my mind of instantly replacing my kit, whatever the cost.
Luckily, nothing had changed for me at work during lockdown and I had enough money saved to absorb the cost of another camera body. If I’d needed a new fleet of lenses too, that would have been much more of a problem.
Still, despite having gone fishing, I really hadn’t fished yet. Fortunately, my next trip passed with no camera mishaps and, although the fishing was slow, I was fortunate enough to catch a nice bass. Normally, I might have let this fish go as bass aren’t my favourite to eat. However, I figured that the sea had taken my camera from me and now it was only fair that I take a fish from it. The next night I cooked that bass on the barbecue and we ate it in wraps with a simple salad. Delicious!
It’s amazing what a dramatic effect it can have on you when something that has been part of your life for so long is suddenly removed. When sea angling was effectively taken away from us back in March, as much as we realised it was for the greater good, it left many of us with an inexplicable emptiness. We looked to the future with a renewed excitement for that moment when we could once again get back out on the coast. Ultimately, we found ourselves with plenty of time to plan that golden moment when we could return to some normality, at least as far as our fishing was concerned anyway.
For me personally, I had already decided that my first session back would be a local one and that it would be immensely satisfying just to wet a line anywhere, whether I caught or not.
And so it was, that two days after the restriction was lifted, I found myself beholding a glorious May sunrise that somehow seemed to encapsulate that moment of a new beginning all in itself. I’ve never been that true a believer that catching fish is a bonus and that just being there is enough but in all honesty, that is exactly how I felt as I listened to the rush of ebbing saltwater and felt the sun on my face as swifts darted overhead.
As luck would have it, I was fortunate enough to catch a few fish. Small thornback rays and conger eels will never set the world alight but for me, that morning, they fulfilled an emptiness that had at times been difficult to endure. I left the venue a few hours later satisfied with the spoils of my early morning venture and my first foray back out into nature.