The Pursuit of Poundage

We probably all know an angler who prioritises chasing the big fish—so much so, that they put it above all else. For me, fly fishing has always been about the place, the experience, and the people you meet. Sure, I guess I’ve always had the hope somewhere in the recesses of my mind that I may be fortunate enough to stumble onto a monster trout occasionally, but it’s not something I’d ever plan my trip around.

Due to the fact that most of the rivers I’ve fished in the past aren’t renowned for “bug fush” (that’s “big fish” for you non-natives), I hadn’t ever encountered one of these angling “size queens”, not until this season at least. I met him on the track while on my way out of a valley, and he’d enquired how my fishing had been. Rather pleased with myself, I recalled my conquest of a seven-and-a-half pounder, to which he replied with a despairing Geez, I may as well have stayed at the last river. After recouping from the robbery of my afterglow, I began to feel a bit sorry for the chap as I resumed my hike along the track. With such high expectations he must surely be left disappointed more often than not.

Thanks to a freakish recent event—the catching of a “trophy” trout—I’ve now acquired a new-found insight as to what makes these guys tick. The catching of this fish was something of a double-edged sword for me; obviously a terrific and memorable experience, but I suspect it may prove difficult to reach those heights of euphoria again. I fear that it may leave me taking above-average fish for granted, as on the last trip to my local river I found myself somewhat under-awed after catching a couple of fish that went six and seven pounds. Usually I would have been ecstatic with such fish, but the experience with the “trophy” fish seems to have significantly raised my own bar of expectation. And so I can now see how—not dissimilar to a drug fiend—some anglers trips are reduced to chasing an ever larger dose of brown trout in order to get their fix. And it is always the browns we pursue, as if they’re the equivalent of uncut “product”.

322Possibly the moment that spawned an angling “size queen”. Time will tell….

212A happy, easily-pleased angler from a few seasons back.

064 (2)A flock of “Poundage Hunters” progressing to the headwaters. Going by the bottleneck-inducing traffic it must be a “mouse year”.

I’ve no idea how my angling perception or formula for enjoyment will change in the foreseeable future. Whether I will gradually return to being satisfied with average sized fish, or whether I’m now destined to join the ranks of these tunnel-visioned angling size-queens. Destined to forever obsess over, and chase maximum poundage; destined to resort to lurking only in valleys where the big fish—sorry “bug fush!”—reside. Let’s hope not.

One thing is certain though, come next season, after this “mouse year” is said and done, it will be one hell of crash back to reality for those chasers of maximum poundage, as the fish inevitably return to normal size. It has me wondering how they will cope, with their levels of expectation having been at an all-time high the past season. Quite possibly we may see the emergence of a new niche for the shrinks, rehab for the size-obsessed angler! The pharmaceutical companies had best get to work inventing a new pill, as this ailment is certainly more real than some of the others dreamed up in recent times!

As for me, all hope is not yet lost. I have faith that my video-come-short film projects will steer me away from the clutches of big-brown addiction and toward a more well-rounded style of angling, and an appreciation for all the other facets of a fishing trip. I guess time will tell, so stay tuned. And as an outsider with a less skewed perspective, feel free to step in and call an intervention if you see me sliding down the slippery slope that is the Pursuit of Poundage!