Yesterday a probably well-meaning researcher for a film company popped up in a fishing-related Facebook group asking for volunteers to appear in a project “looking at modern, unusual hobbies”, specifically “urban / canal fishing groups of mates that fish for big carps [sic] and weird breeds. Or people that specifically find it as a meditative and stress-escape activity. Rather than your average sea angling...”
Leaving aside the fact that there’s a bit of voyeuristic ‘look at the weird fishing people’ undertone to what the researcher appears to be looking for, something that continues to amaze me is that people seem to think of fishing as a niche or “unusual” hobby.
How is it that a sport that ranks in the top 20 participation sports in the UK, with an estimated 100,000 participants each week is still thought of as an activity for the slightly weird? More than a million rod licenses were sold last year in England and Wales, and by the time you’ve factored in those fishing in Scotland or in the sea, who do not need licenses, the figures get really huge.
Globally the figures are even more impressive, with some estimates suggesting that there are as many as 350 million recreational anglers worldwide.
And yet, on the same day as both David Beckham and Anthony Joshua shared pictures of themselves proudly showing their captures to the camera, up pops yet another TV type perpetuating the notion that fishing is “unusual” in some way.
Perhaps we should not be surprised that some TV producers fall into the trap of lazy stereotyping: fishing is boring, smelly and the preserve of beardy old dudes and rich people. But what we should do is work hard to dispel that image.
Ironically, it feels to me as though fishing is undergoing something of a renaissance right now. Fly fishing in particular seems to have a new generation of passionate young people making waves, discovering new destinations and exotic species to target, going on fishing trips that are a far cry from a few hours spent down at the local gravel pit with a lot of maggots. (Not that there’s anything dull about that, either).
The USA in particular there seems to be a renewed interest in fly fishing, perhaps in part driven by catch and release culture growing in popularity in that part of the world.
But how to change the image of fishing in the minds of the metropolitan elite-led mainstream media? Well, perhaps Fishing TV, in the spirit of digitally disruptive businesses, can do our bit to show the world that fishing is cool, by offering a huge library of awesome fishing films. Anyone in the world with an internet connection can get hold of our content, and we hope to give new and potential anglers the chance to experience the joys of fishing as well as seasoned and hardened experts.
We think that once someone has met the surfing and fly fishing stars of Yow! Icelandic for Yes! or witnessed the tequila-fueled antics that take place out on Scorpion Reef, or followed someone on a their quest for the Fish of their Dreams, they’ll find it pretty tricky to justify their insistence upon the old clichés.
Fishing has always been a sport that despite having a great respect for tradition, has always pushed boundaries, with new and innovative materials used to improve rods and lures, electronics used to help locate and catch fish, and intrepid souls seeking out new fisheries all the time.
So next time you come across someone who says fishing isn’t cool, maybe you can set them right by pointing them in the direction of one of the films that you think best shows why fishing shouldn’t be written off as a watery relation to train spotting or stamp collecting, but can often be more like an episode of a Bear Grylls show. Although I’m guessing that he wouldn’t even bother asking What Kind of Meat?