The sea, the fish

Lying in bed we can hear the surf - a lovely sound especially when it's a still night and you know those little rollers were born hundreds of miles out into the north Atlantic. Last night however the gentle surf turned threateningly into great white horses flying before a gale of wind, dashing themselves to death on our shingle beach. Still, when you're snugly tucked in with a good book ... (in my case the final chapters of The Seven Pillars of Wisdom.) ...

I look at the sea often, and often wonder if and when, time these days being of the essence, I'll be able to climb into my own small boat and go fishing again. Once upon a time, when the world and our boys were young, sea fishing occupied most of our leisure time and all of our holidays. I trailed our 17 foot double ended clinker built, lug sailed / inboard engined Culash (Gaelic for Little Fly) all around the UK and Ireland in search of the biggest and the best or our target species. In fact that's what first brought us up to north west Scotland back in 1972. We packed our tackle and our kit and our camping gear inside the boat, linked it up the towbar and the Ford Zodiac and zoomed off on the 700 mile trip.

Gairloch was a sea fisherman's valhalla that first time we fished it. I think fifteen species, most of them specimen size including a dab (limanda limanda) that broke the British record and reigns supreme to this day according to the Guiness Book. We delivered its body to the Museum of Natural History in Glasgow. Two years later we returned filled with high anticipation but Gairloch was empty. (Or if there were any fish left alive we couldn't catch them). Heartbreaking, especially when we were told by a seemingly resigned shopowner that those xxxxx suction dredgers and trawlers had cleaned out both the fish and the subsea molluscs, etc, on which fish live.Talk about sawing off the bough on which one sits!

I hear the lochs still have not recovered to this day. However there is the beginning of a groundswell of public opinion in favour of making the north west lochs - fishy maternity hospitals and nurseries combined -  into no-take zones. All over the world these highly protected areas are being commissioned and we in the UK too are starting to realise just what we have been doing to the underwater paradises that have lain and been Man-raped with furious commercial intent around our native shores.

And if I ever do again get afloat in the loch that laps the shore 50 metres from our home? Will I take fish from these waters? Not if no one else is taking them. Have a look at my shortish story Not Talking About Charlie; it's number thirteen in my anthology, Twenty Bites.

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