Henry Gilbey
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Henry Gilbey blog

I think I'm obsessed with islands

Is it only me who has an obsession with islands, based around fishing of course ? I suppose a big thing about me spending entirely too much time almost fantasising about visiting and fishing on all manner of different islands has to have something to do with a part of fishing being so wrapped up with getting away from it all (not that I actually have anything I want to escape from) and fishing different spots where you can't help but feel that you might be amongst the few to have wet a line there. I just love the idea of putting a line out into waters that feel far, far away from the well-trodden paths, and I also love the simple idea of islands being exactly what they are - land surrounded by water that means getting there is rarely as simple as getting somewhere else...............

A very good friend of mine lives in the Isles of Scilly, one of the most magical places that I have ever been fortunate enough to visit on this awesome planet. I think that Del knows how special the islands are, but then he calls the place home and to him such beauty and a degree of isolation must feel as normal as me living where I do and calling it home. As a fairly regular visitor to the Isles of Scilly, I cannot tell you how excited I get at leaving the mainland and heading offshore to what almost feels like another world - and a world that is crawling with fish that almost nobody fishes for. I also have a serious thing for the Channel Islands.

I think that the lovely Mary Gavin-Hughes thought I was a bit loopy when I kept asking her questions about her childhood on one of the many islands in Clew Bay on the west coast of Ireland, but I was genuinely fascinated in what she was telling me. Just the idea of her dad rowing his kids to school each morning I suppose connects with the fact that within many of us remains the desire not to herd together and live on top of each other.

Have any of you been watching the excellent Ben Fogle Channel 5 series "New Lives in the Wild", where he goes and spends a week or so with various people or families who have chosen to live their lives far, miles away from the madding crowds ? (I have not seen much Ben Fogle stuff, but I think he's a fantastic TV presenter, you can see some of these programmes here). Tell me it doesn't connect with you in some way. I have got a serious thing for the film "Into the Wild" as well - in some way it "clicks" something inside of me.

I recall when we made a TV programme over on the tiny Dursey Island right at the end of the jaw-dropping Beara peninsular over in Ireland - dodgy cable car aside, just the fact that the island is separated from the mainland by a thin strip of Atlantic Ocean was enough to induce such a high state of excitement in me that I distinctly remember having to try and dial myself back a bit in case somebody wrote in to complain that the presenter (me) was on drugs because he was too hyper. I don't remember landing any particularly big fish, but to me it's way, way beyond that. I just seriously dig the fact that because islands are often that bit more tricky to get to beyond jumping in a car, in my head it means that I am almost on the edge of the earth that bit more than on the mainland.

I have been lucky enough to have visited various islands and atolls through work. Bazaruto, Benguerra, Astove, Cosmoledo, Farquhar, Providence, Sekoma, Rost, a couple of bear-infested ones in BC, even Martha's Vineyard etc. There are countless more I would kill to go and see, but I'll tell you what my out and out strongest fantasy is, and it's nothing to with anything weird or even 10lb plus bass busting all around me and eating their way up my line (which would in itself seem weird to a non-angler). Nope, it's far more simple than that, and yes, it revolves around Ireland.

For years now I have fantasised about wandering around Ireland in a camper van with a bit of fishing gear and visiting all those romantic sounding islands that I see on maps and hear snippets about from time to time. Give me a bunch of pollack, wrasse, mackerel, mullet and perhaps the odd bass on a lure rod or two and I reckon I would be about as happy as you like if I could just wander around with a few OS maps (sod the smartphones), fishing gear, and of course my cameras. What on earth could be more exciting than not knowing much about where you were going other than it is going to be surrounded by a deep blue Atlantic Ocean, not many people, and most likely rocks, beaches and bays that are hardly ever seeing other anglers.

Look at a map of Ireland and tell me that islands such as Inishmore, Inishman, Inisheer (The Aran islands), Inishbofin, Inishturk, Sherkin, Cape Clear, Clare and Achill don't speed up that beating heart of yours. Tell me that you don't ache to wander their shorelines and fish their cold, clear waters ? I can't help but obsess about such places and I also know that such obsessive mental pictures can sometimes mean that the reality risks being a let-down, but I am going to make it my mission to visit some of these places and lose myself for a brief time in the timeless thrill of being on an island...................