Many of you I am sure have gone through what might be termed a "specimen hunting" phase - I know I did. It's merely another branch of fishing, but for a period my love for this sport was very much wrapped up in trying to catch "specimen" fish (whatever they might actually be), and obsessing with beating my personal best of whatever species. Perhaps for you it was or indeed is match fishing and trying to beat your fellow anglers for example. I am all for whatever reasons fishing might float so many individual boats, but I know that for me I began to wonder whether I was in danger of losing a part of the simple pleasure at catching a few fish because they might not have been of a "specimen" weight, or they weren't bigger than something I might have caught the month before. And to be honest? That began to worry me.
Each to their own as always in fishing, but as I began to move away from this kind of fishing for various reasons, I suppose I started to almost rediscover a different thrill set. Sure, we always want to try and catch "big" fish of whatever species we happen to be chasing, but I remember the incredible thrill at say fishing for cod in a raging gale and managing to land a few modest sized codling in really difficult conditions, and then heading for home as dawn broke over a wild winter morning. Could it get any better? Most of my best shore caught cod came from the river Tamar, but as much as those fish gave me a serious thrill, actually fishing there is often quite a "sterile" experience I suppose - awesome in its own way, but the getting there and being there doesn't cause my heart to race.
I'm not one of these anglers that wants the catching of fish to be nigh-on impossible, as in if it wasn't hard to do then it wasn't worth it - balls quite frankly. Who doesn't like a few sessions when whatever fish you are chasing seem almost eager to be caught? And if those fish are big fish, then that suits me just fine. I am also very much not an angler who thinks that a certain method is better than another - balls to that as well. If it does it for you then that's just great. It has always made me giggle how say upstream dry fly fishing on the River Test is for a few anglers "the only way" - balls to that quite frankly, and especially when you could also be Czech-nymphing for stunning grayling in exactly the same spot. Why the blinkers?
Nope, the challenge that I love is the coming together of a complete experience - the planning involved in where to go and when, preferably a bit of a walk along a stunning bit of coastline/river etc., a lack of other people around if at all possible, maybe some stunning light, good conditions, hopefully a few fish that make me think on my feet and adapt to what is going in front of me etc. - and if I catch a fish or two either from a new spot or via a new to me technique, then that's the icing on the cake as far as I'm concerned. If a big fish of whatever species I might be chasing comes along then that does me just fine of course, but I am not going to lose sleep over it.
I understand completely if some anglers like fishing for say big numbers of stocked fish - who am I to say that this is better or worse than what does it for me? I will never understand fishing snobbery, but at the same time of course there are types of fishing that we all enjoy more than others. I have zero interest for example in competing with my fishing, and when I am out fishing with friends, it bothers me not at all who might catch the best fish. Nope, give me a rounded experience and then the capture of a few fish means everything to me. Effort, thought, fun, experience, luck - anything else required?