Thoughts on photographs

For a blog dedicated to fishing I have noticed something strange about my musings here – there are very few photographs of fish! I guess that is partly because I do not catch that many! OK, I may be a bit harsh on myself with that last statement, but I don’t seem to catch as many as those other guys and gals you see on various social media sites. Added to that, I have a tendency to unhook my catch and quickly return it to the water and dislike ‘posed’ photographs which take time to set up and must cause the fish stress. Like every other angler, seeing pictures of huge fish and grinning anglers is part of everyday life now and social media is crammed with such images. The world is not any the poorer for me not joining in and posting endless trophy fish photos. The best you can hope for from me is a shaky shot of a roach or trout a second before it is released. Those hoisting giant sailfish, tarpon or king salmon certainly put me to shame. I am very firmly belong to the pre-‘selfie’ generation and since I usually fish alone there is nobody else there to take posed shots of yours truly balancing the rod on my neck and holding some monster salmon. And so the globe must continue to spin through space and time without my ugly mug leering over leviathan of a fish plastered everywhere.

Actually taking the photos is something I find challenging. I am not a photographer, have had not training or any depth of experience. I have a rudimentary knowledge of the basics of DSLR camera operation but often don’t take my Canon with me lest it gets soaked. Like most other anglers, my mobile phone is the tool I use when fishing and the resulting pics vary in quality depending on which phone I happen to own at the time. Like many of you I go through mobiles at a horrifying rate – they rarely last more than a few months before they get wet and are binned. I have owned plenty of fishing rods for over forty years but my mobiles rarely survive to celebrate their first birthday. So while I admire the excellent quality of the output some angler/photographers produce, I am just too lazy to learn the intricacies of photography and take the easy way out instead. Or maybe on reflection it is not pure laziness, I just have so many other interests that taking up photography seriously feels like it would take up too much time, time that I don’t have to spare. Angling, fly tying, walking, a bit of cookery, some guitar playing, eating out and travel (when allowed) all chew into my free time as it is. Anyway, for now I am a ‘point and press’ kinda guy. Admittedly I am toying with the notion of buying one of those Olympus Tough TG-6 cameras just for my angling. Waterproof and sturdy, it would be a nice addition to my gear but at €400 I am still trying to convince myself it is a worthwhile investment, and that is before I even consider trying to convince Helen such a spend is fully justified (why did the ‘mission impossible’ theme tune start playing in my head there?).

As it is, I have acquired various bits of kit over the years to assist me in taking better quality photographs. I have a couple of tripods which are useful for someone with a shaky hand like me. Although not much use when game fishing, a tripod is handy when I am coarse fishing which is a fairly sedentary sport. I also bought a wee gadget that converts the 3/8ths BSF thread on my bank sticks to the standard camera mounting thread, meaning I can fit a camera on to a bank stick and focus on the rod tip or even the float.

Every now and then I fancy getting into shooting some video content but rarely follow through. Although the technology is now so advanced that even a dummy like me can use it, the time required to edit and post videos puts me off. In the past I have edited training videos for employers, so I know what to do, I just find it a very tedious business. Maybe this coming year I might find the time and energy to sit down and edit some footage but I would not bet the house on it. An added issue for me is that I am perilously close to the data limit on my WordPress account and any video footage eats data at a horrible rate. Yes, I could opt for a more expensive plan with much increased data limits but that would be even more expense, 4 times what I pay just now. There is always my YouTube channel but I have not posted anything on that for years. Maybe I need to make more of an effort! With a little ingenuity I could set up the camera to film my fly tying but plenty of excellent tyers are doing this already so I can’t see what I would bring to the party.

In the wider context, I write this blog to try and convey the sights and feelings of angling in the west of Ireland rather than to record large bags of fish, the glory of landing a monster or even my dexterity at the vice. Now, in later life, I value every hour on the water and the catch itself is almost a by-product. Sure, like every other angler I love catching fish, I love catching big fish and I love catching lots of them. But I also love being immersed in the countryside, handling a boat, seeing the wildlife all around me. I enjoy the experience as much, if not more, than the result. A fish which escapes before reaching my net is still one to be treasured and has the added bonus of saving me the trouble of handling and unhooking the poor wee thing.

Some anglers just seem to catch more big fish than others. Skill obviously plays a large part in this but I have seen plenty of novices catch lunkers of fish while us old hands are only whipping out tiddlers. It depends a lot too on where you are fishing. Harling on the lower reaches of the Tay in Scotland will give you a better chance of a twenty pound salmon than casting a wee fly on a small spate river here in the west of Ireland. The big fish have to be there to be caught. I fear my chances of any more huge salmon are all but nil these days so there will be no photos of me in a grip’n’grin pic any time soon.

While I am on about photos I feel I have to mention the latest trend on social media which is assaulting us anglers. We badly need to address the issue of diversity in our sport. The public image of angling being the preserve of older, white males is firmly entrenched and we as a sport must make more effort to attract younger anglers from all walks of life to take up fishing. Thankfully I see more and more kids and women on the river banks and long may this trend continue. However, I am sure many of you have seen a huge growth in tweets/Instas etc featuring scantily clad young women holding up big fish in exotic locations. Look, I am a red-blooded heterosexual man and pretty girls in bikinis certainly do not offend me in any way but it seems to me this form of clickbait is out of place in our sport. Maybe I just fish in the wrong circles and you lot regularly go fishing down the canal with ‘Brittney’ the lingerie model.

9 thoughts on “Thoughts on photographs

  1. Nice article. When I first started fishing with the fly, perhaps 10 years ago, I seem to have taken a hasty photo of almost every trout in hand. Terrible photos of course. Nowadays, I tend to take just a few shots of the countryside or the river landscape to commemorate the day and to remind me where and when I was fishing. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, there have been no Brittany’s in any of my photos.

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    1. it was only when I started to write the blog that I foud that I virtually never took any photos when fishing and even now I have to ‘make’ myself take them. Shame really as i fished in some great places.

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  2. I like the idea of using today’s technology to create an electronic fishing log book for a personal record while avoiding just taking pics of trophy fish ( not that I get many!). I have scores of old diaries where as a boy recorded details of catches. They are difficult to read and lack any pictorial content but often can trigger quite vivid memories of happy days. On a certain modern platform there is way too much poor angling practice on display for my liking and an increasing amount of scantily clad anglers vying for attention with their catches! A while back there was a letter in the Trout and Salmon that raised the issue of a lack of diversity in how angling is represented but no change to the status quo followed and trout and salmon fishing in particular seems to be portrayed as the preserve of relatively well off, middle aged, white males. A flick through such publications shows predominantly pictures of this group and the columnists also reflect this. It’s an enduring characteristic that has to be addressed for the future of our sport.

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    1. In many ways we are fortunate to live in a time when we can so easily create records of what we do. While I personally have no interest in amassing ‘likes’ and all that stuff it is obviously important to some people and indeed how they make their money. I look on it as just another one of those trade offs we need to make.
      I agree with you about diversity, angling simply does not reflect modern society and we badly need to address this if our sport is to thrive. Where I live I could count the number of coloured anglers I know on one hand. That can’t go on but the question is how do we attract more people to angling? I read that during the pandemic a lot of people took up fishing for the first time and I would love to know more about that group. Did they stick with it and are now regular anglers? What was the demographic range of these newbies? A lot could be learned by studying this i feel.

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  3. Yes, sorry I often forget to mention in my posts that Jenny Agutter often pops along for a chat when I’m fishing and some days she brings Jane Asher with her. “No, Jane not another bloody cake, I’m trying to lose weight …”

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    1. Many years ago I was fishing on Loch Fitty for rainbows and noticed most of the boats were congregated at the other end of the loch. I motored over thinking there must be some a hatch on the the lads were catching fish. i arrived to find the Scottish Ladies International Team were out on a practice session. Two boats full pretty girls swishing fly rods about was too much for the locals and they were following the girls around the lake all evening.
      Must go and lie down now, thinking of Jenny in wellies is causing a bit of a hot flush here.

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      1. On a more serious note I agree with all your points. Keep angling photography to the minimum, enjoy the moment and return fish asap. No need to hold fish at arm’s length, hoiking up their dorsal fin whilst banging on to a video camera. Admittedly I have started to film a few quick You Tube videos to flesh out the location, but these are straight off the phone with no editing and definitely without my ugly mug appearing. I think Graeme on the totally Awesome videos is the exception to the rule and about the only one currently vlogging who can do so in an entertaining and informative way.
        And, yes there is a time and place for everything and photos of ladies fishing in their scanties does nothing good for the image of fishing. If that genre of photography was ironic or witty I might say different but it is a bit sad and, as you say, hardly inclusive.

        Clive

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      2. I do worry about where our sport is heading. 90% of the guys I know who are keen fishermen are our age or older. I know of only a handful of them who are from a different ethnic background. If we do find a way of broadening the appeal of angling to a more representative cohort then there will be nobody to pick up the baton when our generation has gone to the great pond in the sky. On the scantily clad female front, I suspect all sports suffer in the same way these days. I imagine golfers are inundated with pics of bikini clad girls on the tee (I was going to say ‘rough’ but hat just opens up a Pandora’s box of double-entendre)

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      3. I’m not sure all sports do, although my active involvement in other sports is a bit niche for survey purposes. However, badminton is very much for both genders and whilst it doesn’t seem hugely popular with Afro-Caribbean people it is massive in a lot of Asia and a lot of people with Asian riots play in the UK. Jogging/fun running/running – call it what will you will – is very popular with women, especially those in the circa 35-45 age group. A lot of 10Ks etc now have over 50% women participants. As to ethnicity, to some extent you are capped by your local population, but I think our running club ticks the box.
        I’m not saying these sports are perfect, but crikey, they are ahead of fishing!

        Clive

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