Weekend Work

5Its never good to work weekends. I’ve had plenty of jobs over the years that have necessitated such hours, and while Saturday mornings in a record shop could almost be fun, working the supermarket freezers until midnight was pretty soul destroying.

I’ve had a steady run of weekends on of late, though it seems slightly misleading to consider any of it ‘work’ – after all, work isn’t something you should actually get to enjoy. Is it?

Pelican Post Pic
Jack Rooke and Kev Parr talk rivers…. (Thanks to Emma at The Pelican Post for the image)

This weekend just gone was spent at Camp Bestival, based not too many miles from home at Lulworth Castle. I had a slot in the Literary Tent on Friday afternoon where I was charged with answering How to Read a River.

Despite the inevitable nerves, it went pretty well, and I think I actually enjoyed it. Jack Rooke was posing the questions for the most part, but it was the audience questions at the end that I most enjoyed.

I was really pleased to be questioned about the ethics of angling – and in particular the cruelty aspect of it. It is an issue often raised and one that we anglers struggle to justify. Arguments will always rage about the discomfort that fish may or may not experience. That a cold-blooded creature with a wholly different nervous system to our own will not feel pain in the same way that we do. They do feel resistance though – and that is undeniably unpleasant.signing

Ultimately though, if a fish is treated carefully it will be unaffected by its capture. My friend Peter once caught the same barbel four times in a night, while Chris hooked and landed the same (unwanted) trout three times in an afternoon last winter. Also, the care and awareness that anglers have towards the watery environment in which they cast means there is a louder voice shouting when things go awry.

The talk was followed by a signing courtesy of The Pelican Post. This is a charity that I was unaware of before the weekend but certainly feel inspired by since. They are working to send books to the children of Africa – to those who would otherwise have no access to a source of joy and information that many of us take for granted.

They are also behind Project Kala – an initiative aiming to translate or create books in local African dialects. Keeping a language alive while inspiring through a story. The website, should you want to know more (or donate) is www.pelican-post.org.

And big thanks to Josie at Penguin Random House and all at Camp Bestival for giving me this opportunity.


  1. Interesting point about fish and pain. I used to tie my own flies. I remember hooking into and then getting snapped off at the knot by a trout, twice, before finally landing it at the third attempt. How do I know it was the same fish? It had my flies (all barbless) still in the scissors of it’s mouth. As I let it go I noticed it had a distinctive mark on it’s fin. Half an hour later I caught it again, on the same fly. Not sure what this proves other than I had some dodgy tippet material and that that trout liked my fly ;0)

  2. Kevin Parr says:

    Great story! The fly pattern was obviously a good one, even if the tippet wasn’t….

    It does perhaps demonstrate that a cold-blooded animal will respond to conditions far more acutely than some warm blooded. It’s a funny business really – we anglers do love the fish we chase but the only way to make them real is to catch them…

  3. tescovalue79 says:

    Hi Kevin.

    Really interesting thoughts about our very own big question, and a question that seems taboo across most angling literature…

    I go through genuine existential moments around the hooking of fish. I recently caught a big canal carp and the owner of a houseboat near to where I caught the carp came to watch a few minutes after I’d hooked it. He explained someone had recently caught a carp there and that it had died following poor handling and being hauled in and out of the net for photos and for various friends arriving to see it. He felt the carp along there were like his pets and he couldn’t understand fishing for them. A grim story and I felt his anguish. Yet the desire to find, see and hold such fish and make them real, as you describe, is always there in me. I think the vast majority of anglers care deeply for fish and their environments and really do act as waterside guardians.


    1. Kevin Parr says:

      There is always that minority that tar the brush of every walk of life, but at least you were allowed to show that boat owner how most of us regard the fish we catch. It is an impossible thong to justify, but I agree you wit you about the point of contact. It is probably the most exhilarating moment of catching a fish.
      I remember reading somewhere (and I’ve not found it again) about a wealthy Victorian angler catching barbel on the Kennet. It was apparently believed that the true skill of angling was in the hooking, so this chap had a gillie who he would hand the rod to after the strike to do the laborious job of playing the fish to the net (or gaff more likely).

      Hope you are finding a few this season – best Kev

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