Over the past couple of decades I have been fortunate enough to be on the receiving end of the friendly acquaintanceship of many, and close alliance of a few, carp anglers. Without exception they are all very macho. They boast about carting mountains of gear across fields, sticking out terrible conditions, flood, frost and famine, for days at a time while they wait for a, more often than not, elusive quarry to take their bait.
Masculinity reigns supreme. These are the kind of men who wouldn’t be seen dead in a pink shirt and as for offering them a slice of quiche you might as well save yourself the trouble. It was with some surprise, therefore, when a friend told me about his negative experience with a landing net. He had disentangled it from surrounding shrubbery and observed, within its folds, an assortment of wild flowers. He prides himself on his knowledge of all things fauna – and a fair bit of flora – but was disturbed to discover that there were blossoms amongst his impromptu bouquet that he could recognise but not put a name to. He seemed quite distraught.
Five quid was all it cost to put him out of his misery. I found, in a local bookshop, a Collins Little Gem book on British wild flowers, bought it and sent it to him. He was ecstatic – worryingly so. He reckons that this small tome has enhanced his fishing trips immensely. His feminine side is dangerously near the surface and I just hope his mates don’t catch on.
Seriously, though, the surroundings in which carp anglers spend best part of their leisure time isn’t just for reading angling publications, sleeping, eating, and throwing bait into water. There is so much going on, if you take the trouble to look. The wild flower syndrome is just another aspect of enjoying to the full what nature provides.
Wild plants still have culinary and medicinal uses today. Our ancestors used them copiously because that was all they had and some of the uses to which they were put makes interesting reading. We’re all familiar with the nettle sting/dock leaf palliative but did you know that if you sustain a blister and apply the white juice from dandelion stalks you need suffer no more?
If you chew mallow (not unpleasant – it tastes sweet) until it is soft and warm and then apply to a mosquito bite it offers relief? Gipsywort can be used as a remedy for indigestion and is also a reputed aphrodisiac. Aha! Got your attention, now, haven’t I? Gipsywort will now, I predict, become as rare as rocking horse droppings beside our waterways as carp anglers munch it into extinction.
Have a close look at the plants growing in your swim, next time you’re fishing, I guarantee that you’ll be surprised at the diverse variety growing there. And it’s not at all ‘girly’ – and, if you don’t agree with my view, the Little Gem books fit neatly into a tackle box so no-one need know what you’re up to.