What's fishy about Charles Walker MP?
If I was a saint I would say that my greatest calling in life is to help my fellow mankind. I am afraid that as I am not a saint. I have to admit that my greatest calling in life is to go fishing, whenever and wherever possible. This has been the case since the age of three when my grandmother used to take me down to the Kennet and Avon canal armed with a garden cane, piece of string, sewing bobbin and a safety pin.
Needless to say, my rudimentary fishing tackle was not up to the task of hooking, let alone landing, a fish. However, the dye was cast and the fishing bug had taken hold. I caught my first mackerel aged four in Cornwall, after which the rib promptly sunk at the base of a very steep cliff (sharp rocks not the weight of my fish) and then aged eight, three small golden orfe in a farm pond closely followed by a perch on the river Cherwell.
My main fishing companion and mentor, up until January 2012, was my beloved grandfather who made it to the ripe old age of 95. As he slowed up in his nineties, my main fishing companions became and remain Jon Cruddas MP, George Hollingbery MP and Martin Salter, the former member of parliament for Reading West and now an energetic campaigner for the Angling Trust.
The most wonderful thing about fishing is that it is a great leveller. It does not matter who you are or what your background is, when two fishermen meet on the river bank all the talk is abo ut fish pursued, fish caught and adventures dreamed of and sometimes delivered. Of course, there is always endless chat about the monster fish that slipped the hook just before the moment of netting.
I am afraid that in my case, fishing is more than a passion – it is an addiction. The annual family holiday to Scotland revolves around rivers, lochs and most recently, with the acquisition of a small Orkney fishing boat, the sea. I wish I could say when I am out on bank or boat that I am thinking about great problems of state but the truth is I am not. What is generally troubling me is whether or not I have got the right fly, the right bait or the right lure. Chasing the catch is all-consuming.
Since entering parliament in 2005, I have been fortunate enough to meet a number of people involved in my sport who are also passionate conservationists. Many of these campaigners are my childhood heroes, such as Brian Clarke, Charles Jardine and the film maker Huw Miles. In my own County of Hertfordshire, I was recently lucky enough to be invited for a day on one of our few remaining fishable chalk streams. During my visit in late May, I caught a wild brown trout of approximately 3lbs, which ranks as one of my fish of a lifetime. What a joy, particularly as it was returned to be caught another day.