I’ve long been a fan of Lee Swords’ writing because he dares to be different. With most writers you know exactly what you’re going to get before you read the first line. With Lee, I suspect even he doesn’t know what he’s going when he starts. With an imagination like his an article is prone to go anywhere, bouncing off on tangents like a ping pong ball in a cement mixer. I’d love him to write a whole book because it would be audacious, amusing, controversial and downright entertaining from cover to cover. What a project it would be – and I keep telling him this. Although I’d pity the poor editor!
In an email to me just last week he wrote: ‘As for the book I think it will be a tricky task …I tried doing a little bit about bream fishing and ended up writing about buck-toothed Somalis, Indian women with poor downstairs hygiene getting chased by displaced tigers, a cocky sheep getting twatted at Thrumpton and immigrant gangs of child molesting Zander…the problem is… to me that it all makes sense.’
As you’d expect I was intrigued and suggested he let me quote him in the blog I was writing. He responded with: ‘I can do better than that. Here is 75% (a rough draught) of the Bream Chapter so far…’
I doubt there’s a photographer on the planet who is capable of shooting images to illustrate the inner workings of Lee’s brain so I asked him if he might draw me one of his inimitable cartoons. Two days later it arrived (and two days later he sent another one!), so I can now share with you a world exclusive in the shape of three-quarters of a draft chapter from the book that may never, ever be published. This is a fishing article like no other you’ve ever read so fasten your seat belts and hang on…!
Hollywood analogies, the terrible Mufasa, the mysterious Zed and evolution’s waste of effort. Bream slime – as irritating today as it was 2 million years ago.
By Lee Swords
I have never been much of a bream angler for several reasons, the first being that I just cannot get along with all that slime. It gets everywhere and just like roach slime it has a tendency to make my hands and anything else it comes into contact with itch like mad. However that minor irritation aside I do enjoy catching them every now and then so please don’t get me wrong, I think big bream are a fantastic looking fish and worthy of respect but I like my fish with a bit more attitude so even if they were as slime free as a perch they would still be a shade on the dull side for my tastes.
Bream in my opinion are a little bit like the sheep of the fishing world, in that they move around in flocks, they also lack a bit of a fighting spirit and for the most part are pretty damned thick. Saying that however there are always exceptions to the rule. I did once come across a really cocky bugger of a sheep strutting his stuff in a field a mile or so down river from Thrumpton, a Class 1 prick of a sheep, a proper nasty piece of work that didn’t like non-locals. As soon as he heard my accent he was well up for a bit of a barney, the cocky bugger had been grazing the windfalls in the orchard all afternoon and was full of cider. So there he is all togged up in his soon to be Benetton jumper with his head wedged through the five bar gate eye balling me, walking round and bleating snide comments at me in a very threatening kind of way, he finally makes his move when I go to the hedgerow for a slash. I think he was expecting me to back down so he would look good in front of all his ewes but I couldn’t let it pass. So I say to him in my broadest Sheffield accent “Have we got a problem?”
The sheep doesn’t reply, he just starts snorting and stamping his hooves. Its obviously all going to kick off now but I have to be honest, I am not that nervous because even though this lad is big, he is flabby and out of shape, plus he is tanked up on cheap cider and I am stone cold sober.
He runs in trying to head but me in the nads.
Too slow pal, I am not falling for that old chestnut and before he knows what’s what I have let go with a proper Johnny Wilkinson last minute drop goal swing of the right foot and landed a peach of a kick in its plums and a right uppercut to its jaw. The thing is sparko.
Leaning over him I said “You want to lay off the fruit pal. Don’t go bringing your angry apple face at me you flat toothed idiot, I eat lads like you for dinner!”
Motto to all sheep: Stick to eating grass.
Anyway that’s my one and only encounter with a sheep that wanted a fight, so I shall move on.
Ok, so where were we? Oh, yes! Bream and sheep are alike; they are thick and they lack fight.
Now there are hundreds of bream anglers and shepherds who will defend their position, I am sure, but it really does have to be said, and I qualify my words through simple personal observation. If you don’t think sheep are thick, fine…
But before you start with the rebuttals take a long hard look into the eyes of a sheep.
There is not much happening in there is there? Yup, they are a bit dim…
Bream have that same look about them.
They are rather nice but extremely dim. They were not blessed with an overly intelligent string of DNA that would seek to adapt itself into a creature capable of defending itself from all comers; they simply have to be a weak brand of DNA. I mean what else could be the reason? With millions of years of evolution to play with the clever species of creature, carrying strong aggressive strings of DNA, have at least gotten round to turning their hair into horns and developing the ability to squirt acid from out of their anus! Some creatures have even taken to growing impenetrable armour plating and rendering their flesh utterly inedible, foul tasting or downright toxic. Now that’s the DNA of a creature that wants to be a survivor.
But no, Darwin’s theory of evolution is a bit skewed when it come to creatures like sheep and bream. A clever sheep would have done all the above but the grass-addled Sunday lunch special decided that instead of getting itself some weapons of mass destruction it would grow long hair and use the physical repellent of refraining from wiping its backside after eating a massive amount of vegetable matter to ward off its foes.
Now this tactic may sometimes work for low caste Indian ladies on the subcontinent when they are being chased across paddy fields by a pack of displaced tigers but it’s not a defence tactic to be recommended to anyone prone to getting chased by large orange cats as it is far from foolproof especially when your flesh is just a little bit tastier than Scarlet Johansen in purple a leather thong and if you need any proof of this theory you just have to look in the obituaries of the Indian press and on the Sunday lunch special board at your local pub. Its all death by tiger mauling and 2 for £5, eat as much as you like.
Anyway lets get back to the personal hygiene of the average sheep, it is indeed shockingly poor. I swear to God I witnessed one wretched beast trudging through the heather moors above Sheffield carrying a maggot infested dangleberry the size of a watermelon the last time I was walking on Blackamoor. What a vile and sordid sight it was to watch the busload of Welsh tourists follow the creature around taking pictures of the beast in various state of undress (all they kept on were their wellies. One even said it was almost enough to put him off).
It really does have to be said that if sheep had been blessed with brains they could still have gone for the afro look and at the same time worked on getting some foul tasting flesh and a set of opposable hooves. That way the clever sheep would at least have gotten away with just having to have a haircut once a year whilst in the meantime being able to use hooves full of dried grass to wipe their splattered backsides with!
But alas no, the sheep is by nature dumb, so instead of living the good life they are doomed to be chased into a holding pen by a yapping dog before being given a good hot bath and a number 1 crewcut previous to catching a terminal case of dead and getting chopped up and banged in a hot oven before getting lathered in gravy and dipped in mint sauce, or even worse, slapped on a pile of pilaf rice and lathered in vindaloo seasonings.
And whilst we are on the flavours of the East, just to make things worse, most sheep in the UK are killed via the Halal method. What could be a shoddier way to go to the big green field in the sky than spending your last few minutes of life hanging by your feet and breathing in stale garlic fumes from a fat bloke with a big white beard dressed in what looks to be a rather grubby table cloth. Its just not cricket, why should animals be forced into listening while a fat bloke jabbers on in some strange language that sounds like he has an incurable case of congestion?
The poor animal would be begging him to cut its throat after five minutes of that rubbish.
It’s even worse than them getting in with the wrong crowd and ending up hooked on ewe nuts before being transported to the red light district of Caerphilly and used in the sex industry. Anyway you look at it the sheep is screwed.
Nonetheless I think the sheep/bream analogies have gone on long enough and I am running out of ideas that are not likely to end with me getting my head kicked in by a bunch of blokes with great singing voices or having a fatwa thrown at me by a chap that looks like father Christmas on crystal methamphetamine, so I will try to get on with the fishing bit…
Or I could move onto analogies about bream and fat ugly single mothers called Chardonnay but it would be pointless because as everyone knows a big pout, deep brassy flanks and foul smelling mucus didn’t stop them getting screwed either.
However there are one or two bream/ Hollywood analogies that come to mind…
Have you ever seen that film Black Hawk Down? The scene where the International aid convoy rolls up and starts throwing out bags of rice and millet meal and all the Somalis start fighting over the bags of free snacky cakes?
Well that’s just what bream tend to do. They have all the tools provided to do the job of rooting around in the silt for bloodworm and such likes if they really need to but they are by nature, like most creatures, lazy and loathe to do anything other than mooch around a bit then roll up at a predetermined point on a nice clear patch of gravel to be fed on pounds and pounds of free offerings that require very little in the way of effort to collect.
Now I am not being nasty or inflammatory here by comparing bream with Somalis because that would be quite silly and rather insulting to the readers’ intelligence. Everyone can see there is a huge difference between the two species, bream have deep flanks and protrusible lips whereas Somalis have deep foreheads and protrusible teeth.
But it is a simple truth that these gatherings of creatures be they on a hillside in Mogadishu or deep down upon a gravel plateau at 70 yards, they can be monitored and taken advantage of. No gathering that involves anything from a dozen individuals to numbers that are in the thousands can be kept under the radar for very long and just like in the film these gatherings will be infiltrated by all types of undesirable characters.
In the film there is a regional warlord called Muffasah or King Julian (I cannot remember for sure) but he formed a team of elite killer penguins called Hannibal, Face, Murdoch and BA that bullied their way into the free food fest to commandeer a large part of the cream cakes and scones for themselves. The local Somalis had no option other than to vacate the area and let King Julian/ Muffasah and his crazy bunch of Rock Hopper mercenaries have all the food as they had the ability to turn any old piece of junk into some deadly instrument of death and destruction. What the locals didn’t know though was that they couldn’t shoot for shit and would struggle to hit the broad side of a barn a twenty paces.
If only the International Peace Keepers had stepped in earlier everyone would have had a doughnut to take home that night instead of having to go home hungry carrying 25kg of assorted small arms and RPG rounds.
In the fish version of Black Hawk Down these gatherings of bream attract the attention of a species of fish that act exactly as the ever hungry Muffasah did and who shall be played in the aquatic version of the film by the aggressive and sometimes temperamental method actor Mr. Barbus. B. Barbel.
However just like in any other retelling of a story, the film producers love to get involved and add twists and turns of their own. Down in the aquatic world it is no different. Here we don’t just have the Muffasahs that turn up with the firepower to steal all the food, we also have to deal with an insidious immigrant gang of child eating killers played by the shadowy creatures known only as Zeds!
Zeds, formerly Zander Stizostedion lucioperca, came to the UK to find work in the restaurant trade. On the continent theirs is a very well-to-do family within the gastronomic fraternity with close connections to the famous American socialites the Wall-Eyes. However, on immigration into the UK they were soon involved in some scandalous altercations with a media that accused them of being fang-toothed Vampires hunting for helpless victims under the cover of darkness. Each week the angling press ran stories that revolved around rumours of local youngsters disappearing overnight. These wild and fantastical stories often involved everything from wanton cold-blooded murder to vampirism and witchcraft.
It was whispered at one point that the smear campaign against the Zander was funded by a quorum of old English aristocratic families, namely the Exos Lucius and the Perca Fluvialitis these old established families did not like the new Eastern European immigrants squeezing their way into their long established country club estates.
Nevertheless, many crazy conspiracy theories and insane stories were generated by the media and no matter how wild and elaborate they sounded, they could not be ignored for ever and very soon numerous government agencies became involved in monitoring the actions of the Zander. Before long a renegade group were caught red handed harassing a small crowd of underage bleak they had been grooming by the side of some disused lock gates on the Warwickshire Avon and from that point on they were doomed.
After falling foul of the Border Control Agency the Zander became public enemy number 1 and was hunted mercilessly. For many years the gang were forced underground to live the life of outlaws.
Forced by necessity, and helped by a close group of familiars, they dropped their old identity and began living on the edge of existence clinging on for survival, until a group of expert witnesses gave evidence in their favour and the case against them finally faltered on a technicality. Very soon they emerged from the shadows and became the celebrity bad boys of the new millennium re-establishing themselves within the angling paparazzi circuit, this time known simply as Zeds.
Anyway that’s enough about the history of the Zeds.
But as anyone with half a brain knows a leopard cannot change its spots, shit still stinks and Zeds still have their fangs.
Today the Zeds on the Trent use the deep flanks and slimy girths of the ever hungry bream flocks like giant mobile sight screens so that they can infiltrate any get-togethers they come across and feed upon the unwary young that are as always left unattended as such events.
Slipping in and out unseen the Zed vanguard attacks with blinding speed using the technique of stab and swim, leaving the pack that follows behind to clear up the dead and dying at their leisure. For the helpless young of any species of fish it’s a bit like being at Notting Hill Carnival.
Wherever the bream are the action is sure to be not that far away and that is the reason that I accept them for all their failings and even deliberately attract them into an area because I know that before long something a little more sinister is likely to show up.
For many anglers they are simply a waste of space that are nothing but a distracting nuisance, however they are a nuisance that can be taken advantage of.
As I have said, wherever the bream are barbel will not be that far behind and neither will zander so take advantage of the situation and maximise your opportunities instead of having a long and laborious session sitting motionless watching rods that have less chance of getting a bit of action than a fat geezer in a lap dancing bar.
Ok, so you may have to take a few slabs for the team but better that than a big fat stinking blank surely?