I have a theory. A hypothesis, if you will. It’s still in embryonic form, but I think it could have considerable impact, because it relates to a global conspiracy to create a mass delusion affecting hundreds of thousands of people worldwide.
I am referring, of course, to fishing.
It’s a subject on which I am far from an expert, having only held a fishing rod in my hands twice in my life. Naturally, therefore, I didn’t catch anything on either occasion. But what was more surprising was that on both occasions I was accompanied by somebody much more experienced – in the first case, a Norwegian, in the second, an American. We were in good locations with lots of fish. And yet, after a day of staring at small things bobbing on the water, they hadn’t caught anything either.
Not a large statistical sample, I grant you, but it made me start to wonder. And I realised that throughout my life I have been walking on the banks of rivers, or sailing or paddling on lakes, and have seen vast numbers of fisherman sitting looking dejectedly at their lines, but never have I seen anybody actually catch a fish! Doesn’t that seem a bit strange, in forty-six years? Yes, you hear stories of people who claim to have caught them, and accounts from others of the ones they almost caught, but I feel that solid evidence is somewhat lacking. I’ve never seen it with my own eyes.
I was in Nottingham, walking my dog along the river, and there was the usual collection of figures squatting by the water. Perched there, you might say. And then, suddenly, one of them jumped up with a cry, and started reeling in what turned out to be a reasonably sizeable aquatic beast. But it was the reaction of all his co-hobbyists that was impressive – they all crowded around with such excitement that I was persuaded that they, too, viewed this as something of a miracle.
Now, I do know that there are fish in the sea, and I have eaten quite a few of them, so somebody must catch them. These trawlers seem rather good at it. And I have even caught fish myself, using the rather trivial technique of stretching a net halfway across a quiet fjord one night and pulling it in again the following morning. That’s not what I’m talking about here. No, I mean the process of leaving your wife and family, gathering large amounts of expensive equipment, and sitting for hours beside, or on, a river, looking at a gently bobbing thing, when you could be enjoying the view, going for a nice walk, or, if you like sitting by the river, reading a book. This is clearly not something that rational people would do unless they had been seduced into it by the promise of some great reward.
It’s a bit like making pilgrimages to Lourdes, or buying lottery tickets. These also sustain major industries on the basis of future rewards almost never actually experienced by the participants, so you need to make sure that, when the rare miracle occurs, it is well-publicised. Hence those pictures of Hemingway next to an enormous marlin, or the stuffed pike over the rural hotel mantelpiece. They say, “Look! It can happen! Someone caught one once! This could happen to you too!”
And so I rather suspect that the chap I saw in Nottingham was a plant by one of the local manufacturers or vendors of outdoor equipment. He probably kept this fish in a tank and, once the gig was done, would move elsewhere on the river, slip it back on the hook, and chuck it in again. That seems the most plausible to me.
Think about it, dear reader. You know it makes sense. The conspiracy is now exposed. And fortunately, you and I have not swallowed the bait…