Caspar Bowes muses on what drives us to fish and comes up with the most primitive of explanations...

Why do we do what we do?

Fishing. What’s it all about, eh?  Must be patient people tell me, so often now I’ve started to wonder whether I might, in fact, have somehow become patient, having previously had the sort of short fuse typical to the male of species Homo sapiens. I check myself, remind myself of the last time I went clothes shopping with the charming Mrs finScribe and phew, no nothing’s changed there.

Optimism. Maybe that’s it. But no. Be realistic, man. Optimistic for the first two or three days of the week, maybe. But without sight or sound of a fish – when the water appears to have as much life as three-week-old roadkill – doubts start to assail my thoughts. Optimism has its limits.

So what is it that keeps me there? I know, I know. All that “enveloped by nature” stuff and ooh look, there’s a peregrine. I get it, I really do. But one can quite easily get that sort of kick without spending a king’s ransom on glittery kit and immersing oneself in chilly fluid.

You might be able to tell. I’ve thought about this quite a bit. And what I think it comes down to is…baked beans.

Looking back for an explanation...way back

Let me explain. Way back before science, we had baked beans. Wait, hang on. Wrong way ‘round. Before science, we had classical elements. Baked beans came later. Earth, air, fire and water. And both human beings and baked beans are earth dwellers.

The classical elements have been superseded by scientific understanding, their place in the world usurped by the periodic table and other clever stuff. But let’s have another look at it, shall we?

The classical elements were a fascination – were of significance – because, well, because they’re fascinating. We sit of a winter’s evening by the fireside, staring into the dancing flames, their colours and sinuous movement hypnotic; calming but somehow exciting.

Now, think of the antics of that peregrine from earlier on, or the swoop of gulls playing with a seaside gale, the hover of the roadside kestrel. Getting my point yet? No?

How about something closer to home, something all fishermen can understand i.e. that bridge thing? Yes, I’m talking about the obsession with stopping mid-span on any bridge and spending time staring down into the water. If fish are present, one’s fellow dog walkers can become properly impatient (see para 1).

What I am driving at here is what was driving those ancient cultures' obsession with the classical elements, with air, fire and water i.e. their alien-ness. They’re around us, but unattainable. Different creatures – alien creatures – inhabit them and are incomprehensible to us.

So…the classical elements “foreign” to our own – air; fire; water – are unattainable, incomprehensible and fascinating enough to have given rise to - or be included in - assorted religious practices throughout history, some extant today.

So where do the baked beans come in? I thought you’d never ask.

Fishing...It's all about messaging

Well, if I am honest, it’s not so much the baked beans, as the containers in which they come. Remember making those baked bean can telephones when you were young? Remember pulling taut a piece of string and being able to communicate down it with one’s brother/sister/chum at the other end?

Now think of flying a kite. Rather than one’s brother or sister at the end of the line (unless one is talking about Flat Stanley (N.B. see Wikipedia should this classic children's book be unfamiliar)), there is, simply, air. The kite moves, it communicates the voice of the air as it moves. We feel the wind. We are engaged in a ‘phone call with a classical element.

And now we return in a roundabout way to fishing (and I think you know where I am going with this). The taut line, the classical element. We are dialled in to another world, a world of alien life. Consciously or unconsciously, we are receiving minute messages from a world not our own.

And then comes that one big message – the hook-up - and the requirement for patience, optimism or anything else falls by the wayside. One is literally “on the line” with a different dimension.

Think of it that way and our obsessive behaviour is rather easier to understand.