On a recent fishing trip I noticed a young lad of about 14 who seemed more interested in using his catapult to shoot pebbles at a pair of arctic terns than concentrate on his fishing. Needless to say, he wasn´t catching anything, and missing his targets for good measure.
I don´t like any kind of cruelty towards animals - or people for that matter, but sometimes, and I mean only sometimes (as in very infrequently) the swans deserve a good slap in the beak.
I don´t care if I get death threats from the loonies at PETA (and there are plenty of them around) or verbal abuse from any other animal welfare group.The truth is I don´t care much for swans. Having said that I would like to state for the record that I wouldn´t wish them any harm - but don´t tell the swans I´ve said it.
For those of you who don´t partake in the glorious sport of angling and have never spent a whole day around a lake, I will explain the reason for my disenchantment with swans. Anyone into angling knows what I mean already.
Swans are big birds- some would say too fucking big. Why are they so big? There´s no real advantage for an aquatic bird to grow to the size of a hippo! They need a longer stretch of water to take off and land than a jumbo jet needs tarmac.
Swans are arrogant, bullish and territorial. They have no regard whatsoever for us anglers, who incidentaly provide most of their food in the cold winters (sweet corn and bread). They have no regard for other lake dwellers either, such as coots, moorhens and even their cousins, the Mallards, whom they see off with a hiss and a wing-flap.
I have seen a swan swim right up to an anglers float, stop, look at it for a minute and then push the thing into the lilies with it´s huge paddle-feet, causing a major tangle. Moments later, the snoozing fisherman jumped out of his chair, grabbed the rod and reeled in like mad, thinking he got a bite. I´m sure I heard the swan tut as it paddled away, wagging it´s tail like a dog who´s just seen it´s owner.
Another time I was fishing and left my post to go to the toilet, when from half way around the lake I looked back and saw a swan dancing all over my bait trays, scattering maggots and groundbait all over the swim. I ran back, flailing my arms and shouting obsceneties, but the critter swam off before I could get back. To make matters worse, as I was picking up the mess I slipped and ended up knee-high in frozen muddy water.
What a bastard bird! And the worse thing about it is that swans don´t even eat maggots! It was just blatant swandalism.
But I digress, as usual. Back to the lad with the catapult.
After half an hour of this I´d had enough and decided to intervene. By that stage no tern had ben hit as far as I could see and the pair were happy to swoop over the lake and the lad´s head as if in defiance, every 5 minutes or so.
I told him to stop pestering the terns in case he hurts one of them and to concentrate on his fishing instead.
He smiled and replied;
"I´ve been told that to be a successful angler I mustn´t leave any tern unstoned"