A book just out looks at poet Ted Hughes’ love of fishing:
Hughes did a lot of his fishing for salmon on the rivers of Devon, but as author Mark Wormald notes:
The health and flow of the rivers Ted Hughes loved have changed, over thirty, forty years. Shrunk, along with their populations of fish, their fly life, their fauna. We have missed opportunities to respond to his own passionate care and advocacy on their behalf, a care that itself underwent a profound change, from that of predator – a mutual friend described him to Graham Swift just before the novelist’s first meeting with the poet as ‘A great killer of fish’ – to protector. The Torridge, he came to realise, after an hour of shockingly successful plunder from his favourite pool, already under assault from intensive farming, abstraction and pollution, was ‘a river that needed its fish more than I did.’
A couple of years ago, an international conference was called:
… inspired by the example of the British poet, environmentalist and by his own admission ‘obsessive salmon fisherman’ Ted Hughes (1930-1998). For over thirty years Hughes dreamed and caught and wrote of salmon, raising his own voice and pen in their defence. ‘I offered all I had for a touch of their wealth.’ The salmon smolt, he knew, is ‘Owned by everyone’: he regarded the salmon itself as ‘the weaver at the source’, not just of the rivers and seas it connects, but of our understanding of habitat fragility and responsibility for its protection.
And today on Radio 4, John Connell goes fishing in northern Spain, home to one of the oldest populations of Atlantic salmon in the world:
But he discovers a world on an ecological edge – with water at dangerously low levels, distraught fishermen and virtually no fish. ‘What is a fish without a river?’ he asks. ‘Indeed what is a river without a fish?’
Indeed: where have all the salmon gone?