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Why I’m not going fishing

Staying at home, thinking of others during coronavirus

It’s been difficult for fishermen over the past week to understand why fishing cannot be included in the range of permitted ‘exercises’ in lockdown outlined by the government originally – walking, jogging and cycling. For me, adding cycling to this exercise list has confused the issue of isolation and exercising outside, and with the public in general (was this down to Boris - he was responsible for the free Boris Bikes scheme when Lord Mayor of London, after all?). There must be all sorts of individual sports enthusiasts who are perplexed at how cyclists can pedal wherever they like, whilst they are marooned at home. However, the crux of the matter is that coronavirus – at this point in time – transcends any of that petty argument.

So, whenever I’ve dreamed of wandering down to my local river and fishing for olive and March brown feeders (which has been around about lunchtimes most days this week) I then think of all my friends and family who are in the ‘at risk’ category – and of all the doctors and nurses who have to tend those who are stricken with coronavirus and putting their own health at risk (over 50 doctors have now died in Italy).

If you think of all those people you know who’ve had an organ transplant, are having cancer treatment, or are pregnant, or have pre-existing medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes then you’ll probably have built quite a long list of acquaintances who are extremely vulnerable to this virus. Add to that anyone that’s elderly, and the vulnerable list gets unnervingly long.

At the moment, the frustrated angler’s sole responsibility is about flattening the curve of infection by slowing down the rate of spread of the disease through the elimination of cross-contaminating with other people – hence the current lockdown and the two-metre distancing rule. We know that if too many people get this virus at the same time and require hospital treatment as this disease reaches its zenith over the next few weeks, then our hospitals will become overcrowded, and then any of those vulnerable people who are hospitalised are going to be placed in far greater danger of not pulling through this peak period of infection, simply because there are insufficient ventilators to cope.

Apart from this, I have no intention of getting this virus in the near future. An ambulance driver, who lives down the road, told us two days ago he had transferred his first coronavirus patient into hospital. “This is serious”, he warned. Personally, I have no desire to lie in a crowded hospital corridor, coughing into an oxygen mask clamped to my face. It is not on my “bucket list”.

With any disease, one of the key reasons for spread of infection is movement of people. So, what the country doesn’t want at the moment is the UK’s estimated one million anglers all escaping from the house, travelling to their favourite places, buying fuel and supplies for the day, mixing in other communities, and clambering over stiles and gates, sitting on benches and leaning over bridges, and then returning home. Whilst I believe we have every justification for considering we are the perfect isolation sport, then there are many others – canoeists, shooters, wild campers, climbers, hill-walkers, para-gliders, surfers, sailors, windsurfers, cross-country skiers, and many others who all think the same, and believe they should be allowed out, too.

Human nature, being what it is, means if other people see anglers on the water whilst they are out for their once-daily exercise, they automatically believe they have every right to do likewise. Before we know it, the countryside is invaded with outdoors sports enthusiasts, and we’ve escalated into the same mayhem of infection as we saw last weekend, which resembled an August Bank Holiday, rather than a lockdown in a deadly pandemic.

So that’s why I’m staying at home, and I hope all other anglers will do the same to stop the spread. The quicker we can flatten the infection rate, then the sooner we can get back outside again.

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