Sunday, 05 August 2012 14:39

Fishing the National Park de Biesbosch in Holland - Frank Hanhart


After retirement  5  years ago, we decided to move from a place close to Amsterdam to more rural areas. As it came to be we found a nice house in a nice village (750 inhabitants) and again experienced the wonders of waking up to the sound of pidgeons cooing on the roof instead of roaring exhausts of commuter traffic.  We felt like we had gone back to our youth. So life went into  a decidedly lower gear from that moment on.

As I’m writing this our hometown girl Marianne Vos won the bicycling roadrace in the London Olympics. Neither here nor there, I know. Just a reason for getting a beer out of the fridge. Also loosens up my style. In my previous working-life I did a lot on functional system-analysis (what should a system do from the point of view of a user) and after retirement I found the joy of working with my hands again. Delivering packages, taking food to childrens-crashes, re-modeling 3 bathrooms over the years, painting the house, helping out my kids -who are still in the rat-race – with plumbing-problems and the like. It also got me some pocketmoney for the odd dinerdate with the Missus and so forth.

As it happened I  bought a boat 5 years previously (centerconsole american fishing boat) and discovered the National Park de Biesbosch to be only 8 km away from our new home. All the signs were there to take up a lifelong hobby again. In my 20’s I started fishing with spinning tackle, changed to flyfishing during my 30’s,40’s and 50’s. Quit fishing for about 5 years after the old man and fishing-buddy # 1 died. It really took the fun out of it.

So, in 2007 I dusted off my old splitcanes, untangled the old silk lines, reconditioned them in boiled linseedoil, put gas in the tank and went off fishing the Biesbosch by boat. Caught ide and roach on the fly and pike on the streamer in small numbers. Usually the bite was on later in the afternoon or evening and this left the early hours and midday less productive. During these excursions I met a few other fisherman who mostly were fishing for pike and zander. And had these nice pictures to proof their catches. And don’t tell me size doesn’t matter. They were highly interested in my old canes and I still am not sure whether they believed I caught fish with these antique rods or only smiled politely before our ways parted. I swear I heard something about an old goat once and the only lifestock I saw were Scottish Highlanders on the bank.

Funny thing about Dutch fisherman….they weigh their carp and measure all other fish. So these pictures of pike above 3 feet triggered some again dormant competative drive in me. More of a primal urge actually. I got this peculiar look from the Missus when I got all excited about these wonderfull fish that were waiting there for me. But, the very understanding woman she is, I got permission to restock on my tackle.

Off to the tackleshop then, and surprise, surprise, carbon rods were the standard now instead of glass rods, no more nylon but braided lines, reels galore in all sizes and colours and lures more than ever designed to catch the unwary fisherman first and fish much much later. And all that for reasonable prices… well the rods anyway. Like a child in a toyshop I was and of course I bought all the wrong stuff at first. Much too light rods and lines for the giants I was to meet. Well , we learn and adjust don’t we, so off to the tackleshop again. Under the weary  eye of She Herself this time, but I came back with the right tackle then. And of course we always forget something, so with little bits and pieces bought here and there I can now boast a real fisherman’s tackle collection.

Time to get to know the waters, as previously I only spent casting over the shallow spots. So on a day Herself went shopping for things we don’t understand, I sneaked off to visit a Humminbirddealer to get the low-down on fishfinders and the like. Well, history tends to repeat itself and after I lost my bearings in the dark hours once,  I traded it in for a combo GPS/Fishfinder. It saved me a few times after that…..there is this neat feature to backtrack the way you came in.

During these forays in the Biesbosch I came to see a lot of the wonderfull scenery and the creatures that live there. Of course the Highlanders, as out of place as we are in, say Etheopia, beaver which were re-introduced a few decades back, deer, kingfisher, foxes, you name it. I came to love the place and read up on the history. It’s a still tidal area where 3 rivers meet and it was formed during a massive flood in former times. If you are interested, google Biesbosch Holland and you’ll find loads of information on the subject. Zoom in with Googleearth and you’ll understand why I lost the way at first. It’s a delta with a miriad of waterways, one might say a water-labyrinth.

Last year I became 65 years old and discovered to my dismay that all employers think you’re dead by that age. Maybe not physically but certainly braindead or worse. So all the little jobs I did from 60-65 disappeared (the crisis didn’t help either)  and we found ourselves in a situation where our income declined and costs rose. Not dramatically, but enough to have to forego on a lot of the little pleasures which make  life so nice.

Where I had my boat in a harbour previously I park it on a trailer nowadays and save about €1000 a year on fees. But every problem is a chance as they say and during one of my walks through the Biesbosch with Bowy my now one-year old English Cockerspaniel he said to me… sorry, I said to myself,  why not become a fishingguide for the area? You know now where these big lunkers are, you know the area, you are familiar with the waters there. Just go and prove all human resource managers wrong, start up a website, scan the competion and see what happens. This was in May this year. Well, to cut a long story short….I fooled them all, including my kids. Learned how to use HTML, PHP, Javascript and the like and built me a site. Braindead…they are nuts, nothing wrong with my brain yet.

As I read more about fishingguides here and elsewere, it struck me that succes is often measured in numbers. Oh, we had 50 zander today, the pike were a bit slow…we only caught 20 etc.etc.. Well, I must say when once I caught 8 pike in one hour I felt like going home. It began to look too much like work. Luckily they left off after that and I had my peace again. To outwit these creatures gives more satisfaction than to have them jump into your boat at all times, doesn’t it? The charm of the unknown my father called it. At the time I thought he meant my mother, now I know it was all about fishing.

What I learned in all those years of fishing is that fishermen all over the world speak the same language. I fished in Germany, the UK, Holland, France, Portugal and a few other spots and never met a fellow fisherman who was not intensely interested in my gear, tactics, voodoo-charms and views on fishing. And vice-versa of course…learned a lot during those chance meetings. And it is still the drive behind most of my fishing, meet other people, young and old, find that common ground…our lifelong passion, fishing. With the added spice of having to find the fish for your clients now, it certainly gives a whole new dimension to my fishing.

So if you would like to spend a day trip fishing the Biesbosch during a holiday in Holland, do not hesistate to give me a call or e-mail.

Curious about the fish and surroundings, check out my website for pictures, more information or just fun. Don’t forget to see the drill of Big Mama we caught only last Saturday. The dialoge is in Dutch I’m afraid, but the tension you’ll see is universal. Plain fishingfever.

Wish you all tight lines

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