Fishmail: To sleep, perchance to bream

September 28th, 2002

This will be a short column today, Im afraid. Something is rotten in the state of Fishmail; I cannot think today, because I cannot sleep any more.

Sleep is not one of those commodities that fisherfolk typically spend a lot of time worrying about. One of the incontrovertible facts about fish of all kinds is that they spend an awful lot of time feeding at hours when most sane, well-balanced people are snoozing or snoring, or at least horizontal somewhere. Thus, with bags under its collective eyes but steel in its heart, the worlds army of fish-botherers mobilises itself around the clock, with nary a care about the consequences of spending seventeen continuous weeks rising at 3am and staying out until they start to hallucinate the fish instead of actually catching them.

Im beginning to think this is a bad idea.

I have a few meagre talents, but sleeping definitely isnt one of them. Since my earliest years, my sleep pattern has remained more or less constant; go to bed when tired enough, or too drunk to stand, or both; wake up three hours later; find it impossible to go to nod off again. Excellent news for someone as devoted to fish as I am; much less good news for anyone in my immediate vicinity. Now, of course, I dont know why or how I sleep at all. Do I wake up early because three decades of pre-dawn journeys to the waterside have convinced my brain that thats just how these things work? Or do I go fishing because I cant sleep?

Good questions, that might well be giving me sleepless nights if I didnt already have plenty of those. Those three once-comfortable hours are down to two restless, overheated ones; the eyes stay half-closed until long after I have found my way to the waterside (something of a problem if I have to drive the 100 miles or so to Rutland Water first); and Ive started doing all kinds of stupid things. I broke my big toe last Sunday, for example, doing nothing more energetic than stand up sleepily from my desk and fall over a network cable. My pineal gland has clearly decided to take itself on a long and no doubt luxurious holiday somewhere, and I really wish it would come back again.

I write this as Viking Lars is about to arrive chez Geer. Now, Danes know a thing or two about sleep, or the lack of it; Hamlet, perhaps the most famous of them, had more than a few issues with it, although history does not tell us whether or not he was a fisherman (although Polonius, his girlfriends dad, was apparently a fishmonger). I suspect not, somehow. If his dreamlike, half-awake fugues are anything like mine, they would have ruined his back-cast; and in any case, he probably had something of an aversion to rivers after Ophelia ended up sleeping with the fishes. Still, he gave me the inspiration for the title of this column, and for that alone he deserves a mention.

And on that note I must get myself to Hammersmith to collect Lars; a place with long associations with sleeplessness for me. If anyone has any bright ideas for curing my insomnia, please drop me a line at the address below; and I for my part will try and wake up before next weeks column is due. Sweet dreams

Sean Geer ( is a freelance journalist, author and tinsel addict. He is an expert in not catching fish on any of his home-tied flies, preferring to steal better examples from the fly-boxes of his fishing partners whenever possible. As absentee co-moderator of the Sexyloops fly-tying forum, he has failed spectacularly to contribute anything worthwhile to the global body of knowledge on this subject. None of this has stopped him from accumulating the world's largest and most pointless collection of dubbing materials. He is currently writing a novel about sex, fluorocarbon and the life cycle of chironomid insects.

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