My very favourite piece of fishing writing mentions fish, and fishing, only once and then merely tangentially. Authored by John Gierach, it's entitled "Camp Coffee" (dispel all unhelpful thoughts from your mind of coffee pots being "fabulous" and mincing around in an effete manner) and is entirely concerned with reminiscing about coffee making on fishing trips while in the wilderness. In the same spirit (although with less erudition) of tenuously linked fishing writing comes this paean to the hat maker's craft.
The thing is, I'm receding and greying and not in denial about either fact. Resigned to the loss, and sanguine about the dulling in colour, I don't dye, comb over or wear a hat to attempt to disguise the march of Anno Domini. In fact, I've always regarded the wearing of hats as something of an affectation in every area of life except one: fishing. I don't always wear a hat while angling, but more often than not I am to be found displaying an example of the milliner's art.
My everyday "go to" for fishing headwear is the baseball cap, of which I possess a veritable collection. It offers the practical advantages of an eye-shielding peak, useful when squinting at a dotted down float, and its everyday ubiquity removes the possibility of any accusations of ostentation.
Many of the baseball caps I sport were gifts dating from my fishing sabbatical in the USA in 2013, when I met up with a number of churches and Christian outdoors groups who use their passion for fishing as a vehicle to share their passion for their faith. The hat in the picture above is from a group called "Ironman outdoors" based in North Carolina, while the hat below bears the logo of "Hooked for Life", whose founder I met in Tennessee.
My favourite head adornment, reserved for when I'm "in the mood" is my suede leather Australian bush hat, a style of headwear I'd long admired before my parents presented me with one as a 40th birthday present. Although primarily a fishing hat it would be unforgiveable to only wear it when in pursuit of fish, and it has accompanied me on safari in East Africa, been fished in while in the US and shielded me from the sun in the Nevada desert. This is a hat that (if such can be said of an inanimate object) is rugged and adventurous, and wearing it transports me back to adventures past and contains the promise of those yet to be.
There are times when circumstances dictate, and headwear is a purely practical consideration. As an all year angler, often found at the water's edge in conditions that would drive more sensible (or less afflicted) souls to seek the solace of a roaring fire, there are occasions when a hat makes no other statement than one about the desirability of keeping warm. Most photos of me holding pike find me wearing hats whose warming properties are their highest commendation.
It is, however, reassuring to realise that the desire to cover one's head while piscatorially engaged is not an eccentricity unique to me. Any trip with the Thurnby Church Anglers club, to which I belong, will see a good number of head's covered with a broad range of millenary styles on display.
Greg tends to favour the type of headgear immortalised by "Bill and Ben the Flowerpot men", a type of hat that has long been associated with angling, and which I also sometimes favour.
Other members, such as my son, opt for the standard baseball cap approach, in his case either one that he won from the Angler's Mail when a photograph of him with a fine net of bream was published some years ago, or this "carpy looking" Realtree number.
Jez, seen here with Roger, has his own favourite, and any club outing sees the airing of a profusion of hats that, one suspects, only appear from the deep, dark recesses of wardrobes or cupboards or hanging hooks when a trip to river, lake or canal for angling purposes is in order.
However, even a church angling club sometimes falls prey to the advancement of less desirable aspects of youth-culture influenced sartorial statements, and we do, on occasions, have to acquiesce with good Christian grace to David Cameron's entreaty to "hug a hoody" .... nothing, it seems, is entirely sacred.
And so to relax and plan my next fishing trip, weighing up in my mind what techniques, tactics and tackle to employ in my endless, restless search for the next fish, and to similarly ponder weightier matters, such as which hat to choose.
Like the man said, "if you want to get ahead ....."