James Delingpole James Delingpole

Learning the secrets of happiness from Britain’s most foul-mouthed angler

Mike Daunt is a terrific raconteur and he invited me fishing on the Itchen. And he’s written a great book

To go fishing on the Itchen in mayfly season, you either have to be very, very rich or very, very lucky. That’s why I’m so grateful to have a friend in Mike Daunt, arguably Britain’s best-connected angler, certainly the most foul-mouthed, who invited me up for the day on to a particularly juicy beat of this idyllic Hampshire river to try to catch my first trout ever with a dry fly.

I’ll cut to the chase: I got one. About two and a half pounds, I’d say; a handsome brown. I still don’t know quite how I got it — it took in the middle of the stream, where I wasn’t expecting to get a bite. One second it was not there, the next it was. I lifted my rod, reeled it in, with not too much of a fight, and there it flapped, glistening spottily in the net. ‘Right, best put it back,’ I said to one of our very jolly party. ‘Are you fucking kidding? It’s yours to keep!’ he replied. So I took it home and fried it up for dinner and it was perfectly delicious. This is how a chap’s life should be all the time, I decided.

And that’s the real reason you want to spend time hanging around with a fellow like Mike Daunt. Sure he’ll teach you how to spey cast for salmon if you pay him and you don’t mind being sworn at. But much more important than that, he’ll teach you how to live. One of the secrets, he’ll tell you, is to follow his own example and make sure you never do a day’s work in your life. As he puts it: ‘This is not because I have private money — I haven’t — but because everything I have done has been such fun.’

Now he has written his autobiography, and if you take one paperback with you on holiday this summer, make it The Bounder (subtitled ‘the riotous true-life adventures of a bon viveur’).

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