“Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after” -
Henry David Thoreau
Fishing is, pun intended, a ‘catch-all’ word. It encompasses everything, from the pursuit of whitefish in the icy northern waters off the coast of Svalbard, to the poetic majesty of a brown trout rising to take a hand-tied fly in the summer sunlight on a Hampshire chalk stream. As someone once observed, there are two sorts of fisherman; those who fish for sport and those who fish for fish.
Fishing for fish, in the sense of catching food, is one of the oldest human activities, certainly pre-dating agriculture by tens of thousands of years, if we allow that collecting shellfish falls within this. Many years ago I read a fascinating book by Mark Kurlansky that looks at cod fishing and the impact the humble cod had on history. It is also a paean to the history of the Basque people, the first to develop an international fishing industry that played a huge role in the development of medieval Europe and whose pre-Columbus voyages to North America were made possible, partly by bacalhau (dried and salted codfish), the first dependable and non-perishable food stock.