My wife thinks that I am an idiot. She has, over the years, shown herself to be an excellent judge of character and so I have no reason to doubt her.

To a cynic, almost any activity can be reduced in significance until it appears absurd or even comical. Football, they tell us, is a bunch of men trying to kick a ball into a net, and golf is just whacking a ball around trying to make it fall into a hole. Technically, I suppose, this is true. If you kick a football into your opponents´ net more frequently than they kick it into yours, you make everyone very happy. Your manager smiles and your team mates hug you. If you kick a ball into a net with great consistency, you can be paid a fortune every week and, on Saturday night with a drink in your hand, you can choose from a catalogue of beautiful women who are queuing to reward you in all kinds of other ways. So football at least is potentially rewarding even if, as the cynics claim, it is pointless. And, as Tiger Woods has famously demonstrated, this is true of golf also.

Listen, I have some advice for you: fly fishing will not make you more attractive to women! Don´t be fooled! All of my fishing stories at dinner parties have had a similar effect on women as a lungful of chloroform. Within seconds their eye lids become heavy and they become very unstable. I won´t even tell a woman about my biggest brown trout now unless she is sitting. The risk of injury is simply unacceptable.

Those who belittle conventional sport would have a field day if they met me. Fishing, or at least the kind that I do, really does seem pointless. After all, I fish alone and spend hours assembling flies which are promptly hung up in trees. And, if a temporary lapse in concentration results I a fish accepting my fly, it is gently brought to hand and released. Just about every catch goes unobserved and unrecorded.

I think that this is the particular form of foolishness that has been identified by my wife as qualifying me for idiot status. There are other ways of being an idiot too, of course, such as having a single digit IQ, eating soup with a fork, or sun bathing during rainstorms, or at night. Inspired by Isaac Walton´s classic “The Compleat Angler”, I am hoping that, with unwavering drive, I might expand my own repertoire and develop one day into the “complete” idiot. Lofty as such an ambition might be, I have to concede that, in its current form, mine is a rather limited form of idiocy. It is derived from spending too much time doing something of no discernable benefit to anybody.

I used to be all defensive about this. Fishing, I used to argue, taps into a deep vein within the psyche of man. I trotted out that stuff about how it goes some way to satisfy a man´s repressed need to engage with nature, and to procure food using stealth and cunning. “Freud said so!” I claimed. Of course, my wife told me that none of this was true. Freud said nothing of the kind and everything I was telling her was bullshit! “Admit it”, she said, “your fishing is more about escaping. You just head off, leaving the grass uncut. You neglect the kids and leave the shopping and everything else to me.” My wife has many remarkable qualities, but her personality is fundamentally flawed by a tendency to think rationally!

Even if fly fishing is pointless, it is harmless too. So why should anyone object to it? I have a theory: every time you choose to do one thing you are, at the same time, also choosing not to do one of many possible alternatives. This means, of course, that time spent drifting in a boat or sneaking along a river bank is, necessarily, time which is not spent scrutinising the financial times on the lookout for shrewd investment opportunities, or ingratiating yourself with your boss, pampering your wife, or spending quality time with your biological offspring. In our misguided world any of these activities, and a million more besides, would be considered more worthwhile than journeying to a distant trout lough and watching the sun´s refracted rays dance among the waves.

You may see things from an entirely different perspective, of course. This notion that fishermen are universally condemned for misappropriation of time is just part of my own theory. You may not agree. Theories like mine should never be taken too seriously. After all, I am an idiot.

Published by Fly Fishing and Fly Tying Monthly, November 2011