Maybe you’re a keen fisherman or woman. I’m not – not at all. I do enjoy a good fish meal, grilled or baked, or even crumbed and fried then dribbled with lemon and surrounded by chips. But, sitting in a boat or standing in the shallows for any length of time in the hope of enticing an edible set of fins to sacrifice itself is a forlorn pursuit and, in my case a very unrewarding one, too. Catching fish, I am convinced, requires a talent that I have never developed.

How much have I tried? That really is the question and the answer is – not very hard and not since I was in my teens. And here is my confession.

It all began before I was ten. My father, who was a gentle and wonderful man, was a keen, but frustrated fisherman. Keen because he was very good at catching fish, frustrated because the responsibilities of providing for a large family on a modest wage denied him many opportunities to enjoy the pastime.

However, there was one fortnight each year when fishing came to the fore in dad’s life, and consequently in ours too. That was when he took his annual holidays and we all headed for the beach. The mornings at the beach were blissful, nearly always taken up with swimming and playing in the sand. Afternoons were for fishing expeditions. The eldest four of us were set up with our own tackle – hand reels for the younger fry and genuine fishing rods for the older. We were schooled in threading sinkers, knotting and baiting hooks, and casting lines without impaling either self or sibling upon the barb of the hook or tangling with another line in the process.

My younger brothers may well have different memories of these excursions, but as I recall it, my skill as a fisherman had the potential to endow me with a substantial inferiority complex. Brother number two, three years younger than I, had the knack of reeling in meal sized flathead or bream. Brother number three could land whiting and somehow entice healthy sand crabs to offer themselves into his clutches. Meanwhile, my talent lay in feeding sea creatures generously of the contents of my hook without any prospect of their ever coming to dinner on my plate. I used more bait for less return than my younger sisters did.

Still, there were times when fishing was an attractive pastime. It had less to do with a successful catch than with an opportunity to enjoy that fascinating area of the planet where earth and water meet. River bank and sea shore, mud and sand, mangrove and dune, rock pool and sea wall – there is a fascination in all of them that draws children to explore, to discover and to wonder. So, I can say that my lack of interest in the art of fishing encouraged my enthusiasm to investigate what secrets lay in that environment. As far as I was concerned there was so much more to the sea than the fish that lived there. That was, of course, until freshly caught fish appeared on the dinner table that evening.

Michael Goodwin