From loyal labradors to a fishing-mad orange dog, a plucky teckel and a food-thieving lurcher, our favourite sporting canine accomplices are trusted and loved beyond measure, finds Adrian Dangar
OUR reputation as a nation of dog lovers has grown in tandem with the evolution of field sports in the British countryside, our favourite hounds and sporting dogs celebrated through the ages in art and literature. Some 270 years after Gainsborough’s famous painting of Robert Andrews with his wife and gundog, prominent field sportsmen and women continue to enjoy close bonds with working canine companions that, just as Andrews’s dog was, are often cherished members of the family.
Those who work dogs in the field seem to enjoy a closer, sometimes telepathic relationship with their charges that’s obvious if you know what to look for. A good huntsman’s rapport with his pack—the ‘golden thread’ —is much admired, but so are the feats of gundogs indispensable to every day’s shooting. On formal days, it often seems as if the pickers-up are the ones having the most fun.
Dogless fishing would be unthinkable for others. No one is suggesting Fido can increase the bag (although the 8th Earl Home’s Newfoundland caught up to 20 salmon a day on the River Tweed in about 1730), but, for anglers, it’s about sharing the occasion with an inseparable and faithful companion.
The ancestry of many foxhounds can be traced back more than 200 years and gundog breeds are registered with the Kennel Club, but equally successful in the field is an army of Heinz 57 varieties of pedigree unknown.
That’s certainly the case for Marina Gibson, a passionate angler and freelance guide, who recently founded the Northern Fishing School (www.northernfishingschool. com) on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales. Her constant companion on the riverbank is a small orange dog called Sedge, who has a tiny white tag to his tail that’s so vulpine in appearance, it’s easy to imagine the ‘30% unknown’ in his DNA could be fox.
‘I wanted a small dog that looked unique,’ she explains. ‘I found Sedge on a website for Romanian strays and, a few weeks later, took him fishing on the Dee. I tied him up on the bank to begin with, but he watched me like a hawk and has never looked back—he’s completely obsessed with fishing and fish.’
Sedge accompanies his mistress on all her fishing trips around the UK. ‘I search out dog-friendly hotels, but he can sleep in the car if needs must,’ she says, splaying out the fibres of his bushy tail to show me where the hair came from to tie the Sedge Clouser fly that successfully tempted sea bass and pollock during a fishing competition in Cornwall last year.
According to the fishing doyenne’s husband, sporting agent Edd Morrison, Sedge enjoys picking up and has a nose as good as a labrador’s. ‘We spent 20 minutes searching for a snipe with several gundogs last season and, just as we were about to admit defeat, Sedge came trotting up with the bird in his mouth,’ he divulges proudly.
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July 24, 2019