IRON MAIDEN guitarist Adrian Smith recently went on "Side Jams With Bryan Reesman" to discuss his book "Monsters Of River & Rock: My Life As Iron Maiden's Compulsive Angler", his love for fishing, the importance of conservation, and meeting a real Tasmanian Devil.
Smith was asked about the types of fisherman and fishing behaviors he has seen across the globe. "One thing that does depress me when I go to places — you see it all over the world, unfortunately you're seeing it more in Britain now — is the rubbish and discarded fishing tackle," he explained. "People leave big loads of line and wildlife get tangled up. You get people who go fishing but they don't really understand the ethics of it. For me, I call myself an angler. While you're actually catching fish, apart from that, you are in sync with the whole thing. You've got to be a bit conservation minded. That's what I write about in the book — [with] fishing you get the guys out there, they'll be cleaning up the rubbish, and making sure the water flow is good and the spawning habitat for the future stocks [is good]. But I do get a bit depressed about rubbish. It's not just the anglers, it's just everyday people. It's getting more of a problem in England, and that's something that upsets me and something I'd like to get into doing something about. The only thing I can do at the moment is go out with a rubbish bag and pick stuff up. In the '70s, we used to have a thing called 'Keep Britain Tidy' which was advertised on the telly — clear your crap up after you. If people did that, everyone would be in a better mood. Small steps, you know."
Reesman brought up a British newspaper article that mentioned how British anglers wanted to ban otters who had been depleting fish stocks over there. It is evidently still an issue now.
"They [otters] were hunted to extinction several hundred years ago in England, and they've been reintroduced," Smith told Reesman. "The trouble is that the fish stocks in England have got different pressure on them than they had a few hundred years ago. They probably didn't have the industrial pollution. We have a problem with a cormorant invasion, these seagoing birds are coming inland because of the depletion of the fish stocks in the sea. They're coming in and decimating, and I mean, decimating freshwater [fish]. So we've got an invasive species of crayfish. It's an American crayfish that was brought into the U.K. a few years ago for the table, but instead of being controlled, they escaped because they could walk across land. So they escaped from the ponds into the rivers. They erode all the banks, they eat the spawn of the fish. In the last 20 years, whereas I could go down to my local river and catch a few fish, you'd be lucky now to see any because the population has been decimated already. Now you've got the otters, and the thing about the otters, they'll take a big fish, which has taken 20 years to grow, drag it out of the river, eat a small part of it and leave it. They're only doing what otters do. It's not their fault. It's just that people have been reintroducing them. It could have done with a bit more thought, because, yes, otters were there first, but that was a different time. Now there's more pressure on the fish stocks. I saw an otter actually, for the first time on my local river. It was late at night, and it was big. This thing was like a seal coming down a river. They are fast as well. They're very efficient hunters."
Smith also spoke about "Monsters Of River & Rock", in which he described various trips to different parts of the world. And once, he encountered a real-life Tasmanian Devil.
"This was incredible," recalled Smith. "We stayed at this lodge in Tasmania called London Lakes. Beautiful lakes, very wild country out in the middle of nowhere. Silence. We would be watching large groups of kangaroos from the trees. One night, one of the guys [wanted to go on] a late-night safari after dinner. So we jumped into his truck, and he had the big lights on the truck. We saw wombats. They were incredible things. Loads of kangaroos. He said, 'I think we found something special here' and he edged towards this clearing in the forest. There was this Tasmanian Devil eating away a dead kangaroo. We got right up close to it. You could hear this thing crunching bones. They don't leave anything. They eat the bones. They're scavengers, filling their role, cleaning up the dead animals. This kangaroo probably died. Devils don't hunt, they just clean up. They're not fast. There was also an animal called the Tasmanian Tiger which is thought to be extinct now. We didn't see one of those. That fascinates me as well. But it's a horrible story. They just got hunted to extinction. So you probably won't see like one of them. And they were like a big sort of coyote with stripes. But we saw the Devil. And lived."
"Monsters Of River & Rock" arrived last September via Virgin Books.
Smith was born in Hackney, East London, on February 27, 1957. He joined IRON MAIDEN at the end of 1980. Adrian is the bandmember who has collaborated on the most side projects outside of IRON MAIDEN, as well as writing and recording a series of albums in the early '90s, before rejoining the band. IRON MAIDEN has sold 100 million albums, and tour the world playing to millions of fans. Onstage, Adrian uses Jackson and Gibson guitars. Offstage, he is an avid tennis player. However, his main hobby is fishing.
Adrian's collaboration with Richie Kotzen, SMITH/KOTZEN, released its self-titled debut album in March via BMG.