Few in the room doubted he was actually telling the truth. Lee Swords talk to the Barbel Society’s Yorkshire Region at Wetherby was in full swing. He’s outwardly confident, manic, eating his own baits, throwing samples out to the audience, raising laughs and putting a bit of fun back into fishing. A far cry from earlier that afternoon when he was on the phone to me, “Bob, can you help me? I can’t get this Powerpoint presentation to transfer over to my laptop…!” Panic was setting in.
I guess I didn’t help by asking, “Have you sorted out a projector?”
“What? I haven’t a clue. I’d better ring Pip and check. Thanks mate.”
“And while you’re at it, Ring Ron. He’s getting frantic because he wants to come but he can’t seem to get through to you on the phone.”
To deliver a good talk you need a bit of an adrenalin rush, an edge, something that borders on panic. Otherwise you get the dreary old, ‘Here’s me with a fish that I caught (by some unbelievable degree of skill)’. Lee and I talked about it with Rob Swindells before the start, “Do you still get nervous, Bob?”
I wish I did. I wish I could recapture that buzz. Perhaps it’s why I do so few talks these days.
The plan was to drive up with Stu, meet James and then join Fisky, Pip and a few others in the Wetherby Whaler for fish and chips. I was all ready to leave when the phone rang. It was Pip, “Bob, can you help us out? We haven’t got a projector for tonight!”
“Leave it with me.”
“Stu, can you turn round, go home and pick up the projector…”
Most of the 60-odd people in the room that night had no idea how close the show had come to being cancelled. During the interval Lee came over for a bit of feedback, “How did I do? How’s it coming over?”
“Well Lee, that first 45 minutes actually went on for an hour and a half.”
“You’re joking! It didn’t – did it? I must be in a time warp!”
I gave him a few pointers. “Involve the audience more. It’s great that you’re using the various DVSG members in the audience to raise a laugh and inject a bit of warmth, but concentrate on the punters, focus on them more. Use eye contact when you’re talking.”
Back on stage a reinvigorated Lee explained to the audience, “You could do this, you know. I’m no different to you lot. You just build up a collection of pictures and then you just need the bottle to get up and speak. It’s easy. Honestly, YOU could do it…!” He said, beaming at an individual in the front row.
“Err, I couldn’t. I’ve got Tourettes!”
A classic response to which there’s no safe come back. Move on!
I doubt anyone in the room went home feeling they’d been short changed. Some folk feel disenfranchised from the Barbel Society, like the former supporters who now attack it at every opportunity. It’s their loss. The Barbel Society may not be everyone’s cup of tea. It may not be as big as it was. But evenings like this bring anglers together and for three quid? What do these folk actually want?
I’ll tell you. They want to moan. And they’re very good at it.
Triffids And A Trip Down Memory Lane
Well, we’ve had several frosts in a row and that means we’ll be seeing big changes on the river banks. I dropped down to the River Don at Sprotborough the other day just to stretch my legs and to take a last look at the summer colours. Another fortnight or so and we’ll be seeing bare branches which means all sorts of problems with floating leaves collecting on our lines.
Already there’s a glorious golden carpet of leaves underfoot that will soon be a soggy brown mess. I wanted to check out a swim just above the weir where I fished a few years ago and had 15lb of great big gonks, a species I seldom catch these days from anywhere. Amazingly this pretty stretch of river is just three miles from where I live and has produced barbel into double figures, yet that one gudgeon bashing trip is the only time I’ve ever fished there.
In recent times the matchmen have been taking 20lb nets of skimmers and roach yet I’ve ignored it. The short loop of canal that diverts boats round the weir, through a lock, has produced carp over 20lb as well. And it’s all available on a cheap day ticket.
I drove by it almost every day on my way to work for years. Yet for some reason I cannot reasonably explain, it doesn’t appeal to me.
I’ve fished lower downstream in far less picturesque locations and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Somehow fishing doesn’t seem to count unless I have to drive an hour or more. Weird that, isn’t it?
Mind you, I wont be revisiting the gudgeon peg, not unless I take a machette. The undergrowth is head high and pretty near impenetrable, taken back by nature. Also taking hold is the dreaded floating pennywort. This invasive plant, introduced to the UK as a garden pond plant is now out there, in the wild.
Floating pennywort is triffid like, spreading like wildfire and doubling in size every two to 3 days. A tiny fragment of plant is enough for it to establish a population that can choke an entire waterway. Nothing grows beneath it and the water becomes de-oxygenated. The Environment Agency estimate they spent £510,260 on controlling approximately 300 km of it in 2009.
On a positive note they see it as a threat to otter recovery. The downside is all the fish die first…
Taylor’s Tossers Crash And Burn
“If I had to choose someone to fish for my life it’d be him.” He proclaimed, nodding in my direction, “Unless it were carp, then I’d pick Andy Little.”
No pressure then.
Des Taylor is holding court in the Great Western, one of Bewdley’s many pubs. The intention was we’d call in for a couple of pints and then move on to the Black Boy. “We’ll head home about half-past-nine,” Des had promised, “We’ve a big day on tomorrow and I don’t want a thick head.”
It was already half past ten and by my reckoning Des was on his eigth pint. Or was it nine?
I’d not fished a match in almost 15 years but when Des asked if I’d make up a team with him it seemed a good idea at the time. I’d not fished on the Severn since 2003 and to be perfectly honest I’d never once fished a match on it. But Des was convinced we could win this teams of three event. I was less sure. You seldom go to a place and take on the regulars at their own game on a water they know like the back of their hands, but it would be a great crack all the same. I’ve stayed with Des on numerous occasions and never had a bad trip, whatever we’ve caught.
“We thought we’d get you pissed tonight and noble you, Bob!” Said one of the gang as we readied ourselves to leave. That one had backfired as they were slipping extra drinks in for themselves between rounds and they were set to continue long after we’d left. By all accounts they ended on shots and boy, did it show at the draw on Saturday:
“You’ve got the shakes old son.”
“I’ve always got ’em. It’s the drink!”
“Who are you fishing for?”
“Sabrina Stars.” I told the organiser.
“Taylor’s Tossers more like!”
“You can park next to my holiday home, Bob. You only have to walk a hundred yards and you’re on your peg. In fact follow me and I’ll show you the way.” Offered one of the prevous evening’s casualties.
The peg itself was pretty nondescript. It had a platform with a missing plank and towered a good four feet above the water with a tree branch drooping down to head height above. I opted to stand in front of it.
Chuff, chuff, chuff, chuff, POOOO-oop! Clouds of steam billowed up from behind the far side trees as a Severn Valley Railway steam engine chugged up and down the track. Rowing boats of all sizes swept up and down the river all day. Saturday’s pretty hectic on the river but do you know what? Match anglers may have a reputation for being a tad loud and foul mouthed as they shout to each other along the bank but these rowers put the anglers to shame with their blue language and that was only the ladies. I was quite shocked!
Kicking off at mid-day my match went pretty much to plan in the first hour. I’d cadged a few of Fisky’s excellent cage feeders at the Barbel Society Show on Thursday evening and was using them to deliver some tiny feed pellets. A small hook with a cluster of tiny pellets dotted on the hair with glue was my gambit. With a low, clear river and frosts on the preceding days it was always going to be a tough match so I opted to touch leger.
Glad I did, too. Twenty minutes in I felt the slightest pluck and a firm strike saw the rod hoop over. I’d forgotten what it was like to play a fish when your knees are knocking but that’s the pressure of match fishing. If you land it you’re a genius. If the hook pulls you’re a plonker and everyone will hear about it.
I drew a fiesty barbel over the net at the second attempt and into the keepnet it went. Yeah, I know. Keepnet. Get a life!
“How big was that one?”
“Err…,” You know, I didn’t have a clue. I hadn’t stopped to really look at it. All I wanted was to get it safely in the net and calm down. “I don’t really know. About three, maybe 4lb.” The pressure was off now. I’d not seen anyone else catch a barbel and the team points were already in the bag.
Out again on the same line. No more signs for the next 20 minutes and then I felt a slight slackening as the feeder dislodged. I swept the rod back and right at the end of the sweep I felt the hook go home. Now this felt like a better fish, hugging the bottom. In my mind the hook was shrinking and the fish was growing. Not exactly PMA (Positive Mental Attitude).
But eventually I got it out and suddenly I was in the pound seats. Section-wise at least. Time to relax, sit it out for the next one and keep the old maggots dribbling in three rod lengths out, just in case the roach showed.
Two hours in I’d had no more indications. No signs of anyone else pulling up trees so I stuck with it for another half hour. Time to rest the swim. I picked up my waggler rod, flicked it out and under it went. A tiny roach was the culprit. I spent an hour tearing my hair out. Tiny roach, dace, bleak and too many things that flipped off or didn’t swallow the maggot. I was hoping against hope that I might just snatch a chub or a few quality roach but it wasn’t to be.
It was decision time. Stick with the waggler and hope to pick up a couple of pounds of bits, or that a few quality fish would come late, or go for broke on the feeder? It had to be the latter. I’d done my team job. I might as well try and win the match. After all a report had come down the bank that someone had already had five barbel on one of the other lengths. So I went for it. Unfortunately I didn’t have another bite.
At the all-out I put 13lb-odd on the scales. The guy above me who’d won Wednesday’s match weighed ounces. The guy below, less than 2lb. In fact I was the top weight on the scales with 6lb the nearest weight. I was feeling pretty chuffed with myself until I learned it was a split section and there were two 18lb weights elsewhere.
Turns out someone on the top section had paralysed the match with 43lb of chub on float fished pellet. Teamwise we were no-where but the craic had been good.
Back to the pub for baked potatoes and curry. “You know,” said Des, “Don’t this match fishing waste a load of time? We were here at nine for breakfast and it’s now 7pm. I could have gone perch fishing down the Ouse, fished for longer and still been home sooner.”
Lucky him. I still had a 140 mile drive ahead of me.
A Right Result!
I received a taunting email from someone recently saying he’d reported me to the police, written to my sponsors, my sponsor’s parent company, to Sky TV and probably Jeremy Kyle. Clearly that’s not the sharpest thing to do.
This person is no longer allowed to contact me, nor me him.
I call that a right result.
On the subject of predators Stu and James fished the Swale recently for pike. It was an eventful day with them getting 10 takes on floatfished deadbaits but only landing six fish, four of which leapt clear of the water, Nile perch style.
One of the lost fish was a biggy that went airborne and threw the hooks, “It looked a good upper-double.” Admitted Stu. He’ll be back.
Barbel fishing has bot a whole lot tougher in the past few weeks and I guess there’s no better time to dust off those pike rods than right now if you fancy a bit of action before the really harsh weather sets in.
Having just called into the health centre for my flu and pneumonia jabs I nipped across the Dearne Valley to Tesco’s. Sun streamed in through the windscreen but the riverside meadows were white over, the river was steaming and it looked perfect for pike and chubbing. This is the wrong time of year to get too blinkered in your approach.
I Love Garfield…
Rovers, Rovers, What’s The Score?
In a week when Wayne rooney has dominated the headlines it was rather nice to see the Rovers playing live on the BBC. Unfortunately I was down on the Severn so I had to Sky+ the match and watch it later. Pathetic turn-out for a derby game but how can you expect folk to pay £28 a seat when it’s free on TV? Doesn’t add up to me. Anyway, the result was perfect, or at least in my eyes it was. On my TV the Rovers won 2-0 and Billy Sharp, the ‘Fat lad From Sheffield’ scored against his old club.
According to the Daily Star Report we won 3-0.
By contrast the Yorkshire Sport newspaper had us on the front page winning 2-1.
The Sunday Times had this to say:
Sheffield United trudged off the field at the interval wondering how on earth it was possible that they found themselves 2-0 down at Doncaster. Despite having had more than 70% of the possession in the first half, they were unable to turn their superiority into goals. Early in the second half, Sheffield United continued to dominate but they still couldn’t find a way through. Gradually the home side began to look more comfortable and they held out for all three points.
Eh…? I don’t know what game the reporter watched, certainly it wasn’t the one the BBC audience watched and I’d say the BBC stats were just about spot on with the Blades having only 43% of the possession.
Mind you, the Press Association went one better suggesting the Blades had 73% of the possession.
I think Blades manager Gary Speed was slightly closer to the mark with his after-match comment: “To say I’m disappointed is an understatement. Our first-half performance was unacceptable for Sheffield United really. Doncaster wanted it more than us. They were first to everything, second balls, tackles, headers, they won everything. “They thoroughly deserved it and for me that’s unacceptable.
Footnote: Sky Sports are at it now. “Meanwhile, Doncaster manager Sean O’Driscoll admitted the joke was on him after Donny striker Billy Sharp put one over his old club with a goal in the 2-1 win against Sheffield United.”
Repeat after me, IT WAS 2-0!!!
As for the Daily Telegraph, may I just point out our home is the Keepmoat Stadium, not the KC Stadium! Sloppy journalism, sneering indifference, outside the Premiership and Champions League so it doesn’t matter? I guess when you’re a minnow in Europe’s fourth largest league it is inconsequential but at least the Beeb did a great job.
I’m sure these ‘professional’ journo’s won’t be happy until we’re be back in the Conference so they can can concentrate on more important fodder like ‘Roo’ and Colleen.
Bob The Fish
I haven’t featured a Bob The Fish t-shirt in ages so here’s one from the collection:
For those who are new to the blog you’re probably wondering what on earth it’s about. Well, I discovered BTF in Aruba last year. It’s an amazing collection of t-shirt designs and images, along with John The Shark. It strikes me the company have fun. Check out their Facebook site and see why…