I intended this to be a short blog but unfortunately I got a bit carried away. Nothing unusual there I suppose. You don’t mind, do you? Perhaps I’ll hold back some of the images from my latest trip to Devon and create a gallery next time.
Time constraints deemed I could only spend three nights at Anglers Paradise in Devon in what was a bit of a flying trip with Allan Parbery, boss of Mistral Baits and all-round decent bloke. He was best man at my wedding and after the stitch-up speech he delivered it was time for revenge. A large dose of Zyg’s wine, a mud bath and then a battering on the bank was just about the perfect recipe. In fact if you go there when it’s netting week the first two are compulsory.
Netting is a great excuse for grown-ups to behave like children, make a lot of noise and get lathered in mud. Great for the complexion Zyg assures me. It’s certainly wackyenough for both BBC and ITV to send along camera crews to record the mayhem. It’s weird to do a bit of larking around in the mud and then see yourself on the TV later that same day, not once but on two different channels.
The netting lasts two mornings but the party runs for a week or so. Many were wrecked within an hour of arrival on Saturday thanks to the free flowing wine that Zyg brews. On Sunday it was the traditional barbecue with more wine; Alfie threw his usual open-house party on Monday, Tuesday was Irish bingo (don’t ask, but it raised over £400 for charity) and the rest of the week had events as wide ranging as pool and wii competitions to archery, raffles, fishing matches and of course there was the disco, fireworks party and treasure hunt.
Seriously, if you’ve never tried it you’ve missed an absolute treat and it’s the only week in the year when villa prices are slashed. As well as the fishery management aspect a small fortune is raised for local charities. The total for this week alone will easily top £2,000 and so far we’ve raised more than £50,000 which is something everyone who’s ever been involved can feel extremely proud of.
Kinda sums it up really. Everyone is friendly and out to have a good time. Some have been going at least as long as I have (18 years) and others who came along once to try are drawn back every year. The ladies seem to love it as much, if not more than the men. And that’s why you can share in this memory, I call it Pussy Galore!
With only two short afternoons at our disposal for fishing – the nights don’t half draw in quick now the clocks have gone back – we opted for letting Allan catch a few novelty species rather than fish for carp or cats. Allan had never caught a golden tench or an orfe over a pound so we made that our goal. Wag ‘n mag for Al, pole ‘n mag for me.
With mild temperatures prevailing the bits were going potty on the Float Lake. It was a small rudd or carp every cast so I wandered over to the Tench Lake with a bit of bait to see if I could raise anything. The lake has weeded up this year and the water is clearer than I have ever seen it. A steady trickle of maggots soon tempted a bright yellow banana out of the weed. It was soon joined by a mate and I had them feeding within a couple of feet of the bank so I called Allan over and let him fill his boots.
Five minutes later he’d caught a new PB golden tench. Regular feeding brought other fish into the swim and in the hour or so before darkness fell Allan had caught ten tench to about 3lb. “I’ve never caught a tench in November before!” he told me.
“We’ll sort you out an orfe tomorrow, All. What do you fancy, a golden one or a blue one?”
There’s a small lake on the site called Mystery. It’s kind of a pool and it’s mystery what’s in there. Actually everyone knows now but it was quite a shock for some when they began hooking chub and barbel at first. It also has a cracking head of orfe that average between 12oz and about a pound and a half, plus there are plenty of golden tench, too.
We plonked ourselves in two comfortable swims, side-by-side and set off fishing at about 4 metres out. I had 5 quality orfe in five drops followed by a tench. It was as easy as shelling peas. It didn’t take too long for Allan to catch two PB orfe – one of each, as requested. He then had something that kicked back rather hard in the shape of this barbel.
Oh dear, a stillwater barbel, the Barbel Police will be horrified…
Sadly I didn’t catch a barbel but in the space of a couple of all-too-short hours I had over thirty fish averaging about a pound apiece including five nice chub to 2lb, the prettiest carp I’ve ever seen, seven tench and a mixture of orfe.
The majority came at 11 metres which was quite a handful of carbon in a gusting cross wind but it does tend to make things interesting. Had it been calm I might have had 50lb but I wouldn’t have enjoyed it any more than I did. Shame Zyg doesn’t have floodlights though because I was reluctant to pack in when it got dark.
So ended another trip to Paradise but not before we indulged ourselves in another fun-filled evening in the ‘famous African bar’. “Do you fancy coming down for the New Year party?”Zyg asked. Too right I do!
I was having breakfast down at Zyg’s prior to loading the car for home when Stu called to say he was piking. “Am I in the right place?” He asked.
I determined exactly where he was and suggested it was a little bit early in the season for that stretch. “If I were you I’d try *&%$£*.”
An hour later he rang back: “Am I in the right place now?”
“No. Look, call round and see Mark. Tell him I sent you. He’ll put you right.”
Two hours later I had another call, “Looks like I owe you a pint mate, best marked pike I’ve ever seen…”
Well done that man.
The Drennan Cup is seen by many as the specialist angler’s pinnacle of achievement. To have any chance of winning it you need to have an absolutely outstanding season and share those catches with the Angling Times readers. It isn’t about catching one or two outstanding specimens, even catching a record fish won’t guarantee you success. To win you must impress the judges and the judges in this case are your fellow competitors. It is those who have won Drennan weekly awards who get to vote on who will win the annual award.
Unfortunately the only northern winner to date is Alan Wilson (who spent half a year living in a bivvy on Tring Reservoir in the year that he won). The rest of the winners have all had geography in their favour and it’s been the subject of many a discussion on angling forums. The weekly awards are judged on merit, based on who caught what and where from. In other words, a specimen chub from a Yorkshire river can win a weekly award. Unfortunately it’ll count for little in the final assessment when history dictates that the Great Ouse barbel, Stour chub, Dorset grayling, etc, etc, will outshine their northern cousins every time.
I know of one angler who spent over one hundred nights in his bivvy and several thousand pounds on season tickets for the ‘right’ waters in order to try and win the competition and I take my hat off to him for having the ambition the drive and the determination to succeed. On the other hand he’s welcome to it. It’s just not my cup of tea.
However, an opportunity to have a close-up look at the cup came my way recently. The fish caught by the holders and the runners-up, all neatly engraved on the plinth, are impressive. And then something caught my eye…
I suppose it was ‘British’ without the capital ‘B’ that first caught my eye. But that was nothing compared with the stated weight of Jacko’s record carp – I’m pretty sure I’ve had one bigger than 6lb 7oz! And did Stef really come third with a 7lb 5oz Stour barbel, backed up with one of 7lb 3oz from the Avon?
Crikey, I’m actually beginning to think I could win this…!
“You are joking, aren’t you?” Exclaimed Ben Miles at the Angling Times when I told him.
“No mate, if I were joking I’d have sent the picture to the Mail! I think you might want to let Peter know.”
What I can’t believe is that they’ve been on there for SEVEN years and apparently no-one else has spotted them…
A call from the local medical practise invited me down for my annual flu jab on Monday. Along I went, had the jab, had my blood pressure checked and the nurse said, “Hang on, you’re entitled to a Pneumonia jab, too.” So I had that as well. Can’t be too careful.
Three days later I’m full of cold. Do you think there’s a coincidence?
I doubt it. Same happens with me every time.
It’s easy to knock the Health Service as many do, but I’d hate to be without it, wouldn’t you? Only recently they wrote and invited me to join the bowel cancer screening programme. Only a fool would say no, I guess, but it’s only when you’re waiting for the results to come back that you start to realise the significance of the test. What if it came back positive…?
Fortunately I received the all clear so life’s back to normal. Kinda focuses the mind on those who aren’t so lucky though. Oh well, it’s out of the way for another two years.
Perch Article Update
I’ve had numerous emails asking if I would add a diagram of the rig I describe in one of the articlesin the perch section of the site and it’s been a nagging thorn in my side that I’ve done nothing about it till now. Searching through my files I came across the original diagram used in my ‘Specialists’ column in Angling Times, scanned it, converted it to a jpeg and voila, here it is!
I’ve also added it to the perch article for completeness.
Wow – Check This out!
I came across a delightful little film the other day called Gone Fishing. This is Hugh Miles with knobs on, seriously. It’s already won 33 awards and been nominated for an Oscar. Unfortunately it’s only a short film but you can but marvel at the beauty of it in the trailer below.
Gone Fishing is the touching story of a boy and old man coming to terms with bereavement through their shared love of fishing, and the legend of Goliath, the biggest pike ever caught!
Filmed at Old Bury Hill in a way that the owner barely recognised his own fishery, it features well known actor Bill Paterson. You can also search the Living Spirit web site archives and find a blog describing how it was made. To save you searching here’s the blog for Day One. The rest follows on from there.
Meanwhile, enjoy this trailer:
Available as a DVD, on Blue Ray or to download from i-Tunes, it would make a really nice stocking filler.
In Praise Of Digital Technology
It’s hard to imagine just how far photography has developed in the past 20 years or so. The first article I published (In Coarse Angler magazine) was in black and white. I carried a tiny little Rollei camera that cost me about £30 and it was easily good enough.
Later it was replaced with my first SLR. A Minolta but even that was pretty much a point and shoot job.
In the 1980’s most magazines had a few colour pages but monochrome was the standard. I well remember David Hall telling me he was going to relaunch (Let’s Go) Coarse Fishing in full colour and me thinking he was taking a huge gamble.
It also meant I needed to upgrade my camera, this time to a Canon EOS 100, which soon became a pair, and then I invested in a long lens to compliment the sort to mid-range zoom.
As contributors we’d gone from black and white to colour prints and then to colour slides in the blink of an eye. What’s more we went from submitting maybe two pictures with an article to 20 or thirty and we also needed to illustrate the technical content with sequential images.
David clearly valued me because he doubled my article fee at a stroke, offering me the princely sum of £100 per month which is pretty much what we writers get today. It’s hardly in the Wayne Rooney league, is it?
And then digital arrived. At first the magazines didn’t want to touch the new technology as it lacked the sharpness and vibrancy of slides. Top end cameras were way out of our league initially but it wasn’t long before prices took a tumble and we could scrimp enough cash to purchase something that could produce high resolution images.
I spent over £200 on a point and shoot Canon that I doubt I could give away today. Unfortunately if I wanted to stay in the game I needed an SLR. My Canon 100s were redundant but at least the lenses didn’t need replacing. The piggy bank was raided and I invested in a Canon 300D. It proved to be a great buy until it packed up on me just as I arrived at Pancheshwar, high up in the Himalayas.
The cost of repair could not be justified so it sits on a shelf in the office, gathering dust. I simply had to bite the bullet (again) and replace it, which realistically meant I would have to upgrade it. Hence my current toy, a Canon 40D. And of course you need a computer, external hard drives for storage and back-up, software and so on. If your ambition is to become a full-time angler and make a living from writing articles then don’t let me dampen your enthusiasm but don’t go thinking you’ll ever be rich.
Digital photography has taken much of the skill out of photography. When I worked with slides it was imperative that the exposure was spot on. You took a shot and then had to wait for a week to see how it had turned out. Cameras didn’t have a preview screen and there was no room for error at all. Today’s digital formats, especially if you shoot in RAW mode combined with the amazing Photoshop software allows you to recover so much.
I’m not an expert with Photoshop, far from it, but I know how to do a few simple tweaks. Yesterday I sat down and spent a bit of time playing around with a hopelessly underexposed shot of a pike that I took last week. Here’s the original:
Awful, isn’t it? Now here’s the same shot after I’ve cropped it and added a few tweaks:
And here it is with a bit of special effect:
Impressive, eh? And if I can do it, so can you.
When Your Luck’s Out…
A friend has been fishing a very large and somewhat challenging local stillwater for carp. Until last week he hadn’t had a run all season and then it happened. On an overnighter he’d only been fishing maybe five hours when one of his indicators dropped back. Before he could get to the rod it rose back up to the butt ring and the fish was taking line. A firm strike met with a solid kick and then all went slack…
A hook pull. He was understandably gutted.
The following morning he had a second chance. Two runs in a night is practically unheard of. This time the hook set and he played the fish all the way in. When the fish broke surface it was clear for all to see that he’d hooked the second largest fish in the lake, a fantastic stroke of luck.
And then the hook link parted for no apparent reason…
Not surprisingly he’s not so keen to go back.
What’s Up Doc!
I first met Dr Paul Garner way back in 1976 when we competed against each other in the inaugural UK Masters Angling Championships. Paul deservedly won the event, a crown that arguably launched his career. When I won it the following year I received a nice card from him offering his congratulations. You measure a man from gestures like that and we’ve remained friends since, albeit at a distance, meeting up mainly at shows and events.
After forging a career within the tackle industry Paul gave it all up and went freelance this year, writing, shooting features for various publications and doing a bit of guiding. I’ll bet he’s having a whale of a time but I doubt it’ll make him a wealthy man – but we’re all a long time dead, aren’t we?
Paul’s also launched a web sitethat includes a blog. The blog is regularly updated (if briefly) and it’s a refreshing change from some of the moaning Minnie sites – you know the ones, folk who who hold themselves in high esteem but never seem to catch a great deal so they major on what they excell at…
That certainly can’t be said about Paul.
You’ll also find a series of galleries on the site that I thoroughly recommend you check out. I take my hat off to the Doc’s fine photographic skills, the screenshot above being just one example.
The Price Is Right
The Angler’s Mail has launched a new video ‘Fishing TV News’ bulletin to view online. Produced fortnightly the programme will be available on free-to-view through the OnlineFishing.tv Freeplayer.
It’ll nicely replace the weekly slot that Angling Times used to broadcast each Friday evening on Discovery (wasn’t it in the fishing zone, or something like that?) Shame it stopped really, but there you go. The short video bulletins created for the ‘Mail will include catch and match news plus snippets from features appearing in the paper.
Each programme stays on the Freeplayer for two weeks before moving to its own channel where all the previous episodes can be watched ‘on demand’ at no cost. The only downside is you have to sit through a 20-second advert before the programme starts, but that’s no real hardship, is it?
Is This Good For Angling?
Looking through an angling paper the other week I spotted this advert boldly proclaiming ‘We Will Not Be Beaten On Price’. The same boast was splashed across the top of the page as a banner headline strap and repeated again beneath it three or four times. I think I got the message. They will not, apparently, be beaten on price.
But is that good for the customer? It’s certainly not good for angling. The stack ’em high, sell it cheap mentality creates an expectation in the customer. He wants a bargain. And the more bargains he buys the more he comes to expect, nay, demand low prices. We end up with customers who ignore price tags and go around asking every shop owner, ‘What can you do me this for?’
You’d never dream of doing that in Tesco, would you? Or in a bar, a restaurant, or Marks and Spencers. Imagine filling up your car with fuel and then asking what they’ll sell it you for? Cut price Council Tax?
It just doesn’t happen, does it? Unfortunately it only takes one shop to offer a deal like that and they’re going to damage every other shop. You see, the margins on rods, reels and especially poles are marginal. No-one sells at the RRP these days and most folk expect to get about 25% knocked off the price as standard practise.
By the time a dealer has serviced his overdraft, paid tax and VAT, rent on his premises, staff wages, heating, lighting and business rates he would probably have been better off not stocking the pole in the first place and just giving you £50 for relieving his boredom. In fact he would probably be less out of pocket!
Unfortunately he can no longer rely on that customer to buy his bait from the shop because so many commercials now have their own shops and insist on customers using the fishery’s own bait, sold at top dollar in 800g bags rather than kilos, and most likely they’ll pick up the consumables like hooks and floats while they’re in there as well.
Unfortunately, because anglers get used to paying rock bottom prices the quality of materials used in manufacturing falls and manufacturing is outsourced in India and China to keep the labour costs down. The consequence is breakages, failures and a reluctance by manufacturers to push the technology envelope as far as they might.
A tackle dealer was telling me only the other day that someone had brought a brand new pole into his shop and asked him to elasticate it. The price the customer had paid for it was less than the dealer could source it at wholesale.
“Where did you buy it at that price?” He asked.
“From t’Internet.” Came the reply.
“Then you can ask the bloke who sold it to fit your elastics because I’m not!”
I’m also reminded of another shop tale. Forgive me if I have told you this in a recent blog as it happened in the past fortnight and even that’s too long for a brain like mine to remember (honestly, my memory is awful).
I was queuing for bait when the guy in front of me pointed to a rod and asked how much it was on sale for. The dealer duly told him to which the reply came:
“You’ll never guess how much I’ve just paid for three of them?”
It was less than the price of one.
“They’ve been nicked. Have to be at that price.” Said the dealer.
“I don’t care.” Came the response.
And folk like that don’t, do they? So long as they’re getting a bargain.
Just days after writing the above piece I received news that Bennetts of Sheffield, one of the UK’s oldest and biggest tackle shops has gone into receivership. While editing Advanced Carp Fishing magazine I spent a day in the store as a guest and was staggered by the sheer scale of the operation. They had something like 57 staff, a creche, a photographic studio, even their own printing press. It was a massive operation.
And then it was gone. I doubt it’ll be the last casualty in the tough months ahead.
Angling Trust Magazine and Update
The latest fish legal newsletters arrived in the post this week. As ever the Fish Legal department has been busy AND successful. The very fact that they’ve been active on issues concerning several Northern waters, the Wharfe, Costa Beck, River Wear and the Northumbrian Derwent is very good to hear, as are all the other cases they are fighting. The fact that I don’t actually fish any of these waters is irrelevant. They are fighting for the whole of angling and I’m happy to support them in this.
Too many anglers try to poo-poo what they do or ask, ‘What’s in it for me?’ Well, £5 million Public Liability insurance is a start. Or you might take advantage of a third off an OnlineFishing.tv subscription, or 20% discount at Angling Direct, or a 3-month free subscription to Will Raison’s exclusive e-magazine, or 20% off Quiller’s fishing and countryside books, or 20% off a cottage holiday, or a chance to win £1,000 worth of Hardy, Chub and Greys tackle vouchers?
I could go on but you’re either in favour or dead against it. There seems no half-way ground.
Meantime you’ve got three weeks to join if you want to enter the postal and online auction which has some terrific lots to bid on including various fishing opportunities that include a week on the exclusive Nottingham Piscatorial Society waters. Numerous clubs have donated memberships and there’s a private syndicate place on the River Teme, or you might fancy a guided day on the Derbyshire Dove. Other guides offering a day out include Martin James, Alex Bones and Ade Kidell, or you might fancy a day fishing at Withy Pool.
You may even be tempted by some of the books, artworks, tackle or even the game section.
The various lots will be posted on eBay from 19th to 28th November. To find them use advanced search to find Seller ID ‘theanglingtrust’.
And still I hear you ask, ‘What’s in it for me?’
Visit the web site and find out!
United Hoping To Attract The World’s Best
I’ve ignored the Rooney contract saga so far but when I spotted this I just had to share it with you. Just click on the image to see the original article:
And if that tickled you, try this:
Don’t know if you’ve watched any of the current series but can you imagine having to employ any one of the numpties they’ve selected as contestants on a hundred grand a year? No, nor me.