It’s a bit short notice, I know, but if anyone fancies popping down to Brown’s of Leighton Buzzard on Saturday 2nd October I’ll be there representing Daiwa and you’ll also get a chance to meet the Korda team, too. If anyone would like their copies of the Barbel Days and Ways DVD’s signing I’ll be happy to scribe my moniker on them providing you bring them along.
All part of the service! 😉
Just had an email from Paul Wharton telling me that the kingfisher sat on the sign was actually taken by him but he’s rather chuffed to be mistaken in that way. Here’s a link to some of Paul’s other pictures.
The Art Of Blogging
You know I’m getting a feeling that my blogging has evolved into a series of essays on life rather than the fishing diary it started out as. Perhaps it’s a reaction to reading other blogs. The only soul you’ll find in some is a cut and pasted You Tube clip of the Four Tops. There’s no insight and precious little creativity. Some barely contain more than a list of the fish the writer has caught of late or worse still, a tirade of snidey comments about people they happen to dislike and bear a grudge against. At least I try and make my critiques constructive, or witty, or indeed helpful.
But there you go, we can’t please everyone. This is going to be one of my marathon posts (again) and whilst there’s plenty of fish and fishing stuff in it do make sure you check out the whole blog because there are some stunning images towards the end. They are pretty special and you can click through the links and see a whole lot more if they take your fancy.
Last weekend I was in London for my birthday celebrations (part deux). We let the train take the strain, drinking coffee and mulling through the papers, gazing out through the window at different lakes and rivers. Do you know, I can be in London in the time it takes me to get to the Trent or Dove, especially when I head down the M1.
We’d booked a room for two nights in the Canary Wharf Hilton. Not a cheap gaff but letting them know in advance that we were celebrating a ‘special’ birthday resulted in us being upgraded to the executive floor at no extra cost. Apart from the spectacular views, king sized bed and so on, being upgraded gave us access to the executive lounge. Get this, free Internet, free food and free drinks.
So there we are, eating sushi, supping wine and then re-acquainting myself with that old friend, Jack Daniels…! Needless to say it was pointless going out on Friday evening.
The following morning we took a walk through docklands along the Thames trail. I used to come down here in the late 1960’s. Mile End, Shadwell, Limehouse, Wapping, what a difference. The Prospect of Whitby, London’s oldest riverside tavern, was a favourite haunt. Popular with students, rugby fans and a ‘swinging’ crowd. A house band played live music and the atmosphere in the evenings was magical.
Back then it felt like you were taking your life in your hands just walking from the tube station – cobbled streets, dark, derelict warehouses, and remember, this was the era of the Krays. As for Millwall and West Ham fans back then, the least said the better. But it was worth it.
What a transformation the area has witnessed. Loft living by the river for those who can afford it: ‘Two bedrooms sir? No problem, that’ll be half a million. You want a view over the river? Sorry, but that’ll be another half.’ Seems to be no shortage of folk with that kind of money, either.
It was good to see the ‘Prospect’ was still there. We called in for a light lunch, a pint of Fullers and a chance to reminisce. It hasn’t changed much, let me say. Still dark and atmospheric, black beams and stone flagged floors. The views onto the river, fantastic.
Who Will Stand Up Against This Prejudice?
The walk takes you by various old docks, St Katharines, Shadwell and Limehouse Basins, full of shiny white boats and the place reeks of fish. The kind of places where they’ll shoal up in in winter. Unfortunately the most prominent BWB signs you’ll see say No Fishing. Can someone tell me, why are anglers treated like third rate citizens in this country? Angling prejudice exists that’s for sure. But why do we stand for it?
Have you ever seen a ‘No Birdwatching’ sign? No.
Time was that you might actually see signs in pubs that said ‘No Blacks, No Micks, No Queers’. Try that today and see how long you remain open. Angling is the last remaining prejudice in this country and it’s enforced by so-called liberals.
Out And About
Meanwhile, out on the Thames the Great River Race was taking place. A record 330 entries were attempting to complete a gruelling 21 mile course and we’re not talking your Oxford and Cambridge racing sculls here, we’re talking proper great big wooden rowing boats with crews of anything up to 20 or so; Celtic longboats, whalers, gigs, skiffs, cutters, outriggers plus, of course, the occasional wacky dinghy and dragon boat.
I can think of little that must be more physically punishing, especially with the size of waves they were up against today, than pulling on a heavy wooden oar for three, four or even five hours. It’s not for the feint hearted.
The afternoon was spent gawking at things I’ll never afford (or want) in Knightsbridge. A dark blue open topped sports car passed with the number plate WAN 1. The gentleman driving it looked youngish and oriental. My mind went down the route of Lou and Andy from Little Britain until Sue said, ‘It was probably Gok!’ But it was too late to see by then. On the other hand WAN 1 is a big pet dog products company in Japan, but who really cares? I’m sure you don’t.
Cooking Up A Storm
Later on we headed over to Clapham to find Jamie Oliver’s Recipease shop. Sue and I were booked in for a cooking course and I have to say it was great fun. A couple of glasses of wine help break the ice but out of the 20 pupils I was the only bloke and I have to say the girls were absolutely stunning!
Should you want to make a party out of it you can book in as a group and take over the whole kitchen. By all accounts the course before ours was taken over by a Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels cast re-union with a couple of Take That-ers thrown in for good measure.
What surprised me was that it didn’t cost a fortune, you were provided with everything you needed, ate the food you cooked and a glass of wine was included. We did pasta but there are various other courses to choose from. And you had a laugh. What more can you ask?
A Fantastic Substitute
Back at the hotel we retired to the executive lounge as Mr Jack Daniels was waiting my return. It’s not difficult to chill out in a place where the sippin’ whiskey comes free and the only other couple sitting in the area we’d chosen strikes up conversation. Turns out the guy, Chris Baker was an American musician over here to play at the forthcoming Who convention. Obviously I was intrigued.
His band, the Wholigans are a tribute act that has been touring since 1982 and by all accounts they are exceptionally good. He joined after answering an add that read ‘Roger, Keith, and John are looking for Pete…’
They focus on the classic Who era up to maybe ‘Live At Leeds’ and judging by the videos on Youtube can whip up a bit of a storm. Over in the states they frequently play festivals, including last year’s Woodstock Tribute and they get to play gigs around the world. I think you can find about 172 of their videos on YouTube…
Back in May I did a piece on tribute bands in this very blog. Unfortunately I missed out the Wholigans in my summary. Time to put that right me thinks. It just so happens they’re playing Sheffield on Tuesday and Chris said, ‘Why not come along. I’ll put you on the guest list as ‘Bob The Fish + 1’.
Guess I’ll just have to make the effort…
There Is Some Fishing In London!
After a leisurely breakfast on Sunday morning we gathered our things and headed for the tube. Time to go home, but not before I discovered you can fish certain areas of dockland. In fact I could have wet a line not 50 yards from the front door of the hotel. What’s more there was a match in progress and the guys all seemed to be catching pretty well.
Chatting to a couple of competitors they suggested the fishing was a bit slow and on a normal day you would need 30lb of skimmers to win. That’s good fishing by any standards even if the surroundings were a bit surreal. The Docklands Light Raiway trundled overhead to our left, the giant glass towers of Canary Wharf reflected on the water in front and over to the right is the O2 Arena.
The water’s deep, crystal clear and the methods most were using involved big sliding wagglers or groundbait feeders. What struck me was that fish were being caught on every line from just off the rod tip to half way over. I wouldn’t mind a crack at this one day as it looked great fun and appeared to be rammed with fish.
Talking The Talk
I see old Swordsey will be delivering a talk to the Barbel Society’s Yorkshire region when they hold their next meeting on Thursday 21st October at the Wetherby and District Social Club. Lee’s a good act (when sober!) and pretty much guaranteed to stir up a bit of controversy. It should be a good night out and I’ll probably try and get along there myself.
Doors open at 6.30pm with entry costing £3 for members and £5 for non-members. Entry for pensioners (I guess that’s me!), ladies and juniors is free.
Ladies free? Errr, isn’t that sexual discrimination…? Is that still allowed?
Mentioning Swordsey, he’s just had a new personal best barbel only this week at 13lb 8oz (the jammy git!). Knowing how hard he works for his fish it’s long overdue. In a world where some ‘consutants’ will sell their reputations for a bag of pellets or a few hooks I find it completely refreshing that the Teme Severn man is honest enough to tell us he caught it on a lobworm.
Don’t spoil it now by saying it was caught on a Grappler hook, Cheesewire braid, Plumbo lead, Nylastic reel line, Basher rod and Raliegh Bicycle reel over a bed of Slumberland pellets while kipping in your Minus Credibility sleeping bag or you will ruin the integrity of it!
Local stillwater by any chance? 😉
I make that another 5 points towards his challenge for the Climax Cup. Here’s the fish…
By the way, nice picture.
He also had a 12-6 plus a stack of chub around the 4lb mark plus a brace of bonus perch, the biggest weighing 2lb 4oz.
Sorry But It’s No Pay, No Say Steve…
On the subject of the Barbel Society I’m surprised that its Chairman, Steve Pope allowed himself to be quoted in the Angling Times on the subject of otters and the Angling Trust. The Society has attracted a fair bit of criticism for refusing to join the Angling Trust unlike, say, the Barbel Specialists who are members.
Discussing the decline of the Wensum’s barbel in the Angling Times, Steve says: “The otter issue is something that the Angling Trust needs to deal with, but in a measured and meaningful way. It’s a big concern for a lot of anglers.”
Yes it is Steve. And yes, as the official governing body of all anglers, it falls within the Trust’s remit, but how are they expected to do that with no funding? If you don’t pay you have no say.
Now that the Society Chairman is calling for action by the Trust, perhaps it’s time for the Barbel Society to review its policy, dig deep into the coffers and put some money where the Society mouth is. Otherwise I’d shut up about it Steve!
Pile It In Guys!
Nice double page article in the same issue about Severn Barbel, even if the main pictures do feature the Warwickshire Avon and a 14lb lump from there. Author of the piece, Les Baldwin gives his top 5 barbel tips. Number Two is, ‘Don’t be afraid to pile it in’. Now where have I heard that before?
Oh, that’s right, Graham Elliott broadcast that one far and wide, claiming that I’d said it on Keith Arthur’s Tight Lines show on Sky TV. And if I remember rightly I challenged him to come up with a single instance of proof that I had ever advocated the practise on TV or in any article I had ever written.
Forgive me for reminding you Graham, but you’ve not come up with the proof yet. And I’m still waiting patiently…
Not that he’ll find any, or that he would ever apologise. It would take a real man to do that.
But he must be feeling rather proud of himself now. After banging on about me all over the web forums (directly and through innuendo) he’s clearly had an influence on the upcoming generation of barbel anglers because they’re now adopting HIS phrase, ‘barbel anglers should pile it in’ and promoting it in top selling angling publications to boot.
Well done Graham.
Another Frustrating Waste Of Time
Visitors to this site will have noticed there’s a ‘Contact Bob’ button that generates several hundred emails each year. I do my best to respond to every single one of them. Okay, in some cases a single sentence reply is all that’s required but some involve detailed answers. Like I say, I do my best, but there’s nothing more frustrating than wasting ten or 15 minutes composing a reply only to then discover that the enquirer has failed to submit a working email address. I guess it’s mostly down to a typing error but come on guys, make an effort to check the obvious, will you?
So Phil Hatton, (Hatter Barbel…?), I hope you find some chub fishing on the Trent but don’t go checking your Inbox each day hoping for some guidance from me becasue the email address you supplied produced this response:
Delivery to the following recipient failed permanently:
Technical details of permanent failure:
Google tried to deliver your message, but it was rejected by the recipient domain. We recommend contacting the other email provider for further information about the cause of this error. The error that the other server returned was: 550 550 Requested action not taken: mailbox unavailable (state 14).
Empty Vessels Make Most Noise
What is it with barbel anglers? Why are they so destructive and why do they need to be at each other’s throats all the time? Or do I have that wrong. Perhaps it’s just a tiny minority of barbel anglers who simply make more noise than the rest put together? Then again it could be they’re just bullies.
Be in no doubt there are many thousands of anglers in the UK who like to catch barbel. There must be several thousand who go out of their way to target barbel seriously. Then there’s a tiny faction who get their sordid little jollies by stirring up endless trouble in the barbel world. I used to think they were bandwagon jumpers who piled in on even the tiniest dispute but eventually you come to realise they are actually at the very root of every fracas, stirring and prodding away.
I must confess that I’m guilty of having baited them in the past. It can be fun to wind them up but after a while you realise they are incapable of holding any kind of intelligent debate. All you have to do is press button ‘A’ to get reaction ‘B’ and after a while that gets tedious. There is no point.
Currently the bad guys are hell bent on attacking the Barbel Society. When I first crossed swords with them they were blindly supporting it, whatever ills were present. The Society hasn’t changed, they have. But their current obsession with the Society and Steve Pope in particular is becoming boring. They’ve neither the wit nor wisdom to create a creditable alternative, after all, they’ve played their cards, everyone knows who they are and what they stand for, which is nothing…
Once the ring leaders stood square on with Fred Bonney. Now they stand behind him, knives in hand, stabbing, stabbing, stabbing. Fred appears either not to care or he has no idea how to handle the criticism, so he retaliates and plays right into their hands.
The latest excuse for a spat appears to revolve around a clash of dates. Chris Pearson has organised a BFW fish-in on the Barnsley water at Hazelford, proceeds apparently going to charity. The Barbel Society were hosting a fish-in at Sutton on the same weekend, also on the Trent. By all accounts the Hazelford fish-in has not been met with the degree of enthusiasm expected and the blame has been laid at the BS door yet the BS has actually cancelled their fish-in.
Neither side appears capable of seeing where the fault lies. Perhaps I should give them a clue – it’s in the mirror.
If you want to draw a crowd to any kind of event you have to do capture the imagination of your prospective audience. You have to promote it. There are dozens of fishing web sites, bloggers with their own followings, national angling newspapers, local angling newspaper columns, not to mention dedicated angling programmes on both TV and radio.
There are thousands of barbel anglers out there. If, after you have advertised your event properly, they simply don’t want to come and fish with you, no matter how easy the fishing is, how good the access, who’s cooking or which charity might benefit, you have to face up to the fact that they are probably staying away because they don’t want to be involved with the people who are going.
So why don’t you stop blaming anyone but yourselves and move on with your lives?
And Now For Something Completely Different…
It may be six months away but Stu and I are already getting a bit excited over our next adventure. James Gould is on board again, too, and I’m hoping they get a room together as they can talk the hind legs off a donkey once they start drooling over fish.
I’ve said it before (and was roundly criticised by John Bailey), I’m fed up with mahseer. As amazing as these creatures are they’re so thin on the ground now. I’m getting too long in the tooth to spend a small fortune chasing the dregs of someone else’s dream. Mahseer fishing is not what it was, not by a long chalk and if I’m going on an adventure I want my string pulling, even if that means going to sea.
And that’s what we’re doing this time. The seed was sown on one of my guiding trips. A bunch of guests regaled me with tales of the ultimate fighting fish – the amazing Giant Trevally, or GT’s as the aficionados call them. You chuck out a popper, wind like crazy and then hang on for dear life when the water explodes. Apparently these beasties ‘smoke’ reels and break rods.
An old mate of mine, Andy Harper sent me a couple of pictures. He goes after them on fly gear – 12wt rods – but I reckon that’s an idea for another day. Mind you he’s had them to 60lb. Right now I’ll settle for catching one on ‘proper’ gear.
Now THAT Is What You Call PROPER Gear!
The picture says it all really. That’s a lure laid on top of a fishing magazine. I can see me being shattered just carrying the gear never mind using it!
A Man Of Visions
I mentioned my Whitby trip (Whitby seems to be a recurring theme) in the last blog but what I didn’t tell you about was the superb exhibition showing in Pannett Park Museum. It featured photographs by Ged Hickey, a guy who only took up photography quite recently.
Ged visited Staithes on his 25th wedding anniversary in 2007 and took a series of images with a view to stitching them together. The results sparked a passion for landscape photography and he purchased his first quality camera, a Canon EOS 40D, no doubt identical to the one sat here by my desk.
Alas tragedy struck when his wife was diagnosed with a brain tumour. With a wife and young children to care for his career went on hold but sadly Lesley died and the family were left devastated.
Since then, with support from his family and especially daughter Laura, Ged has devoted his time to photography. The majority of his images are in panoramic format enabling him to create a picture rather than be restricted by the lens.
He is clearly gifted as these sample images demonstrate. They have enabled him to go on and fulfill his dream of becoming a professional photographer. Well done that man.
You can find more examples of his work here.
That King Of Fishers
While we’re on the subject of photography I had my 6-monthly check-up at the hospital renal unit this week and everything’s still stable, touch wood. While waiting my turn I flicked through a copy of National Geographic magazine and was struck by a number of astonishing kingfisher images shot by Charlie Hamilton James who you may remember did the Halcyon River Diaries on the Beeb. The man’s a bloody genius!
There’s not a lot more I can add to that other than check out his site if you get a chance. Here are four images that say far more about his work than I ever could…
Sheer brilliance and a timely reminder of how lucky we anglers are to witness sights like this in a regular basis. To us a kingfisher is a frequent sight, to the average Joe in the street it is exotic, the stuff of David Attenborough and TV screens.
So while you’re at it check out the National Geographic site. There’s some amazing stuff to browse through.
Roach – The Complete Enigma
The Trent isn’t so much one river, it is many rivers, each with its own character. I’ve bemoaned the lack of roach in recent seasons but suddenly they’re back – if you know where to go. I’ve still not caught a roach more than 4 inches (10cm) long from the Tidal reaches despite fishing for barbel with float fished maggots on many occasions yet the reaches above Nottingham are so different. The Sawley area in particular appears to be full of roach right now and they’re good fish, too.
My successful trip last week inspired me to change tactics and try an all-out attack using the pole with hemp and tares. As ever, the best way to succeed with this combination is not to take any alternative baits. That way you’ll stick at it if the action is a bit slow.
Alas, the best laid plans of mice and men. A week earlier there had been an astonishing match fished just a little way upstream. 26lb of pristine redfins won the match followed by other twenties and high teens. The river came alive for three days yet a match on Sunday needed only 4lb to win. How does that happen? Where do they go? Remember the Evesham Festival decision to allow bloodworm because no-one could catch on maggot? Everyone bagged on roach…
I fished in perfect conditions on Tuesday and really struggled. The fish I caught were mint but had it not been for a handfull of scrounged maggots I would have blanked. Despite painstakingly preparing the biggest hemp and the softest tares I have ever cooked I couldn’t attract a bite on either. It was uncanny and frustrating yet a single maggot over the loose fed hemp and tare feed caught me a smattering of very nice roach.
Alas it’s raining now with more forecast so the roach fishing might go tits up altogether for a while. Not to worry, the bailiff was telling me of a 4lb 8oz perch (weighed, not estimated) from a nearby venue. Might have to get out and pick some lobbies tonight.
Are There Any Wholigans In Here?
Well, there weren’t many as the Wholigans warmed up for the Who Conventionat Dingwalls this weekend with a gig at Sheffield’s legendary Boardwalk but those who were there kinda liked what they saw. I’ve not seen a tribute band before although I’ve seen plenty that ‘borrow’ rather too heavily on the material of others.
We were on the guest list so it would have been rude not to attend. Turns out the drummer likes his fishing, ‘If you wanna know the best spots in Canada just give me a call. Here’s my card, stay in touch…’
The Wholigans make no excuses for copying, they are after all the Mike Yarwoods and Phil Cools of the music world (for youngsters, MY and PC were the Rory Bremners of their day!). But by heck, they can certainly play a bit. My only criticism, which is a bit unfair really, is that they are too authentic. Pete Towshend could be a little, shall we say, indulgent at times. Replicating the ‘Live at Leeds’ set and ‘Tommy – the opera’ involves indulging the indulgent, I guess. But they do it remarkably well and you can really ask no more.
Funnily I’d forgotten what it feels like to wake up the following morning with your ears still ringing after a gig. But that’s what you get for going in front of the PA to take these photos.
Maybe I’m getting old but does it really have to be that loud? It’s years since I last went to The Boardwalk. In fact it was called the Black Swan (or ‘Mucky Duck’) back then. Joe Cocker cut his teeth here. Other notables to tread the boards include Genesis, AC/DC, The Clash, Sex Pistols and countless more. You might say it’s Sheffield’s answer to Liverpool’s Cavern, steeped in musical history.
And now onto the football bit…
A Cup Of Little Cheer
Everton and Liverpool were knocked out this week by Brentford and Northampton respectively. Spurs are out, as are Chelsea and all can lay the blame on the same thing. They put out teams largely made up of fringe players, reserve and youth teamers. Even Arsenal and Manchester United (who went through) put out the kids.
That can’t be right, can it? It’s disrespectful. Even Doncaster Rovers, who went out in the first round, fielded a team I barely recognised. And do you know what? I reckon it’s because teams no longer exist to win things. There is no romance of the cup anymore because it’s as predictable as, no, that’s wrong, it’s more predictable than in Scotland where there are only two teams worth a passing mention and they aren’t all ‘that’ when you consider their European records.
In the past six years Manchester United and Chelsea have won the League Cup 5 times.
Only once since the Premiership began in 1992 has the title been won by a club outside of Manchester United (11 times), Chelsea (3) or Arsenal (3). That was Blackburn way back in 1994/5.
Manchester City’s billions will probably see them benefit most from Liverpool’s sad decline but the rest are simply making up the numbers and clinging on to a ticket for the Premiership gravy train. Teams like Wolves, Stoke, Everton, Villa, West Brom, West Ham, Wigan, Sunderland, Bolton and so on are not there to compete for honours. They simply exist to rake in the TV cash. They’re clinging on to their status and no more. What a pointless farce.
Yet these same teams, the makeweights, field weakened sides in the only competition they can possibly win because they daren’t risk a top player getting injured, thus jeopardizing their Premiership survival. And that’s filtering down to the Championship. If you’re a serious club in the championship, you too don’t want to be sending out your first team in a meaningless cup.
The top Premiership sides may argue that they have to conserve the energies of their best players because the games come thick and fast before Christmas, especially if you’re in the European Champions League or even the group stages of the Europa Cup, so how about we do them a big favour, let’s not include them in the League Cup. Let’s just tell all those teams who qualify for Europe to concentrate on representing us on foreign soil. The rest of the Leagues can then compete in a competition that is actually winnable.
There’s an added bonus to this. It means we get a ‘new’ team in Europe the following season and two enthusiastic sets of fans will enjoy a superb day out at Wembley. Take it from me, there’s nothing quite like watching your team lift a trophy at the new Wembley. It doesn’t matter what the competition is, League Cup, Play-off Final or even Johnston’s Paint Trophy, the feeling is just the same.
And how about we spice up the Community Shield, too, by putting the League Cup winners up against the FA Cup winners? After all, only United, Chelsea and Arsenal have competed for it in the past 14 years excepting one season when Portsmouth made their token appearance.
Then, just to rock the entire apple cart, let’s give the fourth Champions League slot to the FA Cup winners and make that competition really worth pulling out all the stops to win. It’d make a hell of a difference to the wannabe clubs, wouldn’t it?
Well, maybe not all of them. Wouldn’t make a blind bit of difference to a small town team like Donny and our rivals (Rotherham, Barnsley and Scunthorpe) but at least we could dream.
And Just For The Hell Of It – Weird Yet Wonderfull…