January was a bit of a mad month, wasn’t it? I guess the usual suspects must have had a miserable Christmas and decided to cheer themselves up with a bit of mud slinging and bad mouthing. Oh well, like I really cared as I boarded the plane. “Set the controls for the heart of the sun, captain!”
Jeezus it’s hot in Africa! But I’m rushing ahead with myself. Two days before I was due to leave for Uganda, Lee Jackson and the Conningbrook Crew were appearing at a local hotel.
You either hate these nights or you love them. For some it’s an opportunity to socialise, for others it’s an opportunity to be seen. I must say, the audience contained a who’s who of carping and not just northern carpers, either. Folks had travelled from far and wide for this one.
It’s the second show I’ve attended at the Moat House, organised by Pippa Dean, and it’s good to see the star names of this branch of the sport coming north in the grim mid-winter.
I suppose the purpose of the evening was to promote the new books recently published by Lee Jackson and Rod Hutchinson and that’s not meant to be uncharitable in any way. When you’ve put your heart and soul into a project like writing/ publishing a book you’d be doing yourself an injustice not to promote it.
Tim Paisley was rushing around like the old pro he is, making sure he captured all the right pictures for Carp World. Dave Gawthorne had driven four hours to get here and he was determined to drive all the way down to the Stour for a chub session afterwards. That’s determination for you.
Rod’s a lovely guy and if you’ve never met him he’s nothing like what you might expect. A few years ago when I was editing Advanced Carp Fishing I went over to his house where he’d promised to show one of the mag’s young readers how to make boilies. Honest, he was so nervous, shaking like a leaf. And that’s Rod by the way, not the young kid.
His health hasn’t been up to much of late but he’s finally got his eyes sorted out thanks to a series of operations on cataracts. He can even drive without glasses now but it sounds like it was a long and painful job. I shall be reviewing part two of his memoirs shortly when I’ve had a chance to finish reading it.
Oh, and fingers crossed your missus makes a full recovery old feller.
Lee Jackson and Paul Forward delivered a slide show that contained more big carp than you could shake a stick at and lots of pictures of their mates having a good time. It struck me how different carpers are compared with those who pursue most other branches of the sport.
Fishing places like Conningbrook, where a couple of bites a season might be considered good going, you tend to find plenty of time to socialise. If you don’t then you’ll lead a very lonely and boring existence. I’m also guessing if you don’t join in things could easily turn into a Big Brother House scenario as we’ve seen so many times when someone doesn’t fit in.
The last time I spent any time with Lee was at Tyram Hall. Lee was always happy to come along and support the fund raising work we did there for the ACA. Each year we’d spend a weekend on the lake fishing a pro-am affair. Celebrity anglers sharing a swim with guys who’d bid an amount of money to fish with us. The fishing was irrelevant. It was a big social, plus Phil and Irene always fed us well.
Jan Porter brought his guitars along to the final do and Saturday evening was spent with practically everyone in Lee’s swim sharing a massive Chinese takeaway while Lee and Jan jammed away on the guitars till the early hours. Of course, a few lagers were consumed.
Looking back they were great weekends and the host of star name anglers who’ve been up to support the ACA proves without a shadow of a doubt that southern anglers can come north of Watford without getting a nosebleed. I’ll save the tales of Rob Tough and the cuckold wife, Terry Hearn being chased by a groupie and Mitch Smith with his 7 rods for another time!
But enough of the grim north, that show was only 4 miles from home, what were things like down by the equator?
A Gander Around Uganda
As you probably know I went to Uganda at the end of January in search of a big Nile perch. What a trip that turned out to be and what a pleasant surprise the whole experience was. But, before I get onto that, let me say right at the outset, you may find some of the things I share here are bordering on the unbelievable; that perhaps I’m embellishing the stories, adding a few knobs, bells and whistles perhaps, but I swear this is all true.
Stu Walker, James Gould and I landed at Entebbe airport late on Sunday evening following a nine-hour flight from Heathrow. We were met by our driver, Omari, who took us to the Boma guest house where we spent the night.
The next morning we had a meeting to attend and this is where things began to take on a surreal twist. In Paul Torday’s Salmon Fishing In The Yemen, Dr Alfred Jones is invited to create a salmon river in the Yemeni desert, clearly a preposterous idea but once the politicians get involved he’s drawn in deeper and deeper.
On Monday morning I found myself being interviewed for the Ugandan television news alongside the Hon. Serapio Rukundo, Minister of State for Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities. Our meeting was attended by representatives of the Uganda Wildlife Authorityand Martin Luther Oketch, Business Writer at Monitor Publications, too. Indeed the room was full as we outlined our plans and expectations.
Clearly we must have said the right things because we were supported in our every aspiration. We went on to spend several days with Patrick Tushabe, Product Development Executive for the Ugandan Wildlife Authority, Justus Tusuubira, the Conservation Area Manager for the Murchison Falls Conservation Area. George Otube was put at our disposal as a guide. And just to top things off, the Minister decided he’d make the ten-hour round trip to come and join us on the river to learn a little more about fishing.
Of course he’d be bringing his secretary and personal bodyguard.
Have you ever tried stepping over a couple of AK47s in the bottom of a boat when you’re trying to cast? No, nor me before this trip.
And then there was Malik, a man who’s no stranger to conflict zones, who’s been bombed, shot at and had his face plastered on wanted posters. Mind you, if you want a few tank parts or 50 Land Cruisers, Malik’s the man who’ll fix it…
Like I say, it was all a little surreal but very quickly we realised these people meant us no harm, were not a threat in any way and would do whatever they could to make our trip successful. All they wanted from us were ideas, perceptions, help in understanding what British tourists and anglers in particular might want or need. It was a great opportunity for us and we did our best to help them in return.
But first of all, a great big annoying negative. If you’re planning to fly anywhere on a fishing trip using British Airways be aware that they’ve changed their previously advertised policies on sporting goods and they’ll now shaft you at every opportunity. Now we all know that it’s pretty difficult to go fishing without rods and the multi-piece outfits that fold down into a suitcase are fine for catching the odd mackerel or mullet but if you’re doing any serious fishing your rods will be housed in a separate tube.
On every single flight with every single carrier I’ve ever used in the past, I’ve been allowed to treat my rod tube as part of my luggage. Alas British Airways no longer do so. In fact their attitude to excess baggage and additional bags, namely the rod tube, is non-negotiable.
By the time we’d checked-in the old bank balance was £200 lighter. When we suggested to the attendant that this information did not appear on the airline’s web site and that we had not been advised of any change in the policy since booking she said, and I quote, “Other airlines were doing it so we jumped on the bandwagon.” When it was pointed out to her that I would be writing articles about the trip she suddenly became very flustered and begged me not to mention what she had said. Yeah, right…!
On the positive side the on-board entertainment is very good with BA unlike some charter flights which like to charge you extra for the premium films. We had lots of choices including an unusual option, The Last King Of Scotland,a film set in Uganda in the early 1970s. Nicholas Garrigan, a young semi-idealistic Scottish doctor, goes to Uganda to assist in a rural hospital. Once there, he soon meets up with the new President, Idi Amin, who promises a golden age for the African nation.
Garrigan hits it off immediately with the rabid Scotland fan, who soon offers him a senior position in the National Health Department and becomes one of Amin’s closest advisers. However as the years pass, Garrigan cannot help but notice Amin’s increasingly erratic behavior that grows beyond a legitimate fear of assassination into a murderous insanity that is driving Uganda into bloody ruin.
Realizing his dire situation with the lunatic leader unwilling to let him go home, Garrigan must make some crucial decisions that could mean his death if the despot finds out.
So here I am, meeting the Rt Hon Minister for Wildlife, Tourism and Antiquities in front of a battery of TV cameras, I have his mobile number and he’s planning to come fishing with me…!
We ended up by the river flanked on two sides by men cradling AK47s and the presence of AK47’s was a recurring theme throughout our stay, but do you know what? We never once felt threatened or in danger. The people of Uganda were charming, friendly and never stopped smiling. I was fortunate to meet villagers, support workers and numerous high ranking people from the Uganda Wildlife Authority and every single person we met wanted to do nothing more than make our stay a pleasant and successful one.
I look back to the trepidation we felt during the planning stages and can only think that I’d have been much more at risk of violence on a typical night out in Doncaster and I wouldn’t think twice about going back to Uganda. It is an amazing country. The tourist industry has already surpassed coffee as the number one foreign exchange earner and the sector is growing rapidly. Long may that continue.
We stayed at the Sambiya River Lodge where Debbie and the staff really looked after us. The accommodation was of a perfectly good standard and the food excellent. Although Debbie, and Olga at Afri Tours, must have been sick to death of the dozens of emails we sent asking for more and more information. At all times they were truthful, honest and completely reliable with their answers – no wild exaggerations or claims and that’s all you need. They organised the transfers to and from the airport and the daily transfers to the river, too. They even booked the boats, bait boys and entry permits for the park as well. It was a complete and efficient service that I’d definitely use again.
Murchison Falls was no disappointment, either. Even though the water level was at a 50-year low the power was breathtaking. Our research proved to be excellent although we really needed more leads, both for float fishing and legering. The fishing wasn’t easy but when you see the results you’ll wonder what our actual expectations must have been.
I’m not even going to mention what I caught in this blog except to say I’m still grinning like a Cheshire cat – you can wait to hear about that later but suffice to say Stu landed a 53-pound Nile perch on an awaka livebait while James became our catman. Saying that, James did lose a pretty hefty perch.
These fish and more can be seen on the film that’ll be on here shortly but we’re saving that until we’ve premiered it during our Trent Anglers’ Night out Show at Sawley on Friday evening. Unfortunately if you haven’t already secured a ticket you’ll be disappointed to learn the show’s a complete sell-out.
Oh, go on then. Here are the clips I’m sure you all want to see:
Click on the full screen icon at the bottom right hand corner of the clips to enjoy these films in their full glory.
Friend A Gorilla
Since returning from Ugand Stu, James and I have each decided to be involved in the Friend A Gorilla project.
Mountain gorillas are a critically endangered species with just over 700 individuals still surviving in the wild. You’ll probably remember them from that David Attenborough clip where he sits in the rain forest, surrounded by them.
Well, you can sponsor your own gorilla for as little as a dollar and you’ll even be able to keep up with your favourite party animal on Twitter and Facebook if you like. For such a small sum we’ve ‘friended’ a whole bloomin family! It’ll makes a great little kids present or maybe you’d prefer a bit of merchandising – a cap or maybe a T-shirt.
Go on, it won’t exactly break the bank…
Another Trip To Paradise
Anyway, enough of Africa (for now), what else have I been up to? Well, three days after getting back from damn near the equator Sue and I were in Devon at Anglers Paradise, sharing a villa with Des Taylor and his wife Margaret. I love the Valentines weekend party as there are always plenty of laughs to be had and this one was certainly no exception.
The Mr & Mrs competition/ show was a scream. When asked, If Des had broken wind, would he:
a) Own up and take responsibility
b) Deny any responsibility and blame someone else
c) Blame the dog
The fishing was strange to say the least. We’d both gone there hoping to nick a specimen sized golden orfe. As Des was only down for two days and we planned to stay on I suggested he had the lake to himself and I’d do other things. No point in competing for each other’s fish.
With the lake half covered in ice things didn’t look too good, especially as Des’s plan was to fish shallow and spray a gallon of maggots. Amazingly he had one almost straight away weighing 5lb, plus a few smaller fish, but as the wind picked up presentation was ruined and bites stopped so he switched to a feeder and it took him fully 20 minutes to tie a hook in the bitter cold. First cast he had one at 4lb 7oz.
Time for a warm back at the villa. My only concern was that he might have them all or overfeed the fish making my task pretty difficult. As it happens Des never had another bite. After he’d gone home I took over and in the first of four short sessions I never had so much as a single bite. It was uncanny. I did eventually nick a fine brace on what were practically my last two casts of the trip but it was tough going.
The wind blew in four different directions during the visit and although the snowdrops were out the fishing was a month behind. Normally these fish are having a munch in February but the ones I caught were covered in those tiny leeches you see on pike when they’ve been laid up dormant.
For One Night Only
The daughter of a neighbour is doing rather well for herself having trod the west end stage for several years now, appearing in Hairspray, We Will Rock You, Saturday Night Fever and Fame plus she’s toured in the lead roles of Evita and Footloose.
Her dad’s been fortunate to see her perform in both New York and Hamburg so it’s fair to say she’s done pretty well for herself and it was refreshing to hear she was coming ‘home’ to perform a one-off show pretty much for friends and family at what is the next best thing to our village hall, the Dearne Playhouse which has a seating capacity of just 362.
She was accompanied by colleagues from the West End stage including Ricardo Afonso who has played the lead in We Will Rock You at the Dominion Theatre. All I can say is what a night. Quite unexpected in a tiny backwoods theatre that admittedly was opened by Brian Blessed after its recent renovations. Mind you, the Blessed one was brought up in a small town that I can see across the valley from this study window.
Taming The Tricky Trees
A couple of months back I mentioned a weakened Donny team failing to turn up at Forest and taking a sound beating despite enjoying a good deal of the play. It resulted in one Forest follower leaving a comment to the effect that they were a massive team and minnows like Donny belong in the Conference. Crikey, we appreciate that more than anyone but there’s no need to rub it in, is there?
Now whenever I’m out of the country the old Rovers seem to think they deserve a holiday, too, and usually end up taking a few hidings. Obviously I didn’t like the idea that my little jaunts would coincide with an away game at those newly promoted upstarts Leicester (who nicked our favourite player in the summer by offering ‘Loads-a-money’), then twice European Cup Winners (not that they ever mention it…!) Forest and a daunting trip to the (once) mighty Sheffield Wednesday.
That’s how to upset half the country!!!!
Now it has to be said that outside of Leeds United those three teams have rather more than their fair share of supporters who like to come the Billy Big Bo**ocks about how massive they are and they deserve to be in the Premiership by right. Three teams who dwell a little too much on past glories if you ask me, unlike, say, Derby County fans who haven’t had much to crow about in donkeys ages. But who are we to compare…
Imagine my surprise then that despite being in the middle of an injury crisis little old Donny, a pub team of no consequence whatsoever with a tiny, tiny squad, pull off a draw in the Walkers Crisps Bowl, outplay Forest in a comfortable win at the Keepmoat before heading off to Hillsborough and putting in perhaps their best performance since returning to the Championship (I say ‘returning’ like we’ve only been away a couple of seasons but actually it’s 50 years since we last graced the second division!) to win with aplomb.
Unbelieveable. Seven points in the bag and not a single goal conceded. Suddenly we’re in the top half of the table, a game in hand and folk are asking can we make the play-offs? Three weeks ago we were looking nervously at the teams below us. This league is crazy, make no mistake.
And then we forget to turn up at QPR and the doom mongers are out in force again on the football forums. Apparently we’re in danger of going down now!
What a league the Championship is.
It can’t last though. Can it…?
This month’s playlist is a bit of an indulgence on my part. I do enjoy a bit of Santana although it has to be said, playing the Supernatural album while driving home late at night from the River Dove is a good way to rack up a few points on your driving license. It’s an album which should carry a police warning, Playing This Album Loud Could Cost You Your Driving License’.
The short selection below features Carlos Santana collaborating with a number of guests including Shakira, Buddy Guy, Alex Band from The Calling, P.O.D. (Payable On Death), Rob Thomas and others. I hope you like it as much as I do…
If you read the comments folk leave beneath the site’s articles you’ll no doubt have noticed the rather patronising ones left by Graham Elliott of late. On 28th January this year he wrote:
“Going now. You may delete these in case you feel humbled. AND that will be all from me – forever. Tired of teaching old dogs new tricks, and you have no doubt seen the light.”
It followed a tirade of abusive posts and quite frankly, downright lies on a web forum. Of course, no one believed him. Not me, not you, not those he was aiming to impress. It was just puff and nonsense. The sort of stuff I’ve rather come to expect from Steve Pope’s new best mate.
No offense meant towards Steve, but really sir, you should consider carefully what kind of character you are setting up a guiding business with.
On the 19th February, 2010, just 22 days after posting,‘that’s all from me forever’ he’s spouting nonsense again on BFW, claiming:
“I personally am in a big “discussion” with a famous angler that thinks all barbel anglers should “pile it in”…”
Clearly he’s deluded on several counts. Unless I’m seriously mistaken, I am the ‘famous’ angler he’s referring to, and no, I’m not in any kind of discussion with him whatsoever. Nor have I ever actually said, or written, ‘all barbel anglers should pile it in’ and I would challenge him to prove otherwise.
What I have said, and I completely stand by this, is:
‘MOST barbel anglers do not feed enough’
Those are my exact words. Now stop and consider those two statements. There’s a world of difference between them, wouldn’t you agree?
One involves indiscriminate baiting on a mass scale, the other requires intelligence and a need to examine when, why, how much and how often one feeds based on what is happening beneath the water. It’s an absolute fact that far too many anglers sit there blanking when a more positive approach would yield better results.
But I should perhaps know better than to react to the somewhat ridiculous antics of an obvious fantasist.
Poor old Steve Pope’s now entered the crossfire and has seen fit to publish an article on his web site suggesting we’re BOTH right! Talk about trying to play the diplomat. Doesn’t it get a tad uncomfortable sitting on the fence, Steve?
However, Steve Pope has fallen into the trap of believing Elliott’s blatant exaggerations without first confirming his facts. I repeat, I have never actually said that, ‘all barbel anglers should pile it in’. Perhaps Mr Elliott can clarify exactly where he believes I’ve ever said or written those words.
Unfortunately by stating that I’m right, Steve Pope simply compounds the lie. Those are Mr Elliott’s words, not mine, but what we’re left with is a view from the Chairman of the Barbel Society that ‘piling it in’ must be the correct thing to do in some circumstances.
That kind of contradicts his coaching partner’s ideology, doesn’t it? And who’s having a veiled pop again beneath this very article (on the 18th February)…?
Yes, you’ve guessed, Graham Elliott.
Two taunts aimed in my direction (both based in mistruth) in two days is pretty good going for a man who’s own statement, ‘that’s all from me forever’ is so fresh in the memory. Perhaps forever just means a fortnight in the World Of Elliott.
Unfortunately the man’s obsessed; on a mission of some kind. Perhaps I’m supposed to be flattered by his attentions, or maybe angry, but I’m not. I simply feel a degree of pity towards his delusional behaviour, that’s all.
How come everyone on the Jeremy Kyle Show comes from either Nottingham, Bristol or Barnsley? Okay, there’s an odd Brummie on the programme but why do you never see anyone from Lancashire, for instance…?
I’ve said it before but it’s worth repeating, The Kyle show is a throwback to when the middle classes would visit a lunatic asylum to be ‘entertained’ by the inmates. What kind of fool thinks they will find the solution to their clearly dysfunctional existence by exposing themselves to ridicule on National TV? And why does anyone appear on there twice?
Why does anyone deliberately expose themselves to ridicule…
PS: Nearly forgot to mention this. I’ll be appearing on Sky TV’s Tight Lines programme with Keith Arthur on Friday 19th March so some of you might want to make a note in your diaries.