Well, let me open by wishing all you reprobates a sincere and happy new year. I’ll be doing my best in the coming months to keep up the hard work and to entertain you along the way. I’ll also end up upsetting a few folk but that’s life I’m afraid. You don’t make an omelette without cracking a few eggs.
As ever, if anyone seriously takes offense at anything I write, do feel free to contact me privately using the ‘Contact Me’ button. I’ll then do what I can to resolve the issue.
Right, what a catastrophic few weeks for angling. The weather has been abominable and whilst I realise some areas of the country have been hit less hard than others, around here it has been awful. James Gould, who you’ll have spotted on the video footage we shot in India and Africa, emailed me on the 29th December:
‘Well guys I hope you had a fantastic Christmas and are looking forward to the New Year. I was out today with my Dad. We started on the Stainforth and Keadby Ice Rink but the GB Ice Hockey squad were practicing so we headed for the faster waters of the Swale.’
Unfortunately a 60-mile dash up the A1 produced nothing more than this photograph.
‘A quick check of Thornton Bridge before paying for a day ticket gave a big surprise…..the GB Ice Hockey reserves were practicing there just below the bridge where the water races through!!! So it looks like my pike fishing outing will turn out to be yet another alcohol fueled day in front of the boring square box.’ 🙁
I think we’ve all just about had enough of this arctic blast by now, don’t you think?
Those with good memories might recall I included a magazine quiz question in a recent blog that asked which part of the human body you would find a Pons. Blow me the term was only used last night in the increasingly macabre Silent Witness TV drama!
Anyway, what that’s got to do with the real Chris Ponsford, or even pike fishing, is about as tenuous as you’ll possibly ever get but it does give me an excuse to use a picture of this fine River Wye pike that the Ponshadrecently from the River Wye. Just goes to show if you’re out there you’re always in with a chance of success.
I also have to say that catch pictures don’t get much better, do they?
Thank you for sending the picture, sir!
A Fine Pair Of Pins!
Wow! Which up-and-coming angler do these legs belong to? A bit hairy, I’ll give you, but of course, if you know the answer you should see a psychiatrist as there’s definitely something a bit pervy about you. But read on down the blog and all will be revealed…
A Treat For Walker Fans
Fans of Richard Walker should make a note in their new diaries that an interview by Martin James with the (late) great man can be heard in his BBC Radio Lancashire radio show, At the Water’s Edge on Thursday 13th January at 7.30pm.
You can listen live by going to the Radio Lancashire web site and should you miss the broadcast it will be available on iPlayer for the following 7 days.
The interview with Walker includes an account of how he caught the then record carp weighing 44lb from Redmire Pool.
Should be interesting. Click hereif you want a quick link to the Radio Lancashire web site.
Rod License Sales Leap
I see rod license sales have shot up again after a slight dip the previous year, this time to nearly half a million. Just goes to show what a fantastic boost commercial fisheries have given to angling because there ain’t a lot of folk venturing out on rivers unless you count the tiny minority of barbel anglers.
So what do we get for our money from these guardians of the waterways…?
Environment Agency Report Hides The True Facts
The front page headline in the Independent published on the final day of 2010 triumphantly proclaimed, Britain’s Rivers Come Back To Life. Underneath a strap added, Wildlife flourishing as pollution is reversed.
The main picture was of a water vole – among many species that have begun returning to their riverside habitats.
What a load of bollocks!
We’re used to political spin doctoring but this article, no doubt timed to coincide with the Chairman’s bonus review is the ultimate lie. As they say, the devil is always in the detail.
Our waterways have returned to conditions not seen since before the industrial revolution, says the Environment Agency, citing the return of salmon, otters and water voles. A generation ago many British rivers were little better than foul smelling drains – it says, due to, policing by the Agency and investment by water companies.
And it goes on, Evidence of Otter life has risen ten-fold in 30 years, not to mention a, record number of salmon have been reported in the Tyne.
Honestly it sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? But what can we glean from this uber-positive message? Well, as Mark Twain so aptly put it, ‘There are lies, damn lies and statistics’.
Let’s begin with water quality. The EA chooses to measure chemical pollutants in water rather than river health which measures life in total such as invertebrates, fish and plants.
Measured that way only 26% of Britain’s rivers meet the ‘good’ ecological standard required by the Water Framework Directive. 14% are poor whilst 2% are ranked as ‘bad’. So much for ‘conditions not seen since the industrial revolution’.
European Law requires that all rivers will reach the Water Framework Directive’s ‘good’ category before 2015. So why are we not measuring water quality on this criteria now?
It is indeed true that otter numbers have exploded in the UK, but this has precious little to do with natural recovery and water quality. It is everything to do with a programme of captive breeding and subsequent re-introduction to the wild.
The water vole, affectionately recognised by all children as ‘Ratty’ from Wind in the Willows, was once widespread and to be found along the banks of every river, ditch and dyke in the UK. A survey undertaken in 2010 discovered just 30 locations were the animal is regrouping. Some recovery, eh? And why did it disappear in the first place? Look no further than tree-hugging do-gooders liberating American mink from nasty fur farms!
Salmon are celebrated as the iconic symbol of a clean river, however, many wild Atlantic salmon end up diseased and die before they reach the spawning grounds thanks to the foul, polluting, disease ridden, licensed salmon farms to be found in so many Scottish lochs. Many of the salmon that ascend our rivers are the escapees from these farms, not wild fish. And a great many are only here because the agency has stocked salmon fry into headwaters in the first place.
Perhaps if the Agency concentrated on salmon actually reaching the reddsand spawning successfully rather than fish swimming past a counter just up from the mouth of a river then we’d have a better indicator.
Thirty years of effort and countless millions of pounds has yet to produce a self-sustaining salmon population on the Thames. It’s a similar story elsewhere. The Trent weirs, for example, all man-made, form a massive obstacle to salmon movement. Several have no migratory fish passes, others have them in completely the wrong place.
The River Wye was once arguably the most prolific salmon river in the UK. The Wye and Usk Foundation, a charitable organisation, has spent millions improving and creating habitat to increase the chances of spawning success and fry recruitment but a chart published by the EA reveals last year was the worst salmon run in six years. No data was furnished prior to this.
Search the EA’s own web site and you’ll find the Our Nation’s Fisheries report which states quite openly, falling salmon stocks remain a major concern. It also states salmon stocks generally remain in a seriously depleted state – 70% of rivers failed their conservation limit in 2002. And with a resounding background of numbers continuing to fall why is it the EA chooses to triumphantly proclaim that salmon numbers are up on the River Tyne. After all, they would be, wouldn’t they, considering it was a sewer until quite recently. A clear case of an exception not proving the rule, but don’t let the nasty truth get in the way of a good headline, eh?
Sadly the European eel population is now hovering on the verge of extinction. The taking of eels was finally banned when levels declined to just 1% of historic levels. Undoubtedly this is too little and far too late.
And please, don’t get me going on cormorants! This plague of immigrant birds has decimated freshwater fisheries yet still retains the protection that was mistakenly granted them by the EEC. Fisheries can only apply to protect their stocks AFTER damage has been done. Culling can only be reactive rather than proactive and even then, a fishery that has, say, 70 birds plundering the fish stocks might only be granted permission to shoot one pair. That is a joke!
And is it not a coincidence that all the focus is placed on migratory species? What of our native stocks? The article says nothing of the roach, bream, chub, perch or gudgeon that once teemed in our rivers. These coarse fish species were once the staple targets of anglers who lined the river banks.
It’s not surprising really. Their numbers are in such serious decline you’ll rarely see a roach angler these days on the Trent, Witham, Welland or Nene. Clubs and Associations have had to give up miles of holdings on canals, drains and streams due to falling memberships. Why? Because the fish no longer exist in sufficient numbers to make the effort in locating an ever-dwindling shoal worthwhile.
Sadly, no-one wants the job of announcing bad news, do they? After all, it might impact on their fat cat salary or obscene bonus payments.
Honestly, it’s a scandal.
Never Say Never…
We said never again. Enough was enough. But after a season long break from filming Stu Walker and I met up over Christmas and hammered out a few ideas for a new DVD project. Don’t go holding your breath though as it is a mamoth project and it’ll be some while in the making but at least we’re going to give it our best shot.
It is our intention to feature barbel but we’re not going to concentrate exclusively on the species. Nor will the DVDs be part of the Days and Ways series. These will be a stand alone set – probably four films in all.
We’ve invested in another new camera – which has an even higher technical spec than the previous ones – so we should be able to raise the already TV broadcast quality to a whole new level. A bonus then for you HD fans.
Stu and I will be launching ourselves into the new project very shortly and I’ll keep you posted on developments.
Bugger Boris, I Was A Little Tinca On New Year’s Day!
With Christmas done and dusted I decided on a little visit to Devon to let in the New Year. Surely it would be warmer down there? Alas not. The Main Carp lake at Anglers Paradise was frozen over when we arrived, as was the Specimen Carp lake. In fact every sheltered lake was wearing an icy cap but hey ho, you could always brave one of the exposed waters.
With that in mind I figured that Mystery Lake might offer up a few bites because it has healthy stocks of chub and orfe, two species that will usually give you a chance in even the coldest conditions, and sure enough I did manage to snare a few but what a shock it was to be catching tench! It’s one thing to catch a winter barbel, something else completely to catch winter tench.
And when I say tench I don’t mean one or perhaps two, I mean the majority of fish I caught were tench. That they weren’t monsters bothered me not in the slightest. The biggest might only have gone a pound and a half, it was the ridiculous notion of catching around 20 of them in a little over two hours in an easterly breeze with sleet and snow falling. What’s more I managed it two days running.
I did catch the prettiest carp I’m ever likely to see and I’d love to make its acquaintance again when it gets to 20lb. Perfection in miniature.
We shared a villa with friends and what excellent accommodation you’ll find at Anglers Paradise. It’s a million miles removed from some of the fishing places I’ve used with its leather suite, dish washer, washing machine, crikey both bedrooms even had four-poster beds. And we had a Christmas tree! Seriously, if you fancy a fishing break that your missus will take a shine to, give this place a look. Valentines is just around the corner and that’s always a cracking weekend of parties and fishing.
Being lazy by nature I left the shopping to John who took care of all our needs. Err, this is the fridge…
And this is the cupboard next to it…
Do you think he forgot anything? Nah, there was more wine, brandy and vodka on the counter!
Mind you he did knock up some amazing meals.
The party in Zyg’s African Bar on New Year’s Eve was excellent as ever. Tom does a fantastic job on the turntables and many of the usual culprits had turned up, the choice was formal or fancy dress. If you ever fancy something different at New Year when you don’t have to battle each time you fancy a drink, give it a go.
One rather unusual sighting was a blackbird with a white head and a white flash on its tail. One wonders whether it’s just a freak or maybe mummy was playing away from home with a pied wagtail!
Oh, before I forget – the legs?
They belong to none other than Julian Chidgley, reigning Drennan Cup holder. Or perhaps I’ve just revealed a sneak preview of Korum’s new camou range – imagine it, the Pons could be Friar Tuck, or Alan Stagg as Robin Hood!
New Books In The Pipeline
Fishing Booksender has a few new titles in the pipeline which I hope to review in the coming months. First up, in January, will be Mike Starkey’s second book a “Dream of Carp – the Somerset Years”.
Available right now are copies of “Our Days with Dick” signed by Ian Howcroft.
Then comes a collaboration between Wye Angling Publications and Fishing Booksender called ‘From Minnows to Marlin’ an autobiography by Dave Steuart. It’ll be launched at the Land’s End Inn near the small town of Twyford, Berkshire, sometime in April.
There’s also a very limited edition by modern specimen hunter, Mick Hanson on the cards. At least one other book is planned. More details can be found on the web site
Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot…?
I wasn’t sure whether to include the following item, after all, a reaction is exactly what these folk are looking for. Graham Elliott has been treading a very fine line of late. Having run to the police last year in an attempt to cause trouble he was warned not to contact me again by any means, so goading me on web sites in the run-up to Christmas is perhaps not the wisest course of action, is it?
Let me make something quite clear. I have no desire to ever speak with Graham Elliott, nor meet him, to trade insults with, or even to be in the same country quite frankly, but it seems my involvement with coaching on the River Wye doth vex him gravely for some reason.
Sadly he doesn’t understand what I do, how I do it, or even why I do it. One of my guests last year was kind enough to reveal he’d been guided by several ‘names’ including Elliott. It was an interesting conversation and in his opinion, the service we provided was by far the best in terms of both content and value for money.
Now please, I’ve no wish to blow my trumpet, intentionally rubbish others or go touting for business. Had I wished to do so I’d have written about his comments last year (and in greater detail). As far as I am concerned it is live and let live.
What anyone else provides or charges for guiding is their business, not mine, but it seems that Matt Hayes’ rate of £500 has upset a few folk and led to some bitter character assassination on BFW. No surprise there then, eh?
Matt charges what he does because he can. I could ask £10,000 a day if I wished, but no-one would pay. Clearly enough folk will pay £500 for Matt to make it worth his while to set aside a few days each season in his hectic schedule. What’s wrong with that?
The question of value for money doesn’t come into it. Nor does what you learn or what you catch. The key feature in Matt’s case is that the customer gets a nice big signed picture of him or herself, with the Matster’s arm draped around the shoulders to display for evermore on the mantelpiece. He’s a TV star. End of. He’s on the box more often than Laurence Llewellyn Bowen or Vanessa Pheltz for Christ’s sake, and try renting them by the hour!
No, good luck to Matt. I’ve not heard of a single unhappy customer so far.
But back to BFW. It was inevitable that certain individuals would seize an opportunity to hijack the thread and turn it into a slagging match. After all, isn’t that what Andy Francis’ site is all about? A platform for bitching and knocking?
And woe betide anyone who proffers the voice of reason. Jim Foxall kindly posted that he’s had a look at the day rates for staying at Caer Beris, plus the costs of fishing, breakfasts, evening meals, packed lunches, travel expenses, bait, tackle, etc, and he comes up with the absolute correct conclusion that there isn’t much profit in it for Bob Roberts.
Thank you Jim, I don’t know you from Adam but you are spot on. It isn’t a profit making venture for me, it’s an opportunity for me to spend spend time exploring a river I happen to love, it helps the hotel owner (who is a close and much valued friend), and it helps the Wye and UskFoundation. Best of all the guests have been absolutely brilliant on every single course. Many remain in touch, not just withme, but with each other. Not one of our customers has complained about the service they get.
This years course sold out within 24 hours with a waiting list long enough to run another, should I have wished to run one. Guests are always encouraged, after they’ve had four days with me to do the trip without me yet more than 60% re-book with me. Some guests are now on their 3rd and 4th trips.
So what kind of idiot broadcasts snide comments that I’m ‘only’ running one course this year inferring a lack of demand? It’s pathetic! I’m running one course because that is what I have chosen to do. Coaching is not my day job. One week will satisfy my desire to spend some time in the Wye valley and, as you’ve read (above), Stu and I plan to shoot four DVDs this year. That is a huge time commitment.
Sadly this kind of sniping is guttural and surely tells us much about those who feel driven to make such comments. And one idiot seems to beget another. Elliott’s ‘friend’ Roccacouldn’t resist chipping in with this little bon mot: ‘no one would wish to fish with Florin without payment. Can you imagine the whole day of “I am this and I am that” on and on and on.’
Rather a profound statement, don’t you think, from one who has never once met or spoken to me, yet he claims to know exactly how I behave with guests. I’ll leave that for you to work out.
And then there’s a nice gent called Simon King, inspired by Rocca no doubt, stating that he would pay any amount not to fish with me. Well, Mr King, that’s fine by me, so here’s the deal. If Matt Hayes gets you hot under the collar for charging £500 per day to fish with him, how about I charge you £500 not to fish with you for the whole of next season? That’s a bargain at less than £1.50 a day. Or are you talking utter shite, too?
And do let me put to rest one innuendo being spread by Mr Elliott.
Last year we indeed did have an unfortunate accident (reported in this blog) where an angler tripped on a pebble beach and broke his ankle. We had him whisked off to hospital, strapped up, taken back to the hotel, taken back to hospital for treatment the following morning and he was then on the bank again that afternoon. If he felt there was the slightest negligence or blame on our part he would hardly have re-booked this year, as he has done, along with his son.
But more importantly, had it been a serious incident, the hotel carries public liability insurance cover. I wonder if Mr Elliott or any other ‘professional’ guides out there are in a position to reassure their customers that they carry similar cover, because accidents can happen…
Finally, after 21 rambling pages, a site moderator (Jon Berry) finally decided he’d had had enough of the back stabbing and locked the thread – and I quote his response: Getting bored of this one now – we’ve gone way off topic and are descending in to personal insinuation now – not big or especially clever. Locked.
He was so right. There were many offensive remarks. But if a thread degenerates to the point where it has to be locked, should not every single potentially offending post be removed at the very least? And perhaps an official apology published by the site owners to those who have been publicly maligned?
So tell me this: Why, oh why, did Jon Berry and his cohorts allow it to run so long in the first place? At what point did they reach the conclusion that the thread existed for one purpose only – to attack fellow anglers who aren’t members of the site and were therefore unlikely to respond? Was it on page 2, or maybe page 10? Or did they think those comments in the first 20 pages were all perfectly acceptable?
So why do the site owners appear to sympathise and put up with the trouble makers? Who gains from this slanderous talk?
Oh yes, that’s it. Conflict and controversy attracts traffic (the thread had received almost 11,500 views by this morning) which in turn must result in visits to the site shop, in which case the site owner must be rubbing his hands. Hmmm… If that is so then it makes them worse than the trouble makers, doesn’t it?
Jon Berry has subsequently resigned as a moderator, and who can blame him? So much then for Fatwa World’s intention to clean up its act and root out the trouble causers.
Oh well, perhaps it is time for a rousing rendition of that seasonal classic…
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And days o’ auld lang syne.
And for auld lang syne, my jo,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.
And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp!
And surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.
And for auld lang syne, my jo,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.
So, Messrs Elliott, Rocca, King and anyone else who has an irrational axe to grind with me, please do everyone a big favour and find someone who actually gives a toss about your opinions to pester. Meanwhile, maybe we could just let auld acquaintances be forgot, eh?