As we finally emerge from the iron grip of the recent arctic blast perhaps it’s time to take stock of how our fish have been faring. I’ve heard reports of one commercial fishery being severely hit with thousands of fish carcasses clearly visible beneath the ice. Small, heavily stocked lakes will be hit hardest, I suspect. Don’t expect anyone to admit they’ve had massive fish kills though. That would be bad for business.
Permanently frozen stillwaters mean the rivers have taken a right old hammering at the beaks of the larger fish eating birds. The likes of cormorants, mergansers and goosanders have been feasting on whatever silver fish they can find. I mentioned recently that every electricity pylon near the River Dearne had a set of roosting cormorants while the lakes were iced over. Normally they look for easier pickings but when they’re hungry they’re prepared to work a bit harder for their suppers.
I’m not expecting to be spending many evenings after roach on the Dearne near Harlington this summer as it’ll probably be a total waste of time.
But It’s Not All Doom And Gloom
Despite my predation obsession I’ve been enjoying some great fishing, all things considered. An afternoon trip to the Trent found not another soul on the banks and all the room in the world to work my stalking magic. To be fair it was up a bit and pushing but who cares when you’re out in the fresh air? Providing you have a line in the water there’s always a chance of some action.
I didn’t have to wait long for it, either. The plan was to spend 20 minutes in each swim and move. The target species was chub and bread the bait. Feed was simply ‘licky’ in a feeder. First swim, two casts, two lost feeders. Time to move!
Second swim, one cast, and was that a tap? Re-bait, recast and bingo, that tap turned into a proper bite and chub number one was never going to escape my size 8 hook to 5lb line. I love it when a plan comes together.
The rest of the session was spent exploring swims. Most produced no indications but eventually I dropped in a swim that had the right ‘feel’ to it. One cast, one bite and I was hanging on – ‘Don’t they ‘ang on!’ as Matt Hayes would say, or if you’re a bit older, ‘Don’t they ‘ang on!’ as Peter Stone used to say.
This fish was in a different class to the previous one. A proper long-framed fish but it obviously hadn’t been eating much in recent weeks. It’ll fill out and make a fine specimen over the next couple of months no doubt. I didn’t weigh it. Didn’t need to really. What difference would it make what it weighed? It was a fish I enjoyed catching and the pics will do for posterity. No need to reduce it to a number.
Another fish followed and that was it. Good to be back though.
And A Boris!
I love my winter chubbing and a certain little swim on a tiny river was calling out to me. How could I resist. I rose early, threw my gear in the car, sped down to the river and I was making my first cast just before the church clock chimed 11am. You can’t beat and early start for chub, can you!
I then toyed with a move, but where to? Logic suggested the same river lower downstream would produce but for some reason I followed my gut instinct and paid a visit to a tiny feeder stream instead. First cast in I missed a really good pull. I was so distracted admiring the images on my camera that I only caught the bite out of the corner of my eye. It was a proper rod wrencher but as is often the case with chub, it didn’t hook itself.
Oh well, I hadn’t struck so chances were I hadn’t spooked it.
Back in again and blow me if the tip didn’t go straight round. Hooked this one alright but it found a snag. Twice I bullied it out but on the second time the hook link cut through just below the feeder. Damn!
Really I should have moved. This swim was ruined but I decided to have a coffee and wait patiently for things to settle down.
After a suitable rest I went back in and for a third time the tip wrapped round. This time I jumped up and positioned myself opposite the snag. It still found sanctuary but fortunately responded to a bit of side strain. As the fish boiled beneath the surface it felt more like a barbel rather than a chub.
When an erect dorsal fin cut through the surface I was in no doubt. Barbel number one of 2011 was heading into my waiting landing net. What a pleasant surprise and a cracking result! Not exactly a monster but arguably a specimen from such a tiny stream. Two weeks into the new year I’ve now had a tench and a barbel. What next, perhaps I should target a carp off the surface before the month’s out?
Stranger things happen.
I get increasingly exasperated with folk on fishing forums telling anyone who will listen that otters are not a problem. That they’ve been here all the time and their numbers will soon balance out. Honestly, I do wonder what planet these folk are on! Otters eat fish. It’s their staple diet whenever there are fish to be eaten. They love eels – unfortunately eel numbers are down to 1 per cent of what they were 20 years ago. Cormorants have wiped out 90 per cent of the silver fish in our rivers. Exactly what’s left for Mr Otter to eat?
You see, the places where otters did survive had something in common. You didn’t find them on the Trent or the Don 50 years ago. Nor did you see them on the Witham, or Welland. Otters survived on rivers that supported a migratory fish cycle – salmon, sea trout, eels and shad. Unfortunately salmon numbers have dropped dramatically over the past 6 years. They ate native white claw crayfish (now extinct in most rivers), too. No doubt they supplemented their diet with the odd water vole (sadly endangered after almost being wiped out by illegally released American Mink) or perhaps a shrew here and there (seen any of them lately?) and of course swan mussels (hang on they’re in such decline they’ve had to be protected).
Everywhere you look the otter restaurants have closed. The otter’s staple diet is not out there any more. It no longer exists beyond a few remaining pockets that need protection rather than predation. Our rivers have too few silver fish and an imbalance of big fish, the latter being in somewhat decreasing numbers. Don’t be fooled by the pretty catch pictures in the press – most of them are the same daft fish getting caught over and over again. Who’s turn is it to catch the Kennet dace? The Ouse perch, the Bristol Avon roach, the Loddon barbel, the Ouse barbel (hang on, they’ve gone!), The Wensum barbel (oh, hang on, they’ve gone, too!)? Ah, the Lea chub, the Stour chub, and so on.
Do you really think there are thousands of them? If so, you are deluded. And when this current cycle ends, what then? Where are the new fish that come through to replace the old ones when they die off?
Lee Swords sent me a few images this week. I won’t name the venue but rest assured this is one place otters certainly didn’t exist 50 years ago, but they do now. The evidence is there for all to see in the carcasses on the bank. To use Lee’s own words, ‘the total removal of soft tissue is a classic otter trait’.
Great to hear that Lee’s actually been catching a few fish despite the declining odds, including this splendid 17lb 10oz pike. No doubt that’s a few more points in the bag in his quest to win the Climax Challenge Cup, a competition for specialist anglers in the Angling Star newspaper.
Ah, but no worries, on the predation score a few otters, the odd cormorant and an occasional immigrant plundering our dwindling wild fish stocks is a small price to pay for knowing that everything else in the countryside is fine and dandy. After all, it could be worse. We could have seals to contend with.
Oh, that’s right. We do have seals coming up the rivers. Click on this video clip, sent to me by Noel Garside. It’s from his local BBC web site and shows a seal on the Severn with its jaws clamped round a 20lb common carp.
Make the most of your fishing while it lasts folks. I appreciate that those who defend otters probably don’t actually catch much in the first place so it really doesn’t matter to them if there are any fish in the rivers at all. Makes little difference to them, but knowing there’s a cuddly killer hidden away out of sight probably makes them feel all warm inside. Aaaahhhh!!! Lovely.
Wake up folks. Otters need controlling.
For their own sakes.
Unfortunately it won’t happen.
It’s even less likely to happen when these idiots within our ranks are going around saying they do no harm. The same idiots are probably enticing foxes to feed in their gardens! Bloody townies…
Pons Lands Image Rights Deal
The Pons was clearly tickled by my piece about him and the picture of his fine fish. I gather there was an article about it due in Angling Times either this, or last week. He wrote to wish me (Sir Bob) a happy new year, adding, ‘Friar Tuck, made I laugh.’
Butenough of that, the Pons (BIG funny guy – warm personality) is claiming a certain Belgian Beer and nosh establishment in Covent Garden has his smiling face on all the beer mats, him being a dead handsome, babe magnet and all that. So I checked it out. Not sure it’s him, mind, although his dad might have had a bike!
Seems the Pons will be filming some new videos this year after taking a break for a year. Friar Tuck Productions will be hitting a river near you soon, he reckons.
On a serious note, he points out that he does actually have the requisite insurances and qualifications for his own peace of mind when he does a bit of guiding, although like me, he has little time to fit in such extravagances. You can never be too careful though and it seems one of his regulars, a fitness fanatic, passed away from a heart attack at the gym, shortly after a trip with him, but at least he left the Pons with a huge smile on his face, not to mention the knowledge that we should all live each and every day to the full.
Pons appears to be really enjoying his fishing and is very busy with his EA bailiffing work. Seems our Eastern migrant chums are hungry folk and he’s looking forward to renewing his friendships with them, all in the spirit of entente cordiale!
He signs off as the artist previously known as Pons, now the Friar.
By the way, I knew that Peter Pan costume Chidgley wore really was part of the new Korum range of lightweight camou clothing…
Ice King ‘Boats’ Pike
Frustrated with not being able to pike fish one of his favourite haunts due to ice he lost patience and took his boat along to use as an ice breaker. Having cleared an area big enough to fish in he caught seven fish including this cracking 21-pounder. He also lost what looked like another good twenty at the net.
He reckoned he was going back in the hope of fluking another out the following day but these aren’t fluke captures by any means. This is someone who knows exactly what he’s doing and has the sheer bloody-minded determination to make it happen. A great bit of angling that I take my hat off to.
The Sky’s The Limit
One of the true joys of angling is not found in what we catch but in what we observe. As a photographer the sky plays a massive part in the quality of the end product, not just due to the intensity of the light but in the depth, colours and variety of the hues. And then we get the skys that are just plain ‘odd’. Take this for instance. What a backdrop to a catch pic it would have made…
The sky to the left was a solid block of grey cloud, to my right it was a clear blue and cloudless. I had watched it advance from the far horizon like an eye opening and it would have made the most stonishing time lapse footage had I had the video camera with me.
Blogs Are The Past, Not The Future
I seem to have spent less and less time reading angling forums of late and what spare time I do have tends to go on the growing number of angling blogs.
Quite a few anglers have dived into blogging with creative passion and in some cases genuine flair. Sadly the worst elements in cyberworld simply use the platform to abuse other anglers as an extension to their previous weapon of choice, the aforementioned forums. Frequently it’s me they attack, or Steve Pope, or Fred Bonney, or anyone they regard with an irrational contempt.
Their charmless attacks are delivered in two ways. Firstly in their own sordid excuses for blogs and secondly in messages posted beneath those blogs. I suppose I’m flattered they care so much about me and I’m sure my fellow targets feel the same, but don’t we all have to pity these bitter and vitriolic individuals? It appears the only friends they have in angling is each other.
Sad isn’t it?
By way of total contrast there are a number of genuinely interesting blogs out there. Blogs that contain terrific images, humour, valid opinions, indeed great insights into the lives and passions of normal everyday anglers. What’s more, the ones who update regularly clearly reveal the depth of their passion for angling as each develops his or her own style.
I’ll go so far as to suggest that the best bloggers will one day be recognised as the front line of a new wave of angling writing. After all, what is Martin Bowler’s column in Angling Times other than a blog of sorts? It’s a log without the web bit.
Blogging might not be the new rock and roll but it’s the new underground. People’s writing that doesn’t rely on the support of big companies and publishing houses. It’s arguably angling’s answer to punk rock, hippy music, grunge and indie rolled into one. Publish yourself (and be damned).
Many folk still bemoan the passing of great magazines like David Hall’s Coarse Fishing, but just think back to what actually made those magazines great? It was columns like Wading On, Love Stories, Life And Times Of An Angler, Geoffrey Bucknall’s Diary, Tales of Tydd, Shining Times, etc, etc. The list goes on, doesn’t it? And what were these articles? A series of diaries, which is exactly what the best angling blogs are.
If you want to recreate the modern version of David Hall’s Coarse Fishing simple read the best 12 angling blogs around and you have the content. Throw in Steve Partner’s rants on the Angling Times site as an editorial, drop into the same site, or Fishing Magic, or Anglers Net for the tackle reviews and there you have it, a 1970’s fishing magazine brought right up to date, without the adverts.
And they’ll get better. Trust me.
Meantime check out this blog. I came across it the other day and love the cartoons.
Prime Time Television?
I see the BBC came a cropper over ageism and as a consequence we license payers will now have to fork out £150,000 to Miriam O’Reilly, plus I imagine as much again in costs. Methinks the executive in charge, Jay Hunt should now do the honourable thing and fall on HER sword. The savings on her salary alone would probably make up the deficit in no time.
It is an unfortunate fact of life that TV favours the young and the attractive. If you also happen to be ethnic with homosexual tendencies and maybe exude a bit of religious fervour then you’re probably quids in.
One can’t help but feel that talent comes way down the list of critical needs, just look at modern comedians for proof of that. Miriam may not have realised, but you can actually teach a mynah bird to repeat lines although folk generally prefer a parrot because its prettier.
Fashion modelling favours the tall and the thin. Photographic modelling favours the beautiful and the enigmatic. Page three favours those with big boobs while female TV presenters tend to be youthful and attractive.
This is not a unique situation. Footballers are past their prime in their early thirties and they actually shoot old horses! (I was tempted to call them nags…)
Prime time TV generally employs people who are in their prime. Why can’t these luvvies recognise that? If you want a career that lasts a lifetime get a job in the Civil Service.
Some careers, like television presenting, come with a widely understood caveat. It’s a young man’s, or a young woman’s game. The twist is that you get awfully well paid. Even politicians have stylists these days, and personal photographers, media coaches and so on. Television and cinema is all about image today and very often has little to do with content.
But when they get their big breaks and inflated salaries at a young and tender age, you don’t hear them complaining about that, do you?
Ah, it’s different for men, they claim. But is it that much different? Ignore the stellar examples who get paid millions, and Bruce Forsythe, who is employed by what is the most pointless show ever invented, many male presenters face the same problems of ageism. And fatism.
That’s why Gordon Ramsay has gone under the knife. It’s why many others have, Syco Cowell included. Lunchtime Botox anyone? Hair dye and facelifts. Anything to extend your shelf life, it seems.
Genetics dictate that most of us end up with a face that’s better suited to radio rather than TV. Mainstream TV is mostly a playground for the young, the beautiful and the surgically enhanced. The rest will find occasional employment on an obscure satellite channel if they’re very lucky.
The thing is, a presenters job on a TV show is not a job for life. It’s a contract. It is short lived. When I emply a plumber, an electrician or some other tradesman I pay him for the job, not for the rest of his life.
It’s the same with fishing magazines. David Hall often used a phrase that has stuck with me ever since, ‘We all have our time together. Nothing lasts forever’. If you ask any seasoned journalist what question comes up time and time again at editorial meetings he’ll probably say, ‘How do we refresh the product?’.
The answer lies with new ideas and new blood. Stand still in this game and the writing is on the wall for you (no pun intended). I hear on good authority that Des Taylor and Angling Times went their separate ways this week. Differences over the amount of space being allocated to Des in the re-launched paper it would seem.
I like Des. A Lot. He can be great company and underneath the veneer he’s not the tough, hell raising character you might imagine, but he is definitely a character. Something angling is crying out for. He’s had one hell of a run at the Times, working under umpteen different editors, but when the boss decides to shuffle the pack you either go with the flow or you go against it.
Going against it is seldom a good idea.
But back to the Beeb. There is a way for females to stake their claim on career longevity and that is the soaps. They’re full of actresses who are well past their prime. How about cooking? Delia Smith is regularly on the box, as is Nigella and perhaps that’s because they deliver the goods. The Apprentice’s Margaret is no spring chicken, but she brings something to the table that appeals to viewers. Sharon Osborne, Ann Robinson, Oprah, Joanna Lumley and many others are getting on a bit, aren’t they?
But let us be frank now. Naturewatch isn’t exactly a brilliant programme, is it? On the rare occasions I do watch it, usually because they’re featuring a subject that I know a little about, for example eels, otters or cormorants, I end up wanting to put my boot through the screen. So, if the content’s rubbish, what else might make it more tolerable to someone like me? That’s right. A bit of eye candy.
Works for the X-Factor and every other successful show on the box. And if you’re not convinced, ask yourself this. Why doesn’t SAGA have its own TV channel…?
Enough of who’s on TV, how about MY TV? Okay, I have an update.
What was it the old Gollum lookee-likee posted? Oh, that’s it. Something along the lines of, a huge company like Panasonic would hardly be bothered by an idiot like me moaning about his defective telly on an obscure fishing blog…
I guess you won’t be too surprised to learn he’s spouting rubbish again, but at least we should give credit where it’s due, he has had an awful lot more practice than the rest of us.
Shortly before Christmas my persistence actually paid off and the mighty Panasonic corporation did indeed change its stance. In fact Panasonic agreed to review their position completely and wrote to me, asking if I’d kindly arrange for an engineer (at my convenience) to provide them with a report (at their cost), and they would then seek to find a resolution.
It wasn’t an outright capitulation but it was certainly a giant stride in the right direction.
And then came a call from Tom Griffiths who’s part of the customer care team at Richer Sounds (from where I originally purchased the TV). Tom’s been supportive and helpful in every possible way since he heard of my problem. Indeed, he could not understand why Panasonic was being so obstructive.
Pre-Christmas, Tom promised he’d take up the matter with his Purchasing Director who in turn would lean on Panasonic. Then he rang back, apologising for the delay, what with Christmas and the like, but with great news:
“Bob,” He said, “We’ll get the TV repaired. We’ll pay for it if necessary and we’ll claim the costs back from Panasonic. I can only sympathise with the trouble you’ve been put through and apologise for the hassle, after all, you’ve provided me with all the warranty documentation evidence and they should have dealt with this straight away, but we at Richer Sounds pride ourselves on our customer relations and after service. You’ll get a call this afternoon from our repair department to arrange a convenient date.”
How good is that?
Just in case you missed it, I was dealing with Tom Griffiths, he works for Richer Sounds and I have to say he, and his company, have given me the best possible support and service any customer could ever wish for. No wonder they have their own web page! Just click the image for details…
And if you’ve followed this mini saga over the past few blogs you will obviously understand why I’m suggesting that if you are in the market for any any kind of home entertainment kit, be it hi-fi, computing, TV, DVD or sound systems, don’t buy until you’ve checked out Richer Sounds.
If you search hard and long enough you might be able to undercut their prices by the odd copper here and there but just consider, when you’re investing a great big chunk of your hard earned cash it’s the after service that really counts and Richer Sounds has demonstrated to me that theirs is second to none.
Right now I’m gazing at a big empty space on the wall where my pride and joy used to sit. A nice man came this morning and took it away to be repaired. I’m missing it already!
But it’ll be back soon.
Holy Copycats Robin, Gotham’s Got A Rival!
And just for fun, let me round up with one of those utter ‘I don’t b-e-l-i-e-v-e it!’ items you’ll only ever find in America. The city of Seattle, home to grunge, Nirvana and not to mention that hilarious fake orgasm in a restaurant scene, now has its own superhero…
Unfortunately he was punched in the face this week and had his nose broken. How come that never happened to Batman?
Bob The Fish Update
Right now there are some bargains to be picked up right across the range including John The Shark and Jim The Shark. You can check them out by clicking the image or you can go here and have a look at Bob’s Facebook page.
There’s an amazing array of fans wearing the gear from all around the world.