2012 – April Blog

Welcome to the closed season folks! Looks like the usual forum posters are ripping lumps off each other again and the search for anything to criticise is as relentless as ever. How can anyone criticise a DVD, produced by the Barbel Society to promote fish care and welfare, I ask you? Sometimes you really do have to say that some folk need to get a life. Seriously, they need help. One thread I read said we shouldn’t even photograph fish!

Having fished in locations around the world and experienced many different cultures it’s difficult not to come to a conclusion that some folk are far too precious. I eat fish. Chances are you do, too. Doesn’t matter if it’s a bit of cod or haddock down the chippie, or a fish finger from Tesco, or kippers for breakfast, we all eat fish. And shellfish. Fish are food. Tinned tuna, salmon, sardines, prawns, cockles and so on are fair game it seems. 

I know folk who say they only eat fish caught by sustainable methods – line caught bass for example – yet it’s still fish. Yes, it is sustainable (we think) but it still results in a dead fish. What we’re actually protecting is not a fish at all but rather the opportunity to catch it again. If we cared so much for the fish we might decide not to catch it in the first place…

Meanwhile those who think that farmed fish are fine because they’re bred for the table are conveniently ignoring the ecological consequences of fish farming. And what are they fed on? Pellets made from other fish.

Anglers use these same pellets all the time to catch a multitude of species and lest we forget, fishmeal boilies are made from fish, too, so come on folks, there’s a degree of double standards here. Plenty of anglers use fish as baits and whether they are live or dead, sea or freshwater doesn’t come into it. They’re fish. It just seems that some species are more special than others and that’s where a ‘code of practise’ for fish care is fundamentally flawed. It’s fish apartheid but let’s not forget that none of these codes have any legal standing. They are all advisory.

So next time you are about to bash out another tirade on your computer, why not stop and think for a second. The folk who have spent time and effort on creating a code, promoting it and encouraging better practises are at least doing something positive. If you think you can do better why not prove it rather than attacking those who at least have a go?

Death Of A Princess

I felt no remorse a couple of weeks ago when catching some fine tuna that went straight in the boat’s well. Fresh tuna steaks for dinner were just fine by me. Oddly I found myself struggling with the death of a different fish a few days later. Indeed I was horrified and it affected me deeply. You see, in my head it appears to work like this. The sea is big and some species are bountiful. I catch cod from the North Sea on rod and line and feel quite comfortable to take a dozen fillets home with me, but see trawling as an evil. Beam trawling destroys the very environment they live on. So maybe I’m not guilty of double standards in this case.

But certain species are thin on the ground to the point of being genuinely rare and I would never deliberately kill one. During our trip to the Andaman Islands at the eastern end of the Bay Of Bengal after GTs and Doggies, plus anything else that might happen along on lures and jigs, I was offered a chance to try for a marlin using stand-up fighting gear from the same small boat. Of course I agreed to give it a go even though I thought it was probably a very long shot. Amazingly we rose a marlin to the lure but it failed to grab it properly.

That was a real buzz, I can tell you. What I had not really done was consider all the outcomes in advance. Yes I expected an epic battle that carried the risk of being pulled overboard if I was truly unlucky but what else? I genuinely didn’t know because this, to me, was a venture into the unknown.

And then the sister boat, following half a mile behind in our wake, rose a marlin at the same spot, possibly the very one that came to our lure, only this time it hit properly and was hooked. In the distance we watched it leap clear of the water  several times. To actually be there and witness this was spectacular. A million miles removed from seeing it on the telly. So we kept a safe distance and watched the battle unfold. Eventually a marlin weighing all of 300lb was brought alongside the boat – what a creature! The princess of all the seas. I had never seen one this close before and was truly in awe.

The hook was nicely nicked in the scissors and could have been twisted out in a flash. I would have been so impressed had the fish been released, after all the skill in fishing is in the safe release rather than the capture. It’s what we stand for and how we defend our actions to a non-fishing audience. Unfortunately total euphoria had broken out on the other boat. Folk wanted their picture, their moment of glory, and from the moment the struggle began to get 300lbs of magnificence on board that fish was condemned to death. It didn’t stand a chance of survival.

I watched in horror as it was clumsilly haulled inboard with a huge combined effort and then came the first ooze of dark red blood from its gill plate. The captors were oblivious. They wanted to lay on it, lay by it, have it hoist onto their knees for the obligatory team shot and the clock was ticking – not that it mattered. By now I’d climbed back into the other boat and put my camera away. I wanted no part of this gruesome carnage. If you could have teleported me the 6,000 miles back home at that very moment I would have taken it.

Yet at the risk of being called a hypocrit I would be tucking into a fresh tuna steak later, a fish that I had caught personally and condemned to death. Where’s the logic in that?

After a while, amid the whooping and celebrations, someone suggested it was time to return the fish. Our skipper simply shook his head. He was aware, probably before I was, that this fish had paid the ultimate price for a trophy photo. He also knew that it would provide him with some great publicity but the disappointment and sadness was painfully apparent in his eyes.

Me? I was sickened. It was like watching the ritual slaughter of a prisoner, or a car crash that you can do nothing to prevent. I felt impotent. I wanted to scream STOP!!! But there was nothing I could have done that would have made any difference and it put a dampener on my enjoyment of the rest of my trip. I certainly didn’t have any desire to try for another billfish and I’m not sure if I ever will in the future. For it struck home to me how often this is the outcome. Yes, big game anglers talk catch and release but do they actually practise it? The photos of fish hung upside down from dockside gantries are now frowned upon but how many of those photos we see taken at sea still result in the fish losing it’s life? Far too many I suspect. It goes with the territory.

When anglers have parted with that much cash they expect to have a photo they can show to their friends. It’s not for me I’m afraid, I’ll stick with my GTs and tuna, thanks. Needless to say the three of us agreed we’d not bother trying again for a marlin on this trip.

I’m not going to write much about the Andamans Trip as we made a film for Sky TV whilst out there. After it’s broadcast then it’ll be available on Stu’s Youtube channel and on the front page of this site, plus I’ll highlight it in the blog. Rather than tell you what we caught I’m sure you’ll appreciate seeing what we caught in High Definition instead.

Salmon Fishing In The Yemen

Swiftly lightening the mood, Paul Torday’s unlikely tale about introducing salmon to the Yemen is probably the funniest angling book I’ve  ever read. No, make that definitely the funniest. And now it’s a film. Salmon Fishing In The Yemen is a political farce that might have been a logical extension of the TV series Yes Minister. Whitehall gone mad with an underlying element of truth.

Looks like it has a strongcast and a screenplay by the writer of Slumdog millionaire. Certainly the trailer alone is enough inspire a cinema visit. Can’t wait!

On the other hand, if you don’t fancy the movie, treat yourself to the book. You won’t regret it.

Getting Around

I do apologise for the lack of coarse fishing in this blog but that’s because I’ve spent a big chunk of the past month out of the country. There was hardly time to unpack after my trip to the exotic east before hitting the skies again, this time I was heading west. Overnight stop in Manchester and then it was on to Philadelphia. Seemed odd to be negotiating snow on the Pennines after the heat of Asia. But hey, my final destination would be the Caribbean for a week of luxurious pampering aboard a cruise ship so I could hardly complain.

Also, an overnight stay had been built into the start of the trip. Originally the plan was to spend a night in Puerto Rica but when I received the flight details I was straight back on the phone. Would you like a return journey that involved hanging around on the ship and in an airport for 8 hours, a long-haul flight to Madrid ( followed by a 3-hour wait), a flight to Heathrow (then a 7-hour wait) and finally a flight to Manchester to pick up the car?

Nah, we could do better than that and eventually we agreed changes at Philadelphia with an overnight stay during the outward flight. Perfect. Must say I loved Philly! Great transport links, too. We did the tourist stuff – open topped London bus tour, the Liberty Bell, the steps where Rocky trained, Al Capone’s jail, Rodin’s museum and loads, loads more. It’s a sensational place to visit and someday I’d like to return. Perhaps even fit in a bit of carping on the Delaware River – you never know.

And on that subject, check out this short clip from the Delaware:

And this one:

And perhaps we might now reconsider that fish care discussion again. Unless the hysterically disposed brothers of the angle have already suffered an apoplectic fit! You see everything is about degrees and understanding, local customs and practises, not being holier than thou. When in Rome I’m afraid we should do as the Romans do…

Education might change the mentality whereas castigation and criticism will get us nowhere.

Chillin’ Time 

Early the next morning we jumped the red-eye flight to San Juan and guess what? It was tipping down in the tropics. Rain bouncing high off the sidewalk. Oh well, who cares, we’d soon be on-board and supping champagne – it’s a hard life!

Cruising is something everyone should try once in their lives. I went on my first cruise just to keep the peace, convinced I’d hate it. Needless to say I’ve been on at least one a year since and hope to fit in another before the summer’s over. Quality rooms, gourmet food, fantastic live entertainment and you wake up with a new country to explore each morning. What is there not to like? You can certainly meet up with some interesting folk, too.

Ever wondered who looks after those dangerous extra-extra high security prisoners in America? I’m talking about the ones who have gone on killing sprees and rampages, knife crime, gun crime, serial killers, and folk who’d murder for a cigarette, the ones who have to be kept in permanent solitary because they are a threat to the safety of anyone near them including other prisoners?

I shared a dining table with a prison guard who’s job was exactly that. Hoods, gang bosses, notorious headline killers like Son Of Sam and so on. Fascinating stuff. The prisoners get one hour alone in an outdoor cage each day, the other 23 are spent in a cell with nothing to do but exercise. These guys turn into blocks of solid muscle and should they go off on one, as they frequently do, it will take as many as 6 guards to overpower them.

Dangerous, dangerous people, who, when they’ve served their time are released back into the community. There is no effort to reform, they are not penitent, they are as deranged on the day they leave as on the day they arrive. Time served and back to whence they came with a badge of honour. Killing, violence and doing time is the currency of respect in their world and they are enriched by the experience.

Meeting up with one of those in real life would put a chill up your spine, eh?

Not that it crossed my mind much as we swanned around the Eastern Caribbean, dodging showers, tramping through rain forest, sugar plantations, along glorious beaches and adding inches to the waistline. I ate some of the finest steaks ever but on the penultimate dinner I was faced with a huge dilemma, whether to have lobster tail or Chateaubriand – the finest cut of tenderloin steak you can get. Probably my two favourite indulgent meals of all time and both on the same evening’s menu. Why, oh why, couldn’t they have been on different nights? I pondered for too long, so Carlos offered the perfect solution, ‘How about I bring you both…?’

Which he did!

Maybe I really had died and gone to heaven.

Greedy? Yep, without a doubt. But I assuaged my heavy conscience with a light breakfast and a light lunch the following day so that’s okay I guess.

Oh, and it was raining even harder when we returned to San Juan. If this weather is typical then Puerto Rico’s pretty low on my places to revisit in a hurry.

On our return to Manchester Airport the shuttle driver pointed to a bunch of protesters outside Terminal 1 who were being marshalled by just three (armed) policemen. They were Syrians, he claimed, so I asked what they were protesting over. ‘Dunno…,’ He replied, ‘Probably the Syrian branch of the Man U supporters club protesting over ticket prices!’

I’m guessing he was a City fan. 😉

The Facebook Effect

It’s not that many months since I took my first tentative steps into the world of Facebook. To be honest it made me a little nervous and uncomfortable. Some of my peers said I needed to be there but if I’m honest I saw it mainly as the tool of communication for the feral generation, you know, the folk who appear on Jeremy Kyle each day, and young kids. Perhaps I was a generation too old for such a phenomenon. After all, why would I want to read a post telling me my next door neighbor had put the bins out? I could look out of the window and see that, or someone was having a coffee in Starbucks?

The only time I’d encountered social networking sites was as a result school issues. Turns out some primary school parents can be pretty resentful towards those who work in education while kids can be hurtful to each other and Facebook is frequently their weapon of choice. Still, I proceded with a degree of caution.

Determined to find out more about the phenomenon I bought a copy of the Facebook Effect (David Kirkpatrick) to read on holiday. The book reinforces what I’d seen in the film about Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder. Here we have an idealist, a multi-millionaire in his early twenties with no interest in material things or even being rich. He wants to change the world and is hell bent on doing that through openness. The concept is we live our life in a more exposed way and by having no secrets we behave better.

Facebook began as a networking tool in specific US campuses. A way of communicating quickly with friends and finding people you either knew or with whom you shared common interests. The story of how it grew is pretty much seat of the pants stuff but it now stands as one of the most desirable tech stocks in the world, except the owner refuses to even consider selling or relinquishing control despite the fact it would make him rich beyond imagination.

I have to say my personal experiences with it so far have been good. In no time at all I found myself with over 1,400 friends, a number that appears to expand daily, which is nice because Facebook is a fantastic communication tool and it links in nicely with this web site and my Scribd page. Trouble is, all this social networking eats up good fishing time and it highlights the huge difficulties facing the next generation of budding young fishing media superstars.

To stand a chance of becoming the next Matt Hayes or Martin Bowler you’ll need to develop a whole new skill set outside of fishing. You must learn to take good photographs for starters and be able to write. That should go without saying, but these days you need to be very creative with your photography, master the basics (at least) of Photoshop, and you’d be a fool if you didn’t create a Facebook site. From there a decent web site should be almost mandatory and that will require constant updating. But as broadband speeds increase we simply must get video content online, too, and that means learning how to film and edit. Of course, I’m avoiding as best I can the temptation to Tweet and Witter but be in no doubt, this will come.

Oh, and do you have the bottle and persona for live television and radio?

Somewhere in the midst of all this you need to earn a living and what’s that other thing I’ve forgotten – oh, that’s it, you need to develop your angling skills and catch fish, lots of them preferably! That’s a lot of dominoes to line up when the end product is an article in a magazine for which you’ll maybe get paid a hundred quid… Or on the Internet where you’ll get paid bugger all. And don’t go thinking this package comes with healthcare benefits and a fat pension, or that your sponsors will provide you with a computer, cameras, smart phone, company car and so on like others can expect. For all that the buck stops with you my friend.

Oh, and the various angling Societies will be beating your door down if you’re prepared to drive half way around the country and deliver a slide show talk. Unfortunately they won’t want to pay you a bean for your time, which will be considerable because you’ll spend days preparing that slick Powerpoint demonstration (another skill set) and then there’s the time and expense of the trip (door-to-door), wear and tear on your vehicle, subsistence and so on while simply getting to and from the venue. Of course most will offer a few quid to cover your diesel before asking if you might donate a book or DVD to the raffle. Lord only knows where the takings go.

No, I don’t envy anyone who’s trying to break into the ranks of the so-called full time angler today. Perhaps they think sponsorship is the holy grail but they’ll get a shock there as well. Very few sponsored anglers actually receive any cash and for many the best they can ever hope for is a bit of a discounted gear.

Oh to be a Zuckerberg.

Will Crook Rob Us Of A New Record?

I see that a bream weighing in excess of the current record has been landed (23lb) and I sincerely hope that the captor, Scot Crook, is going to submit a claim. It is believed to be the same fish caught by Mark McKenna in 2009, then weighing 22lb 9oz, from Ferry Lagoon, Cambridgeshire, a fish that would almost certainly have been accepted as a new official record had Mark submitted a claim. Unfortunately, because he was fishing for carp at the time, he declined to do so.

Whilst respecting his right not to submit a claim I believe Mark was wrong and here’s why. The British Rod Caught record list is not about the angler or his tactics, it is about the largest fish of a given species caught by fair means on rod and line. Doesn’t matter if he was using a Daiwa rod, a Shimano Reel, a Korda lead, a Fox hook, or a Drennan landing net, a Nash unhooking mat, Salter scales, humble worm or high protein bait. Nor does it matter that it was an accidental capture.

The British Record Rod Caught Fish List is a historical record which charts the authenticated maximum growth of fish over time. That stands for something, otherwise what’s the point of having a list in the first place? We cannot have two lists, one with authenticated captures and another with nudge-nudge fish that Fred caught. There’s a process which determines authenticity using common guidelines. This involves testing scales, witness statements, photographic evidence and so on. But the bottom line is always the same, the fish is the record not the captor.

That’s why I believe the committee was wrong to throw out that Thames perch a while back. Agreed it was poached from a marina by some guy without a license. Clearly the captor was a wrong-un, but was it a record? Afraid it was, the fish was innocent.

Cover Star And One That Got Away…

I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to being ever so slightly chuffed to be on the cover of the latest Improve Your Coarse Fishing magazine. Especially as it only arose out of a bit of a social day with Improve editor, Kev Green, last spring. I was tenching and he dropped by to boil a kettle or three while we put the world to rights and I happened to catch a few fish. After half a dozen fish he decided this was far too good an opportunity to miss. The light was good, the surroundings lush and green and the fish were immaculate, as they so often are in carp waters. It was possibly the most relaxed feature I’ve ever shot and one of the prettiest to boot.


The only downside of getting the cover and a full-length feature article was that my diary for that month had to be dropped, despite it being written up and laid out, ready to publish (I guess there’s only so much Bob Roberts bulls**t anyone wants to read in one mag!). Anyway, Kev kindly let me have the PDF of the article that never was and you may read it here if you like – it’s the diary that nearly got away.

Just Click on the image and it’ll take you to my Scribd page where you’ll find this and several dozen other articles.

Gone Phishing

Received an email today informing me that someone had attempted to log into my Co-operative bank account three times using the wrong password. There was something fishy about it though.

Could it be that I don’t have a Co-op bank account, perhaps?

Floody Hell It’s Raining!

Isn’t it fabulous to see all this brown water in our rivers again? My local river looks well full and I’m guessing the snow and rain of the past few weeks has done a little bit of good for the water table but there’s no reason to think we can start squandering water again because it won’t last, will it?

I’m surprised more folk aren’t out tench fishing. I guess they’re waiting for those warm, misty mornings when wisps of mist rise like ghostly figures in the margins. Classic red tipped floats up against the lily pads and all that but do you know what? I reckon tench are driven by daylight hours rather than air temperature. Late April through the middle of May is probably the most productive time of the year for tench, something that Stu and James have already begun to prove.

They’ve been fishing one of the ‘Shires and catching a fair number of nice fish already. Not massive fish but that’s to be expected. The monsters that turn up in Southern gravel pits are certainly not the norm in these parts.

Good angling guys. I’ll be dusting my rods off this week, too.

Can You Help Mark?

Mark Wintle is hoping to pen a follow-up to his recent book, Big Roach, which is still available from Calm Productions. Whilst researching the book he became aware that there are still many more great stories about big roach to be told. Although he’s covered the best-known ones already it would be fantastic if he could uncover more lost stories before they disappear for ever.

Many anglers are secretive souls, choosing not to report their catches to the angling press for fear of others crowding them out, which is fair enough, but the stories he’s after are mostly set well in the past – still within living memory but on waters that no longer produce the fish.

The danger is that if these stories aren’t recorded then all too often they vanish. Even those that have kept meticulous diaries are not immune as these diaries are often thrown away after the owner’s death. Over the past decade I’ve discovered two unpublished roach books, one is lost for ever and the other highly unlikely to ever be published.


Mark is keen to learn whether there is enough totally new material out there to create a sequel to his book, Big Roach – The Lost Stories perhaps, although production is likely to be four or five years away. Yes, it may be an aspiration but if he can compile enough top-class material there’s no reason why it shouldn’t become reality.

The following venues are likely candidates but he don’t limit his research to these alone:

The River Ise, Northants – early 1980s

The Tweed and Tay in Scotland – mainly 1960s and 70s

Irish waters, especially the Cork Blackwater – 1960s to 80s

Other foreign waters: Denmark 60s/70s/80s etc. Holland, Sweden, Spain, France.

Yorkshire waters (not Hornsea which I’ve already covered) but mainly the rivers.

The Thames: this river has a long history of roach fishing and still produces 2lb roach every season – stories from any era.

Other Thames tributaries: any will do from the Evenlode, Windrush, Lea, Kennet, Cherwell, Colne etc.

Bristol Avon; I’m perplexed by this one as it mostly produces small roach but evidently has produced a few whoppers in the past.

The Severn and the Wye.

Untold stories of the Hants. Avon and Dorset Stour and their tributaries.

Any other untold stories about the London reservoirs, small rivers, etc.

Roach fishing info about Dick Walker (I know the well-known ones but more obscure stories like Temple Pool) and Gerry Swanton, or for that matter, what about any other successful roach anglers? Indeed any exceptional match catches of roach, especially ones that include big roach.

In all cases, Mark is looking for exceptional catches that include big roach, generally meaning over 2lbs, but there must be something interesting in the catch. The devil is in the detail and knowing the context of the catch is vital. When was it caught, conditions, who caught it, how was it caught (bait, tackle, method), what was special about the day in question, what led up to the catch? Was there an era when the fishing got better and better then declined? Scans of newspaper reports, pictures (b&w or colour at 600dpi) and diaries are especially useful. He doesn’t need wonderfully crafted stories, a basic outline or notes is enough and he’ll rewrite it from there.

Please email Mark on markwintle2@btinternet.com if you’d like to help.

Alternatively you can meet Mark in person at the Calm Productions book event on 19th May at The Land’s End pub, Charvil, Near Reading. Mark will be there from noon onwards. 

Gee Thanks Saunders!

Well, the inevitable has been confirmed. Donny have been relegated from the Championship. That’s what you get when you loose faith in a miracle worker and replace him with a clown from the Conference. It was obvious from day one that Dean Saunders was way out of his depth. I coined his nickname ‘Soundbite’ which aptly describes his only redeeming ability. Seeing him standing there helpless on the touchline in the early days was painful – akin to watching a rabbit in a car’s headlights but what followed was worse.

The team’s recent record is: L D L D L L D D W D D L L L D L L L L D

Here are just a few of his ridiculous soundbites:

I’m so excited by this challenge.

There are all sorts of things wrong with the club that I can put right.

I know what is needed with the team. I know what our faults are.

I know I can get a winning team on the pitch.

I’m confident we can go anywhere and get a result.

We have got nothing to fear in this league. We have matched every team we have played.

I hadn’t gone 19 games without a win so my mind was quite clear and I was positive about winning. That’s why sometimes a new manager has an effect on players.

Some people have asked me ‘Where did it all go wrong?’ But I don’t think it has gone wrong. It’s got better but it was just not good enough to stay up.

You wouldn’t have got a very good price on us staying up when I walked in.

I don’t want to be judged on this season.

I quite enjoy being under pressure. There is nothing worse than just floating half way up the league.

Really mate? What kind of idiot thinks relegation and the loss of about £8m in revenue is better than floating half way up the league? This is a results business and you’re a failure. The facts speak for themself, don’t they?

One win in 20 games with the likes of Diouf, Chimbonda, Beye, Fortune, Ikeme and countless other ‘stars’ at his disposal is simply unacceptable. It’s time to go sir.

When Saunders arrived Chairman John Ryan told the media he hadn’t ruled out making the play-offs this season and we’d definitely be pushing for the Premiership next season. Barely seven months later we’re consigned to the Third division, the first team in all four divisions to be relegated, but what gripes most is he never accepts an ounce of responsibility for the team’s failures. Nothing is Saunders’ fault and if he’s still in charge next season then I fear we’re more likely to be heading towards the trapdoor of uncertainty than bouncing straight back. I’m certainly not ruling out consecutive relegations because I don’t believe we can even afford to sack him. Clearly he’s unlikely to do the honourable thing and fall on his sword because who else would now employ him?

Oh well, at least it’ll give the deluded Leeds fans something to chortle about, even if half of them do actually live in Donny.



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