Crikey, where’s the past year gone? Is it worth calling the police to report that someone’s stealing my time? I mean, a year used to seem so much longer than it does today. It’s like the pound in your pocket. The tax man keeps nicking a bit more and you can buy less and less of what you enjoy with what’s left. The shrinking size of Wagon Wheels alone is criminal, but time’s the big issue. There’s so much I want to do and I know there’s never going to be enough time to cram it all in. This has to be a fact because folk I’ve been around for donkeys years are getting old, so it stands to reason I must be, too.
Only the other day I was reading David Hall’s ramble in Tackle & Guns. He was saying he’s had to give up golf and walking the dogs for health reasons. The old bugger’s still working every day because his brain still thinks it’s 25. I’m the same. It’s your body that gives up. Me old mum’s 92. Her mind’s sharp as a tack but she couldn’t bend down and pick one up off the floor.
Folk I’ve fished with in years gone by are telling me they don’t go out much in winter, at least not to fish. They can’t stand the cold any more. Then there’s those who have migrated to commercials. They feel much safer there. People are telling me they’re going to have a hip replaced, need an operation for this, or for that. Tablets, injections, it’s never ending. Imagine not being able to manage steep banks? Or being able to scramble up a tree to get a better view of the water.
Fortunately I’m still 25 in my head. I still want to climb mountains, explore jungles and tackle new challenges, but there’s this nagging gremlin in the back of my mind. This sweet and precious life can’t last for ever. I’m on borrowed time. And before you laugh, just think on, so are you. Maybe you’re not as far down the road as I am, that’s all. I shall continue to indulge my fantasies and live the adventures, explore round the next bend, have one last cast when I should be heading home and above all else I shall do my damnedest to enjoy this fantastic life I’m having with no regrets. You should take stock, too. What are you putting off that you’ll never do?
The picture above was taken from a jeep Stu and I were travelling in as we made our way along the side of a mountain. Take a close look in the bottom right hand corner. Right down in the bottom of the valley you’ll spot a river. That’s where we were heading, hoping to catch a mahseer. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more alive or closer to death at the same time.
Earlier today I learned that a mate’s been rushed into hospital. He’s only 44. Last night he suffered a double heart attack and ruptured his spleen. His kindeys shut down completely and blood tests have revealed he’s got lukemia. It goes without saying he’s currently in intensive care. Doesn’t sound like he’ll be worrying about the size of Wagon Wheels at any time in the near future, does it? There are many things in life more important than fishing.
If you’ve enjoyed my blogs, articles, DVDs or whatever in 2012 then you’re welcome. It was a pleasure to share a glimpse into my life and maybe one day we might enjoy a natter together or even share a drink. If you’ve not enjoyed my efforts then don’t go moaning about me on the Internet. Life’s too short for such bitter and frankly pathetic responses. Why on earth would you want to waste it on something you claim not to like? Spend that time creating something better.
And if I’ve deeply offended anyone then I’ll take it as a compliment. You probably deserved it.
Bah, humbug to you…!
So, what on earth can I fill my blog with at this festive time? The final blog of 2012 demands nice things, I feel. Let’s see what I can come up with if I try…
If You Didn’t Get My Card…
I’ve been pretty lax about sending cards this Christmas and I wouldn’t be surprised if this tradition ultimately disappears. No one writes letters any more, do they? Email has seem to that. Does anyone send postcards when they’re on holiday? No. I can’t recall the last time I received one, can you? We don’t send Halloween cards, or Easter cards. Some send electronic cards but I guess the reason why most folk are giving up is because it has become a chore. It’s meaningless and not treated as something special any more. How many cards say little more than, To Bill and Elsie from Fred, Doris and family?
Those who are close now get a top quality hand made card. The rest, I’d rather not insult you with a cheap mass produced bit of tat. Doesn’t mean I don’t care or we’ve fallen out. It’s a sign of the changing times.
Even so there are certain cards I look forward to receiving. One that never fails to cheer is the one I get from Peter Drennan who makes a real effort to personalise those he sends. This year’s is a timely reminder that the worst of winter may still be ahead of us. Let’s hope not.
The back of the card shows Peter with the same Alan Scotthorne working on next year’s tackle range.
Nice touch. Here’s to the next one.
The link to my next topic could hardly be easier, after all, Peter Drennan’s rise to an International brand had rather humble beginnings. He started off making floats in his mother’s garage. What could be more fitting then than to feature someone who’s making hand made floats?
This Floats My Boat
Andrew Field contacted me about the possibility of Joining Stu and I on our planned jaunt to Zambia next year. Andrew creates the most amazing floats I have ever come across. Each one is an exquisite work of art and I have a plan for 2013. I want to dress a miniature Christmas tree in tinsel and Andrew’s floats. It would be both colourful and beautiful. Quite unique. Andrew, we shall do it! I will post pictures of it here, 12 months from now.
I also want to mount some in a frame and hang them on my dining room wall, next to Robin Armstrong’s artist’s proof (1/10) of Walker’s No Need To Lie book cover. They would make an absolutely fitting match.
Andrew suggested I might like to try fishing with some of his fine floats and it’s an offer I’m perudicating over. I can think of no finer examples of British craftsmanship that I might attach to my line and I’m sure I would derive immense pleasure from the experience, but would it be akin to a monkey wearing a silk top hat, I ask? These are things of beauty and of joy. How would I cope with losing one?
It’s an odd dilemma to have because I don’t normally treat tackle with any kind of reverance. Most of my own gear is in a pretty shabby state and in need of a damn good clean. It’s functional, there to do a job or to be discarded.
Shortly after his death I paid over the odds at auction for a collection of Peter Stone’s leger weights. These were weights he had used or at least carried in his tackle bag. I had no intention of storing them in perpetuity or mounting them on a display, dear Lord, no. My intention was to fish with them, and lose them if that’s what the Gods of fishing decided. Snagging up and losing one wasn’t to be a moment of sadness, it would be a celebration of Peter’s life, a man who had influence on anglers in general and legering in particular. What more fitting a tribute could there be and who else would ever get the chance to lose the leger weights of a legend? No-one.
Have a look at Andrew’s web site. It is beautifully illustrated with photographs of the finest floats you will ever see. They are true works of art and every serious angler in the world should own at least one. No, at least six. For these floats embody the spirit of Mr Crabtree and the soul of angling. They represent the fantasies and dreams that all anglers enjoy. For the sight of a red topped float bobbing on the water is surely the epitome of chasing fishes.
Caught Red Handed
Sticking with the subject of fantasy, I came across the clip we broadcast on Sky TV at the beginning of this year from Caught In The Act. It’s still available as a podcast from the Sky Sports web site although probably not for much longer. Fortunately you can download the podcast to your computer and watch the programme whenever you like. The teaser from CITA commence at 23 minutes 15 seconds and runs for around 6 minutes.
Two things struck me watching it again. The first was how CITA has changed since we put those clips together. One of the delightful problems of a 3-year filming schedule is you end up replacing what you originally thought was brilliant footage with new material that’s even better. Secondly you might recognise the music we chose. One of the reasons we went to air so early was to establish the CITA name and the soundtrack from our creation. If you’ve recently heard the same tune in another angling programme please don’t think it’s a case of us copying. Far from it. We were contacted immediately after the show and told we might like to reconsider changing our music. Being Yorkshiremen we told them to get stuffed, that we’d gone live first and perhaps they’d like to change their tune as they still had ample opportunity to do so.
In the bigger picture it hardly matters and it was clearly a coincidence. But see if you recognise ‘our’ music, when we release the DVD in May 2013. We must have made a very good choice. And just remember, good things are worth waiting for. Better to hold back until you have the footage you truly want and believe in than rushing headlong into something that’s about as fulfilling as a slice of pizza.
Mike, You’re A Jinx!
Mike Townsend is obviously a jinx. So obviously a jinx that allowing me to fish with him is like storing matches in a gunpowder keg. In my last blog you will have seen us battling floods. Well, he had another day off work due this week and invited me to go chubbing, providing the river levels would allow.
The good news is the level had fallen a fair bit, still up but definitely fishable. The bad news was we were in the grip of the ‘Beast From The East’. A blast of chilly arctic weather that failed to deliver the threatened snow but did see the thermometer plunging into sub-zero territory. As I drove over to meet up with him the car display said -6 degrees C. According to my phone it never rose above -2 degrees all day, so that’s not exactly the smartest day to leave your big coat at home is it?
Not that it bothered Mike much because it was my coat I’d left behind. We got to talking of disasters on the journey. Mike had booked 2 weeks off in April to fish a well-known big roach venue. Torrential rains, floods and temperatures way below freezing had restricted him to just 3 days fishing. His week off in May turned out to be so cold that he had to abandon the planned tench fishing and divert to Scotland’s Lochnaw (chasing those big hybrids!). However his car blew up on the way there. After that he’d pre-baited a bream swim on a days only water. The baiting went very well. Alas when he turned up to fish the entire area was covered with floating weed.
To use Mike’s own words, ‘There’s a pattern emerging here!’
My Book Of The Year?
I’ve nowhere near finished it yet but just let me say that The Eel Angler by Barry McConnell get’s my vote as the best angling book of 2012 by a country mile. I’m a hundred pages in and can’t put it down. It doesn’t matter whether you hate eels and would never dream of fishing for them, this is a tale of a man who goes fishing. It’s as simple as that.
Compared with many recent offerings it’s superbly well written. Barry has a good eye for the natural world about him, for characters and underpins the plot with a sense of humour and that’s unusual in any book written by someone who is obsessed with one species. And be under no illusion this is a bloke’s who’s obsessed with eels to the point where every other fish that swims is a nuisance. He’ll camp out on waters where there’s been no track record of eels being caught in the past if he believes they’re in there. And distance is no object. Trips to Scotland, Anglesey and Cornwall ain’t bad for starters but New Zealand? To catch eels?
It wouldn’t be too difficult to write a book about a voluptuous blonde nymphomaniac and make it interesting, now would it? But Eels? How can you make eel fishing interesting? Yet he does it and he does it brilliantly. Seriously, buy this book. You will not be disappointed.
It’s getting on for 400 pages long, crammed with colour photos and it weighs an absolute ton. The cover’s a Turnbull painting but you’d expect that on a book that’s put together by Stephen Harper. Like I say, it’s my favourite read of 2012. Buy it and see why!
Angry Bob Don’t Wanna Farm, Ee Aye, Yo Ho Ho
Do you find Facebook game requests rather tedious? I know I do. I just don’t get it. Why do grown men and women play mindless children’s games? It’s weird. But not half as ridiculous as imagining anyone with an IQ larger than a domino would want to respond to their game requests and invites to play. I guess these are the same folk who are stupid enough to spend a small fortune voting for their favourite X Factor contestants. Farmville, Angry Birds, you name it, I don’t give a fiddler’s.
Tell you what’s even more pointless. Posting an image of your computer screen on a social networking site showing your latest high score. That’s got to be up there with pictures of what you’re having for breakfast in some greasy spoon. Look folks, no-one gives a rats arse! Either get a life or get some psychiatric help. This obsession with trivia is unhealthy… unlike writing a blog which I regard as trying to be being creative(?).
Something else I don’t understand the craze for putting Christmas lights on the outside of houses. It’s kinda dumb to me. Inside where you can see them, okay. But outside, on the roof, when you’re sat inside watching TV? Surely that has to be plain dumb. Especially when the same folks will be moaning that energy prices are rising and they’ll spend the rest of the year recycling, worrying about carbon emissions and global warming. Doesn’t make a jot of sense to me.
But how dumb would you have to be to come up with the bright idea of marrying the two together. Thank the Lord I don’t live next door to these dumb asses…
History Goes Back To The Future
A time will come, no doubt very soon, when everyone will have a tablet or some kind of media reader. The days of tight gits popping into Sainsburys and treating the magazine and newspaper racks like their own personal free library are numbered. Very soon the world will go digital and the printed form of media will cease to exist. Of course there’s a reluctance to change, there always is. But it will happen.
My wife hasn’t bought a physical book since the day she got herself a Kindle. Most magazines and newspapers have now created, or are at least in the advance stages of creating, digital versions of their publications. These publications will be able to offer more then the magazine we get now. They can carry extended image galleries, video clips, links from adverts to web sites, online competitions, indeed stop and think about it, the possibilities are endless.
So far there’s been a reluctance so for for angling books to go down the digital route but that’s about to change. Indeed it is happening already. You see the price of paper and reproduction has rocketed in recent years. There’s very little money to be made from books right now and an uncomfortable percentage of self-published books fail to cover their costs. Even an author as respected as Neville Fickling was reluctant to release an update to his 2004 Mammoth Pike book, an update on Fred Buller’s earlier Domesday Book Of Mammoth Pike and the follow up, More Mammoth Pike. Nev’s obsession with records meant that an update was already written but 8 years on he wasn’t sure he would cover his costs and that’s where Steve Rowley stepped in.
Steve already publishes an online pike magazine, Esox World. It’s free, you simply have to register if you want to download or read it online and it’s clearly a working model for the future. A blueprint if you like. He put it to Nev that an update to his book could be sold in digital format and to be fair, Nev had nothing to lose. So, Mammoth Pike Update is now available in download format.
Mammoth Pike Update documents the capture of each pike weighing over 35lbs landed since 2004. Running 210 pages Nev has managed to gather 185 first hand reports telling the story of each capture, mostly with photographs. A couple even have embedded video footage.
A book like this today would cost upwards of £30. The digital version is yours for just £4.99 from Portfolio Collections. That’s barely 50p more than a top monthly carp magazine. Quite a bargain, don’t you think? I’ll not be surprised to see more authors following down this route in the months to come. Meanwhile I’ve published an extract here.
Not All Leeds Fans Are Numpties…
I have been fortunate to meet and get to know a lot of fine anglers in my time but few have influenced me quite as much as Tom Pickering. Back in the mid-80’s I used to spend hours deep in conversation with him. We both wrote for Colin Dyson in Coarse Angler magazine at the time and Tom owned the tackle shop not far from where I worked. If I was free I’d drop in a lunchtime to eat my sandwiches and we’d either chat in the back room or upstairs in his office. Tom seemed to live on bananas back then.
It was hard to believe Tom was younger than me. He was so experienced. I learned about his World Championship win hours after he returned home, from the horses mouth. I was able to hold the winner’s trophy and even touch the very float that won him the world championship. Heady days. And I learned so much.
I’ve been fortunate to travel to matches with him on a couple of occasions and we actually did a bit filming together. Tom is a fantastic angler but what really sets him apart from the crowd is he’s a bit of a diplomat and totally patriotic. He’s a masterful onstage presence as anyone who has seen him give a talk will tell you and on formal occasions he never fails to thank all the right people. It doesn’t surprise me in the slightest that he’s been fulfilling managerial roles with England’s National angling teams in various guises. It’s such a shame he’s another misguided Leeds fan!
Angling Times interviewed him recently and captured it all on film. I suspect you’ll find it highly informative.
Tom Pickering Interview Part One
Tom Pickering Interview Part Two
Who’s The Looney With Clooney?
It’s not often that I get to mention my name in the same breath as George Clooney but hand in there, the link may be tenuous but it does exist.
A little while ago I was approached by a company called Bigballs Films. Initially disappointed that it wasn’t a casting invitation for a porn film my interest was rekindled when I learned they were seeking permission to use a photograph of me with a Nile perch in a TV programme they were filming. Of course I gave it and thought no more about it. Blow me, it only aired on Channel 4 this week and I’d guess most anglers missed it.
The programme focused on Time magazine’s Africa Bureau Chief, Alex Perry, who has covered more than 20 wars across Asia, the Middle East and Africa, including Iraq and Afghanistan. Turns out he is also a passionate fisherman and in Fishing for Trouble he fishes the waters of the Nile in South Sudan, one of the world’s most challenging and treacherous locations, in a quest to catch a monster Nile Perch.
It is right there on the banks of the Nile where he chats with George Clooney, a fervent supporter of South Sudan. Sadly it isn’t much of a fishing programme, I mean, who would make a fishing programme where very little gets caught and the presenter has to fill in with pieces about location, local culture, cooking, oh hang on…
As the creators describe it, ‘It’s more than just a fishing adventure, as Perry, through his passion for fishing, tells the story of the world’s newest nation.’
Should you be interested Fishing For Trouble is still available on 4oD :
Cormorants – What’s All The Fuss?
If anything really sticks in my craw its anglers who refuse to accept that cormorants are a problem. You know the ones. They come up with all manner of excuses and obstacles. They refuse to accept the bleeding obvious. How do we know that it’s not chemicals in the water, that it’s not down to dredging, habitat destruction, poor weed growth, too much weed growth, or silting up of spawning sites. They might as well stick their fingers in their ears and shout, ‘La, la, la, I can’t hear you!’ At the tops of their voices for what practical help they are.
Well perhaps this might help them reconsider their pedantic views. This is what happens to a river when cormorants invade. It’s currently available on the Angling Trust’s Facebook Page and on Youtube. Just look at the numbers of dead and dying fish that are too big for the cormorants to swallow. It doesn’t stop them stabbing, killing or trying to eat them. How many days will it take for this flock of birds to completely wipe out the river? And where will they be next month, or the month after that.
This philosophical view that Mother Nature will find a balance is complete bollocks. She doesn’t, and species go extinct every single day. How are fish supposed to combat the effects of too many predators without man’s intervention? Why does man protect one species when unregulated breeding and control means it will wipe out other species?
Take a look…
Role Model Takes A Fall
It is said you should never meet your heroes. Bob James had stardust sprinkled on him by Hugh Miles’ brilliant angling film A Passion For Angling. It made him a household name. His own web site carried the proclamation, England’s Best Known Angler. He worked as an ambassador for the ACA, wrote articles for magazines and papers across Europe and you might think he had it all. Unfortunately Bob’s a bit of a rogue and like most rogues he can be charming, witty and a model of innocence. But rogues are flawed.
We share a number of friends and by pure chance (on my part) we met up shortly after he’d been caught coarse fishing on the Wye in the closed season. It was all a bit awkward to tell the truth. You’re staying with friends, having dinner with your wives and discover there’s to be an extra guest. It was Bob.
There’s no doubting he was fishing his rented beat on the Wye in the closed season using coarse tackle. You cannot argue with a camera, especially when you’re shooting a feature and committing every last detail to its memory card. To offer any kind of defence then is a nonsense. He was caught red handed, bang to rights, doing a feature for Total Coarse Fishing magazine, on June the 14th. I would have given him a bit of credit had he just said he didn’t believe in the closed season, so to hell with it. I might have wavered had he said, ‘By fishing here I’m keeping an otter and a cormorant away for a few hours.’ Unfortunately he played the shad card.
Suggesting he was shad fishing is the lamest of excuses. Really. That’s a cowardly tack to take. Most shad runs occur in May. Unfortunately, for Bob, it’s now illegal to deliberately target shad and ignorance of the law is never an acceptable defense. But come on. If you’re caught fishing with a pellet feeder, on the Wye, in a prolific barbel swim, in the closed season then at least be honest and admit you’re cheating!
I suspect those who defend the closed season would have loved to see him made an example of because of who he is as much as for what he did. The Law doesn’t appear to work like that and we’re all supposed to be treated equally. Some will be rather disappointed to learn that Bob James turned up in court, pleaded guilty and was fined a paltry £250 with £100 costs and his tackle was confiscated.
On the other hand, motoring fines are worked out against what you can afford to pay so when you consider he was offering 2-day guiding sessions on the Wye this past summer for up to 6 anglers at £499 a head, a £250 fine doesn’t sound too bad at all. No doubt he’ll be back guiding on the river again next year as if nothing happened.
Of course, Bob wasn’t alone. He was accompanied by Steve Martin, deputy editor of Total Coarse Fishing magazine, who was also fined the same amount.
Steve Phillips, Editor of Total Coarse Fishing issued the following statement:
‘This incident occurred during the shooting of a Total Coarse Fishing feature, and although it was sanctioned by and took place during the time of the previous Editor of TCF, Kevin Wilmot, I would still like to apologise to all Total Coarse Fishing magazine readers for the matter. Although a stupid incident, there can be no excuses for it. Both parties have had their punishments handed down and Bob is now no longer working for TCF in any capacity. Hopefully that will now be the end of the matter.’
Okay, enough of the doom and gloom. If you’ve never seen Joe Cartoon’s stuff prepare yourself for a treat. I first got into his early stuff playing Frog In A Blender (you’ll find it on the JC site) before you had to sit through adverts at the start of each clip. It’s a personal hate but I guess folks have to earn a crust. Anyway, have you considered using a gerbil as fishing bait? To find out if it works follow the link….
And by the way, there’s a swear word uttered. Don’t bother complaining if it offends now I’ve warned you about it.
The Footie Bit
It’s funny how Sir Alex in particular has noticed certain other teams have had a few rather fortunate penalties of late. Of course this never happens at Old Trafford and never has in the entire history of the club. Players like Ronaldo were so supremely talented they never needed to con a ref, did they? And let’s be honest, if any member of the Old Trafford playing staff cheated in that manner then a Knight of the Realm would surely have no option but to deal with them severely. After all, cheating and diving is simply not on, is it?
Or is it just part of the modern game? Are players simply making it easier for referees to make the right decision by going down rather easily? For such a big lad Drogba never took much knocking over, did he?
You’d think it was something new. When Manchester City were last regarded as a force in the top division their top scorer was Francis Lee, or to give him his nickname, Lee One Pen. It reflected the fact that ‘Citeh’ beat so many teams by the score 1-0 courtesy of a penalty by Lee. Undeed he scored a record 15 goals from the spot during the 1971-2 season.
Of course taking a penalty is one thing, scoring one something else completely, ask Messrs, Waddle, Southgate or Pearce.
Maybe all football coaches need to take a look at the following clip and incorporate some of the ideas into their training schedules. Then again perhaps they already have ? These tricks never did Christiano Ronaldo any harm, did they?
Okay, that’s your lot till next year. I’ll sign off in time honoured fashion with a traditional ditty from Mr Noddy Holder and his band, Slade. Merry Christmas pop pickers!