Let’s kick off with an apology. I’ve had a stack of emails, messages, phone calls and conversations with folk I happen to bump into on the bank along the lines of, ‘Hey Bob, what’s happened to your blog? I used to love reading it but you don’t seem to be doing it any more.’
Well, first can I say thank you, and then try to explain. The blog isn’t finished, I simply allocated a little more time to my new Facebook page to see how things developed there. You may or may not be aware I set up a Facebook page a while back as an experiment. I was a little cautious initially, didn’t entirely trust it, although I have to say it is compulsive and probably the biggest waster of time on the planet right now. If I owned a big company I’d block it from every employee computer because it surely affects workers productivity. But on a positive side, what would Jeremy Kyle do for show guests without it?
But not everyone is on Facebook and I can understand why – 90 per cent of the stuff published is trivial at best. I am bored with the endless game requests and photos of scantily dressed women holding a carp, or with a rod parked in their bum cheeks. Same goes for football related photoshop-doctored rubbish and really, I simply don’t care that you’ve nothing better to do than post a photograph of your breakfast. The sheer volume of dross can overwhelm you.
On the positive side Facebook is instant and there’s a lot of news, information and opinion to be found. Indeed it’s a cracking substitute for the angling forums that pretty much ate themselves alive. Facebook allows two-way dialogue but you are in control of who posts on your page so it’s dead easy to block out the trolls and it’s a lot less easy for trolls to set up multiple user accounts using pseudonyms.
Facebook allows folk like me (Martin Bowler, Des Taylor and many others) to release snippets of news, ideas, catches, comments and so on whilst remaining accessible and interactive. What it isn’t is a good read. Facebook’s merely a series of texts whereas a good blog should be an informative read. Realistically I need to devote time to both.
If you follow Facebook and this blog then let me say right at this point there will be a lot of repetition. There is only one of me. Facebook will be the news headlines (blog lite, if you like). The web site will deliver the bigger picture and include stuff I might choose not put on Facebook. The blog is more easily searchable but where in the past my blog was published weekly, I simply don’t have time to keep up that prodigious work rate. The in-depth blogs can take days to create and I need to strike a better work-life balance.
So what have I been up to in the past month?
You’ll not be surprised to learn that I’ve been devoting every spare minute to the Caught In The Act DVD project that Stu and I are working on and I have to say it’s going brilliantly. Indeed far better than we dared hope for. It just seems like the Gods of Angling have been smiling on us and we can do little wrong.
Perhaps the only real niggle we’ve had is with the weather. It’s not been great and everything is weeks behind, from the bankside vegetation to the fish themselves. Spawning this year has been late, intermittent or simply not happened. I’ll be very surprised if it’s a good fry recruitment year. We filmed for tench on a midlands pit and the fish were really long and lean. Indeed I was beginning to wonder if they hadn’t woken up but just when I was starting to worry the left hand rod rattled off. Blow me, before I’d netted it the right one was away. That’s tenching!
We’ve tried to vary the species and the techniques used to catch our targets throughout Caught In The Act. CITA spans 4 DVDs, runs for nearly 6 hours, tackling 10 different species in 20 ‘acts’. It’s been a mammoth undertaking done in a way which I doubt anyone has tried before. To give you an example of what lengths we have been prepared to go to, we drove to Cumbria to capture 10 seconds of footage. Initially we talked of putting in some footage from India and Canada, of Africa and on the high seas, and then we came to our senses. The guy who fishes his local river or lake doesn’t want the fact ramming down his throat that we’ve enjoyed some rather spectacular holidays. Nor is he interested in seeing us catch a sea fish that he’ll probably never bother to go for. That would be entirely self indulgent. He (or she) wants to see us catch a tench, or a chub, a carp or a barbel, filmed in ways that will make him go, ‘Wow!’
And part of the ‘wow’ factor is using methods he can relate to on waters that in general he can fish. We needed to make it aspirational yet do-able. To strike a balance between catching huge specimens but not at the expense of a job or family life. It’s ‘Catching the Possible’ if you like, it’s our ‘Passion’, but without Bernard Cribbins! Yes, the fish, in most cases, are definitely aspirational. Big by any standards. But it’s not about size, it’s about the magic. The magic of being there, beating the odds, capturing the beauty and distilling that moment into noughts and ones in the hard drive of a camera and manipulating them with a computer so they burst onto a TV screen in a way that lifts the spirits.
The acid test has been showing clips from the project to non-anglers, to folk from other countries and gauging their reactions. You know it’s hitting the spot when non-anglers tell you, ‘It made me want to go fishing. I get it now!’
We spent a day filming at Bluebell Lakes, near Tansor. My first visit there and what a fabulously well run fishery. My target was tench on the float. It didn’t matter that I could have caught far more on a bolt rig, it was about how, not how many. We also wanted to try and capture some different underwater footage to that we had shot elsewhere. The result blew us away. We had tench feeding inches away from the camera and we shot a hook-up slap bang in the middle of the screen. If you love tench then it’ll blow you away.
Stu The Stalker
The weather has meant we had to be prepared to drop everything and snatch every moment we possibly could each time the clouds broke, which hasn’t been very often. Stu had a back-up plan in case one of the ‘acts’ failed. It involved stalking a margin carp from a very tricky, crystal clear, local water. We knew we only had 3 hours free but we dashed down there, laid a little trap and did the business. The bailiff came round in a trice and said he’d never seen anything like it. Did we not know this was supposed to be a hard water?
At least on paper it looked as easy as that. Five minutes fishing to land Stu’s biggest ever carp from the lake. In reality he’d been down 4 times getting all the underwater shots first, the scenics, the cut-aways, the swirling mist, the sun peeping over the horizon and carefully plotting what the fish liked to do, when they did it, which routes they took and of course treating them to a few bait samples. Ignore the groundwork and the end result looks a piece of cake.
‘We need a big carp off the top, Bob.’ Said Stu. ‘Ideally a big twenty, dare I say it, a thirty?’ Okay, I said, no problem. Except it’s been so cold and miserable, surface caught carp have been a bit thin on the ground to say the least. And then I missed a chance. Could have sworn it had taken it, but my strike met thin air. And then we got a small window. A warm morning. Plans to catch tench were abandoned. We searched and searched until we found fish and of course, we struggled to cope with the bird life, particularly one stupid great swan that took to following us around the lake waiting for us to try and catapult floaters out. Throw in the ducks and gulls and I was tearing my hair out.
And then, out of the corner of my eye I spotted a cruiser coming right to left. I assessed where I thought it might be heading and flicked out my bait. Bingo! It homed straight in on it and right before our very eyes it swallowed the bait. The footage is to die for. The take, the strike, the action, it’s all there. And it wasn’t until I tried to lift her from the water that I realised she was far bigger than I had first thought. Job done! And then I had another. It’s like that sometimes, isn’t it?
But Not Everything Went To Plan
My reward for doing some charity work a while back was gaining access to a very special carp lake. Make that VERY special! A water where 30’s are run of the mill, 40’s not that unusual and a 50 is due out any time. And it hardly gets fished. Easy, do I hear you say? Hmmm. Not when the fish start thinking about sex, chasing each other around and round like teenagers at a school dance. Damn! Just my luck. Two nights and 3 days wasted? Not on your life. This was a very, very special place. Not catching didn’t really make a great deal of difference to me. Simply being there was a priviledge in itself.
Judge for yourself.
No Match For This
But May wasn’t all about filming. I had three matches to run, the 2 semis and final of the Daiwa sponsored Green Un Club Match Angler Championship. That took up three days if you ignore writing up the reports, pictures and preparation. Thankfully Pauline and Geoff Hurt take care of most of that for me but it’s still a lot of work.
Double page spreads in the paper help to keep sponsors and venue owners happy but I have to say it’s the only time I’ve ever run a final when every single competitor wore the sponsor’s branding. That went down remarkably well with everyone concerned and is a credit to those who took part. Of course, with £3,000 worth of prizes on offer everyone went home happy.
Special thanks to Hayfield Fisheries and to Pine Lakes, Thorne for helping out with the venues and of course Daiwa Sports for getting on board and offering brilliant support.
There’s a match report here.
Dealer Or No Dealer
I also went along to the Daiwa dealer day at Hallcroft Fisheries. Daiwa run two of these matches each year, one in the north and one down south. Dealers either come along or nominate someone to represent them and there are prizes galore plus a nice buffet afterwards. It oils the wheels of the trade and it used to be that every company ran one but Daiwa seem to be the last one hanging on to the tradition.
It was nice to meet up with everyone for a few drinks the evening before in the Moat House and then with the likes of Steve Ringer and Kieron Rich and Sandra Scotthorne. I find it hard to comprehend because time flies so fast but I’ve now been with Daiwa for more than 20 years and the likes of Nev Fickling and Paul Kerry were already here when I joined. That’s a lot of loyalty in an age where consultants trade companies like footballers trade teams.
Not that any of this bothered this little chap who seemed totally unconcerned by the fact that I wanted to take his picture…
My Little Riverdance
I spent a nice few days in Ireland but boy did it rain! Talk about a deluge. A whole month’s worth of rain fell in a day and then we got as much again the following day. I’ll not go into too many details because I intend to publish a stand-alone article about the trip but imagine the scene, I’m fishing on the 900 acre Lake Garadice and I’m having to move my tackle back because the level is rising. It came up 6 inches in a few hours and that’s a hell of a lot of water, believe me.
Sue and I picked up an Emerald Star cruiser from Belturbet, we cruised down the Erne, up the Woodford river to Ballyconnel and ate the legenday steaks on offer at the Anglers Rest. As I say, I fished on Garadice (with Irish International Francis McGoldrick) and after that it was a cast here and there on the Erne before spending a day with Gerry Olin of Esox Lodges fame. The piking could have been a lot better had the water not been the clour of milky tea. But like I say, wait for the article proper and I’ll spill the beans at length.
Andamans Adventure Now On Youtube
The trip I made to the Andaman Islands with Stu Walker and James Gould can now be seen on Youtube. Stu’s put together a fabulous 20 minute long feature that will give you an insight to the exciting fishing out there. At least we had decent weather this time!
Was It Worth it? You Bet!
I mentioned in a previous blog that I’d been along to see Tim Ridge whilst he was fishing for tench on a notoriously difficult Yorkshire water. Well several 3-day trips later he had just one fish to show for his efforts and that wasn’t exactly a monster. Then the phone rang, ‘Hey Bob, you know you said to let you know if I caught anything decent and that you’d come along and photograph it?’
I took the details and jumped in the van. Tim had landed an 8-4 which is massive for Yorkshire and one of the biggest authenticated specimens landed in the county this year. He’d also got a 6-7 to back it up with. Two fish that came within minutes of each other after a series of long and tortuous blanks. Top angling and reward for determination when lesser anglers would have given up and moved on to an easier water.
My Box Now Has A Silicone Implant
Days before the season opened the postman delivered a small package. It was the silicone rubbers I’d been eagerly waiting for from Dave Harrell. It’s so difficult to get hold of the right stuff these days. I mean, when top tackle shops have stopped stocking stick floats what chance is there of getting rubbers for them.
I’ve enough to last me several seasons now. Roll on some settled weather!
I’ve a couple of interesting trips lined up this summer, one with the afore mentioned Dave Harrell on the Trent and I’ll also be spending a bit of time with Dean Macey as he prepares to shoot a new TV series. Both should be fun.
Never A More Apt Cartoon
Of course, the weather went and spoiled itself rotten in the run up to opening day. Arguably conditions were fine if you were a barbel angler but for many the rain put a dampener on things. I loved Brian Roberts’ Jack’s Pike cartoon. Nothing summed up the start of the season more perfectly for me than this…
Brian has given me permission to publish a few more of his cartoons in the blog but you might want to check out his web site. He has two Jack’s Pike books for sale if you’re interested. They made me chuckle and don’t cost a great deal.
Perhaps It’s Just Me…
I’m a little disturbed by all the undue hysteria about this phenomenon called ‘the glorious sixteenth’. At least the shooters make no bones about the glorious 12th. They go out and kill things deliberately. When we’ve had a cold, wet spring like this year, when everything in nature is weeks behind, barbel in particular have not fully completed their spawning rituals. They are either still carrying or they are just spent. Either way they are out of condition. Would you expect to beat a woman who’s just given birth in a half marathon?
I’m uncomfortable about it and I see all these folk who claim they care about conservation, who usually bang on about giving the rivers a rest and that barbel should receive special care and protection, literally forgetting everything they actually stand for. They’ve all got barbel fever and can see no downside to what they are doing. They make excuse after excuse – the fish were fine, fought well, swam off strongly. Well, so be it. Believe that if you wish. I prefer the honest version. These fish are flabby and out of condition and I personally feel uncomfortable trying to catch them when they are at their most vulnerable.
Instead of defending the indefensible would we not all be better campaigning together for change? There is no logic to the present river closed season. Read Hansard, Mundella 1878, and you’ll discover the closed season was intended to increase the food of the country and made special provision to protect trout and char. One MP, an angler, stated that the bill was incomprehensible having been tripled in size at the Committee stage. Let us be clear, it was introduced at a time when folk ate what they caught.
“The Committee found that there were a great many regulations for salmon, but that trout were only preserved in salmon rivers. As the Bill did not deal with trout, it was necessary to frame some regulations, the evidence showing that something should be done for trout and char in the English lakes, which were fast being destroyed. The House could form no idea of the waste of fish by taking them in tons during the close season; the rivers of the country would soon be denuded of fish if this wasteful process continued. The Bill had been re-drawn, so as to protect every kind of fish, by giving it a close season of three months.”
Did you know Mundella singled out pike, stating, ‘In a stream where the owner found it necessary to protect the trout from the pike or any other predatory fish, he could take the necessary measures. He was quite entitled to destroy such destructive fish…’
Times have changed. The Act hasn’t. It is hopelessly archaic and needs revising. There is no point in stopping fishing at midnight on March 14th whatsoever. We should fish on through March and April and then pull off until the end of June. That would make far more sense.
Me Guilty? Yes, Bang To Rights
I gave it the best part of a week and thought blow it. If everyone else is fishing what purpose does my one-man protest serve. So I picked out a stretch of a local river where I know that traditionally the fish spawn earlier than say the Trent. The fish recover sooner. It didn’t take me long to find some fish, get them feeding and my first cast lasted less than five minutes. Round went the tip, the pin’s ratchet clicked manically and after a heart stopping battle beneath an overhanging bush I successfully netted a fine barbel. A cracker, indeed. Except it was long, lank and flabby.
I almost felt guilty catching it and that was my day over. I packed up and spent the next few hours wandering around and looking for fish instead. I found plenty but chose to take the higher moral stance and leave them alone. I can catch plenty of barbel later on when they have recovered.
Take a leaf out of this guy’s book. There’s no rush. Relax. I know it’s rather too easy to catch right now, seriously, a bit Mickey Mouse if we’re being totally honest, and is that what you really want? Noddy fishing, on a plate? Be patient, savour the pleasure. And if all else fails, go down the nearest commercial and get your cane bent, show us all how easy it is…
Well I guess by now it’s pretty common knowledge that a very famous angler was caught fishing in the closed season. It’s hard to profess your innocence when the bailiff confiscates the memory card from the camera of the journalist who was photographing an article with him at the time.
What kind of arrogant fool thinks he can get away with fishing in the closed season like that? It’s asking for trouble. You’re a face, instantly recognisable, one of the most famous in all angling, you make your living from promoting the positive aspects of the sport, you are duty bound to uphold the codes of honour and dignity. You certainly can’t flout the law like that unless you are prepared to shred your credibility.
But what of the publication that clearly condoned his actions by joining him to shoot the feature knowing full well that it was the closed season? Please don’t tell me that this full-time journalist, an assistant editor no less, didn’t know it was the closed season! That would be stretching credibility too far.
What really gets me though is the doubt this casts on those of us who appear regularly in the media. Folk already believe we fish private waters all the time, use secret baits and rigs, have swims roped off on regular fisheries, keep fish in nets for 3 weeks, basically lie, cheat and bamboozle, but stunts like this lend credibility to every rumour and tall tale that circulates. How many anglers out there are thinking, I bet this goes on all the time. I bet they’re all at it…
Well we’re not. But it only takes one fool to draw a veil of suspicion over all of us. Cheers ‘mate’!
There Are Other Species, You Know…
While half the world it would seem, certainly the argumentative half, obsesses on barbel, everyone seems to have forgetten there are other worthy species to be caught. It’s funny you know, so many river anglers criticise commercial fisheries because they are stuffed with hard fighting, non-indigenous carp, yet they clamour after barbel stocked into rivers where they never, ever existed. Barbel are the new carp. They’re hard fighting, bred in fish farms and stocked where they don’t belong. What’s the difference folks?
And then we have big barbel = big carp = syndication.
And how are they caught? Bolt rigs and boilies (or pellets).
Can’t see much difference myself! Can you? What’s more, these two species, the pinnacle of angling skill and prowess can be caught while you are asleep!
Lest anyone doesn’t remember, when I was a slip of a lad barbel and carp were quite rare, exotic even. If you caught an exceptional fish from a river the chances are it was a chub. Somehow they’ve gone out of fashion, there to be sneered at by barbel anglers in the same way that big bream and tench are seen as nothing more than disappointing bait robbing inconveniences by the majority of carp anglers. It’s a sad world we live in.
At last it would seem the grim north is catching up with the south where big chub are concerned. Until quite recently it was all the Stour this, the Avon that and of course the Ouse. Well we’re catching up, if slowly. The back end of the winter saw the Trent throwing up numbers of sixes and even the odd seven. Other rivers are doing likewise on the quiet as this pristine summer-caught 6-4 chub demonstrates. That minter of a fish will go a lot bigger come autumn I’ll bet. Well done Stu!