The phone rang. It was Mick Brais, Producer of Sky TV’s Tight Lines show, ‘Hey Bob, would you and Stu like a new stamp on your passports?’
He knew the answer without asking.
‘Fancy a spot of tiger fishing?’ He went on. I didn’t need to check the bucket list. It was definitely on there. In block capitals.
‘We’d love to include it in the show but you know how things are. We’d have to send a whole crew, then there’s risk assessments, health and safety. There’s no way we could jump through the hoops never mind cover the budget required. I just wondered if you and Stu might be interested?’
Unlike mainstream sports, fishing doesn’t get a great deal of financial backing. If Manchester United are playing away to some minnow team in the first round of the Champions League the programme budget will be astronomical. Camera crews, production staff, presenters, hotels, food, flights, equipment, insurance, you name it, someone just signs a big cheque. Just try and imagine what the total costs of broadcasting one pretty meaningless game of European football must be.
Needless to say, the budget for our trip wouldn’t even begin to cover our costs. We went into it knowing full well it would leave us well out of pocket, but were we complaining? Like hell we were. We were well up for it. After all, what’s the point of having all those precautionary injections against tropical diseases if you’re not going to make use of them?
Sky had been approached by Matoya Fishing Lodge, a new set-up on the Upper Zambezi River at Lukulu in Zambia. The partners in Matoya are all tiger fishing nuts and were seeking publicity. Two of the partners own a construction company, another operates charter planes, and only when you grasp that can you begin to see how this operation works because Lukulu is hundreds of kilometres from the nearest tarmac road. The lodge itself has no road access. You can only get there over water.
Which makes the place all the more remarkable because the accommodation is outstanding. I mean power showers, luxury bathrooms, comfy beds, a swimming pool, sun loungers and a bar with every kind of drink you can think of yet every last screw and nail had to be shipped in by truck or air and then brought to site on one of the fishing boats. It’s a staggering achievement. So why Lukulu? The Zambezi is Africa’s 4th largest river, 2,200 miles long. It flows through 6 countries. Why here? Are there no tigers elsewhere in less remote places.
The answer is yes, but Lukulu is where you’ll find the biggest ones. It’s Zambia’s Adams Mill and Redmire rolled into one. Tiger fish are similar in size to our barbel. Five to 8lb is probably the average size with a double being regarded as a trophy fish. Well there are doubles aplenty here. But if it’s action you want you need to be on the river earlier in the season because that’s when they’re easier to catch. You see, the Zambezi is like no river we have in England. During the rainy season, here on the Barasota flood plain the river can spread out to 16 miles wide and rise 20 or 30 feet! When that happens it becomes many rivers with countless navigable channels where sport can be fast and furious. Late in the season the level drops, the river shrinks to just a few hundred yards wide, it goes clear and the fishing gets quite hard, but this is the prime time to catch a BIG tiger. I guess the smaller fish are holed up somewhere in the shallow channels and dykes.
But first we had to get there which meant Stu and I had to fly down to Johannesburg then fly back up to Lukulu in a 10-seater plane. Can you believe we took turns at sitting next to the pilot, both for take off and landing?!!! That was an experience worthy of the trip alone. We flew over Victoria Falls, dropped into Livingstone to clear customs and on to a tiny gravel strip in what appeared to be the middle of nowhere. Check out our footage of the strip on my Facebook Page. With bicycles being pushed across the gravel strip runway and kids playing alongside you will appreiate security here is not quite the same as at Heathrow or JFK!
Mind you, the accommodation was amazing. I still can’t get over it. As we anticipated the fishing was hard. But we did catch, and boy did we tick all the boxes. Stu had a 14-pounder whilst I was lucky to nail a brace of 16-pounders. I say that, but one appeared to be much bigger and it was only afterwards that our guide confessed that it was getting dark and he couldn’t see to read the Boga grip properly. He knew for sure it went past 16 so he called 16. Even he thought it looked bigger! Oh well. It doesn’t make a hill of beans difference, it was just one of the most spectacular fish I’ve ever caught and one I was so pleased to land because getting a bite from a tiger is one thing, landing it another. Even experts only achieve a 35-40% success rate because they have an annoying habit of leaping and throwing the hooks, which have a tough enough job finding a hook hold as it is.
The fish above is the smaller of my brace and it certainly isn’t a big-knuckle tiger. ‘Big-knuckle’ is how South Africans describe those pictures where the fish is shoved towards the camera and the captor’s hand looks enormous. We perhaps use the term ‘banana fingers’ and I’m sure you’re familiar with that phrase. If not, just pick up either of the weekly papers and check out the submitted pictures of double figure barbel, 4lb perch and 30lb carp.
Alas my biggest fish had a few teeth missing as older tigers often do. It wasn’t noticeably longer, just deeper and wider – a touch of middle age spread, perhaps? Maybe more carp-like in shape. Heaven knows what a twenty is like. There are a few around, I suspect.
Matoya will hold a special place in my heart for a long time. It would be nice to return and put the knowledge we gained into good use, because I’m sure we could return tomorrow and catch a lot more fish, now we’ve got the hang of things. Just think of it as pike fishing for pike that have been to cage fighting school and you’ll be half way there. So much of it is like piking – the lures, dead and live baiting. You can bounce baits, free-line lives, drift floats, troll and so on. Even fly fishing. Indeed it’s a trip that every pike angler should have on his or her bucket list. And in surroundings like this it simply doesn’t get any better.
There was less animal life than I expected, although we did see crocs and hippos, but it’s the variety of bird life that will catch your eye. There’s no shortage of that. The food was top notch and I couldn’t fault that in any way and the drink prices are reasonable. We’ll be releasing a film of the trip on our Youtube channel in due course and Sky will be showing their version sometime over the coming winter. I’ll let you know when.
Meanwhile you might care to check out Matoya’s Facebook page for recent updates and news,
I’m Big In Japan
Got your attention, eh? Actually that’s not strictly true. But I am making inroads in Romania, but I’ll take that. Today Yorkshire, tomorrow the world. Here’s the cover of a new book on coarse fishing tactics that will shortly be published over in the Eastern block. It’s Volume 2 apparently. A certain Mr Wilson is on the cover of Volume 1. Onwards and upwards!
I once had a top selling video in Poland, you know. It was news to me, too. I knew nothing about it until this publisher approached me, ‘I have so long wanted to meet you Mr Roberts. You are very famous in Poland!’ I thought it was a Roy Marlow wind-up but turns out it was true.
Turns our he wanted to translate and republish my legering book for the Polish market. Unfortunately my book publisher wanted more money to release the rights than the entire deal was worth. I wasn’t best pleased at the time. After all they’d taken the thick end of the profits from the sales of 6,000 hardback copies and wouldn’t do a reprint because they’d taken a strategic decision to pull out of the angling book market. The book was completely sold out and selling for more than the published price second hand.
It’s a salutary warning for all those eager, budding authors and DVD stars out there. Be careful what you sign for and who with. You wont be the first or last to be ripped off. I never did earn a single penny from the European sales of those videos. Same as I don’t get a penny for all the cheap DVDs that are currently sold in pound shops or packaged together in box sets each Christmas.
Back To Reality
It was a bit of a shock to leave behind the heat of Zambia and don my winter clothes for a predator trip to the Trent. Applying a bit of ‘Bob Logic’ I figured the Barbel Society stretch at Sutton would make a good choice as I suspected the piking might be overlooked there. After all, why would you join the Barbel Society if you were a pike angler? You’d join the PAC, wouldn’t you?
Wrong. The only pair of guys on the bank were fishing the area I had in mind to fish and guess what? They were piking! But Alex Sneesby and his mate turned out to be nice guys and it was a pleasure to pop down and take a few snaps when Alex caught a nice double.
Of zander there was no sign but just when hope was threatening to turn into despair I had a pick-up on a perch deadbait. Turned out to be a cracking mid-double that sent me home with a smile on my face.
Brian Blessed is a huge character, has a voice that’s instantly recognisable and a face like Des Taylor. I guess everyone in the UK has heard of him and few wouldn’t recognise him. Not bad for a lad who was born in the mining village of Goldthorpe less than a couple of miles from where I’m sitting.
No offense intended, but how on earth anyone with his background can become a thespian is mind boggling in itself, and how someone, who grew up where many folk to this day communicate mainly in grunts, thees and thars, can now utter phrases like, ‘marvellous blokes’, ‘had a tremendous time’, ‘we were feverish with excitement’, ‘oh, never in heaven was a human more mortified’, ‘what screaming terrors of hell perpetrated my body’ and ‘I went on my merry way’, without the slightest hint of self-conscious, I’ll never quite understand, but in the history of the entire world has any other son of Goldthorpe ever uttered any sentence quite so profound as:
‘There was I, alone on the central Rongbuk Glacier…’
Now come on, it takes some beating, eh? What would you give to have stood in his shoes on that day?
These quotes were randomly culled from a book I’ve just read, The Turquoise Mountain, Brian Blessed on Everest. It’s his own story of a childhood dream fulfilled and perhaps it should be supplied as a school textbook to every single kid in South Yorkshire because it might just provide an inspiration to generations. It matters not where you’re born, or what you’re born into, providing you have the desire, tenacity and determination to plough your own furrow you can indeed turn dreams into reality.
Brian duly made his ascent on Everest, get this, wearing traditional clothes, in a documentary for the BBC – Galahad of Everest. Here’s just a fun clip of him performing his version of the All Blacks’ Haka, on Everest:
But if you’re really interested, here’s the entire documentary. I’ve not watched it myself yet, but I’ll get around to it soon, I’m sure:
The message surely is this: if Brian Blessed can do it, why can’t you? What is stopping you except your own fears? Your weakness. Are you so afraid to step outside of your safe little world of drudgery? I also read his biography quite recently, the Thunderbolt Kid, and you have to hand it to him, from sparking clogs to Hollywood, he’s done it all and got the t-shirt. He even wanted to be Chancellor of Cambridge University – just listen to his passion in this speech…
Come on, admit it. This is top bombing for a miner’s lad from Goldthorpe!
In a much less grand way folk say to me, ‘You know, Bob, you’re dead lucky, fishing in all these exotic places’. They are wrong. I’m not lucky. I set my mind out to do it. I dared to dream and, admittedly late in life, I’ve made that dream a reality. It might not be climbing the world’s highest mountain, that’s for sure, but I didn’t sit on my backside and moan that others were better off. I got up and did whatever I could to make my own dreams come true.
And do you know what? It’s never too late. Jack Purchase – you might recall Jack Purchase Holidays – or if you’re from South Yorkshire you might remember him as the guy who pioneered youth coaching, or that his daughters Ann and Linda both fished for England, as did his granddaughter, Emma Pickering? Well Jack decided he wanted to learn to fly at the age of 70.
Many folk tell me they’d like to do things but they don’t mean it. Well Jack was different. He didn’t just ‘like to’, he bloomin’ well got off his backside and did learn to fly – in his seventies.
Maybe you should be starting to write your own bucket list right now, and instead of admiring it and then conveniently forgetting about it, actually do something about it? Go on, live a little. Life’s not a rehearsal. I learned that the hard way.
PAC Conference 2013
The PAC has kindly invited me to speak at their Harrogate Conference next year, an offer I’ve provisionally accepted. I say provisionally because my plans don’t actually extend that far ahead just yet, but if I’m in the country then sure as hell I’ll be there. I’m sure Stu and I can come up with some kind of mixed media package that will entertain anyone who happens to be there.
Tribute To A Legend…
I sat down this morning wondering whether I really had enough material to make this blog worthwhile. And then I realise it’s already turning into a marathon. I wish I didn’t enjoy writing so much sometimes! I’m currently creating an anthology of articles that I wrote for Coarse Angler magazine in the late 1980’s to around 1990. I wanted to put them into some kind of flip book format but wasn’t prepared to invest money in software or hosting as what was the point. It’s not like I would get any kind of return on my outlay and I was investing a substantial amount of time to boot.
Anyway, I’ve come across a site called Issuu which hosts that kind of stuff and checking through what’s already on there I discovered something that’s well worth a read. It’s the tribute by Angling Times to Ivan Marks. It’s a top read:
The Good Old Days
I regard most angling forums these days with a degree of scorn. In principle I do consider they are a great idea, unfortunately the enjoyment of the majority is invariably marred by the behaviour of a minority. Time was when Jim Gibbinson, Jan Porter, Graham Marsden, Tony Miles and countless other well-known anglers contributed opinions and offered advice but sadly they’ve pretty much all drifted away. Why? Look to some of the cretinous individuals who still frequent those places. The volume of forum traffic has stuttered and it’s pretty fair to say most have run their course. However, every once in a blue moon something turns up that gives hope. Hope perhaps that someone might have the balls to weed out the troublemakers and we might see more like this, but it’s probably too late.
So what sparked my interest? An article about roach fishing. I’ll say no more, just read it.
Up Close And Personal With A Giant Trevally
Last week I came face-to-face with a huge GT whilst snorkeling in the Red Sea and it blew me away (I know, I’ve been away again – twice in 3 weeks). I’ve caught my share of them now from the Andaman Sea to know what a big one looks like and this wasn’t big, it was BIG! I was 3 days into the trip and let me just say, if you’ve never snorkeled then you simply don’t know what you’re missing and the snorkeling on the Red Sea is sensational by any standards.
Anyway, I’d already seen and swum with more species that I can possibly begin to name. Incredibly coloured parrot fish, butterfly fish and so on in every shape, size and colour you can possibly imagine and then some besides. My brain was already a neon lit technicolour explosion when out of the corner of my eye, quite high in the water I spotted a lone GT. Wow!
So I slowly edged towards it and it just looked back at me, almost dismissive in its manner. I swear I got within about 6 feet of it and it was clearly upwards of 20 kilos. Certainly bigger than any I’ve ever caught. For a while we swam slowly, side-by-side, retaining the same distance and then it pushed ahead of me, straight in front and dropped a little deeper so I was looking down on the width of its shoulders. The ease and grace with which it swam was mesmerising and although I could barely see a change in the way it leisurely wafted its tail I simply could not keep up with it.
The view counter on Stu’s Youtube Channel continues to rise and whilst it isn’t quite on a scale with Gangnam Style or Charlie Bit My Finger three quarters of a million views is not to be sniffed at. Actually I’m exaggerating. Right now, as I type, the figure is less than that. It’s 745,436 but it will continue to grow. I wish I knew what to make of it or even what it all means. It’s not like we make a penny from it.
To be fair, our figures are distorted by one particular film. It kind of went viral. Well, I say viral, but not like a ‘winking cat’ viral. It certainly wasn’t folk clicking ‘Play’ for 30 seconds to get a quick belly laugh. It’s the 19-minute-long film of us GT fishing in the Andaman Sea and has now had 349,910 views alone.
Footnote: Two days on and the figures now read 750,613 and 354,365 respectively. It’s crazy.
Mentioning Daft Clips…
I learned at a very young age that carefully straddling an electric fence without touching it was to be encouraged and I also learned that catching the trailing mesh of a wet landing net on the wire as I walked away was not. Even with aluminium net poles it sent one hell of a jolt through your crooked elbow. And the pins and needles in your hand afterwards wasn’t a pleasant experience.
Although wiser and more cautious I’m not immune to such misfortunes today, especially now I’m usually lugging around a specimen sized net attached to a carbon pole, but who am I to complain too loudly. Spare a thought instead for this unfortunate pooch who has no idea whatsoever what electricity even is, or that peeing on an electric fence makes the occasional net dangling shock seem pretty trivial…
Shaken But Not Stirred
Took a mate out for his birthday last night. We went to the pictures and rounded the evening off with curry and a few beers. That’s my idea of a great night out these days. Long gone are the days of trawling round bars, nightclubs, getting pissed for no other purpose than to get pissed, then queuing for a taxi, jostling in the line for a dodgy burger or kebab. No, give me a decent film, throw in a good meal and I’m happy. Funny, isn’t it, how you eventually come around to realising that your boring old parents had it right all along?
We went to see Skyfall and I have to say it’s probably the best action film I’ve seen in ages but do yourself a favour if you can. Go see it in Imax. Yes it’ll cost you a bit more but why miss out? It’s the difference between watching a roller coaster and being on it. Films like Skyfall were made for Imax, or should I say Imax was created for films like this. Truly spectacular, fantastic definition and the sound blows you away.
I had doubts that Daniel Craig could ever truly be Bond. I grew up reading Ian Flemming’s books and somehow it didn’t sit right with me when he first took the role, but he’s certainly won me over. This ain’t David Niven (Casino Royale) as Bond, or Sean Connery. The gentleman spy with a roving eye has been turned into an edgy, dangerous character. AS always, Bond gets the girl, fires witty one-liners, survives ridiculously impossible situations, escapes death at each and every turn in totally implausible ways, but d’you know what? For the 3 hours you’re sat there that’s exactly what you want to happen.
Go and see it. Seriously, it’s great fun.
Politically Correct Football Chants
I suspect the Ferdinand brothers and the likes of Jason Roberts have done more to further the cause of the National Front than anyone in the entire country recently by disrespecting the Respect campaign. Everyone knows the handshake and t-shirts are mere tokens but sometimes tokens have a role.
Although player on player racism is reprehensible we’ve now got players accusing a ref of racism. Come on, if any sector of society has been abused or recieved more hatred than referees I’ve yet to see it in my lifetime. Ref-ism is worthy of a respect category of its own!
The other night I watched a black comedian doing stand-up. He told the audience that John Terry isn’t a racist but he did use racist language which presumably was his excuse for repeating the Ferdinand tweet about Ashley Cole being a coconut (which apparently means black on the outside and white on the inside). I have to say I was far from impressed. What’s wrong with white, anyway? There is no crime of negative racism as far as I know but surely it’s still racism to call someone white. I think. But there’s the rub, eh? Racism is very complicated and to stay within the football venacular, the goalposts keep moving.
I recently blocked someone on Facebook for making comments I considered to be racist. He didn’t. Others supported him. Calling a spade a spade ain’t easy these days. I’m prepared to accept that we’re all human and will inevitable make errors of judgement but I don’t want to carry them on my Facebook page so maybe I’m treading a very fine line here. I’m not perfect, no-one is, and I wouldn’t want to castigate anyone who utters a few words now and then in anger or frustration. Holding your hands up afterwards and saying sorry afterwards is sufficient providing the sentiment is genuine. Everyone says things they don’t mean in the heat of the moment and it simply isn’t possible to police emotions. And if you try, where does that end?
Times are changing and for some its not happening quick enough, tough. Get over it. It’s happening too quick for others. Patience is a virtue. Allow things to change slowly but be certain to make up your mind what the rules are and where the boundaries lie. What’s PC one day seems to be non-PC the next. Let’s have a goal to aim for. Run too fast and you soon trip up. The fact that Russian fans are some of the most racially motivated fans in the whole world hasn’t detered black players from signing up to play there, oh no. Providing the pay cheque is big enough they’re quite happy to sign on the dotted line. Our domestic problems are tiny by comparison.
But enough of this. Let me introduce you to a completely sanitised view of British football. It’s not often I have a chance to credit Barnsley football fans with anything but the PC Football Chants thread currently running on one of their forums is hilarious. Let me share with you a sample of the chants they have proposed:
Keith Hill’s Red and Caucasian Army.
The referee regularly uses his hand for pleasure.
The referee was born out of wedlock to a caring single mother who provides all his emotional needs.
Who’s the gentleman with no father. Adorned in black.
Most of your towns inhabitants family origins are from the Asian sub-continet. And that is a good thing as it has added to the culture of your town.
Posh Spice has a preference for alternative orifices.
Ronnie Moore likes masturbation which is a very healthy pass time that will aid his emotional and physical development. He also wears a hat.
You have consumed the majority of the pastry encased high saturated fat meat products.
You clinically obese person but it is not your fault as you come from a single parent family and were born out of wedlock.
You’re not meeting your predetermined targets but if you redoubled your efforts we’re confident your innate abilities will lead you to success, and you know you are.
Your dad is quite unpleasant, and rumour has it you can be too.
You’re not very good, you’re not very good, but don’t worry, we’re not very good either.
Who’s eaten all the pies? Who’s eaten all the pies? Do you have a thyroid problem, maybe you’re just a little too greedy? You’ve eaten all the pies!
Please remove your bra and show your mammary glands to the seated gentlemen.
Walk on, walk on with hope in your heart… (please note that to comply with the Disability Discrimination Act alternative forms of transport will be provided for the remainder of this football chant).
Mind you, is there any wonder Barnsley fans can type so fast, what with them having at least 6 fingers on each hand?!!! And by the way, that’s tribalism, not racism. Keep up.
What A Crap League!
I’ll save my thoughts on Dean Saunders and his pathetic brand of football for another time. Instead I’m going to sum up what’s happening around the Keepmoat in the words of Charles Dickens:
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
Rovers fans are split right down the middle. Saunders is Marmite. Gates have halved. Some, like me, are gone until he’s gone. Others, who now have acres of empty seats to pick from, think winning ugly in the 3rd Division is fantastic and that the brand of football we aspired to play under S’OD was useless! Indeed they’ve convinced themselves that S’OD was useless. It’s pitiful. A club torn apart by the Chairman’s actions and clinging on to the last remaining vestige of a catastrophic failed experiment. Only Saunders remains from the McKay appointments.
The 2012/3 League One line-up is frankly dire! The stand-out teams of recent years have all moved on up. There’s no Swansea, Norwich, Southampton, Leeds, Leicester, Forest, Brighton, Blackpool, Hull, Charlton or Sheffield Wednesday, even. It’s genuinely now a tin pot league and any team with half an idea about organisation ought to be in a play-off position at the very least. I mean, come on, Stevenage and Crawley Town are in the top four with over a third of the season played!
Donny are well in with a shout yet the squad is threadbare, the playing style diabolical and the crowd dwindling away to half what it was when Saunders arrived. So much for all that talk of not ruling out the play-offs last season and pushing for the Premiership this! I stand by my word. I won’t go and watch them again till Saunders has gone. He sets the team up to sit behind the ball, bore everyone to death and then hope to score on the break. It’s working so far but even the die hards are struggling to remain enthusiastic. If he knew what he was doing he’d p**s the league. I hope he does because he’ll get found out again and badly, too. What I’ll gaurantee is he can draw Man U at Old Trafford in the FA cup, get to the Johnston’s Trophy final, sign Lionel Messi on loan and reach the play-off final at Wembley and this dragon will still remain out. I shan’t be part of it and don’t want to be. I’m now officially a follower, not a supporter and may well soon care even less.