Remember the Simple Minds song, ‘I promised you a miracle?‘ I look back and think promising to update the blog more often was along those lines. The thing is, when you’re enjoying your fishing there’s just so much to write about. Unfortunately there’s so little time to fit everything in. Never the less I will try to uphold my promise.
Football’s Coming Home
With the river season only days away and the World Cup opener featuring Brazil v Croatia on TV it seemed appropriate to invite a few fishing mates round for beer and pizza. Somehow half of them failed to get in on the photo! Lost in the garden no doubt.
L-R: Martin Womble, Mike Townsend, Ron Clay, John Austerfield, Paul Fisk, Rob-I’m-trampling-on-your sweet-peas-Hilton and Stu Walker. Matt Brown’s taking the picture, I’m presumably sorting out food. No idea where Danny and James were.
It was certainly an enjoyable night and we must do it again, soon.
So, Was It Really That Glorious?
A new season beckoned. It was the Glorious 16th! The usual suspects on the Internet were claiming they’d seen barbel spawning weeks ago and that the rivers were in fine fettle and how they were looking forward to filling their boots with Boris’s and Berties, with ‘beards’ and river princes. You know exactly who and what I mean. All the usual sentimental twaddle.
I’ll say it for the last time until next spring, hopefully, the closed season timing is all wrong. We shouldn’t be fishing proper rivers on June 16th. Ditches, drains, dykes, dawdling puddles, fine – they ain’t rivers! Rivers have flow, rivers have gravel, weirs, pace, barbel and chub. These are the rivers I’m talking about.
They may also have snotty bream, too, but nothing’s perfect. What real rivers have very few of these days is roach and dace, gudgeon and bleak, hand sized skimmers, in fact anything that’ll fit inside a cormorant’s throat. Canalised ditches have silver fish galore(apparently) but let’s not confuse them with proper rivers, shall we?
So how come I am fishing on June 16th when I think it’s wrong?
Because the law says I can. Because one man making a protest is pretty pointless. Just leaves more room for the rest. The winter was a wash-out. I missed the end of the season because I was out of the country. I then duly observed the 93-day lay-off. Exactly when am I supposed to fish? The old clock is ticking. Father time is catching up. We don’t live forever. We must smell the roses whilst we can, and on June 16th I shall breathe their scent as deeply as the next man until common sense and a new law prevails.
Boy, Are You Gonna Carry That Weight?
For once I did a bit of pre-season preparation. My gear was in a chaotic state. Indeed I quite enjoyed tying up a few rigs, re-spooling, checking for damaged items, turfing out a load of stuff I’ve carried for years and never used. My kit is so much lighter for it, too. I’m now an expert in stripped down gear. Everything I need, no more, no less.
Ask yourself this. How many feeders and leads do you really need to carry? Have you ever lost more than 8 in a day? Eight is too many if truth be told. How many are there in your kit?
I kicked off on the Trent. It was grim. I saw and spoke with numerous anglers who were catching very little. I also spoke with folk who told me about vast shoals of barbel congregating on the shallows to spawn. One or two fish were caught near the weirs – well, quelle surprise!
And of course, one or two quite large fish were caught – again, quelle surprise!
But consistent sport? Nah!
Pockets of feeding fish. Yes.
Folk camping out for days and nights catching odd uns. Of course. But seriously, what do you want? A bloody Drennan Cup? Carbelling is not a skill. It’s a technique. It’s set lining with an angler in attendance.
I’m not saying don’t do it. In fact I will certainly champion your right to carbel. But don’t expect me to praise you from the rooftops for grinding out some random creature whilst you were sleeping soundly and please don’t give me that by-catch crap. Credit to the carp anglers who catch huge bream, tench and massive rudd and slip them back as accidental captures, unweighed. Stop kidding yourselves. If you’re carbelling you’re after barbel. Anything else you catch is a fluke. And don’t try to tell me there’s much skill involved. I could train a monkey to do it.
Oh dear, I’m on a rant, aren’t I? But I am right. You know it, don’t you? 😉
I thoroughly enjoyed my first trip. I struggled a bit, I moved around a lot, I put a nice fish on the bank and went home a happy man. Seriously, it doesn’t get any better.
‘Veni, vidi, vici.’
Unremarkably the 17th was just as glorious as the previous day. I wandered a different river, smaller, more intimate, my kind of heaven to be truthful. I searched for fish, baited and watched. Those I found showed little interest in pellets. Unfortunately I didn’t find many but then again the levels are higher than normal, the weed growth is lush and there’s a tinge of colour. They could be hiding anywhere.
Or they could have been ottered… Now there’s a chilling thought. Apparently they’re in residence on the river.
Time kind of crept away from me. In the end I decided I’d better catch myself a fish so I baited a somewhat overlooked little spot, less than a foot out from the near margin. All I had to do was lower my rig – when the time was right – stand back from the edge so just a few inches of rod tip protruded and wait for some enigmatic prince or other to hang itself on the end. It took a good minute for me to score, shame England’s footballers didn’t have a similar cunning plan!
I rounded off the session by catching a few chub and then went home for tea.
I fished a National Trust lake the other day. It’s a busy place with loads of cyclists, birdwatchers, joggers, doggers, folks having picnics, flying kites, all the usual culprits, plus one or two anglers.
‘That’ll be £8!’ Said the warden. ‘It is just the two rods, isn’t it?’
‘Oh,’ says I, ‘How much is it to ride a bike?’
‘There’s no charge for that.’ He replied.
‘And what if I want to walk my dog, or fly a kite?’
‘Well, obviously, that’s free.’
‘What if I just want to sit here and watch birds?’
‘That’s free, too. But you’re fishing, so it’s £8.’
‘Do you think that’s fair?’
‘Ah, but don’t forget they have to pay £6.50 to come into the park, you know.’
‘You’ve obviously forgotten that I have to pay £6.50, too.’ I replied.
I pressed on, ‘You see, the thing is I’ve not caught owt, and in these conditions I’m not likely to, am I? The place is dead. So in these circumstances how is it you want to penalise me twice just for sitting here twiddling my thumbs? Do you think that’s right and proper? What exactly have you got against angling? Why does the Trust single out anglers to penalise? Let’s have some equality. When are you going to start charging birdwatchers?’
‘Err…, I must say, you do make a good point.’ He said, and shuffled away with a degree more urgency than with which he’d arrived.
The thing is, the Trust has a pro-angling policy. It reads:
The National Trust is very much aware of the importance of countryside traditions. We allow field sports to take place on our property where traditionally practised, providing they are within the law and are compatible with the Trust’s purposes, which include public access and the protection of rare animals and birds and fragile habitats.
Which is great. They are pro-canoes, too. But they don’t apply charges if you take your own canoe to any one of its numerous designated canoeing locations. You can ride a horse, surf, stargaze, even geocache, whatever that is. As far as I can see there’s only the one recreational activity that is prosecuted and taxed unfairly, and that’s angling.
I’d willingly join the Trust if fishing was included as an incentive to join, which considering how other activities are positively encouraged isn’t an unreasonable expectation. I think the Trust does wonderful things in our countryside but I have to ask, of all the hobbies and pastimes that are pursued in the parks, why is it only angling that is financially discriminated against?
A Bad Case Of Mistaken Identity
I have a lovely relationship with 99% of all the anglers I meet or bump into. Indeed I’d be well on my way to my first million if I received a pound for each time someone wears a surprise look on their face and says, ‘If I’m not mistaken, aren’t you Bob Roberts?’ Invariably a conversation follows that can stir long forgotten memories. ‘Do you remember so and so?’ It might be a person we have in common, a place, an event, a show, a match, football, this blog, videos, books, articles written decades ago, music, you name it. The pleasure is invariably mine.
Then there’s the one per cent. Well, it isn’t even that. It’s one in a thousand, probably even less. On June 20th I spent a few hours by the Trent. The first chub I caught proceeded to cover me and my kit in what I’ll euphemistically describe as jizz! Dear oh Lord, are we still denying the obvious? Spawning isn’t over by a long chalk yet.
I posted to that effect on my Facebook page, Bob Roberts Angling, and a Scouser by the name of Ben Boughey replied:
Stop rattlin shit bob you got caught fishin in the closed season so you have got no argument …. I agree with Mr Harrell as he is a river man with class you you’ve got no say because you’ve already fished when you shouldn’t off
Charming. Let’s make it quite clear from the off Ben Boughey is not just wrong, he’s not even on the right planet! I have never fished illegally in the closed season and never would. I strongly support having a closed season – just not the one we have now. I am championing extending the closed season!!!
I said at the time when Bob James was caught fishing out of season on the River Wye that his actions cast suspicion and reflect on all professional anglers like myself, that he was a disgrace and he should be vilified for his selfish actions. Well there’s your proof.
It sounds like that chicken has come home to roost and it’s in my bloody hen house! ‘Poor’ Bob James appears to have got away with his indiscretions and I’m taking his rap simply because we share the same Christian name. Wonder how many others now think it was me who was prosecuted for fishing out of season?
Charming. Thanks very much!
Let me say it for the record – I resent that Bob James is depicted as a whimsical character in a dreamy film about the passion we all share for angling and because of that we should give him a break. No we shouldn’t! He’s a deliberate cheat who’s selfish actions have caused damage to the reputation of law abiding anglers like myself.
Is there any wonder I have issues with any magazine or publication, journalist or photographer that continues to assist him in promoting his ugly shadow across the sport I so dearly love, especially when that shadow is falling across my doorstep?
So who’s ‘rattlin shit’ now Mr Ben Boughey?
Footnote: Since writing this Ben has apologised for his mistake. Matter closed between us but I hope you appreciate how the actions of one cheat can impact on others who are completely innocent.
Can’t Get Enough?
Mentioning Facebook, I realise many of you much prefer to read my musings here in depth rather than through the drip feed medium of Facebook. I fully understand that. However, if Facebook is your thing, or you dip in occasionally, you need to be aware that I have stopped updating the old Bob Roberts wall and all future Facebook angling updates will appear on the Bob Roberts Angling page.
The simplest way to find them is to scroll down the right hand column of the blog, or any other page on this web site for that matter until you see the list of Social Media Links. The top icon will link you directly to the Bob Roberts Angling Facebook page. It even opens up in a new window so you won’t lose your place if you happen to be reading the blog.
Ideally you should click the ‘Like’ tab. This isn’t a vanity thing, it’s so you can contact me and vice versa. You can choose to follow my updates if you like – or not if that suits you better.
A Brilliant Solution
Are you stretched for time? Work, garden, family, World Cup and trying to cram in as much fishing as possible? It’s not just the rivers that open up in June, several stillwaters around these parts also observe a closed season so it’s a juggling act.
Dave Harrell suggested we have got the concept of our weeks all wrong. We should have a 5-day week in the winter when the weather’s crap and a 9-day week in the summer. Then we could fit everything in!
Could Be Worse
So I dragged myself out of bed at stupid-‘o’-clock again and headed down to a frequently challenging lake. It’s big, it’s weedy and the fish could be a mile away. You can never be quite sure but when you drop on the fish it’s a brilliant place.
I was rather hoping to catch a big tench. By the standards of the grim north, these are whoppers. But it doesn’t pay to get too cocky. The place has a habit of switching off, plus the rules and restrictions don’t exactly compliment successful angling.
A quick plumb, a light spodding and I was pretty much ready to rock and roll. I hadn’t got the second rod out when the first was away. Bingo! A very nice tench. Now I had no rods in the water.
Fish safely secured in the margin, out with the camera gear, prepare the studio, nice background, best available light, mat in position, remote fired up, take a test shot without the fish, check the framing and, hello…, what’s that error message? No CF Card. What! Surely not.., Noooo!!!! I’d only left my Compact Flash card in the computer after downloading the precious session’s pictures.
That’s when Pete Webster stepped in. He was fishing close by. ‘No worries, Bob, I’ve got my new camera. You can use that.’ Brilliant. Except the red battery indicator was flashing and his spare was at home. And if that weren’t bad enough the camera was set to take just small jpeg images. Talk about a bloody useless pair!
Here’s a nice male tench. I took this shot with my phone.
On reflection I perhaps should have weighed this tench. It was a cracker!
And so was this bream…
Imagine the pictures I could have got with a memory card in my camera!
I returned a few days later with Stu Walker. This time I knew I’d get some brilliant pictures and on two cameras for good measure. At least I would have if either of us had caught anything. Oh well, can’t win ’em all.
Club Anthems 2014
My Club Match Angler Championship final was staged at Sykehouse Fisheries just north of Doncaster. I find it hard to grasp that I’ve been running this for 17 years. If the next 17 go as fast as the last then my life will pass me by in a blur. Time is a scary concept. The more fun you have the faster it goes.
The clue’s in the pictures so no prizes for guessing that the event was sponsored by Daiwa again. They have been brilliant with us but before anyone gets the idea they should be writing begging letters in the hope some tackle giant will send a truck load of prizes to their next match give some thought to the first rule of sponsorship.
Sponsorship isn’t a case of what they can do for you, it’s what you can do for them. Sponsorship has to be a mutually beneficial partnership. The company must be able to see and measure the tangible benefits of getting involved.
Roger Hill was crowned Champion catching 163lb 9oz of carp on hair-rigged 11mm pellets fished just over the margin rushes. He had learned in practise that anything smaller would attract small fish. He set out to catch bigger fish and it paid off handsomely.
It was a well-deserved result for Roger. He was appearing in his first final having fallen at the semi final stage in each of the previous five years.
Next year will be bigger and better. It always is.
The Star coverage of the 2014 final can be read by following the link below.
Open as PDF: Green UnDaiwa Angling final
Don’t know about you but the constant demands on me to decipher verification codes each time I try to send an email drives me nuts. Half the time I struggle to read them but this one, today, was perfectly clear and it tickled my fancy. Quite apt, don’t you think?
The eagle eyed will have noticed I’ve begun publishing a weekly fishing column here at Bob Roberts Online. It goes live at 06.00hrs each Monday morning so what better way to start the working week than by pouring yourself a cuppa then sitting down to read my article before you commence the daily grind.
I first published these articles in the Sunday Sport so chances are you haven’t read them. You get to play catch-up for free and I get to pay the bills, so that can’t be all bad, can it? Who else could engineer Steve Pope alongside the term Master Baiting in a national newspaper? That’ll teach him to be critical of its titillating content! Well Steve, you were asking for it… 😉
BFW has recently been giving away a stone leger weight with each sale it makes. Quite appropriate considering the content of the site has sunk faster than the free gift ever will. Then again, it’s easy to see why. Poor moderation and a willingness to entertain the fools and agitators of barbeldom have destroyed what used to be a fabulous site.
Where did the fun go?
Should you visit BFW, say for instance you need advice on what bank stick to buy, or landing net, or whether you’d be better off with squid rather than shellfish boilies don’t, whatever you do, mention the Barbel Society. Unless of course you simply want to flush out a few idiots. If so then you should most certainly mention the Society and better still, throw in Steve Pope’s name. My God, they’ll rush in like a shoal of ravenous chub.
That’s when you get a chance to play my favourite forum game. It’s called, Who’s The Most Pompous Poster – or, Find The Fauntleroy. How about this for a classic example:
The story actually begins outside of BFW with a post on the BS Facebook page asking how the Society can help or provide insight to fishery managers that might lead to the gradual improvement in our rivers using the resources of its Society’s Research and Conservation programme.
The reaction from certain quarters was boringly predictable and symptomatic of what’s wrong with BFW’s moderation policy, or should I say lack of one!
I would rather call the devil himself than get in touch with Steve pope if I had any concerns about the river…… Hes an ex builder with no knowledge whatsoever on watery issues, sure Reading has a contact or two at the EA but who doesn’t? The BS is just a social club with a ‘small’ pot of cash to stock a bit here and there and carry out the odd bit of habitat work……. all very small beer and insignificant.
Bitter? Yes. Personal? Of course. Patronising? In the extreme. Dismissive? Without a doubt. However the OP (original poster) responded rather politely to the withering response:
Thanks [name omitted] – every opinion welcome. When you say “Reading” are you referring to the place located along the M4 corridor? If not and you actually meant Mr Reading, than as you may know his name is Pete. Also, I don’t have any contacts at the EA but am assuming that you do? Tell me though, what steps have you personally taken in relation to research and conservation work? If you have in fact contributed significantly then I and others would genuinely like to hear and learn from your experiences. If you haven’t, don’t you think its a little crass and unfair to criticise those that are trying to do something – even if its tiny?
Fair play. That was a clever response. You’ll note he defends an innocent bystander, politely invites the troll to explain his personal achievements in the R&C world and then flatters him by suggesting he/we might be able learn from those experiences if they were shared.
Not surprisingly the response evoked was even more bitter and totally underwhelming:
Don’t come the clever dickie post with me I have no interest in playing games with someone like you who has been around barbeldom for about 2mins. For your interest, I have done more than my share thanks, both professionally and otherwise.
In other words, ‘F*** off, you prat! I’m a self professing expert of many years standing, you’re an idiot, I have done so much to make this world a better place, I’ve even lined my pockets in the process. Occasionally I’ve actually done stuff without tangible reward’ (allegedly).
Of course, these wondrous deeds he claims to have undertaken remain shrouded in mystery. One would be forgiven for thinking his behaviour, attitude and yes, those vague claims stink of patronising bulls**t. Or maybe they’re just a fantasy? Or vanity? Trouble is, when put on the spot he fails miserably to support his claims with a shred of evidence nor does he deliver anything positive, useful or meaningful. Isn’t that just typical and predictable.
Trust me, best stick with braid versus nylon hook links, how long, does hemp work, garlic spam and best silicone bait bands in future. Do not, under any circumstances, feed the trolls.
I thoroughly enjoyed a morning’s fishing with Derek Topping on the Warping Drain although I should have done a whole lot better if truth be told. Derek is Scunthorpe Pisces AC bailiff for this magnificent stretch of neglected water. Approximately 5 miles long it is largely overgrown to the point there are many wild and inaccessible areas to pioneer, lending an air of mystery to the place.
The popular spots have good access and decent enough pegs but there’s always that thought in the back of your mind, what’s hiding in those tricky to reach areas? Tench and bream provide the drain’s staple diet but it does hold big perch, quality roach, the odd carp and some fabulous pike.
Frankly it’s a hidden gem. Natural fishing for natural fish but not a place for those who are afraid of a little weed. Saying that, the EA only went and put the weed cutter through it a couple of days before the season opened. So much for anglers observing a closed season when the EA show such scant regard for spawning fish, eggs and fry. That kind of fishery management policy should be criminalised.
To be honest, fishing-wise I had a bit of a mare. I fed a margin swim to my left, another to my right and one out in front. My first bite in the left hand swim saw me put my waggler in the upper branches of the hawthorn bush to my right. You might say I was a little over-enthusiastic with my strike!
Rotating between the swims produced loads and loads of dips, dithers and tiny movements on the red topped waggler but precious little in the way of proper bites. When I did hook something decent I suffered a hook pull on several occasions. Maggot produced a perch a chuck, corn produced next to nothing and it was bread that kept my spirits up. For a couple of hours anyway. By then I’d decided the knocks were caused by tiny roach or they were liners. Either way I was putting nothing in the net. And as the sun rose brighter in the sky I knew my chances were diminishing.
It needed a fresh approach. I’d brought a pole although I doubted the fish would feed under it in 4 feet of clear water. Only one way to find out and boy, what a difference it made. First drop, a bream. Second drop, another bream, third drop, missed a bite. This was getting very interesting. Presumably it’s all down to presentation and not having the hookbait masked by silkweed.
Just when I was starting to really enjoy myself the heavens opened and rain fell like stair rods, literally bouncing off the surface. Unfortunately I hadn’t brought a brolly and very soon I was drenched. The wind then picked up and fishing was more than a little uncomfortable. Time for a quick picture and home.
I’ll be back though. Cracking venue, cracking club and a very helpful bailiff. Thanks for all the coffee Derek!
Another day, another forum, this time a northern club with holdings on various Yorkshire Rivers. One guy was getting a bit of a dogging because he’d be snapped off whilst using single maggot on 2lb line. No prizes for guessing his tormentors were of the barbel persuasion. Apparently he should have been using 50lb braid and a beachcaster, or something like that. You know the score – barbel are super-precious, the king of all fish, set on this earth to be worshipped, to take precedence over all other piscine creatures.
‘But I wasn’t targeting barbel! I was happy catching gudgeon, and dace, perch and roach…’
‘Yes but you left a size 18 hook in its mouth and several inches of that damned infernal fine mono! What if that barbel were to get tethered, or even die?’ Wailed Adrian Mole, aged approximately 10 and three-quarters, I suspect.
Alright, I’m exaggerating, but only slightly. It’s okay to stick a size 6 hook in its gob attached to who knows how many ounces of lead, to drag it out on 15lb line, weigh, measure, photograph and admire it, but the tiny prick of a fine wire 18…?
Mentioning prick, I shall refer you to my previous forum comment.
But seriously, barbel were once quite rare, even in my lifetime. They didn’t exist in rivers like the Severn, the Teme, the Wye, Warwickshire Avon, Don, Ribble, Dee, Bristol Avon, Witham, Wensum, even the bloody Trent for all intents and purposes when I was a kid. They have been stocked willy-nilly like commercial water carp and those infernal F1s into countless rivers. It’s a plague on our rivers driven by nothing more than meeting feckless consumer demand. At this rate our rivers will be turned into glorified commercial fisheries with a mono-culture of barbel rather than carp.
The consequence is barbel bigots effectively demanding that traditional methods of angling must cease, that everyone now has to be a barbel clone using ridiculously over-gunned vertical carp tackle to catch what some describe as an enigmatic prince when the plain truth is it’s a greedy pig with a brain the size of a pea? And if we don’t then be prepared to risk the wrath of the barbel police.
If that’s the case then God help us.
Heading In The Wrong Direction?
It seems my hometown team is under new ownership. John Ryan has returned to Doncaster Rovers like a prodigal son. He has a new partner, a co-chairman even, in Louis Tomlinson. LT sings in a boy band called 1D. He used to sell burgers at the stadium before Simon Cowell slipped him a golden ticket. Yes folks, Willy Wonka now owns the chocolate factory.
It’s every boy’s dream, I imagine, owning the football club they grew up supporting. How many Donny fans haven’t said something along the lines of, ‘If I won the Euro Millions I’d buy Billy Sharp for the Rovers.’ Well, LT did win the Euro Millions, the California State Lottery and just about every other game of Bingo on the planet. So he’s fulfilling a dream. And yes, it may end in tears. It may cost him a small part of his growing fortune. But at least credit the kid for sticking to his roots.
The VSC message board reaction is a bit pathetic to be honest. They’re up in arms, dead against…, well…, everything, really. Perhaps they need to understand that the old owners had decided to call it a day. They had funded the club for long enough. They wanted out. Someone needed to step in and I don’t see too many sheikhs and oligarchs hammering on the stadium doors, do you?
And man of the people Ryan’s back, so that’s good, surely?
Well in my view Ryan lost the plot and tarnished his reputation when he sacked Sean O’Driscoll by text. He should have been certified when he appointed Dean Saunders as his successor but he was dafter than an in-bred Lannister when he roped in Willie McKay to implement that ill-conceived player loan experiment. Boasting that this was how he intended to take the Rovers into the Premiership was simply the icing on the cake. He took us out of the Championship alright but not in the direction he was promising.
On the other hand, John Ryan was responsible for enhancing Melinda Messenger’s breasts…
So he can’t be all bad.
But does it really matter who’s in charge at the Keepmoat? Donny is a town full of Manc fans, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and yes, bloody Leeds fans. We ain’t never going to be much more than what we are now. Relegated back to League One again in May, it’s where we probably belong, yo-yo-ing and flirting with the big boys in the Championship but never having the fan base or funds to compete on a truly level footing.
Ten years ago reaching League One was a pipedream. So was owning a new stadium. So was beating Leeds at Wembley. Donny fans are so spoiled they don’t know what they do want any more.
It could be worse, mind. Leeds have a new owner and a new manager. I doubt one single fan trusts the former and the last time a Championship club appointed a Conference manager it was the Rovers and look what a fine job Saunders did for both Donny and then Wolves – two teams relegated from the Championship within the space of 12 months! That’s not what you would want on your CV, is it?
Look, it’s football. It ain’t important to succeed all the time. We follow a team so we have the right to laugh at others’ misfortune when it happens. Outside of the big five’s armchair followers no-one realistically expects to win the Premiership, do they? Unless you follow Leeds, of course.