Long time no blog, eh? Sorry. I’d love to blog more often but let’s be honest, doing it in an entertaining, informative and yes, occasionally provocative way, consumes an inordinate amount of time. Unfortunately it doesn’t put food on the table or tidy the garden so it’s an indulgence I struggle to justify at the moment because spending time on a computer restricts my time on the bank. Conversely I don’t want to abandon it because writing is something I actually enjoy.
2015 has been a challenging year in many respects. Illness, recovery, accidents, recovery, and to be fair, a pretty challenging one on the fishing front. I’ve had to work a lot harder this season to catch less. But enough of my troubles. How’s your season been?
Funnily enough I did start work on a new blog quite a while ago. Not surprisingly I didn’t finish it but some of what I wrote then might be worth a spot of reflection. Here’s a couple of paragraphs written on the eve of the new river season. Some will agree, others will disagree. Do I care either way? What do you think? 😉
Welcome dear friends on the eve of another river fishing season. I wonder how many of you are chaffing at the bit to get started? Is anyone not excited? Thing is we all look forward to it, don’t we? Yet even those with half a brain cell can see that the start date of June 16th is plain wrong. Idiotic in fact. Still, the time for talking is over. We can put it to bed. The hot air and dogma might as well go on ice for another 9 months when it all starts again.
We’ve already seen the first swallows, the first cuckoo and very soon we’ll have the first barbel floating upside down in distress. At least there’s a good chance it’s last known resting place will have been an unhooking mat. And who isn’t looking forward to having chub sperm squirting out in the landing net.
Of course the Holocaust deniers will be out in force claiming this is an exaggeration and a complete fabrication but we’ve all seen it, haven’t we, and this unseasonably cold May has done nothing to help. As I type May is almost over and I haven’t managed to catch a single carp off the surface yet. That speaks volumes.
So there you have it. A dog is not just for Christmas and the closed season debate is not something you pack away like the Christmas Trimmings in January. The debate should be as relevant today as it was in May.
TV Or Not TV?
‘To be or not to be, that is the question: Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them.’
It’s not every day I get to quote Shakespeare but old Will might just help me get to the nub of the latest ridiculous challenge-format formulaic TV show, Earth’s Wildest Waters – The Big Fish. Yes, fishing gets the Bake Off/ Strictly/ Pottery/ Allotment/ Seamstress treatment and frankly it is awful beyond the point of being pointless.
Of course, it is nicely filmed in exotic places that I’d give my right arm to visit…, BUT…., it has absolutely nothing that is remotely comparable with the type of fishing you or I regularly indulge in so please do not even begin to demand angling’s unquestioning support of this programme on the grounds it’s good for us. It is not.
Attempting to stand in surf up to your tits and throwing a cast net in the hope of catching something no bigger than a bleak is not going to inspire thousands of children to become life-long coarse anglers or shell out on a £2,000 pole. Such a premise is an absolute nonsense! Did you rush out to buy a sewing machine, a pottery wheel, a pair of tap shoes or stopped calling in a supermarket when you fancy a custard slice? Those who expect folk to become lifelong coarse anglers as a result of this programme are talking utter tosh.
Even when the contestants do get to fish with what we might describe as ‘proper’ tackle they screw it up on an industrial scale. They’re practically useless. In fact they might as well have gone the whole hog and picked 8 (ahem…) pointless celebrities that no sane person has a clue about and let them ‘Go fish!’. Or better still, make them eat live bugs. At least then we would be spared some idiotic contestant blurting out grating cliché’s like, ‘Ooh, it’s a clonker’, or, ‘Don’t they ‘ang on!’, which, by the way, old Mattie originally nicked off Peter Stone.
And what’s all this, ‘We’ve decided to extend the challenge by an extra day because this bunch of useless misfits caught f*** all (again)!’ You don’t get that when someone’s soufflé fails to rise.
But let’s consider Matt Hayes’ involvement in the debacle. My God he’s had dogs abuse on the interweb, hasn’t he? But d’you know what? I’m going stand up for the guy, fair and square. He didn’t write the script. He isn’t the producer. He’s not the director. He’s just a guy who was offered a blinding jolly and got paid handsomely for doing it. It’s not his show. He’s not the star. He’s merely a judge. No-one questions Ben Fogle’s right to front the show. No-one questions the local expert who gets dragged in each week. Matt appears to be the convenient fall guy.
And do you honestly think Matt was the only person invited to consider the judging role because I can tell you right here, right now, with absolute certainty, he wasn’t. Do rational folk criticise the judges on BBC’s Great Pottery Throw Down? Of course not.
I’m not being critical but outside of angling Matt is a no-body in the same way I wouldn’t recognise the Indy Car Champion, the World Mixed Martial Arts Champion or the head gardener at Buckingham Palace. No angler in the UK is actually famous. To folk in the real world we’re merely a scruffy, smelly, nerdy, welly-wearing bunch of misfits. Let’s face it, while non-angling folk are so ill-informed they still persist in asking, ‘Don’t you eat them?’ then they’re hardly going to recognise us individually.
Much of the barbed criticism of Matt – from fellow anglers – has been pretty personal. How badly he’s aged, his dentistry, pomposity and whatever. Sorry you lot. It’s unjustified and out-of-order. You’re consumed by jealousy, that’s all, and I’ll tell you for nothing, so am I.
Many moons ago I actually applied to be a contestant on the show and I’m pretty miffed that I wasn’t given the opportunity to look a total prat in all those wonderful locations simply because I’m apparently too professional.
My only regret about having Matt as a judge on the show is that it might have taken his eye off the ball. Almost 2 years ago, back in December 2013, he released a trailer on Vimeo that announced his new TV series, Fisherman’s Country. Almost two years on I’m still waiting for it to air. This looked to me to be his magnum opus, his Passion, his Impossible, or dare I say it, his Caught In The Act.
Almost two years have passed and regrettably we’ve heard nothing more. Now we learn he’s shot some wonderful fandango in Canada that is about to grace our screens.
I’m sorry, but give me a film about a cold grey day’s fishing for barbel at Hampton Loade over catching a stupid chum salmon from the Fraser River any day, even if the scenery is more spectacular. This is surely what we all want to see on our screens. I don’t care if it’s on Shed or Discovery, or Dave. Who gives a s**t! Just give us some brilliant new footage, please. I’m bored with the 25-year-old Total Fishing shows that repeat endlessly. They were filmed in the last Century!
Do yourself a favour and check out this trailer for Fisherman’s Country and then tell me it isn’t exactly what we all want to see? This is the kind of programming angling needs to attract new blood into the sport and educate the wider public. Foreign fishing, be it Matt Hayes, John Wilson, Robson Greene or Jeremy Wade doesn’t do Jack s**t for the UK fishing industry. It’s an indulgence to be enjoyed by folk with money to burn. No more, no less.
Sadly it seems a long, long time since anyone in TV circles thought we UK anglers could possibly be entertained by dreary old red topped quills, traditional British scenery and proper fish. They’re wrong.
Mick Brown – The Pike And I
You will also find another teaser on Matt Hayes’ Vimeo page. A film about pike fishing starring Mick Brown. It looks both stylish and sensational but will we ever see this film released, I wonder?
I certainly hope so. Unfortunately the last time I was chatting with Mick he told me he’d had enough of angling and terminated his sponsorships. If that’s true then the sport has lost a fine ambassador. However his decision pans out I wish him well and will remember each time our paths crossed with great affection.
And on the subject of brilliant angling films and in complete contradiction to much of what I’ve said so far here’s a film that wasn’t shot in the UK but it was made by my favourite angling film maker, Todd Moen, who’s work is simply outstanding. And if we are going to watch folk flinging fluff around, let’s at least see skilled folk who actually have a clue about what they’re doing.
Fly fishing is so far removed from the fishing I mostly do, yet it enthrals me just the same provided it’s done well. It also reminds me that I ought to be making plans to revisit British Columbia someday soon…
Update From The Bankside
I’ve done a fair bit of fishing since the last time I blogged and consequently I’ve not shared much in the way of images here on my own web site. Of course, I’ve uploaded a few to Facebook but let’s face it, this is where it matters!
I’ve been getting regular messages from folk asking when I’m going to update because they are genuinely interested, which is flattering, but they have no interest in and no intention to get involved with Facebook. Can’t say I blame them really. Unfortunately it is unavoidable when your career revolves around interaction on multiple levels.
I’d love to have the time to tell the story behind each of the slideshow images but I simply haven’t. It would be far too time consuming. I’ve not added any new images since late May, either. Maybe next time.
Craig Bertram Smith
It’s no secret that I’m a fan of angling artists and I recently discovered the works of Craig Bertram Smith who hails from South Africa. If you’ve ever fished for tigers then I’m sure this painting will strike a chord.
And I particularly like this image of a giant trevally about to hit a popper.
Doesn’t end there though, he has loads more. You can even have a bespoke painting based on your own photograph. Not many of us get to mount fishing prints on our living room walls but fear not, a lot of his work is available on clothing and I must say I really, really fancy some of this gear:
Go on, check out Craig’s web site. You won’t be disappointed.
Perhaps I should be flattered by the opportunity but whenever I’m approached by Angling Times to shoot a feature the weather is absolutely dire and no-one else is catching anything. Obviously I’m regarded as Mr Reliable who will pull a rabbit out of the hat come what may.
Back in February I was invited to do something on the Swale. When the call came the river was 3 metres up. A few days later it was on its bones, the temperature was way below zero and bites were at a premium. We got there though and that’s what matters.
Blow me if I didn’t make a second appearance on the cover during the summer….
Obviously you can’t keep a good man down!
Shooting License Disgrace
Were it not for the illegal shooting of cormorants the fish silver stocks of this country would be in a right old mess. Everyone surely appreciates the damage these immigrant birds have done and continue to do on a daily basis. Anglers probably thought there was light at the end of the tunnel when a licensing system for predator control was introduced but seriously, Natural England was clearly extracting the Michael when it failed to issue them on time as required by its own standards of service.
Those who have contacted the Licensing Unit in Bristol have been given excuses ranging from staff shortages to the licensing of great crested newts taking priority. The problem became so acute that Natural England staff were refusing to take calls on the subject.
Of course Natural England denies it was deliberately obstructing the process so it must have been down to incompetence. What is clearly undeniable is that fishery managers were prevented from legally controlling cormorants and goosanders during low water levels during what was a dry September thereby impacting on the capital and amenity value of many fisheries.
Natural England has subsequently apologised and promises to issue all outstanding licences by the end of October, now that it has hired more staff to do so. Frankly this smacks of either incompetent management or deliberate obstruction. Either way it is too little, too late. The damage to fisheries is done and there will be no redress or compensation.
There will be meetings to hear our complaints, everyone will drink tea and nibble on biscuits and that will be that. Sorry but it simply isn’t good enough. Whatever happened to responsibility and accountability? Heads should roll.
According to the Angling Trust’s Chief Executive Mark Lloyd: ‘These completely unacceptable delays by Natural England have been a backwards step and have undermined the new system we worked so hard to put in place. The whole process remains unnecessarily bureaucratic and restrictive so we will be raising the poor performance of Natural England with Ministers and pressing for action to cut through the red tape. We need common sense measures that are cost-effective and deliver greater protection for fisheries which are suffering from excessive predation. Cormorants are not endangered any more, but many fish populations are severely threatened.’
It seems to me that if Natural England is either too busy and understaffed then why not hand over the issuing of licenses to the Angling Trust? I’m sure there would be no further delays and it might save a few quid by not having to provide refreshments for those who no doubt will be delivering more lame excuses in the future.
Another One Bites The Dust
I was sad to hear about the demise of Coarse Angling Today magazine. Gone the way of Coarse Fisherman, Coarse Angler, Let’s Go Coarse Fishing and the Angling Star to name but four recent casualties. It won’t be the last.
The world is changing, but not quite fast enough. The world and his dog is obsessed with social media and the Internet in general. They want everything online and they want it free. Surely the way forward is to cut out the printing, distribution and retailer costs and go digital, but can the tablet experience ever truly compare with the feel of glossy paper? Afraid it’s going to have to.
Unfortunately no-one wants to part with hard cash. A lot of newspapers and magazines have already gone down the free route but can digital angling survive on advertising revenue alone? One day it may have to.
Perhaps a way forward would be for the leading publishing houses to put their heads together and offer a combined and comprehensive digital package. Every angling magazine and newspaper direct to your various digital devices for a recurring £10 a month subscription. Would you sign up? I certainly would.
These magazines are created on computer screens from from the get go. Printing, distribution and physical over-the-counter sales massively impact on commercial viability. The publisher receives peanuts.
Imagine, as an advertiser, being to determine a budget and spend that with the digital distributor so your product features in a package of, say, 15 of those magazines, relevant to your product. Bingo. Massive time savings and control over costs.
The drawback comes with the distribution of funds and I appreciate that it would be as difficult to resolve the revenue balancing problem and the egos involved as solving the Middle East crisis but what’s the alternative? A war of attrition where they all go bust, one by one?
A quick Google search revealed 23 different fishing magazines on sale in the UK and I wouldn’t be surprised if I missed one or two, like Fallon’s Angler for instance and the myriad single species groups. It’s a total nightmare for advertisers and punters alike. But access to all at a bargain price? Who wouldn’t find that appealing?
This week I’ve been listening mostly to Joe Bonamassa. He might look like an extra from Wolf of Wall Street but don’t be fooled. This guy’s the real deal. What a musician! Shame he charges such exorbitant prices for his live shows, though. He was touring in England recently and I would have loved to have gone and seen him but alas I was touring the Baltic countries and our paths crossed like ships in the night. Maybe next time.
All Good Things Must End
I’ve done it again. Another 3,000 word blog. Once I start I don’t seem able to stop and there’s so much more I could have covered. I’ve not even mentioned football. Oh, how relieved the Bin Kickers fans must be. What fun I could have with the mad Italian’s antics, appointing Fatty Evans and whispers of mounting debts. No, fair’s fair, even they deserve a break.
And let’s face it, since John Ryan disastrously appointed Soundbite Saunders things have gone from bad to worse for little old Donny. Still, whatever happens at the Keepmoat, no matter how low the Rovers sink, no-one can ever take away that glorious day at Wembley. Which reminds me. It’s time I watched the movie of it again…
Tight lines everyone.