2018 – Christmas Is Coming Blog


CoverOkay, you win, I give in. So many people have asked me what happened to the blog. Well, I’m not going to shirk the answer. Compiling the blog is incredibly time consuming and because I speak from the heart if attracts a degree of orchestrated histrionic outrage from certain quarters that simply isn’t worth the effort involved. 

So why am I bothering again?

Well, without getting all morbid, John Wilson’s passing shook me into it. I’m no different to the vast majority of time served anglers in that John has been part of our angling lives since the days when we watched black and white TV.

Okay, I’ve not been in his life in quite the same way but I like to think our paths have crossed often enough for me to call him a friend. We worked the same shows frequently. Once, someone made a huge mistake and swapped our contracts for a weekend gig at the Showground in Peterborough. I’d basically agreed to do the show as a favour to the organiser, a few quid expenses and a free stand from which I could sell DVDs. It was suggested the budget was really tight and I was only too willing to help out.

Then I read John’s contract… And rapidly renegotiated my own! Cheers John.

But what it did bring home was there is John Wilson and then there’s the rest of us. John was genuine box office. He had the power of TV in his armoury and the ability to draw crowds.

WilsonAn Interview with John.

What John didn’t have was any kind of Social Media presence yet his death practically broke the Internet. My feeds were full of posts about John, ranging from people who knew him well to people in far flug countries who hardly knew him at all beyond the jovial TV persona. And he did it so well. He wasn’t just a logo space for hire, prepared to plug anything and everything for a few quid in his back pocket, he was Mr Angling. He went fishing and thoroughly enjoyed it. As a consequence so did we, although I have to say I personally found the programmes he made around the UK far more interesting than his global forays. 

I wonder how many mourners have suddenly gone deaf and blind to the criticisms they openly made about his laughing and joviality…? Would they take them back now? Guess so.

Through the years I’ve had calls from John about this and that, made calls to him when I wanted information about far flung places and he’s posted lures for me to try. How can I ever forget the evening we spent in a bar at Harrison Springs, Canada, when John was in full flow, using a beer mat to demonstrate exactly how he holds up a 2lb roach to the camera and then regaling us with tales of an embarrassing attack of Delhi Belly whilst in India, complete with graphic role play and sound effects. Quite what other folk in the bar made of it I’m not certain but we thoroughly enjoyed the spectacle!

Bob John DesThe last time we were together was in 2011 before he emigrated to Thailand. It was an impromptu thing. Completely off-the-cuff.

We had a bit of time to kill so John, Des Taylor and myself sat down in the middle of the shop and invited questions from any customers who cared to join in. What was meant to fill ten minutes soon went past the hour mark and we would have still been there now if the questions hadn’t eventually dried up. Controversial as ever we gave both barrels to the EA, canoes, bird watchers, cormorants, otters, mink, signal crayfish and a number of other alien species, human and otherwise! It was great fun while it lasted and I think the closing question from the floor was, ‘Is Matt Hates the ugliest presenter on television?’

To which John summed up with a grin and a one-word answer. ‘Yes!’ He said.

There was nowhere to go after that. 

R.I.P. John.

Footnote: If anyone else wins the ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ in this year’s recently announced Angling Times awards then surely it will be an absolute travesty.

Open And Shut Case

Winter’s almost here so it’s a good time to reflect back on the past summer. Hot, wasn’t it?

According to the Met Office, summer 2018 was the hottest on record and during a six-week spell from the end of June to the second week of August daytime temperatures consistently topped 30C (86F). It was so hot I can only conclude that the brains of some barbel anglers were boiled by the heat and it brought home to me what a hypocritical bunch we can be.


If a fish is in such poor health following capture that it needs to be nursed back to recovery for half an hour then I’m sorry, you should not be fishing for it. Is that not clear enough? If you then decide to try and catch another straight afterwards then do you really expect the outcome to be any different, or for me to then respect you or the fish you subsequently boast about? Seriously? 

Let me guess. You are going to now stress that every fish you caught swam away strongly and was no worse for the experience. You are still going to criticise others for being Noddies, using light tackle, keepnets, dangerous rigs, having no mat, poor handling and taking photographs where there’s a few flecks of mud on a fish’s flanks or too high off the floor. It’s okay because you are experienced and know better. Quite honestly, it beggars belief.

On the subject of ‘experience’ no one has experience of fishing and it’s effect on UK barbel survival in such a prolonged heatwave because it was a once in 100 year event. 


Sadly barbel corpses were spotted floating belly up all summer long despite a vast reduction in angling pressure. Not one (apparently) died as a result of being caught by an ‘experienced’ angler. Yeah, pull the other one, you’ll hear the bells ring.

Suddenly everyone became an expert on dissolved oxygen levels. It’s okay, I’m fishing under a weir where the oxygen levels are higher (and half the fish in the river are stacked up). Or, I’m fishing in darkness.

And when they have a good catch? Yes, “It’s carnage!” They claim. Blissfully unaware of the irony in the choice of adjective.

Too many fish died this summer because self-professed caring anglers were incapable of showing the slightest restraint, just for a couple of weeks or so, not to mention being in complete denial of the outcome. The same anglers will then complain loudly about otters killing fish. Can you spot the blindingly obvious hypocrisy?

Some continued because it would cost them money. Some just couldn’t resist the chance to post pictures of their selfishness all over Social Media. Me, me, me! The sad thing is they could have fished for so many other species instead but hey, perhaps the challenge was too difficult.

So many claim to be all-rounders but when push came to shove, did they target a different species? Nah! It was barbel blinkers or bust. Mind you, the best excuse I heard was someone on the Trent claiming not to be fishing for barbel at all, he was fishing for carp and merely catching barbel by accident. Okay, right. So tell me, how do you differentiate carp tactics from barbel tactics on the Trent? Bite alarms, pods, poker rods, bait runners, boilies, 3 days in a swim; kinda looks just the same to me.

Fortunately two of the clubs I’m a member of shut down their prime barbel lengths for a couple of months and for that we might all be grateful in the coming years. Left to their own conscience too many folk cannot be trusted to do the right thing and what it brought home to me was that if the closed season was to be lifted there is no chance in hell we could trust anglers to respect spawning fish. That boat has well and truly sailed. Anglers are inevitably their own worst enemy.

Mickey Mouse Hydro Solution

There’s a piece in the latest Angling Trust magazine about Collingham Angling Association’s engagement of the Trust to fight on their behalf against a new hydro power plant being constructed slap bang on top of the infamous Peg 1A (and some of those immediately below), citing that it will have an impact on spawning fish. Apparently planning rules have been broken.

Did I just read that right? The club is concerned about fish welfare? This wouldn’t be the same club that books out those very pegs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and is already booked up for something like the next two seasons in advance, would it? The same pegs that were fished constantly by multiple anglers around the clock throughout the summer heatwave?


And just check out who’s fished there. We’ve all seen the pictures on Facebook. Yes, it’s pretty much a who’s-who in the game. Everyone wants to catch easy fish. Success on a plate without any of the hard work. Ego massaging of the highest order. As relevant to skilled angling as riding Space Mountain at Disneyworld and claiming to be an astronaut.

Come on, Collingham, if you are serious about fish welfare then start giving those fish a break, maybe restrict it to day only fishing, or close it for a straight 48 hours every week. Shooting fish in a bucket is fine to get your jollies, but if you are going to run it as a commercial venture where revenue is king then at least be honest about it. Don’t go playing the spawning grounds card. 

Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d ever say this but I will welcome the construction of anything that gives those fish a break because no one wilĺ ever convince me the current scenario paints angling in a good light.

You will not have to look far to find any number of experienced Trent regulars who will tell you that It’s Mickey Mouse fishing and by grabbing all the headlines creates an unfair impression that is totally unrepresentative of the vast majority of the river. Yes, the Trent is an exceptional river, but it ain’t the Noddyland portrayed by a very small number of well-publicised hook-a-duck pegs that also appear to be following the pre-booking routine.

Nomadic barbel constantly roam up and down the tidal Trent covering considerable distances, unrestricted in their movement until they reach a weir. It reminds me of football tourists at Old Trafford. Of course you could poison everyone who sits in the front 3 rows of the Stretford End yet come the following game those same seats would still be occupied. You could keep doing it all season long with no apparent impact – AT OLD TRAFFORD. Collingham weirpool will be the very last place on the river to suffer. It’s the rest of the river that will ultimately pay the price. Can no-one else see that? 

Closed Season Review

I’m less than chuffed about progress on the promised closed season review. A debate was facilitated by the Angling Trust which was then followed up by a sample poll of rod license holders. Was anyone you know involved? And do you actually think anything is actually going to come of it? 

According to the Environment Agency the volume of ‘other work’ means the final recommendations have now been put back until early next year. Later on, date unspecified, a full consultation will supposedly take place. Who’s betting that will call for more research, feasibility studies and more delays? You only have to look at the complete refusal of bureaucrats to do the bidding of the electorate on Brexit to know this is not going to end well for anyone who had high hopes of achieving something that is actually fit for purpose for which the current one certainly is not. 

Rose Tinted Review Time

No fishing blog would be worthy of the name if I didn’t throw in a few fish pictures so I had a quick trawl through my recent images. After a little deliberation I decided to just pick a few highlights starting back in late spring. Here’s a cracking tench caught on my first visit to one of Hull and District’s many fabulously well-run waters.

Big Female011No spring is complete without a run down into the midlands where I can sometimes wangle a guest ticket on a beautiful syndicate carp fishery. Its carp barely register on my radar as I invariably head there to fish for tench. Oddly the fishing was rock hard but it one bite made the trip worthwhile.

Big Tench012Of course, these sessions were merely an amouse bouche to keep me occupied until the main course arrived with the start of the river season. Back then we had no idea quite what a scorcher lay ahead and the first week of the river season saw barbel feeding catiously though the ones that did show appeared to be spawned out and in fine fettle as this pristine example clearly shows.

Barbel 11001 It was certainly good to be back but the glow of satisfaction faded when dead barbel began floating by in significant numbers. Although denial set in with many, I’m firmly convinced my decision to put barbel on the back burner for a while was the right one, tempting as it might have been to turn a blind eye.

FB Crucian014Again, a first visit to a new water paid dividends, this time to a Scunthorpe Amalgamated lake which threw up a fine bunch of crucian carp including this cracker. Barbel aren’t the only species in the universe. And, of course, the Warping Drain was open again. I love the drain although two seconds later the tench I was playing hard to keep it away from thick weed managed to shatter the third and fourth sections of my pole.

IMG_9641002And the Trent wasn’t completely out of bounds. Again, there are other species to be caught and summer 2018 was a superb one for fishing hemp and tares. Roach were thought to be in decline yet fantastic bags of silvers could be had in most areas.

Pole fishing008Reports of huge bream catches at Rolleston had me digging out my bream gear. Whilst I appreciate some barbel and carp anglers have scant regard for ‘snotties’, on the right gear they are great fun and Trent bream can certainly give a great account of themselves. A mid-week afternoon trip gave me a chance to fish the bream ‘flier’. River to myself. Overcast sky, warm and muggy, I couldn’t fail, could I?

Barbel Crop010If only someone had informed the barbel that I was bream fishing. During the first hour I caught more barbel than bream but eventually I got into the groove and started to catch the slabs I’d come for until an armada of 20 canoes paddled by shrieking kids stopped right on top of my fish and spent and hour doing canoegymnastics and at the same time trying their hardest to burst each other’s eardrums. It forced me (and the bream) home for an early bath.

IMG_0825016A trip to the fabulous Trent View fishery saw me stalk this lovely carp from the margins on the new Basia barbel rod and GS reel combination. It was a two-day trip based around a product meeting and opportunity to shoot some scenic catalogue pics. One day we shot on the lake, the next on the Trent. Barbel were not even targeted (never mind caught) yet the Facebook outcry was ridiculous. Most of us have suffered the slings and arrows of morons trying to score cheap points from behind keyboards, it was never that big (etc), but never in my life have I been accused of catching fish that I didn’t catch or even fish for. I’m good, you know, but not THAT good.

Pete Barry Bob007A few days cruising the Thames on board Peter and Katherine Smith’s boat proved a pleasant distraction. In between times we caught a few fish and it’s such a lovely river yet hardly an angler was to be seen so you’ll appreciate what an amazing coincidence it was when a voice piped up from the middle of a field, ‘Bob? It’s Bob, isn’t it!’

There on the bank waving his arms was Barrie Mullen, Chairman of Thame Angling Club. Barrie came along as a guest on every one of my Wye angling courses that were run out Peter’s hotel. Obviously a beer or three needed to be shared on board.

IMG_9684003It had been quite a while since I’d last been to Anglers Paradise and a visit was long overdue. It was so good to meet up with everyone again and catch some cracking fish on pellet waggler tactics. My intention to catch a catfish came to nought although I suffered a hook pull whilst battling with an absolute beast on ‘proper’ gear. Oh well, I’ll just have to have a more determined pussy hunt next time.

IMG_9748004As autumn approach the rivers re-opened and it was nice to have the option of targeting barbel again. In truth I had not really missed it that much but the rivers were by now painfully low and clear. A trip to a small river where I can indulge in a bit of sight fishing had me wondering if there was a fish left in the river. A fair bit of walking and a cautious approach paid off with this absolute cracker.

IYCF Barbel005Surprisingly I never went back. It’s a bit like a rich chocolate mouse or a mature Roquefort cheese. A taste is just enough. Less is more. Too much and you quickly get sick of it.

Chub Crop013As we headed into autumn I had a little look here and there to see if the chub were willing to play but truth is, they’re empty at the moment, long, lanky and far from peak condition. I’ll leave them alone until we’ve had a few frosts.

Trent Roach009I really need to spend a bit more time targeting Trent roach. There are some crackers around but tend to be like needles in a haystack. I had a couple like this one afternoon on 4mm pellets followed by one that looked half a pound bigger just on dark. I really couldn’t be bothered to set up the flash gear and stumble up and down a difficult bank in the gloom so slipped it back unphotographed. A big mistake, on reflection.

Perch edit006It’s fair to say a trip to Holland hoping to learn a bit more about using light jigs and drop shotting paid off in spades. I hope this won’t be my last trip to the land of tulips as the fishing was simply sensational. Fish that would be weighed and photographed back home barely received a second glance and were returned without ceremony. It’s remarkable how perceptions can change in the course of two days.

Flood Barbel015And now we’re well into autumn, winter’s fast approaching which means those Trent barbel are fattening up nicely, They are mainly to be found in the deeper areas now, well away from the shallows.

It’s also time to consider catching a few pike and zander. I’ll also be trying my hand for a grayling or three. I’m so pleased my own fishing isn’t one dimensional. The next few months promise to be very challenging but always interesting. I’m sure John Wilson would approve.

The Kids Are Alright 

It was my pleasure, once again, to compere the Nottingham Piscatorial Society speakers evening at Newark Showground. Guests this year were England Feeder Team regular Phil Ringer and Trent legend Archie Braddock. A huge turnout raised a four figure some for the Junior Section and it was brilliant to meet up with so many friends, if only briefly as it was a very busy night.
Phil Ringer, Bob Roberts, Archie Braddock

I’ve fished with Archie on and off for three decades but this was the first time I’d met up with him since the spring. I really need to wet a line with him again, soon.

Okay, if you only came for the fishing bit, thanks for coming, you can skip the rest. Tight lines.

Health Update

When someone is ill it can bring out the best in those around them. Or the worst. Some show their true colours and drop you like a hot potato. You’re now a liability, not a friend. At least you are in no doubt as to how shallow that relationship actually was. The big positive is you at least learn who your true friends are.

Fortunately the number of good folk by far outweigh the bad.

These days wherever I go someone will ask about my health, and me, being me, will try and give a full and honest answer. It’s flattering that folk show an interest or even care (though I’m not sure everyone wants chapter and verse!), but telling the same story for the tenth time can get a bit boring, even if it is the most consuming thing in my whole life. So why not do it here, once and for all?

To be fair I look to be in pretty good shape on the outside and for the vast majority of the time I really have no symptoms beyond tiredness and lethargy, oh, and swollen, itchy ankles. And cramps. Those that don’t know me well wouldn’t have a clue there’s anything seriously wrong with me. That’s the problem with autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease. You don’t get the same sympathy as you would for, say, a black eye or a broken leg.

It’s a condition I inherited from my father but that’s genetics for you. Some get ginger hair, some get blue eyes, I got a kidney disease.

He was rushed into hospital feeling ill one day and was dead 48 hours later. No prior warning, no outward signs to cause concern. Quick as that. And only 42 years old.

Fortunately my ‘team’ as I like to call them, know I have the condition and have been monitoring me for a while. Basically my kidneys are failing and there’s no cure. Getting technical (but trying to keep it in layman’s terms) my glomerular filtration rate (GFR) is currently fluctuating between 11 and 13%. Normal GFR is anything greater than 90. Anything below 15% is classed as kidney failure. I’m pretty much within end stage renal failure range.

What does this mean? Well, for all intents and purposes I could/ should have commenced dialysis once my readings fell below 15 but because I had a potential live volunteer donor it was deemed beneficial if I didn’t have the surgery involved with peritoneal dialysis, rather I would tough it out and just have the transplant.

Then comes the Catch 22 scenario. You can’t actually be considered for transplant until you’ve had consecutive sub-15 readings and I dipped below, bounced back a point or two, went down again and so on. Only when you finally get those two consecutive readings can the work-up begin which is thorough and arduous with psychological and emotional counselling, scans galore, nuclear medicine, radiography, you name it. There’s a zero risk policy. Nothing is left to chance and both parties have to pass.

Turned out our blood groups weren’t totally compatible but there are treatments and drugs that mean the chances of a successful outcome were still feasible but would we be prepared to try two runs of the National Reciprocal Donor Database first? Using this you aim to crossmatch against other couples with all surgery being carried out simultaneously. Obviously, any sentimentality apart, this gave us the best possible matching outcome and significantly, live donor transplants can last 50% longer than from a deceased donor.

It was all set to go. If we got a match in either of the first two runs (3 months apart) I could be having a transplant as early as December this year or in March. If not, then we would revert to the incompatible swap and I might be sorted by April 2019. Understandably we were pretty excited. There was a good chance I’d be fit enough to fish by the start of the new river season. The team even wanted to know if we’d act as ambassadors afterwards, explaining the process to others involved in the same process and so on. Of course we were up for it. We had met people in clinic who had both donated and received. Naturally we had a degree of trepidation but the real underlying feeling was of excitement. I could reasonably expect to get my old lifestyle back. No longer would I be so exhausted so much of the time. The fear of something deteriorating dramatically would also be gone.

And then came the blow. There was an issue, a shadow, the worry that a drain valve on the donation kidney was not working 100% efficiently. It might even be okay and was certainly not an issue for the donor, but they are not allowed to take risks. Not even the slightest risk. And that’s when the world came crashing down.

Because I had been working up to a live donor transplant I was not on the deceased donor list. Delay compounded delay. I now face a wait which on average is three and a half years. Unless I get very lucky.

I now have to meet and get to know a new team. Without doubt I will at some point require dialysis.

And I honestly believed I’d been that close to a solution.

The worrying thing is I don’t feel I’ll, maybe a bit hung over and lacking in stamina, but the specialist tells me I am actually I’ll. Seriously ill. It’s just that the deterioration has been so slow that this is now my normal and only on the really bad days can I tell. An indication of how it affects me is it has just taken me 6 weeks to shift a cold. My immune system is low. Recovery invariably takes longer.

On the plus side, sometimes I can sleep for ten or 12 hours but getting up early for fishing, and by that I mean 7am, is a bit of a struggle.

I can’t hold off on dialysis forever and I daren’t plan foreign trips where I could end up in some second rate hospital with renal failure. Plus of course my insurance cover is completely up the Suwannee.

Oh well. Life can be a frustrating bitch, but we ain’t giving up yet. I will beat it.

Sorry if this last bit has bored you rigid but I’m Damned if I do and Damned if I don’t. I did warn you. You chose to read it.

12 thoughts on “2018 – Christmas Is Coming Blog

  1. Lovely section about John Wilson. I watched the first series chub fishing. After fishing for 15 years never fished a river. Screw in quivertip on an mk4 glass rod, caught chub on flake never looked back. Love trotting rivers, all because of John Wilson. Rarely fish stillwater.

    Hope your health holds out, all the best. Love the blog, you’ve just to get Lee Swords back at it again!

  2. loved the blog all the best bob and all the best with your health problems i hope things turn round for you tight lines.

  3. Good stuff as always Bob. I daresay some of your comments will have one more two people reaching for either the keyboard or the Samaritans phone number.
    I’ve always enjoyed reading or listening to other people’s points of view. Sometimes I agree, sometimes I don’t. Once upon a time, such conflicts made for many hours of heated, but friendly argument over a pint – but technology offers less amicable individuals, alternative means of making the lives of others a total misery.
    Until I reached the age of sixty, health matters applied to others, but not me. Unfortunately, things eventually catch up with all of us and it becomes apparent that we definitely are not immortal. Take care Bob, I hope thing pan out well.

  4. Good to read your blog again. Full of interesting and very honest views on angling. Hope your health improves, for as we all grow older, our time becomes even more precious.

    The passing of John Wilson is indeed a very sad loss to the world of angling. Hidden beneath that smiling face and infectious laughter, was a man who cared passionately about angling and its environment.

  5. Hi Bob.

    Great to read your Blog again, please do them when ever you can, very informative and a great read, telling it, how it is and all for free “bargain”. First off, I was genuinely sorry to read about your health problems and I can only imagine the frustration of being so tired all the time yet wanting to be active. I do hope you get well soon. As for Mr Wilson his presents on camera in the fishing arena was unrivalled ever the professional sadly missed.

    Your summing up of Barbel anglers fishing in the heat of the Summer showing no restraint did nothing for angling in relation to P.R or self governing and helps the E.A to kick even further into the long grass a review of the closed session. As you say what we have is not fit for purpose. It shows we need to keep some type of closed session for a number of reasons,what’s needed are different dates and for it to be shorter. I read your views on the closed session as well as others and think you have it about right. You also put me straight on an email I sent you a few months ago which I didn’t think through regarding the E.A and the closed session, thank you.

    On the subject of Barbel anglers, the two rods bite alarms bedchair and bivvy approach, is one dimensional fishing. Each to there own, but don’t kid yourself it’s anything but. Being a mobile angler I’v pulled up and taken off trees enough terminal tackle to know most are doing the same thing just a variant on a theme. Spending lots of time on the bank with self hooking rigs.

    It makes me think, who’s going to give up first. Bivvy boy or Mr whiskers, talk about watching paint dry.
    “Yes I know ” says bivvy boy, take up maggot racing in the bivvy. “Right ! move that lot and make some room. Your kidding says bivvy boys mate who came out from hiding after three weeks under the 17 foot luxury sleeping bag draped over the bedchair. “That will take at least half a day.” “No your be fine, the cook ware stove kettle bivvy heater and the pictures of the family, don’t the kids grow up fast ?” and most of the other unnecessary associated crap can go in the bivvy extension.” “No forget the maggot racing i’m not sure what they look like and you can’t do that with 50kg of pellet to feed off Mr cray fish. Lets have a brew up and back to bed.

    Every time I’m on the Thames mobile Chub fishing rod landing net mat bag and bait box invariably my session being 3pm to 10pm they are all tucked up in bed. As for Chub they are a nuisance to Barbel anglers on till they hail them in on two pound T/C rods and 12lb line and find it weighs in excess of 7lb it will then be held up to the camera for all to see, what an expert angler.

    Where’s the enjoyment long term ?
    I wonder how long before some of the the bivvy brigade give up the sport. I read some where that the average Carp angler stops or gives up fishing after about five years, there may be many reasons, work family but I beat one of the main reasons is fishing in this way is so one dimensional.

    I understand the love of catching Barbel in this way but if this is your only approach to angling, before you know it your be just going through the motions and feeling inadequate. Comparing yourself with others that you haven’t had a 16lb Barbel grace your landing net yet. Life as well as fishing is not a serious of bus stops “when I get there i’ll be happy”. Just ask yourself am I rely enjoying this should I take a different approach ?

    Tight lines.

  6. Thank you for the blog , an excellent read as always. John Wilson I rember watching the first series fishing for chub, despite fishing since I was 7 and being in mid 20s I’d never really river fished, fitted screw in tip ring in mk4 10ft carp rod fished small river for chub never looked back mainly river fish for last 30 years .

    Hope your health improves when you get the transplant, my brother in law my brother in law had a transplant over 17 years ago , he’s had is check up it’s still functioning at a good level

    All the best