The summer is flying by and apart from a short period at the beginning of last month we’ve seen precious little in the way of sunshine but the damp weather has seen river catches holding up really well. The Trent in particular has been on fire and if anyone’s failing to catch on that particular river it has to be said you’re either on the wrong stretches or in the wrong swims because the old barb’s have really been having it.
In four trips based around match hours I’ve bagged up. Not once have I started fishing before 10am and most days I’m home for tea yet 46 barbel have graced my net. Sometimes it’s been hard to keep two rods in the water.
Take last week. I decided to fish an afternoon session, just for a change. Arriving at 4pm there wasn’t a soul in sight. The river was mine (all mine, but no, I don’t own it!). First cast I settled the rod down, turned to set up the second and before I could get it ready the first one was hooped over with a screaming drag.
Fish landed, feeder reloaded, bait dipped in the Grubjuice and out she went again – all of two rod lengths. Again I turned to continue rigging rod number two and again the first was away before I could finish doing so. Two casts, two fish on the bank and still only one rod in the water.
Finally I managed to get rod number two out and within a minute or two it was this rod that was away. Honestly, without exaggeration, I landed six barbel from my first six casts between the two rods. Strangely things then went a bit quiet for the next hour but the fish returned. By close of play I’d had eleven barbel and a few chub. I was only fishing one rod in the end, two being too much trouble, and I was in the car and driving home before the sun set.
It’s been that kind of summer on the Trent.
Reliving The Past
A call from the Angling Times came through while I was baggin’ on the barbel, ‘Did I know anyone who might cover the Division Three National on their behalf’. It was to be fished on an old stomping ground, the New Junction so I agreed to do it.
The brief is quite simple on these events, find the winner, get a shot of him in action, with his catch and with the trophy. You’ll need a decent scenic or three, plus team winners, etc. Sounds easy but finding a winner when there are ten sections spread over ten miles of canal mean it’s not always straight forward, especially on days when, like this one, the fancied pegs don’t produce. It was a squatt match with squatt fish the target which meant a low winning weight and a winner that could come from literally any section.
It was really nice to bump into so many old faces. Nationals aren’t what they used to be and I can’t see things improving much. When we launched Goldthorpe AC it was with one ambition in mind, to win a National. In our first season we achieved that, beating 107 teams of 12 on the Cambridgshire Drains – the Middle Level, Popham’s Eau, Sixteen and Twenty Foot Rivers – with a record points tally.
A year later we won on the Nene and it really meant something back then but somewhere it all went wrong. Practising as a team on far flung National venues made you into an experienced and versatile angler. You had to learn the local ways, how to scratch out a few points fish wherever you drew. It wasn’t good enough that you could band a pellet and float out 16 metres of pole. The target was a kilo a man, not 100lb of carp.
But back to the Stainy. The local faces mostly carried smiles. They knew what they were doing and they did it well. Scunthorpe Blue romped home, Dick Clegg’s Barnsley Mob and Tackle2fish.co.uk from Sheffield completed the frame. A local lad, Darren Hall won it individually from a section no-one fancied and that was that. I got the pictures everyone needed and headed home, glad in some ways that I no longer had to strut my stuff on the match circuit but inside this little demon kept telling me I could have done a bit of damage today.
A month ago it was Steve Ringer and Alex Bones who were giving me the old, ‘How do you think you’d get on these days, now everything changed?’ Part of me feels I’d have no problems competing with today’s match anglers but another part says, no, I probably couldn’t be bothered. The last open match I ever fished was on the Stainforth and Keadby Canal. I won it and that’s probably a fitting epitaph. It was time to move on and it’s better to get out at the top.
Web Site Progress
This web site has been up and running a year now. The learning curve was steep, believe me, and there were a few pathetic individuals who seemed hell bent on being destructive but where did they go, eh?
From the outset it was always going to be an uphill struggle if I chose to use my own name. If you’re wondering why, there’s no clandestine reason, it’s just that the Tim Robbins movie, Bob Roberts, has such a massive cult following, spawning countless Bob Roberts fan sites and references, plus there are one or two very successful Bob Roberts’s around the world, so if you Google ‘Bob Roberts’ you’ll get eight and a half million results within a fraction of a second.
By a mixture of hard work, good fortune and prompting the idiot fringe to defame me regularly on other sites I’ve slowly clambered up the Google rankings, so, it’s a big thanks to the Tidal Trenters, the Horsefield Knights, Hazelford Piscatorials and old Silverfox himself, because it’s really down to your efforts that I’m now at number one in the Google Rankings!
Type in ‘Bob Roberts’ or ‘Bob Roberts Online’ and you’ll find me there at number one and number two which makes the email I received this morning all a bit confusing.
Melodie Merle, Email firstname.lastname@example.org, left a message on my site saying that her company would love to get my website on the first page of Google using the most ethical “white hat” Search Engine Optimization techniques that will not get my website banned or penalized.
Honestly, you do think a company specialising in raising rankings might check before offering such an unneccessaryservice. Melanie, the site is currently at number one, why on earth do you think I’ll be happy with a listing on the first page?
I received an email from Peter Gibbinson this week saying he’d just watched the second BD&W DVD for the third time and that he thought it was fantastic. What’s more, his dad, Jim Gibbinson had commented they are the best fishing dvds he’s ever watched. To say I walked around with a bounce in my step after that would be an understatement.
Jim’s an old hero of mine from way back when. Intelligent, articulate and straight talking, he’s one of the few anglers vying for top rankings in my respect list. He wrote a couple of series for me when I launched Advanced Carp Fishing and I trust his judgment on all things fishing. When my wife was diagnosed with cancer he rang to offer support, guidance and advice. He’s that kinda guy.
Even Peter acknowledged the accolade, “Knowing what a cynical old stick he’s getting in his old age that’s praise indeed!” He said.
Another appearance on Tight Lines beckoned and it seemed only right to air a little bit of new footage. We’re not even aiming to release Volume Three of Barbel Days And Ways until next spring so it could hardly be seen as a marketing excersize. I think the term Barbel Days And Ways was mentioned once in the whole hour but the usual culprits jump on any opportunity to find fault with anything.
As ever, BFW hosted their bile and I think they’ve found a good home together. Normally any reference on the site to me or the DVDs I make with Stu is moderated out. That in itself doesn’t offend me, each to their own, but it must wear them down in the end.
But back to the show. It’s a tragedy that it only goes out on Sky Sports because it has a great format and would prove a massive hit were terrestrial TV ever to take it up. I first appeared on the show over ten years ago when Bruno Brookes was in the chair and Keith Arthur was the resident ‘expert’.
In the years that have followed Keith has developed into a superb and accomplished broadcaster and he rightly hosts the show alone. You have to understand how the show works to gain a greater appreciation of the role he plays and when you’ve been that close to the inferno you quickly learn to respect the heat.
For the full hour-long show Keith has several people screaming instructions in his earpiece while he is talking to you. The show may appear quite relaxed but there’s a written script and full autocue to follow. Only when we break out into sceduled chats or when there’s some VTR playing do we ad-lib. Keith’s job is to wrap these up – to the second!
When we’re going to a break he has someone giving him a countdown all the time he is speaking. In his head he has to calculate what he’s going to say, exactly how long it will take, communicate non-verbally to the guest and then deliver it word perfect, enunciating every word clearly. If you don’t think there’s a touch of genius involved then there’s a whole new career awaiting you.
From my point of view I just have to sit there, grab as many biscuits as I can before the crew raid the tin, make sure my mug’s full, smile and be generally amenable. As for the enthusiasm, that takes care of itself. The thing is, Keith’s exactly the same guy off camera as he is on it. So you watch, you learn, you copy.
Judging by the volume of emails I received after the show things went pretty much to plan and everyone enjoyed the offerings on show. Just wish I could bang the tape up on uTube but that might bring a premature end to my TV career!
Young Conrad Farlow (well, he’s not that young) launched a nice little blog this year. Having seen the fist he’s making of it I would happily have hosted it on this site because it’s honest and he’s trying very hard to make it a success but some of the company he keeps is debatable! Pull yourself together son!
Amazingly his efforts have inspired others to have a go, well, at least one other, which in turn prompted a withering forum put down, ‘Never has so much been said by so many about so little’. And to some degree it’s quite true.
One vitriolic new blogger appears to think waging a personal crusade against me is a good way to grab some attention. Get a life, fella!
Unfortunately he comes over as an insecure individual who’s about as hypocritical as you find anywhere.
Firstly, he complains that I once said poaching is like scrumping apples (except you don’t actually remove anything) only then to go on and tell tales about him being a poacher himself in the past. He justifies his current positon on the grounds that it is okay to poach at 17-years-old but it’s not at eighteen, or something like that. Apparently there’s an age when it’s okay to poach but there’s a cut-off point after which it becomes extremely bad form.
No sir, it’s either right, wrong or inconsequential. And as it is so important to you, you’re guilty by your own admission and therefore in no position to judge others. I only stole one sheep, or I didn’t know it was illegal to steal sheep, or, ‘I’m only 21…!’ is no defence.
After lecturing us all that we don’t pay enough for our angling pleasures he goes on to brag about how he goes into his local ASDA each week to read the Angling press without paying. He doesn’t actually buy the papers because they contain nothing of interest to him.
In fact, and I quote him here, “This once fine paper (Angling Times) is now not worth wrapping your chips in. I find the Anglers Mail better in quality and thankfully not so full of adverts.”
Greg Whitehead’s stories, in particular, are insulting to the intelligent reader but no doubt lapped up by the chav angler types.” He adds.
Hmmm. If they’re so bad, then why make a weekly effort to seek them out and read them in a supermarket and why, oh why, does he feel a need to complain about their content. It’s just stealing under another guise, isn’t it, but can there be a more pointless theft than to steal something you so openly despise and don’t require? And anything more pointless than to then express an opinion on it if you don’t care?
“But I put it back, unharmed…!” He proteests.
Yes, son, like a good poacher always does.
As for this guy’s credentials for criticising anything to do with angling I wonder what they are?
Well, I’ve written articles for many publications over the past 20 years, certainly all the leading ones, and in all that time I’ve only ever come across him on the Internet where he’s famous for dishing out dirt. He’s a nobody. A self appointed authority on what’s right and what’s sh*te based on his own warped ideology.
His importance is all self-assumed but while he’s struggling with the spelling on his blog, or loitering in a supermarket reading the angling papers, at least he’s out of everyone else’s hair which can’t be all bad, can it?
Another Weekend On The Wye
I was invited to run another ‘weekend with Bob’ at Caer Beris Manor at the beginning of the month and what a great time we all had. The bunch of blokes who turned up had a terrific time and by adding an extra day we were able to explore a little further afield than usual.
Every river I crossed in the 24 hours leading up to the Wye trip filled me with dread. Chocolate appeared to be this season’s ‘in’ colour and three to five feet of extra water was a good average. In many places I could see water lying in the fields so it was with great relief to drve onto the town bridge at Builth Wells a see the river was barely up 18 inches and carrying a nice tinge of colour.
That evening we showed rare and unseen video clips, underwater footage that’s reserved only for these occasions, we ate heartilly and drank our fill. Many fishy tales were passed around the group and the relaxation process was begun.
The next morning we walked the river, suggested swims, allowed people to decide what they wanted to do and encouraged them to make their own choices. I then worked my way round the group offering advice, making a suggestion here and there and by tea-time everyone had caught a few nice fish. Some of the better chub were said to have topped 5lb which is superb in summer.
Sunday was spent near Hay-on-Wye and the fishing was, to say the least, hard. One guy couldn’t stop catching, the rest struggled but no-one complained. The onld, ‘that’s why we call it fishing, not catching’ never sounded more apt. Three miles of river we had to go at and most of it had never seen an angler because you couldn’t get near it. Talk about virgin water.
The party slimmed down to four after teatime and we were heading even further afield on Monday to Ross. The river here is a big old beast but well capable of handling a bit of fresh water. The drive across there through the Golden Valley was divine and the stretch offered many features. Within the first hour my guests were catching – and catching barbel, too. So once again they were happy.
I had to leave them shortly after lunch but I’ve a sneaky feeling they’ll all be back. Indeed they want to bring friends and secure a whole party. Peter and I have discussed this and we’re happy to look at bespoke parties, especially in midweek. If you have, say, a minimum of 6 anglers, maximum eight, then we can tailor a specific package to suit your party. It can include a bit of fly casting instruction, clay pidgeon shooting, chub fishing, barbel, grayling, even pike. The trip can run two nights or as many as you like. As ever the fine dining in a private oak pannelled dining room will be thrown in as will packed lunches.
With so much river to explore and Peter being a trustee of the Wye and Usk Foundation there’s never a need to fish the same water twice. Indeed if you fancy taking a glimpse at the Wye but have no idea where to go, who to approach and so on, you could do far worse than to book one of these trips.
Me? I get to learn more about the river each trip, to meet some fantastic guests and staying in a hotel like the Caer Beris manor is certainly no hardship!
The weekend provided me an ideal opportunity to discuss the complex issue of shad fishing with a local bailiff. His verdict was that the ban was imposed to stop a minority of folk who turn up and pillage the migrating shoals, taking away buckets of fish.
“If you hook one by accident while ‘trout’ fishing and you slip it back then there’s no problem at all,” He said, with a sly wink.
And then it dawned on me. What happens to baby shad? Has anyone ever seen one.
With trout and salmon you get par and such like but I’ve never, ever heard of anyone catching a fingerling shad, nor have I ever spoken to someone who has seen one. It’s as if the shad run the river, spawn(?), turn round and go back to the sea. Of their offspring there is nary a sign. No fry, no par, no fingerlings, smolts or whatever. How long they stay in the river is a mystery, if they are there at all. When do they run to sea? After a week, a month, a year, three years? When?
No-one I speak to appears to know. Do you?