2009 – May Blog

Well, a month has flown by and I’ve done precious little fishing. Mind you, I was ready for a break from it if truth be told. There comes a point, especially if you’re struggling to catch a great deal, when you can find far more pressing matters to attend to. And it’s good to maintain a balanced perspective on life by taking time out.


Tanned and Toned, shame about the dyslexic spelling!

Sue and I tried Mexico for the first time over Easter and I have to say I was more than impressed with the hotel we stayed in. Gourmet inclusive restaurants meant strictly a-la-carte dining with no buffets and just for good measure it was listed by Forbes.com as one of the world’s top ten romantic hotels. Seriously, we had a twin Jacuzzi in our split level bedroom overlooking the beach.


How decadent is that?


The snorkelling was sensational until strong onshore winds put an end to all water sport activities but you can’t have everything. It’s a tough life when you revert to lazing around beneath clear Caribbean skies, reading books and sipping cocktails until it’s time to slip into your hot tub with a glass of champagne before going out for a slap-up meal. Trouble is I needed to loosen my belt by a couple of notches for the return flight.


Oddly, the first thing I noticed during our transfer to the hotel was an placard for CEMEX. Now I realise they have some fabulous fisheries but I didn’t expect them to be advertising along the Mayan Riviera. Maybe Southern carpers spend a lot of time in Mexico? Or could it be this is where they come to get a bit of Acapulco gold (wink-wink)? I don’t know.


It prompted me to check out CEMEX and I was surprised to learn it is a huge company employing 50,000 people worldwide, founded in Mexico in 1906. CEMEX took control of the UK waters formerly run by RMC in 2005.


I learn something useless every day…


Anyway, my choice of holiday reading was typically obscure. As well as the obligatory thriller I read Andrew Porter’s Suicide Squad. Possibly up there with the worst books ever published but strangely compelling for all the wrong reasons. It’s about football violence in general and the Burnley Suicide Squad in particular.


Porter charts his fixation with aggression and the accompanying adrenaline rush it brings while attempting to explain the respect he gives to those who’ve just dealt him a good kicking, normally in overwhelming numbers (of course) – but a concept I patently struggle with.


Then there’s a descent into drugs, the accompanying paranoia, travelling abroad in the name of England hell bent on mayhem, jail terms, exclusions and the ultimate death of two innocent victims, yet he still seems to believe that the police ought to leave them alone and let them get on with it, smashing up pubs, brawling, kicking, slashing and maiming.


Fine, I say, providing the smashing goes off in a pub you own, away from town centres and you sort out your own medical care because the casualties are an unnecessary burden on already stretched emergency services and they tie up valuable police time, too. And why do they need football as a catalyst, other than to provide a random fixture list of thuggish opponents?


It’s weird how they will organise a ‘mob’ to fight with one week yet stand side-by-side with the same ‘firm’ in some foreign field the very next week if England happen to be playing. I appreciate it is this very spirit and tenacity that won us the First World War but sorry, Andrew, it ain’t my cup of tea.


I also read Medicine Balls, by Dr Phil Hammond, subtitled Consultations With The World’s Greatest TV Doctor, and I have to say it’s a book I would recommend to anyone living and intending to grow old in England today because one thing is pretty certain and that is you’ll need the services of doctors at some point in your life. It should be compulsory reading for every MP and Government mandarin, too.


Medicine Balls is witty, wry and frighteningly honest to a point where I’m left wondering whether I can ever trust the medical profession again.


Hong Kong Airport SARS Alert
Hong Kong Airport SARS Alert January 2003

Returning home the news is full of panic about Mexican Swine Flu. The sad news for some of you who will only be reading this for negative reasons is that I returned bug free, as I did during the SARS epidemic whilst travelling through China and Hong Kong a while back. 

Perhaps it’s coincidence, after all Ian Fleming wrote (in Goldfinger 1959), ‘Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence. Three times, it’s enemy action.’ Maybe next time! The safest advice I can offer is don’t go visiting countries that I’ve just been too, it could be bad for your health!


I’ll wrap up the book theme with my current read, Articles Of Faith by Russell Brand. It’s another football book but he comes up with the perfect answer for those analy retentive souls who seem to lose sleep over whether it’s the fishing close season or the closed season. Take a leaf out of Brand’s football parlance and go for neither.


This is what he proposes:


“I’d like to suggest that we enjoy the football (fishing?) then come late May, in the unseason, instead of watching the to-ing and fro-ing and I’d rather not going’ we unite under one glorious banner, march down Whitehall and kick off a proper revolution.”


There you have it, and you read it here first. Forget the closed season, from now on in it shall be called the unseason. Sorted!


As for half-arsed illiterate petitions on Downing Street to retain the closed season can you honestly see anglers uniting under one glorious banner and marching down Whitehall. I mean, can you? As for ‘kicking off a proper revolution’ I think that’s still a way off. 



In the April blog I happened to mention ‘Rocking’ Tommy Bocking and the disappearance of Whizzo groundbaits. Blow me if I didn’t go and bump into him a few days later. I was in Hull, on behalf of Daiwa, at the Chapmans open weekend in their new(ish) tackle emporium and who should walk up to me, large as life, but Tommy himself. He’s looking well, mad as ever and sporting a strange, if rather Beatle-esque (Help era) hat. Good to see you mate and great to hear you’ve been catching a few.


Not that he’ll be reading the internet…


Good to bump into Denis White at Chapman’s, too, there on behalf of Maver. Topics ranged from the good old days of massive turn-outs for National Championships, the time when he coached our team to victory in a National, punch fishing on canals and Barnsley’s water at Hazelford. He tells me he’s been doing a bit of closed season fishing there. Yep, that’s right, up near Hazelford weir. Fully licensed, the lot.


Hasn’t had a salmon yet but you never know, he might get one. They’re certainly there…


Still with the April Blog, it appeared to ruffle a few feathers, so much so that one gentlemen issued threats to sue me if I didn’t remove a number of unspecified comments by a given deadline.


Well, the whooshing sound you might have heard around the middle of the month was the deadline rushing past and guess what? Nothing happened other than the belated arrival of a second threat suggesting, “It’s gonna get nasty…”


Smacked of desperation to me. There are those that talk the talk and those that walk the walk. At times like these we should remember that empty vessels make the most noise…


Saying that, all references to this fellow and his ‘friends’ have been removed from the blog along with the responses I allowed them to publish beneath it (strictly in the interests of fairness and balance). Why? Because it starves them of what they crave so much – notoriety. So desperate are they to be seen tugging on my shirt tails.


Some have the balls to stand up and be counted. Sadly, others don't.
Some have the balls to stand up and be counted, some don’t.

Two thirds of the trio are currently banned from posting on Fishing Magic because of their outrageous behaviour, the third is under close scrutiny.



You have to give Graham Marsden a lot of credit for his actions because he’s acted like a man. He stood up and was counted.


Others were sadly found wanting. 


Unfortunately I wasn’t alone in receiving the unwanted attentions of these keyboard warriors. They hounded someone who simply happened to post on a couple of web sites that he enjoyed Barbel Days And Ways Volume Two. The threads were locked but sufficient abuse continued via private messages for him to seek legal advice against one stalker.
What is the world coming to?
Unfortunately certain parties failed to act in the same swift and professional manner that Graham did, raising concerns that they are more concerned with their own positions and syndicate tickets than fulfilling their moral obligations to the ‘normal’ forum users. Edmund Burke’s was spot-on when he said, ‘Evil triumphs when good men do nothing’.


It’s the second time I’ve had dealings with the same people over incidents that involved abuse and sadly they failed to act with honour on each occasion. I find it particularly frustrating because my face-to-face dealings have always been friendly and cordial.


A piece in the Manchester Evening News following the Damian McBride affair highlighted the bravado of our prevailing email culture. Several Lancashire County Council staff were suspended for allegedly sending racist messages over the internet. New technology, it seems, has fortified the faintest heart and turned some folk into online daredevils. They are far more reckless in cyberspace than they would be on the phone or speaking face-to-face but it only happens where those in authority fail to act responsibly.


When it does get out of hand leaders have a moral obligation to stand up and be counted. True leaders always demonstrate leadership qualities, to not do so would compromise their integrity. They don’t sweep things under the carpet or sit on the fence, hoping things will blow over. Pitiful intransigence is the mark of weakness and the weak invariably try to cover their actions by attacking those who expose the failings rather than rooting out and dealing with the real causes.


As I write this blog there’s a post pinned right at the top of the infamous and irreverent BFAMWY forum (by the site owner) expressing his frustrations with the behaviour of the same clique on his site. He wails, “Why on earth those with other motives seem to have invaded this place is still way beyond me“. I’ll tell you why Jason, they’re not welcome elsewhere and you are affording them a platform.


Blah, blah, blah...

Blah, blah, blah...Spring is the season for fishing AGM’s and Conferences and I accepted invitations to give presentations to both the Barbel Catchers Club and the Barbel Society this year. One of my projects over the winter was to create a bespoke film to showcase on these occasions. Contrary to what some would have you believe I’m a fairly reluctant speaker although folk have said many times that I do deliver a good ‘un. Well, I’ve not done a solo show in nearly five years so no-one could honestly accuse me of over-doing it, could they? However, when I do a show I like to do it to the very best of my capabilities and that means harnessing the rapidly evolving technological advances at our disposal. I was probably the first angling speaker to go completely digital in terms of content and projection and to use both text and graphics within the talks. But things have moved on and this time I incorporated music, digital images, graphics, cartoons and, of course, film footage. It puts pressure on you though because the talk then has to be timed to coincide with the images on-screen and short of pausing the film, once you press play you have to keep up. It might sound simple enough but believe me it’s a tall order and the film editing took more than four weeks of solid graft. I'm pleased with the end result and it's the only talk I’ve ever delivered during which I can actually walk round and sit with the audience if I choose to and take in exactly what they were seeing. I had a nice chat the other evening with Ashley Simms, producer of the forthcoming Setanta Sports Fishing Show, Casting Couch. Plans are now well advanced and I’ll not spoil the party by announcing who will be heading up the female half of the show but I can reveal there will be two ladies involved, not one, and they both have more than a bit of fishing experience to fall back on. It’s getting to that time of year when we all start mooching about on the banks of our local rivers. I spent a pleasant hour in the sunshine watching a group of carp on the Dearne but I didn’t spot a single barbel. That’s probably down to water clarity rather than my eyesight. It’s funny but our rivers will suddenly go clear in a week or two, mark my words. Stu (Walker) had a walk down the Idle and rang with tragic news. Someone has been through with a chain saw and chopped back each overhanging bush that used to hold a resident shoal of barbel. Fortunately they’ve only attacked a short stretch but one or two of my own personal favourite swims have been seriously damaged which is a shame because the river here isn’t exactly blessed with a lot of fish. Barbel Fishing Which?

Digressing slightly, didn’t BFW used to stand for Barbel Fishing World? A glance through recent topics suggests it might have been rebranded as Barbel Fishing Which? ‘Hot’ topics include Which Rod, Which Reel, Which Feeder, Which Bite Alarm, Which Fishing Trolley and even Which Alarm Clock. You have to wonder if the moderators are completely blind to irony but if they ever needed a clue that their site has been hijacked the Which Sandwich Box thread speaks volumes!


Or maybe they don’t care.



Readers of Coarse Fisherman magazine will know that my bogey species is the rudd. They might be voracious feeders and I can hammer out small rudd with the best of them but a big rudd still eludes me. I went down to Mesters again hoping to crack a big one but it isn’t happening yet. Lots of small fish, too many to be honest, but no sign of a biggie. The place holds some right monsters, certainly to three plus and has the potential to produce a four but my goal is merely half that.


Mesters - looking magnificent
Mesters – looking magnificent
The water’s still a bit cold at present but the lake is looking fantastic. I spent a good part of my time there just walking round and taking pictures. It’s amazing how many different kinds of flowers are in bloom right now and the lake at the back, which seldom ever gets fished, looked a tempting prospect. Apparently Mark did a bit of electro-fishing in it last week and came up with a 7lb 10oz male tench which is an absolute monster for anywhere, never mind this far north. He laso turned over a big pike that looked like it would have topped 20lb prior to spawning. 
The back lake is largely ignored
The back lake is largely ignored

Amazingly there are still a few syndicate places available. The site is secure, the members are a pretty friendly bunch (just 20-odd of them) and the carp run to a pretty decent size although it’s not easy fishing by any means. Give Mark a call on 077764 195993 if you’re interested.









I’ve fancied doing a bit of traditional tenching for a while but finding the right water is a bit like searching for a needle in a haystack. Finally I think I’ve come up trumps – a water that is as pretty as you like and weedy as hell. It’s shallow, has a decent head of typical northern estate lake tench, in other words they average two to 3lb, four at a push, but perfect for those misty dawn starts when all the action is done and dusted by 9am. I can see me peering at a red topped quill, rigged up lift style, before the river season begins. 

Who needs monsters when you've got this?
Who needs monsters when you can fish places like this estate lake?

Another trip I’m looking forward to will be a different kind of estate lake. This is a very private water in someone’s back garden but it’s a gravel pit rather than a dammed stream. It’s weedy and by all means as tricky as hell but the fish are monstrous. Genuine English carp to around 50lb and grassies to threaten the British Record. I’ve got one shot at it and in return I have to do some fund raising for a cancer charity. I’d have done the latter anyway. This is a water I’ve known about for a long time and have frequently dreamed of fishing. Can’t say I’m overly optimistic about catching but I’ll be giving it my very best shot.

I’d like to fit in a session at a proper tench water if I can but we’ll have to see on that score. Time seems to slip through my fingers like water. The crucians will be biting soon and I also need to renew a few club tickets or I’ll be losing out again, like I did last year.

And, of course, I have those two big matches that I organise to run in May. The Green Un Club Match Angler Championship has been a runaway success this year and we’ve the semi-final and final to fish. Some lucky so-and-so is going to be £2,000 richer by the end of the month and collectively the anglers will pick up about £7,500 which is an astonishing amount when you consider the field is limited to club match anglers. 

Barbel Days And Ways Volume Two

I read a forum post recently suggesting that the price of our DVD’s is about to increase by a pound. Where this particular idiot gets his information I’ve no idea but it’s not from us. The cost of mailing out DVDs took a bit of a hike last month but the price remains unaltered as we were more than happy to swallow the increase. Raising prices was never even considered.

Furthermore we’ve been busy pulling together a shooting plan for the next two volumes of Barbel Days And Ways. Star guests have been lined up and I’m pretty sure we’ll be maintaining our existing unit price for volumes three and four. It would be nice to release number three in time for Christmas but we’ll have to see how filming goes. 

And finally on the subject of Internet forums and their inhabitants, on Thursday 31st April the Google Analytics stats for this site revealed a massive one-day upturn so, as you do, I delved into the data to reveal where the hits were coming from, and why. Turns out that over on the Barbel Fishing Which site a chap masquerading under the pseudonym ‘bigzooks’ claimed he was, and I quote, “disgusted by the gyppo comment made” in my latest Tales Of The Riverbank article:


Now Gyppo is a defamatory term used by racists and he would have had every right to be upset had I actually used it. Unfortunately I did not use it, nor would I. The truth is he used it, presumably to spice-up his brick-bat. Perhaps Mr Bigzooks should take a good look in the mirror for the source of his disgust but who am I to complain. He managed to treble my hit rate and that’s something I can’t manage without folks like him, and you know what? He and his mates will be back on a regular basis now, nit-picking every word, every phrase and every nuance just hoping to find something to pounce on. 

And then the hit counter starts spinning again so that makes me very happy. Keep up the good work guys! 

And you know what else? I shall feed them the one-liners, the sensational tit-bits and the juicy innuendos on a regular basis and they will continue going out of their way to advertise the site, which is excellent news. Publicity like theirs is priceless.

Something I did learn this month was that a number of my loudest detractors, the likes of Whiskerton, Bigzooks, Spiros and so on, all appear to be founder members of a band calling themselves The Tidal Trenters, formed in June 2008. They have a web site if you care to look it up but sadly you’ll find nothing other than a home page – all front but nothing behind it, if you like. However I’m intrigued to learn from this single page that they follow an ethical code. It reads (and I quote):

All our members follow a simple code:

Respect Your Quarry

Respect Your Environment

Respect Other Anglers

Respect Landowners

Respect All River Users

Is there something in this code that doesn’t quite ring true to you? I watched Joey Barton’s two-footed lunge and then the Chelsea players after-match reactions towards the referee last night following Barcelona’s late ‘killer’ of a goal and neither incident appeared to sit very well with the Football Association’s Respect campaign.

Perhaps it was the same respect that the Tidal Trenters are banging on about?

An article about the roots of the Tidal Trenters and a couple of threads outlining their aims and ambitions can be found via these links should you wish to learn more:




Anyway, I’m rambling on a bit now. This has been a bit of a bitch fest, hasn’t it!


Enjoy the spring while it lasts and remember, the river season is less than six weeks away. Stu and I have already been out filming underwater experiments with our friend ‘Bertie’ and I also need to get some tench fishing done soon.












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