I didn’t really know Rod too well. He wrote wonderful thought-provoking articles for me when I edited Advanced Carp Fishing magazine. I’ve seen him so hopelessly drunk he locked himself out of his hotel room, naked, and had to walk down to the foyer to be let back in. I’ve fished his lake as a guest plus I have been to his house and what I learned was the real Rod was very different from the image many would have had of him.
Most bait manufacturers I ever met have been brim full of confidence, only too happy to drone on about how amazing their products are, that you must buy them. After all it’s a highly competitive marketing-led industry. Just look at the fortunes spent on advertising and promotion. It’s the Billy Smart’s Circus sector of the fishing trade. The Greatest Showman reaps the rewards.
Rod was different. By comparison he was extremely shy. Let me give you an example:
The magazine world is forever looking for new ways to sell the same old story. How to tie a knot, how to load line onto a reel, banding pellets, the latest rig, bait, gizmo, you name it. Same old tat dressed up in a new frock. It’s true. I know it, you know it and so do they. There is no answer. Very little is new.
I was looking for a new way to dress up the ‘how to make a boilie’ routine. My brief from the publisher when I came up with the original flat plan for Advanced Carp Fishing’s launch was to create a magazine for the guy who buys boilies rather than rolls them himself. But there’s only so much basic stuff you can do so the content had to grow with the readership if you intend to retain them.
We had reached the stage where it was time to introduce a little more technical hands-on stuff, but how to do it? Instead of going into a studio and shooting the ‘how-to’ I suggested to Rod that we select a teenage reader, take him to meet Rod and then the maestro himself would demonstrate how the country’s leading expert did it.
So we rocked up at Rod’s house with a 15-year-old kid and made the introductions. The kid, as you might expect, was star struck. The big surprise was Rod. He was a bag of nerves, too. Fumbling fingers, not sure how or what to say to the youngster. You see, Rod with a fishing rod in hand was in his element, man versus fish and all that, no problem. He was a giant in the game, thrust onto a pedestal. But that wasn’t him.
Rod was a humble guy, working class roots through and through, he was an angler, not a celebrity. He never asked for that.
Anyway, the article was a great success and a youngster walked away with memories he will never forget.
I can draw parallels between Rod and Joe Cocker. Humble beginnings, greatness thrust upon them, used by so many people, both prone to drinking to excess, in need of a guiding hand, careful management, nurturing.
The last time we met (at a book launch) he was so off his head he didn’t even recognise me. He was interviewed that evening on stage by Tim Paisley and it was excruciating. Rod slurring his words, forgetful, a rabbit caught in the headlights. I felt sorry for him. It’s not how I want to remember him.
One of my favourite books is Rod’s The Carp Strikes Back. An absolute classic full of warmth and humour, a man on a mission, down to earth, simply fabulous. Rod gave me his own copy, ‘Here, take this!’
I’m telling you this because it’s important we grasp how frustrating it is to know that Before I Forget is his last (unfinished) work. You kind of wonder, even had he finished it, would this have been his last ever book anyway.
It’s a charming book. Rod was a raconteur, a story teller. You are never quite sure where reality slips and his inventive mind takes over, I mean, remember his references to being chased down the M1 avoiding cowboys and Indians in the Carp Strikes Back?
Perhaps the best compliment I can pay him is that he doesn’t write like an angler. I sat down to flick through this book and admire the fabulous art work contributed by the likes of David Blackaller, Robin Woolnough, Pete Curtis, Adam Entwistle and Richard J Smith, not to mention some lovely photography, some of which has never been published before, but I was drawn to the text and in two sittings I’d read the whole book.
Hat’s off to Wayne Crier for pulling this project together. If only there had been more of it. We lost more than an angler when Rod died, we lost a writer, a character, someone who truly understood that there’s more to a fishing life than trophy fish and pounds and ounces.
Before I Forget is available now from Little Egret Press priced £29.95 by following the link below.