2008 – December Blog Part 1

December Blog (Part One)

It’s arguably a bit early for writing the December Blog but I doubt I’ll be getting out too often in the coming weeks. With the weather so bitter right now and a bit of extra water to boot, some of it snow melt, the rivers are a bit tricky to say the least. But they’re better than the stillwaters, many of which are frozen over as I write.

Barbel Days And Ways Update

Our DVD sales went mental at the beginning of the month and although Stu and I knew a second pressing would be likely at some point after the initial sales took us by surprise, we didn’t quite realise how soon that would happen. Fortunately we were able to get some more done at short notice, and at an exorbitant cost I might add, but we sailed through by the skin of our teeth. We actually sold out completely on the day before the new stocks arrived. Phew! That was close.

We’ve had some amazing feedback from customers. Some were genuinely shocked to order it one day and find the postman had delivered it the next morning. Well, we aim to get all DVDs out on the day the order is authorised by PayPal, subject to the timings because the post office doesn’t stay open round the clock like TESCO.

The vast majority of responses from genuine customers have been from satisfied barbel nuts who love the film and they like the idea that it’s been shot on venues they don’t normally see. Most loved Lee Swords’ OTT personality, one or two didn’t but one of the things about the Days and Ways series is that you get to meet guest anglers and see the characters behind the headlines. Lee is zany but it is an act. He’s great fun and he’s a really nice bloke with a touch of the Peter Kay’s about him should you ever meet him – but not in the Geraldine sense (oh no!). His cause wasn’t helped by demonstrating a technique – that’s using bite alarms on a big river – which some purists find a bit shabby and downright common. Something to frown upon, something that’s not up to their high standards and expertise, old chum…

The Peter Kay of angling

The Peter Kay of angling

But barbel angling is a much wider church than some are happy to embrace. It’s not a case of one method is the right way or that cane rods make you something special. Barbel catchers use many different styles to catch their fish, and that include different kinds of tackle, bait and techniques. Steve Pope guests in the next film and his contribution couldn’t be more different from Lee’s had he decided to fish for cod!

Other guests will bring their skills to the party and once we get up to Volume Five or Six the bigger picture will emerge as we travel across the country to new rivers and demonstrate different techniques. Stu and I will be learning all the time, too. Not just about the fishing but about filming and editing techniques.

The one thing that has raised most criticism has been our choice of music and if I’m being honest, I think something like three people have commented in their feedback. Too loud, why can’t we have classical music? They say. Why can’t we just have the natural sound of the riverbank?

Yet for each one of those we’ve got a lot more who say the music is great – the best they’ve heard on a fishing DVD. If I’m honest with you, I don’t know what the answer is. Whichever way we go we will upset someone. But one point I’ll make is that we get to watch all the footage during the editing process, over and over again. We watch the raw footage without a soundtrack and it isn’t anything like you might expect. The impact is mostly lost because when you actually sit and listen to the wild track (technical term there!) you don’t hear what you might expect. There’s no-where near the volume of sound you expect from wildlife, especially during the daytime, the river itself is pretty much silent in 99% of swims and it seems that wherever you are you cannot escape the sound of road traffic, trains and tractors. Sirens are a nightmare, as are aeroplanes. Music makes a massive difference and on that ‘score’ we’ll never please everyone.

Oh well!

I watched the ‘free’ catching the Impossible DVD cover mount from Angling Times with a touch of awe this week, but how come the price of Angling Times doubled? And how come no-one seemed to notice. So many copies are sold through supermarkets these days that it all goes through with the family shopping so they don’t notice but to charge for a ‘free’ gift like that is a bit naughty. Or am I just being mean?

I’ve long been a fan of Hugh’s work. One of my all-time favourite films is called Tales Of The Riverbank and features Hugh’s early work on the Hampshire Avon. It takes its title from the column written by Tom Williams, a river keeper on the Avon, from way, way back in the Anglers Mail. I have a book of his somewhere . a compilation of all the old articles. Interestingly, rumour has it that Tom’s wife actually wrote the column, but it might just be an urban myth.

Reading various posts on the web forums revealed just how some folk are easily suckered in. Most seem to believe all that breathtaking underwater footage was shot with a camera strapped to the end of a carbon fishing pole. I don’t think so! But it is remarkably good footage and I take my hat off to Hugh. Well done sir.

Adams Mill shocked a few folk, too. I’m not sure what they were expecting to see but it is a tiny bit of river, as is much of the Upper Ouse. I did not though that the water on the surface was quite still as Martin tipped in his bait and rig with a pole cup and it just goes to show how deceptive the surface can be because when we see the underwater footage of the barbel feeding there’s quite a flow on the river bed.

But what I took heart from most of all was the hand held camera work. I am completely hopeless at keeping the skyline level when I use a DVD camera. I can capture the image, keep it all pretty steady, but my skyline go haywire. Matt makes fun of a lot of my photographs, too, because I can be just as sloppy with a stills camera. Look closely at Barbel Days And Ways and you’ll spot clips where I get the skyline a bit haywire. Dutch filming, it’s called. Don’t ask me why, but Sue’s lads have just finished University courses on this kind of thing, they use proper TV cameras, like Hugh, and apparently that’s what they call it.

Anyway, I actually spotted a couple of haywire horizons in catching the Impossible and Hugh will never know how good that made me feel. Not in a smug way but in a way that justifies all my own cock-ups and the next time Stu complains about a wonky horizon, I’ll just say, “But Stu, I’m following in the footsteps of the master!”

There’s no doubt that Hugh has created another masterpiece and it will make a cracking Christmas present for any angler. As will the book which I reviewed in my local paper column this week. Must say I’m really looking forward to seeing the rest of the Impossible films although it has to be said. This should have been showcased on the BBC, not sold off as a DVD. You wouldn’t walk into B&Q and expect to buy a genuine Monet, would you?

By Golly It’s Freezing!

Snow and frost has dominated the weather during the first half of the month and my trips out have produced precious little. I spent a pleasant day on a small Yorkshire river that’s not ten yards wide. In fact it’s barely five yards wide in some places but it does hold a few roach. My last trip up there was around a year ago and it was only when I was 40 miles from home that I realised I’d left my reels in the garage.

You see I like to travel light when fishing small rivers, even when I’m float fishing. It’s a blinkered approach because I’ll leave home with one rod and one reel and pretty much one bait. Today I turned up Drennan Flak Punches - perfectwith liquidised bread and a couple of slices of sliced bread for the hook. There’s nothing to beat a Drennan flake punch because you can easily match the hook bait to the size of your hook. A standard wire stemmed float completes the picture.

Normally I’ll fish a swim for half an hour and then move.

In keeping with my previous trip I managed to forget something again, this time it was my moon boots. Oh dear. There was snow on the ground where the sun hadn’t caught it and a mixture of mud and ice everywhere else. I was going to get muddy, wet and freezing around my ankles in the trainer department.


And one look at the river told me it was going to be really hard because it was up a foot, presumably melting snow, and coloured. But we were there so it would have been daft not to give it a go.

I found a nice looking swim with a bit of depth just below a bend. The river here runs behind some houses and is very popular with dog walkers. I don’t mind that at all as a bit of eye candy on a slow day keeps the mind alert… (joking!). No, the number of walkers means the fish get used to some disturbance. If anything it makes the fishing a little bit easier and it certainly keeps the cormorants away.

So there I am, huddled in the low chair, minimal amount of tackle scattered around me, running down a stick float, and if we’re being a hundred percent honest, just praying for a bite. It really didn’t look promising at all.

Netting a nice roach

So thre I am when a woman ambles along, her dog scampering ahead, sniffing and poking its nose into everything it sees when suddenly it spots me, crouched down low. The dog stopped in its tracks, gave a gruff bark, and then bounded towards me. The first thing you do is get the rod well clear, don’t you? Up comes the dog, hell bent on licking me to death, I suspect, when it suddenly grabs my bag of liquidised bread. The next thing is it’s off again and shaking my bait like a rat until the bag bursts and it can devour the contents.

Am I pleased? What do you think?

Eventually the owner arrives, full of wailed apologies and making a pretty hopeless job of getting her beast under control. Good job I had some more bread in reserve or that would have been another completely wasted trip.

Minutes later she returned with the equivalent of a golf ball sized lump of bread in a torn polythene wrapper, dripping in saliva, “Ooohh, I’m so sorry…”

Well, as she’d come close to ruining my day I decided to give her something to think about the next time she let her dog off the lead. “Oh, don’t worry about it. But I must say, I’m a bit concerned for your dog. You see we put all sorts of additives in our bait to attract the fish. It doesn’t bother the fish because they simply dissolve off in the water but if you’ve allowed your dog to eat it he might be in a bit of trouble. I’m not saying it will kill him but it could make him very ill. Do you keep him in the house?”

“Of course…” She said with a look of concern.

“Oh dear,” I said, “Still it should clean up!”

With that she left, looking slightly flustered and quite certain her Labrador sized dog was destined to involuntarily deposit all manner of smelly outpourings on her carpets. Of course there was nothing in the bread but I’m guessing she’ll be a little more careful next time. Just in case.

A Winter Warmer

A Winter Warmer

Ah well, the fishing wasn’t exactly warming the cockles. Hello, was that a… Yes, I’m in. But it was only a tiddler. But ten minutes later the float dipped again and round went the tip with a reassuring thump. The roach here do run close to 2lbs occasionally with pounders not uncommon but this wasn’t in that league. No, at around 10oz it was just about the average size but I wasn’t complaining.

Alas that was to be my last bite of the day. We tried several other stretches including a slightly wider and slower length but all to no avail. But I’ll go back again, soon, and see how many more dogs I can poison!!!!

Back To The Idle And A Trip Down Memory Lane

A return to the Idle was always going to be on the cards but I could have picked a better day. A nice chat and a coffee in Len Squires tackle shop on Bawtry High Street is always good way to start the day and catch up on gossip. Len handed me a couple of old Angling Times, “Here, you may as well have these.”

I looked at the date. October 1982. Cor, how angling has changed. No Matt Hayes, Keith Arthur or Des Taylor. Certainly no Martin Bowler and no commercial fisheries. But Tom Pickering made the frame twice that weekend, Denis White was there, too, and even Jan Porter. But I’ll tell you what was missing – BARBEL!!!!

The paper was full of every species you might care to think of, including both sea fish and trout, but the ‘B’ word only appears twice, and both of those as asides in Dick Walker’s column when he mentions in a general piece about autumn fishing that it’s a good time to target them.

What really caught the eye, though, was the headline…

TERRIFIC TRENT… back come those roach – page 7

In true AT fashion you turned to page 7 and there was no mention of the Trent. The report was on page 5! Inside, World Champion Dave Thomas was the star article spread across the middle pages with promises of more to come in the following weeks, Alan Mayer, National Champion was a regular columnist, Graham Pullen was the big fish writer, Vic Bellars was showing us where to find those Broads pike, John Crossman handed out expert advice on back-shotting, while Dick Walker talked about leaf fall.

Where are they now, eh?

Oh, and by the way, Stevie Gardner’s in an advert for Galaxy tackle with the wildest beard and hair style he’ll ever wish he could forget. I bet he has nightmares over that one!

I guess what always captivates us in old papers is not so much the editorial content but the adverts. Can you believe that the RRP for a Shakespeare President 14 foot float rod was £159.00? Or that one company had ‘blitzed’ the price of a Bruce & Walker Flier carbon rod down to £59.99, and added an explanatory note that it was very similar to the much more expensive B&W XL.

I’ve no idea what the Retail Price Index has done since 1982 but it’s certainly gone up – a lot. The cover price on the paper was 30p compared to today’s £1.60 (unless they’re giving away a free DVD). Using that as a guide it looks like prices have risen by around five-and-a-half times. Let’s round that down to five and look at the Shakespeare rod again. In today’s money that would set you back £800. Eight hundred quid for a match rod!

We don’t know how lucky we are these days because that rod wouldn’t have been much better, if it indeed was better, than so many of today’s Chinese imports.

Tackle really has never been cheaper and what’s more, if you buy good stuff it’s never been better.

So back to the Idle. It was dreadful. The last time I came here just a few weeks ago I was the only angler on the bank at 11am. I was somewhat surprised to see quite a few this time and just to spoil my plans there were three guys piking in and around the swim I’d lost all those roach to pike last time.

The Idle at HaxeyI’d come armed with some pike gear this time and I couldn’t get near where I’d hoped to fish. At least they hadn’t caught, which might sound selfish but I wanted to get my revenge, and I will get it, soon I hope.

The river was slightly up, carrying a good bit of colour and it was cold. So cold it was as dead as a dodo. I didn’t raise a single bite and after an hour or so the writing was on the wall and I called it a day. By now most folk had accepted they wouldn’t be catching anything from here today and the bankside chatter seemed to revolve around, ‘Wish I’d gone to the Don behind ASDA and, I wonder if we’d catch on the Torne, or maybe the bottom end of the Warping Drain…’

Well folks, if any of you are reading this, the Torne was iced over and so was the Warping Drain. Strikes me that we’d have all been better of inside ASDA.

I dropped in at Lindholme on my way home to firm up the Green Un Semi Final date. I run a match each year through the Sheffield sports paper, The Green Un, for club match anglers. I’ve run it for 12 years now and from a baseline where I struggled to find 40 qualifiers I’ve already got over 240 for a match that’s not fished until next May.

It’s a hell of a match, mind, where prize winners go through to a 20 peg final with £5,000 at stake. The total amount paid out this year over the semi and the final was in something in the region of £8,000. Not bad for a competition that’s free to enter and the pools are just £15.

The latest list of qualifiers can be found at: http://www.bobrobertsonline.co.uk/green-un-semi-final-qualifiers-2008-2009/

It was interesting to see that on a bitter, bitter day, when the temperature barely got much above two or 3 degrees, at least 40 hardy souls were dotted around Lindholme. You have to hand it to these guys but without commercials fishing would be much the poorer. All those who decry them are tucked up in their nice warm offices tapping away on computer keyboards, I’ll bet.

Trouble In The Playground

As I type there’s much wailing and hanky wringing on the Fishing Magic web site forum since the owner announced he is shutting down the site unless a buyer can be found before 19th December. You could have been mistaken for thinking that the end of the world had been announced. Folk running around like headless chickens crying, ‘What will we do now?’

The answer’s simple; move to another forum. It’s not like there aren’t hundreds of them. Failing that, some of these guys should try going fishing for a change, they might even like it when they’ve gotten used to being outdoors. Honestly, some folk spend their entire lives on there.

I’ve enjoyed a love-hate relationship with angling forums for many years. In principle they’re a great way of sharing information but by God, there are some unholy rows on them and before you know it you’re embroiled in a war of words with someone called Littledick or Asslicker whom you’ve never met, never spoken to and quite frankly would never want to. Only this morning I read that one poster has demanded an apology from a fellow member or he’ll be taking legal action. The guilty party held up his hands and said, “Okay, I apologise, but let’s not forget you have been calling me a ponce, a big fat midlander and a fat monkey…!”

But at least we know exactly who these two parties are. One has written two books and has until recently been offering a barbel guiding service, the other makes fishing DVDs, also does guiding, is sponsored by a major manufacturer and writes a monthly column in a glossy fishing magazine.

It’s my view that the folk who hide behind the anonymity of pseudonyms ought to be banned. They seem to derive most of their pleasure from winding people up and it all starts with what seems an innocuous enquiry. Before you know it the mud is flying, lies and insults are being thrown around like confetti and then you get their mates joining in. They’re as cliquey as hell but it seldom ends in threats of legal action.

Worse still are the stalkers. Boy have I had my share of those. I’m sure it must make them feel important, or clever maybe, I really don’t know because it’s not something I even begin to understand, but they’ll follow you from site to site, stirring trouble wherever they can. They never stick to the subject under discussion and by carrying out their little vendettas they ruin it for everyone.

Having endured a bucketful of it on Barbel Fishing World recently, I threw in the towel. You can only take so much and when the moderators fail so miserably in their duties it’s time to move on. When it’s clear that folk are posting lies and flagrantly trying to defame a person’s character the mods have a duty to step in but they seldom do, well, for the right reasons. So I threw in the towel. The owner of the site chose then to add a parting swipe but it had all the clumsiness of a drunk in Mothercare shop. I’m sure it made him feel better.

It had been my intention all along to walk away from FM, too, but with FM it due to close there seemed little point but after several days of particularly nasty bitching and cat-calling I decided enough was enough on there. I made my final post, said why I was leaving and left. You know what? My post announcing that I’d had enough and calling it a day was actually removed by a moderator. How crazy is that?

Well, there will be many who are hoping the site is saved by a benefactor but since Graham Marsden gave up running the site it’s been a pale shadow of what it once was. Frankly I hope it folds. At least the jackals will have to find new homes and maybe, you never know, some of them might find something useful and constructive to do with their lives. Word has it that the site is available for immediate sale with offers over £50,000 being spoken of. Talk of a members rescue plan soon went out of the window when that figure was mentioned.

I’m now forum free and the blood pressure is returning to normal again. I’ve made some good friends through the Internet and received hundreds of private messages from kind people. Many just want to say hello or ask for a bit of information but would rather not get embroiled in the bear pit.

For those folk, there’s still a message facility on here, feel free to use it.

I’m now in the position where I can look in on these sites and see who’s scoring points off whom, who’s trading insults and who’s got the biggest dick. Because that’s what most of it’s about really. A testosterone fuelled desire to show who’s king of the hill.

And if you don’t get your own way you can always threaten to sue…

Respect to those who do it in their own names, those who do it with a bit of wit, style and panache, but as for the rest, especially those hiding behind juvenile names and finding security in gangs, you have to feel somewhat sorry for them.

Oh well, where can I go fishing next week.

Let me think…