2009 – Late August Blog

As you might have gathered, I’ve been away for a little while. We all deserve a break now and then and there’s little in life to compare with the pampering, fine dining and opportunity to soak up of a bit of sunshine you get on a cruise, especially when you’re on a brand new, state of the art liner like the fabulous Celebrity X.


What an experience!


I always imagined cruises were for boring old folk but having done a couple in the past year I can hold up my hands and honestly say I was completely wrong. Luxury with a capital ‘L’ is the word and nothing is too much trouble for the staff.


Unfortunately it means this blog is a bit light on the fishing detail (for a change) but that’ll be put right in the near future.


Otters – what do they eat?

I spoke with Tony Miles on the phone the other evening and he was telling me that he’s not fished for barbel once this season. Indeed he did very little on the Great Ouse last season, either. The reason? Well, it’s mainly otters.


According to Tony the number of barbel in the Ouse has slumped dramatically and it’s happened very quickly. The chub, it would seem, are smart enough to hide but barbel are essentially stupid creatures and the otters are picking them off at will.


He went on to say the Cherwell, where he learned so much about barbel, is all but devoid of barbel. John Everard has told him it’s a similar story on the upper Thames. You can add the Bristol Avon to that list and the Wensum. How the boys who have worked so hard on the NACA project must feel I cannot imagine. And now we have Des Taylor throwing in his two-pennyworth by announcing the Teme is finished as a barbel river.


What I cannot understand is the number of anglers who are sticking their heads in the sand, raising only to pronounce that the anglers aren’t versatile enough, that the fish have changed their habits, that the problem isn’t as severe as is made out.


To those I ask one question. What do otters eat?


The eel population is verging on extinction. The Atlantic salmon is endangered. Cormorants have decimated the silver fish population. In the main our rivers appear to hold a few big chub and barbel and not a great deal else – certainly when you compare the silver fish biomass with what it was twenty years ago.


Chub, barbel and carp carcasses discovered on the banks of rivers and lakes reveal that something is targeting our big fish – something that munches a few ounces of flesh and discards the rest. Tomorrow it kills another. The day after, another.


And Stu (Walker) reckons he has twice seen an otter on the Dove this season, which means they’re probably on the Derwent and the upper Trent, too.


There’s no point in sticking your head in the sand because the carnage has only just begun. Next spring the otter population will double.


And mentioning ostriches…


You Couldn’t Invent This Story

It’s almost thirty years since a young Toby Foster attended the primary school just round the corner from where I’m sat. I guess he probably walked past my front gate on his way to school each morning. Today he’s best known as Les in Phoenix Nights, or maybe for his appearance in the Extras Christmas Special, or as a stand-up comedian, or maybe just for his regular day job – he’s the breakfast show presenter on BBC Radio Sheffield.


Ron Rose, the playwright, apart, he’s probably the most famous bloke to come from our village.


Anyway, his show is well worth a listen because on occasion he can be extremely funny and never more so than the other morning when a listener called in to report the discovery of an ostrich in Bolton-on-Dearne. Material like this is pure manna to a stand-up comedian and he milked it to the full. “Get Bernie Clifton on the phone!” He demanded, and sure enough, Clifton came on and joined the carnival.


Twenty years ago, had anyone rung in to report seeing a barbel in the River Dearne they would have drawn even greater ridicule, today you’d better believe it. In fact you’d better believe the ostrich caller because it turns out two had gone missing from a South Yorkshire farm.


Oh, and although the guy had rung the RSPCA the previous evening, no-one bothered to come out and have a look. I wonder why?


Discussions followed about which bus it must have caught to get to Bolton, how it avoided being mugged, how you’d actually kill an ostrich, how you’d cook it and so on. I tell you, on a good day he’s priceless. I’m sure you can listen to him on the Internet.


More Telly

When Kev Green asked if I’d mind shooting a programme for his Improve Your coarse Fishing TV series I said ‘Yes’ immediately. In the short term it will only available on the Internet as a pay-per-view via http://www.onlinefishing.tv/ but it is recorded in broadcast quality using the same crew that shot a lot of Matt Hayes’ programmes, Carp Crew and stuff like that. Stands to reason that it’ll surface on TV one day in the future as these things inevitably do.


Kev wanted to do a stalking programme – small river, clear water, freelining only and basically just catch a few chub. “Easy!” I said, “We’ll go down the Idle.”


Now I’ve fished the Idle for the better part of 40 years and pretty much know it as well as anyone. Most days in summer I aim to avoid the chub and fail miserably. They can be a pain when I’m targeting other species. The upper river is very shallow, crystal clear and you can usually see the fish with ease.

But filming days are never like that, are they.


Shooting this 36 hours after returning from holiday meant I had no chance to do a scouting mission and there’s not a lot I can do about the weather which turned out to be decidedly unseasonal. You don’t get 30 mile an hour winds and white horses in August do you? You do when you’re filming. Oh, and the water carried a tinge of colour which made fish spotting a bit tricky and the fish decided to do a vanishing act.


It was one of the toughest summer days I’ve ever endured on the Idle and every single fish was earned the hard way but I reckon the programme will make it look easy, mark my words. This was the final episode in the IYCF series and the editing should be completed soon. They’ll all be available as part of a £4.95 monthly package or a £1 per programme deal (watch as often as you like for 48 hours). Currently there’s a library of almost 170 programmes available plus a commitment to adding at least 12 new programmes per month.


It works out at a similar price to a copy of Carp World, or three issues of Angling Times per month. Whether that’s appealing to the wider angling community, I don’t know. It all seems a bit futuristic to an old-schooler like me but I do wish them well.


Is This A Carp I See Before Me

A long weekend in the Cotswolds sounded like a good idea so we ensconced ourselves in Ettington Hall for three nights on a bargain offer that Sue picked up from one of her magazines. On Sunday we drove down into Stratford to savour the delights of Shakespeare’s home town.


Two bridges cross the River Avon near the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, the main road bridge and a footbridge right next to Cox’s Yard. Well, who could resist peering over the parapet to see if there were any fish to be seen?


Looking upstream towards the island I could see a nice shoal of chub beneath me. Most were the typical sized fish I might have expected but one old chevin was a proper lump. It didn’t stray far from the bridge buttress and I could see it quite clearly and I’d say it was a big ‘five’ at the very least, possibly a six in the winter months. That got the juices flowing, I can tell you, but I wasn’t prepared for what awaited me on the other side of the bridge.


A canal basin complete with pretty barges lies on the same side as the theatre and the water is heavily coloured as a result but that didn’t prevent me from spotting the shape of a big fish in the clearer water on my side of the ‘crease’. I honestly had to do a double take because I thought it was maybe an old polythene sack or something but I was wrong. Not eight yards away was a humongous great carp with its head down and tail up. What’s more you could comfortably placed a child’s saddle across its back.


I stood transfixed for ages, a bit like a scene in one of those arty films where the main character is perfectly still while blurred images of a crowd pass by. Was I really the only person looking down on this monster as everyone else rushed around me?


It was a mirror, a very long fish and it looked a good foot wide across the shoulders. I could clearly see the row of pearlescent scales each side of the dorsal fin but obviously I couldn’t say how deep it was but that carp was every ounce a ‘thirty’ and it could have been a fair bit bigger.


Having walked the tourist trail I dropped back but she’d gone. I know what I saw though, and it was impressive.


Jealousy’s A Bitter Pill To Swallow

The recent appearance I made on Sky TV’s Tight Lines provoked umpteen emails requesting more information on the barbel rig I showed in the programme. To save endless repetition I’ll be featuring it in my next Coarse Fisherman magazine article and covering the why’s and wherefore’s in detail, something I obviously cannot do on an individual basis.


When the magazine issue has run its course I’ll stick a version of the article on this site.


Alas my appearance didn’t please one bloke who masquerades around the Internet under the pseudonym of ‘Silverfox’. His real name is Graham Elliott and he runs guiding service on the River Wye these days by all accounts.


Anyway, the previous time I appeared on the show he got himself into a right old tizzy and decided to attack me openly on an Internet forum. I don’t actually think he even saw the show, but let’s not cloud the issue.


Two weeks after the latest show he was back on BFW claiming that I’m taking credit for his ideas. This is what he posted (13th August 2009; 08:51):


“It’s probably something I showed one of his pals a year or so before. Simply glue a number of mini pellets randomly on the hair. It’s very effective on hard pressed rivers. Graham”




If this ‘Silverfox’ had seen the show he would not have used the word ‘probably’ and he would have known I demonstrated a different presentation to the one he describes. His post was therefore a complete red herring based on supposition and clearly designed to sully my reputation.


But how arrogant do you have to be to think that something he showed a common acquaintance over a year earlier would be passed on to me and that I would pounce on his hardly revolutionary idea and allegedly claim it as my own? We’re talking glueing a few pellets onto a hair here, not inveting a cure for cancer.


Surely someone who is that obsessive would have called it Lenny Middleton’s hair. Or maybe he should have credited Skretins for manufacturing the pellets in the first place. And what about  Dr. Harry Coover and Fred Joyner who invented super glue way back in 1942…


How pathetic.


Old ‘Silverfox’ was still repeating his claims nearly 14 hours later (BFW; 13th August 2009; 22:33)…


“There’s very little new in fishing. Simple fact is, when you have visible fish in the swim, they often pick up the smaller, fed, pellets and particles and leave the larger baits alone. This happens after the first few weeks on hard pressed rivers like the Loddon. “
“I simply showed him how I fish to trick these fish to one of 2Bobs mates. He also happens to be a mate one of mine. “


Did you notice how he slipped from presumption into name-calling like an immature schoolboy in the last paragraph? Is ‘2Bobs’ meant as a term of endearment or is it a haughty insult? You decide. But it makes his next few lines all the more laughable. You see, he continues in his post to bemoan the fact that some folk on the BFW forum are abusive! Really Graham? Surely folk don’t use the BFW forums to promote their personal agendas?


Talk about a hypocrite!!!


Here are his exact words:


“Bout time the mods stopped the abusive posters on here that only post negatives ………………………………… and out them …………………. most are fed up with them.
And are wondering why the protection when you have got rid of many other problems,???? And cleaned it all up to the benefit of many
Up to you Andy and team


Not bad going for a guy who uses the web to mock me and also announced publicly that he would download our first DVD from an illegal Internet file sharing site. His daughter is in an aspiring rock band, apparently. I wonder if he thinks it’s okay to download her band’s material illegally?


Anyway, old Silverfox gave a slide show to a Barbel Society meeting in my neck of the woods recently and was overheard to say he was hurt by the fact I seem to have a down on him. Not bad for a bloke who, as far as I’m aware, I’ve never once met or spoken with.


You couldn’t make it up could you?


Perhaps old Silverfox should study Shakespeare…


Canst thou not minister to a mind diseas’d,
Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow,
Raze out the written troubles of the brain,
And with some sweet oblivious antidote
Cleanse the stuff’d bosom of that perilous stuff
Which weighs upon the heart?

Therein the patient
Must minister to himself.

Over to you Graham. 

I’m your Number One Fan…

Fans of Stephen King will be aware of the novel, Misery, or maybe you’ve seen a film of the same name featuring James Caan and Kathy Bates. James Caan plays a successful writer, Cathy Bates his number one (and ever so slightly obsessive) fan.


It plays on what the author chooses to write and what his fan demands he should write, exploring the fine dividing line between love, hate, obsession and anger. Speaking from a position of some experience in this matter I can draw parallels, for I now have a ‘number one fan’.


Indeed my ‘fan’ has begun writing a blog which you could be forgiven for thinking is inspired entirely by me. Indeed, other than bragging about making a few coppers on the stock market apart, I seem to be the only recurring topic. Indeed I’d go so far as to suggest the blog only exists because I do.


Repeat after me, Tony: “I’m your number one fan…”


Go Graham, Go!

I was quite shocked to pick up the latest Coarse Fisherman magazine and see Graham Marsden, Managing Editor of the Fishing Magic web site, had launched both barrels at the ‘trolls’ who abuse his forums and he rightly highlights how they drive away a great many respectable anglers.


Well said that man!


Graham points to (certain) barbel anglers as being the worst culprits and I have to say he’s absolutely spot-on. What’s more, we all know exactly who he’s talking about. Sadly the very folk he’s pointing at will turn their attention towards him for a while, spreading bile around the Internet forums where they remain welcome and no doubt suggesting I have put Graham up to the job, but while he may be, how can I put it kindly, slight in stature(?), Graham’s got broad shoulders and their slings and arrows will be wasted because one thing’s for sure, Graham is his own man and he won’t care two figs for their opinions. You see, Graham’s opinions are his alone, which cannot be said for those he speaks of.


In saying that, I wonder if they will even recognise themselves or understand what he’s saying, considering the text is punctuated, spelled correctly and gets straight to the point. Chances are they’ll think it’s written in a foreign language, which, to them, it is.


Earning Their Spurs

And how else can I close than to offer a warm and hearty congratulations to the Tottenham fans out there who’s team passed gracefully into Round Three of the League Cup courtesy of a 5-1 thrashing of my humble team, Doncaster Rovers. Good luck guys and here’s hoping you win it this time.


Harry was stunned to learn Spurs were playing Real Madrid and not Donny Rovers

Mind you, the scoreline was something of a travesty and Spurs were fortunate not to be on the end of a hiding in the first ten minutes alone. By half time it could have been 4-6 and that was before we hit the woodwork twice. When interviewed after the game Harry Redknap was full of praise for little old Donny. In his own words: “After five minutes I turned to Joe Jordan and said, ‘Who is this we’re playing, Real Madrid?’”


Really, we were playing incredibly well despite selling our two best players in the past month and sticking the reserve goalie between the sticks. Quite why Sullivan, (who used to play for Spurs) was sat on the bench I really don’t know, but I doubt he could have changed the outcome. Spurs really are a class act this season.


Unfortunately everything changed in an instant as two mistakes in the space of 90 seconds were punished and from then on the outcome was pretty much inevitable yet I can proudly state we played the brand of passing football we’re becoming recognised for from start to finish.


Tim Flowers said, on BBC Radio Five Sports Extra, “If you’d just landed from outer space you’d be forgiven for thinking the team in hoops was top of the Premiership, not Tottenham!”


But sometimes you just have to accept that six years ago we were plying our trade in the Conference and we ain’t no match for Chelsea or Manchester City in the transfer market. Class always tells and as neat and tidy and as fair as we play football on the ground it’s in the final third that matters and our entire team cost less than any one of Tottenham’s forwards by a long, long way.



But the folk of Donny will feel proud of their team despite the result. Unfortunately I can’t see where the next win is coming from. In the past few days we’ve faced Middlesborough and Spurs. Next weekend it’s Cardiff followed by Reading and West Brom away. Sheffield United and Newcastle follow soon afterwards.

It’s a far cry from the days when we lined up against the likes of Northwich Victoria or Gravesend and Northfleet on a Saturday I can tell you.


Perhaps Harry will reflect on the fabulous football we played and lend us a couple of forwards from the fringes of his squad. They’d benefit from some great coaching, get first team experience at a high standard, raise their fitness levels and with the sort of delivery we provide they’d score a hatful of goals.


Please Harry, it ain’t much to ask.


Ah well. We can all dream.


I wanna go fishing now…


Footnote: The following quotes are from a match report on a Spurs website..

The first ten minutes of the game saw one of the biggest non-referee induced injustices I’ve ever seen on a football field. The action consisted of a blur of red and white hooped shirts as the home team made a mess of our makeshift defence. In our yellow kit Hutton, Bassong, O’Hara and Giovani were like bananas in a blender as Stock, Woods and Oster moved the ball round at speed in front of our left hand side. Cudicini made a series of spectacular saves, the best one probably being the very first stop from a point bank volley. And the result of this passage of play? Ridiculously we had a 2-0 lead.

The goals gave us confidence and must have left them thinking of a call to the cops to report a mugging. The word in the pub from the locals had been that Rovers play great football but never look like scoring but I never expected to see such blatant evidence.

Hate to say this in August but without a couple of strikers we could get relegated this season.

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