The saga continues with just a few of my experiences with the Bewdley Brawler himself, Mr Des Taylor…
Days With Des – “Are You A Whiteface Then?”
At Christine’s funeral Des Taylor asked if I’d like to have a crack at his pool. He had the rights to a small water that held chub to 7 pounds and loads of big roach – dare I say to 3 pounds? It sounded like a dream. We’d talked of doing this trip for ages but for some reason never got around to it. So I said, ‘Yes’.
We met up at his new premises in Kidderminster before moving on to his home in Bewdley were Marg had prepared a cracking stew and an entertaining night in the Great Western lay ahead.
Saturday morning dawned bright, sunny, but very cold. We left Bewdly behind and travelled along the Teme valley with buzzards circling overhead. This is one of my favourite parts of the country and one I never tire of. First call was at Woody’s Tackle Shop where we bumped into a bunch of anglers who form part of the Chub Study Group. They were down on the Wye for a fish-in of some sort and a good crack was being had by all.
We bade them farewell and headed off to Des’s Pool. As the term ‘pool’ suggests it’s not exactly huge but the fish maintain impressive growth rates. I fished near the car park and had an early fish on waggler and caster, a roach of perhaps 12 ounces. It was to be the only bite I had all weekend.
Des fished on the opposite bank near his caravan and also struggled. It was going to be that sort of weekend but life could be worse. At frequent intervals Des would disappear into the caravan and emerge with steaming cups of coffee and soup. The beverages nicely broke-up the day and Des eventually managed to wangle out a couple of quality fish.
That night we ventured into town for a drink and a curry. Just for good measure, we decided to drop in on the hotel where the Chub Study Group were ensconced. I expected we’d have a riotous night with a bunch of mad keen anglers but couldn’t have been more wrong.
Des had clearly upset some of these guys through something he had written in one of his more outrageous articles. One of them had gone so far as to write into the Angling Times letter page remonstrating with ‘the Bewdley Brawler’ so you can imagine the look on this guys face as Des walked in the room.
It was a priceless moment and you’ll not be surprised to learn that he didn’t speak so much as a single word to Des. I mean, if you’re concerned enough to have a pop at a bloke in the paper you really should have the bottle to debate the issue face-to-face when an opportunity arises, don’t you think?
I’d hardly got half way down my first drink and was deep in conversation with Kev Clifford when Des tapped me on the shoulder and said, “You can stay if you like but we’re off, c’mon the taxi’s here!”
Des reckons that natives of Hereford are called ‘white faces’ after the Hereford Bulls that have a distinctive white blaze down the front of there heads. When he turned and asked of the dark skinned taxi driver, in all sincerity, “Are you a white face, then?” I had visions of us walking back to town, or worse.
Later that evening we returned to the lake and made the best of our freezing cold caravan. Three guys with swollen bladders and bellies bloated by a rather tasty but somewhat spicy Indian meal is a recipe for noisy gas releases and what can only be described as ‘interesting’ aromas. To be fair, ‘interesting’ didn’t do these smells justice at all. The air temperature outside was several degrees below freezing but we had no choice but to sleep with the door ajar and even then a coat over the head was required if you wanted to inhale.
And did I mention that Des had forgotten to warn me that I’d need to bring a sleeping bag? I was in for a VERY cold night.
Des was up at the crack of dawn happily thrashing the water to foam but it was to no avail. The fish were simply not interested so we breakfasted and went home.
Autumn approached and Des suggested we might have another crack at his pool. Of course I was desperately keen to have another bash and as the weather would be somewhat better I told him that I would rather bring a bedchair and sleep outside than spend another night in close proximity of his backside.
“You should consider yourself lucky,” he replied, “I have to sleep with it every night!”
I can’t ever recall having a bad trip with Des. Okay, there have been days when we’ve struggled to catch but that doesn’t mean we had a bad days fishing.
My first ever trip to the Wye with Des sticks out like a beacon in my memory. We spent a day on Bulmers Orchard before moving up to a new stretch he’d discovered at Fownhope. It was owned by a group of businessmen who had purchased the water when it was a reasonable salmon fishery but times change. The new salmon is of a golden variety and has barbules around its mouth.
If truth be told these guys weren’t that interested in the fishing. They had stationed an old railway carriage by the river and from the outside you might have imagined it was a pigeon loft. Inside it was all wood panelled splendour with a cooker, dining table, settee, arm chairs, indeed a veritable home from home. Outside was a small but densely cultivated vegetable plot where they grew their own produce. It was the ideal place for a businessman to escape from the pressures of the world and just chill out, which is exactly what they did there each weekend.
We walked the stretch and picked out a couple of classic swims. One screamed barbel but Des wanted to try a swim higher up from where he’d taken good chub catches earlier in the season.
So we shared the chub swim and we caught a few, but not as many as Des thought we might so a move was in order to the barbel hole. Unfortunately, when we got there one of the owners was fishing it. We chatted for a while and when he realised that we had intended to have a go where he was fishing he insisted that he pack up and allow us to fish there.
“It’ll be interesting to see how you do because I’ve struggled badly this morning.” He lifted out a keepnet that contained around nine bleak.
“No, no, you can’t move!” We protested (somewhat weakly).
But he insisted. We compromised by suggesting he continued to fish and we would drop in either side of him. That was an offer he couldn’t resist.
“It won’t make any difference because I’m not catching anyway. In fact I can’t get a bite!”
The swim was immediately behind the carriage and as we tackled up one of the owners came down the bank and asked politely whether we preferred tea or coffee. Minutes later he re-appeared with a tea-towel draped over his forearm and our drinks on a tray, drinks that would be replenished frequently as we fished.
I think there’s something comforting to learn that folk with a few bob behind them take great delight in wearing jumpers that either have holes in the sleeves or have been darned. Our waiter’s being of the former variety.
So Des and I made our first casts almost simultaneously into what must once have been one of the finest salmon pools on the entire river. Wooded hills swept up behind us, the river was shallow and swathed in dense fronds of streamer weed while just in front of our rod tips was a deep, clear pool. We both offered casters and hemp through small feeders and it could have been no more than a few minutes before my tip whacked over and I said to Des, “I’m in!”
“Me too!” Came the reply.
Well the guy between us was mesmerised. He’d sat there for several hours and not hooked a single barbel yet we had one each on our very first cast.
“They’re not going to believe this when I get home.” He said.
For the next hour we were constantly in action. Barbel followed barbel on one of those special days when you can do no wrong. Even the sun shone.
Our host soon gave up and reeled in, preferring to watch us rather than fish himself.
He sat behind me and my tip began to exhibit those give-away taps. You know without a shadow of a doubt that any second a barbel is going to take your bait.
“What?” He replied, “I never saw anything.”
“LOOK!” I said, as the rod hoped round.
“I never saw a thing. How on earth did you know to strike just then?”
I looked at Des, he looked at me and an unspoken pact was made. This fishing is far too good for us to go taking the piss. So we fished on and a legend was born in the Wye valley. Des and Bob could sit down in an empty swim and catch fish to order, what’s more an ordinary angler wouldn’t even be able to see the bites…
Another cup of coffee arrived.
“You will be joining us for lunch, won’t you?”
Well, you wouldn’t say no and risk causing offence, would you?
Later we sat down in the carriage to a full Sunday roast with Yorkshire puddings and fresh vegetables grown right next to our swims. It was as grand a dinner as anyone could wish for, our only slight concern being how we would do justice to Marg’s dinner when we returned to Bewdley but a pair of growing lads will seldom let a woman down.
The Drinks Were On Us
Just one more tale about the ‘Bewdley Brawler’. I was staying with Des one Saturday night and we, that’s Des, Marg and me, had taken a walk into Town and dropped into the Mug for a drink. It was a warm summer’s evening and the place is always popular with anglers visiting the area.
We’re both affable when we’re out, we’re not film stars or footballers, we’re just a couple of guys who fish a bit and appear regularly in the press. It’s flattering to be recognised but it doesn’t mean you’re special in any way.
Half way down our first pint a guy comes up to us and says, “I can’t believe it. I can’t believe you’re both in here, together, at the same time, as it were. Unbelievable!”
“Look, will you do me a favour and just step into the back room. If you do I’ll buy you a round of drinks.”
In circumstances like this you are tempted say, do you mind I’m having a quiet drink with the missus, but often it’s easier to play along and avoid the strife that it can lead to. And the offer of a drink seemed like fair recompense.
So we stepped into the back bar and this kid suddenly changes from the meek character we met out front. Leaping up in front of his mates he shouts, “See, told you! Fiver, fiver, fiver!” As he thrust out a palm towards each of his mates.
Apparently he’d spotted us in the front bar and gone back to his mates and said, “You’ll not believe this but there’s Des Taylor AND Bob Roberts through the other side.”
Had he said either one of us I’m sure his mates would have said okay, but they’d told him in no uncertain terms that he was making it up so he’d bet them all a fiver that we were both drinking in the bar next door and that he could get us to come into their room and say hello.
We earned a drink out of it but I have to take my hat off to his opportunism. It certainly paid for all his drinks that night.
If you enjoyed this article more extracts from Tales Of The Riverbank can be found here