Welcome to Bob Roberts Online, my continually evolving presence on the worldwide web. Let’s hope you find the content both entertaining and informative. Have a good root around and you’ll be surprised by what you might find. Feel free to ask questions or leave comments but above all, try and enjoy yourself, after all it’s only fishing…
Who The Hell Is Bob Roberts?
If you’re an angler then Bob Roberts is a name that should need little introduction. Bob has been one of the UK’s highest profile anglers for almost thirty years. The term all-rounder barely begins to describe his talents. He’s also living proof that a leopard can change its spots having been successful as a match angler, carp angler and all-round specialist angler.
Bob reluctantly published his first article way back in 1986 after much cajoling and encouragement from Colin Dyson, the then editor of Coarse Fisherman magazine. It was never Bob’s intention to become a writer, having left school aged 15, shy, self conscious and with precious few ambitions. “I was a lazy sod!” Said Bob. But Colin was quick to recognise a talent and with a little guidance and encouragement unleashed the angling phenomenon that is the Bob Roberts we know today.
“It’s funny. I never saw myself as a writer and dreaded seeing that first article being published. Colin had helped me with lots of information and he called in the favour asking me to write three articles, ‘just for him’ was the deal. He never actually told me he would be publishing them until I received a call telling me to watch out for the next issue of Coarse Angler magazine. I dreaded getting on the bus for our first club match after the debut article appeared. After all, a kid from a mining village pretending to be a writer? Boy would I have the Mickey taken out of me.
So I came up with another three articles thinking that would exhaust my experience and I could go back to my club matches and forget about writing altogether.
Whether Colin was a talent spotting genius, simply got lucky or I ran away with the idea that I could write, it’d hard to tell, but publishing that first article was like striking oil and ideas came gushing out. Suddenly I couldn’t stop writing and it was in danger of taking over my life. It’s strange to think that even as recent as twenty years ago we didn’t have computers. I didn’t even have a typewriter. The articles were written in longhand.
When Colin gave up the editor’s seat at Coarse Angler Bob’s loyalty to the title ended. “I found it very difficult to get on with the new editor and accepted an offer to write for David Hall. That was fortuitous because Coarse Angler, the UK’s largest selling magazine, the only one of that time to carry audited ABC circulation figures, went bust (without me!).
Life with Mr Hall was to prove both interesting and exciting. David loved the company of anglers and he also liked to party. It’s hard to imagine today that the DHP stable began life in David’s converted attic. Back then it was just a couple of magazines, Coarse Fishing and Match Fishing but luminaries like Des Taylor and the England manager Mark Downes both worked out of there with David, Cherry (Hall)and Roger Mortimer.
When Coarse Fishing re-launched as Let’s Go Coarse Fishing one column became two. In between times he provided material for magazines like Carp World, Coarse Fisherman and Catchmore Carp. There were occasional forays into manufacturers’ catalogues, the odd Continental magazine and America beckoned briefly.
Major articles in In-Fisherman magazine plus appearing on In-Fisherman TV were real adrenaline rushes. And opportunities unfolded to appear on TV and radio back home, not to mention videos, more of which later.
And there was David’s foray into the carp world, “Would I care to attend a meeting regarding the launch of a new magazine? I went along more out of intrigue and left as the founding editor of Advanced Carp Fishing. The next six years were going to be as demanding as life gets as I juggled a full-time day job with burning the midnight oil on Advanced Carp. I also managed to keep up my other writing commitments and did a fair bit of fishing, too.”
That kind of pace couldn’t last forever and eventually Bob had to make a decision as to whether he gave up the day job and become a full-time writer. Common sense prevailed and he gave David six months notice of his intention to quit. Advanced Carp had established itself as the UK’s largest selling carp magazine and is something he will always be proud of, but other challenges lay ahead. all this writing had eaten into his valuable fishing time.
As a club angler Bob was always ahead of the game and there comes a point where you have to say that as much as you enjoy the whole scene, you really should be competing at a higher level. So he moved onto the open circuit and to be honest, was found wanting at the outset.
Okay, he won his share of opens and one or two pretty big events, but the draw was ever more important at that level. At club level you could make something of a bad peg because less experienced anglers would waste a flier or two. At open level that simply didn’t happen. You had to endure the bad runs and the only way to end them was to fish more often, which was expensive both financially and time-wise and Bob was lacking in both departments.
Team fishing wasn’t for him, either. Okay, he was a founder member of the Goldthorpe team that won back-to-back National Championships but the testosterone fuelled environment and the need to bank run, to attend endless meetings, to practise on rubbish venues and then to top it all, to fish for points and follow a team plan when you drew a flier was not something he can honestly say he enjoyed.
Team match fishing had to go, but the competitive streak didn’t. It came in really handy when Bob received an invitation to compete in the inaugural UK Masters Angling Championships that would be televised on Sky. The format was ingenious, take a 300 acre estate, ten lakes, a mile and a half of river and then invite 50 of the UK’s most successful anglers. A competition was run to see who caught the biggest carp, tench, bream, roach, pike, etc, of the season. Take the winners of the National Championships, various river championships and a few big names besides, then let them go head-to-head and decide who was the UK’s top angler.
The result was a field of very experienced, successful anglers who were let loose on the estate for 38 hours straight from Friday evening until Sunday morning. At stake were points. If you landed the biggest roach you got 25 points, the second biggest was awarded 24 points and so on down to one point. Nine species were on the agenda. All you had to do was catch as many of them as possible in them in the allotted time.
Trouble was you had to do it on foot carrying all your gear.
At the end of 38 gruelling hours the leader board told its sorry tale and the field was then cut to the top 25 anglers who would then fish a four-hour match for another 25 points. Whoever finished the event with the most points would be crowned the UK Masters Angling Champion, on TV, and be presented with a cheque for £5,000, which back in 1996 was a fair old chunk of cash.
Well, suffice to say Bob cocked up the first year, won the match mind, and then came storming back to be crowned the UK Masters Angling Champion in 1997. He won the match in 1999 as well, which was fitting as it was to be his final competitive match although he still hankers to fish an odd club event in the future at some point.
By now he was a published author. The Complete Book Of Legering completely sold out its initial print run of 6,000 copies but alas the publisher decided to pull out of the angling book market leaving him with a dilemma, “The title was still in demand but I could do nothing. By now I had made several videos (mostly stinkers!) and one, on feeder fishing, was a big hit in Poland of all places. The Poles were truly taken with the ‘wiggle-tip’. They wanted to reprint the book but it would have cost me more to buy permission from the publisher than the total sum on offer so that one hit the buffers. It was a totally frustrating time.”
Fishing abroad took his fancy, too, and he’s been fortunate to make fairly regular trips to America, Canada, Africa, India, Asia and Europe, “Lately I’ve been bitten by the mahseer bug and four trips in four years to various parts of India and Nepal haven’t produced any monsters but it’s been an experience I would not have missed for the world…”
Back in the Nineties, seduced by the glare of lights and TV cameras, making videos seemed a great idea but mostly Bob was hopeless in front of a camera and it took a week with Keith Arthur, Mickey Sheppard and his crew to realise he could actually do it quite well. But you can’t turn the clock back and your mistakes will haunt you for many years to come in Poundland and other ignominious outlets. What’s more, you don’t earn so much as a penny from your tormentors. On the positive side he did make a series of six programmes for a Humberside cable TV company and they went down really well, even if it was to a limited audience.
Today Bob is working the cameras again, but this time on both sides as both cameraman and presenter. Since the summer of 2008, with Stu Walker, he has created 4 volumes of ‘Barbel Days And Ways’ and 4 more of Caught In The Act. The results are pretty stunning and gained universal critical acclaim.
“My first columns were penned under Colin Dyson’s byline when he took ill.” Said Bob. “I wasn’t to know that he had cancer or that it was terminal. Colin wasn’t the kind of bloke who made a fuss. He just asked if I’d write the column for a while until he got better. It was typical of the man I had come to respect so much.”
“The Green Un gives me a platform to inspire club match anglers and each year I run a competition to crown a champion. By 2008 the payouts topped £8,000 which is pretty amazing for an event of its kind. We had great sponsorship thanks to Tony Flint at Climax Tackle and the competition keeps going from strength to strength. Over 250 anglers qualified to fish the semi final this year from which 20 section winners go through to the final. The 20-peg final costs nothing to enter but there’s a cool five grand up for grabs. How good is that?”
Roll forward 6 years and the football paper has died, like they all have thanks to the Internet, but the column was snatched up by the Sheffield Star newspaper, it never missed a week. That’s over 850 weeks in a row and counting – some going! All being well I’ll be celebrating a thousand consecutive columns in 2017.
The club match angler championship continues as strong as ever, too, and is now sponsored by Daiwa Sports. It’s good to put something back into the grass roots of the sport.
Currently Bob writes a monthly diary for Improve Your Coarse Fishing magazine, A weekly column for the Weekend Sport newspaper and contributes to the Daiwa web site. He’s a regular guest on Sky TV’s Tight Lines programme and having finally given up the day job (after 41 years) he’s concentrating more than ever on his angling exploits.
Long may it all continue.
The Complete Book Of Legering
The Coarse Fisherman review said, ‘Without doubt the best book ever written on the subject.’
Barrie Rickards wrote, ‘The best book ever written on legering… the sheer breadth of coverage is staggering. Whether you are a match angler or a specimen hunter, it’s all in there.’
With notices like that copies flew off the shelves and very quickly the first print run was exhausted. And then came a hammer blow. My publisher decided to withdraw from the angling book market and there was no chance of a second print run or a sequel. I was stuffed.
Later, and you might find this a little surreal, I was approached by a Polish publisher who wanted to release a Polish language version because, according to him, I was a big star in Poland! Not surprisingly it all sounded like a huge wind-up but that wasn’t the case. A video I had made some time previously had been dubbed into Polish and was selling really well over there. Yes, I am the man who introduced the Eastern Europeans to method feeder fishing!
The publisher offered a small fee in return for permission to publish my book (and you must bear in mind that their books sold for similar prices to our magazines). Unfortunately the fee required by my UK publisher would have put me in debt, so the project foundered.
Over the past 15 years I’ve lost count of how many letters, telephone calls and emails I’ve received asking if I have spare copies, when will it be reprinted, are you going to update it, and so on. I’ve even had offers to put the book on-line where customers might pay a fee to download it. And please bear in mind that these requests do not just originate in the UK. I’ve been contacted by anglers across Europe, in Russia and the United States.
The biggest trouble is, angling was undergoing massive changes. When I wrote the book the match scene was based around natural, or should I say traditional, venues like rivers, lakes, reservoirs, canals, drains and so on. Commercial fisheries as we know them today were in their infancy. Angling values were changing too. Fish care and handling, safe rigs and so on were pretty low on the angling agenda.
Clearly I needed to review the book, and in all honesty it soon became clear that a complete re-write was necessary. So whenever I had a bit of time to spare I would sit down and edit a chapter, or as it turned out, begin to write new chapters. Before I knew it the ‘new’ book was twice as long as the old one. And then I began to wonder whether it really was worth making so much effort when the book market was shrinking dramatically. It’s not uncommon for books to be published that have a print run of well under a thousand copies and these rarely sell-out and require a second edition.
I was also aware that the Tax Man and the VAT man would each want a cut. So would the publisher and the book seller, and you have to market the thing. Eventually I came to a decision that they’d all had one crack at the cherry and it didn’t exactly make me rich last time! A much more limited edition might even make me poor, so I thought bu**er it, I’ll give it away for nothing.
And that’s exactly what I’m going to do, a completely revised and updated version of my legering book will be made available here, exclusively, in chapter format. Just a chapter now and then until the whole thing is up on line. That way it will be available to all, young and old, rich or poor, English speaking or otherwise, for FREE!!!
The beauty of this is that the content can be expanded as time goes by and new legering techniques evolve. Imagine, your own living book; a book that never ends, that is never quite finished and one that you might even consider contributing to yourself.
Tales Of The Riverbank
In complete contrast you’ll find chapters from another book titled, ‘Tales From The Riverbank’. Bob used to write a column under the same heading for David Hall’s Coarse Fishing magazine way, way back. In this day and age it would be described as a blog. It chronicled his fishing life as he travelled around fishing with mates and rubbing shoulders with many an angler who were or went on to become household names. There were plenty who didn’t but what they all shared was a depth of character and that certain twinkle in their eyes. These were anglers who could fish a bit yet still knew how to laugh.
So, imagine someone’s ‘best of’ the blogs taken from a lifetime of blogs that describe the highs, lows and more than a few laugh out loud escapades gleaned from a varied and interesting fishing life. This is Bob Roberts’ compilation album of tales you will never have read about elsewhere.
Look out for the tales as they are released.
Is there more? Of course there is. You just need to go looking round the site to find everything. Enjoy!