Friday, 13 September 2013


The 13th September ’52 is the famous day when Richard Walker caught the 44lb record carp from Redmire Pool.

the series launch on BBC 2 changed to Sept 13th 
The 13th September ’93 is the day when BBC 2 first showed “A Passion for Angling”.  Had Isaac arranged some ‘harmonic convergence’?

The response to ‘Passion’ exceeded everyone’s expectations, especially the BBC and my favourite comment from a viewer after the first episode reads :

“I don’t fish, I don’t even like fishing but I’m hooked”.

The opinions of the media since that first showing make heart-warming reading :

Chris on the famous dam at Redmire
“The greatest fishing series ever made … A Passion for Angling has become fishing’s modern day icon” Angling Times.

 “The films are unique, not just for the stunning photography but also for their humour” The Independent.

“hilarious – a work of pure genius – the first time the joy of fishing has been captured on film”  David Hall.

“They’re the best that’s ever been produced. There are not enough superlatives to truthfully describe ‘A Passion for Angling’. It’s that good” Improve Your Coarse Fishing.

just the three of us to create 6 x 50 min. films
Whether these opinions still hold is certainly not for us to say, though many still claim that ‘Passion’ has never been bettered, which after twenty years is pretty amazing. TV programmes traditionally have a short life so the fact that it’s still showing and still sells well as a DVD in a crowded market place is difficult to believe. We hope it will survive another decade!

our symbol - but the ospreys caught more than us in Scotland
When first shown, we had a primetime slot on Sunday evenings and the viewing figures climbed rapidly each week, with many millions watching Chris and Bob’s adventures around Britain’s waterways.  Much admired, many claim it did a lot to enhance the reputation of angling and fishermen.

So successful was it that when the film showings were complete the BBC pleaded with me to make another series. However, we felt we had said what we could about the magic of angling and I don’t regret refusing to do the same again … and neither did Chris!

The BBC subsequently showed the series of six 50min films at least five times before the Discovery Channel bought the UK rights and showed it hundreds of times, a just reward perhaps after a tough journey creating the films ... and writing the book to go with it too. [Please excuse the poor quality of the photos I've lifted from the book ; over time the originals have evaporated.]

the book was in the best seller lists for weeks
We had started shooting the series at Redmire on June 14th 1989, [no, we didn’t cast in until the 16th], so it had taken us the best part of four and a half years to shoot, edit, write and add all the sound tracks. This was largely because I had to keep on taking time out to do my day job making wildlife films because without it we wouldn’t have had the finance to complete each film. We had received half the production costs from the BBC, the other half I had to find myself and as the total cost was about £440,000 I had to work hard between Passion trips … [and for those who imagine we got rich on the proceeds of Passion’s success, it took me 12 years to recover my investment … don’t ask why!]

in the punt at Redmire
Folk sometimes ask me why I think it is successful and shooting it on film was one of the advantages because the quality is so good. Mind you, it also added greatly to the cost.

There is no doubt that without Bob and Chris’s determination, patience, skill, ideas and hard work the series would not have got off the ground.

dear friend Bernard Cribbins signing copies of the book
Add to that Bernard Cribbins’ delightful way of telling a story and Jennie Musket’s wonderful music and you are somewhere towards finding an answer, though just the beauty of the British countryside and it’s wildlife, along with the inherent magic of fishing means you’re onto a potential winner without even trying. The script too had its’ moments, written largely by yours truly with help from Chris, along with lots of ad libs from our intrepid anglers.

tree jump impression illustrated by Rodger
artist and friend Rodger McPhail
Some of the sequences that enthusiasts are always reminding me of are the carp catch from out of the tree at Redmire …

Bob’s autumn catch of ten huge roach on the Avon 
the famous H.Avon roach catch - ten over 2lbs!

Bob's beautiful brace
and the brace of 20lb pike in the winter film on the Kennet.

Chris and Pete watching barbel
My favourites are perhaps more subtle : the kingfisher magically landing on the rod held by young Peter when barbel fishing with Chris on the Avon ... and the camera was running when it happened too.
Pete with a chunky six pounder
Pete doing Huckleberry Fin impressions

dear Bernard with a colourful perch
Our childhood inspiration through the pages of "Mr.Crabtree Goes Fishing", author and artist Bernard Venables catching perch.

scarecrow in Redmire shallows
a gudgeon match in Redmire’s dawn mist along with the scarecrow gag and most unlikely of all from a fishing point of view …

Kim with giant salmon caught to order - impressive

lovely friend Kim on the Tweed catching a 20lb salmon to order.

eccentric nonsense
Then there was the crazy umbrellas cycled to a lake in the rain …

barn owl treat
a barn owl that nearly landed on Chris’s hat 

Bob about to lose another salmon
Bob and Chris losing salmon after salmon on a spate river in the Scottish Highlands and perhaps most memorable of them all …

Alex doing the business - he's 25 now!
Chris’s son Alex fishing in the village pond and shouting excitedly to camera “I’ve caught a fish”!

… and I adore the Richard Walker quote too, when he wrote lovingly of the magic of carp fishing dawns : “Our long vigil had begun. It continued until daybreak and after. The sun rose deep orange, it’s beams making the lake steam. Nothing moved. I was lost in a quiet world of grey and green and gold”.

the actual dawn scene for the Walker sequence
Lovely words … and when spoken eloquently by Chris Sandford, illustrated with a perfect misty sunrise over the lake of monsters and accompanied by Jennie’s evocative music, a sense of magic suddenly appears out of the screen … and having just looked at it again, it still works after all these years.

There was lots of laughter too. We wanted to mark June 16th with a rocket so on the stroke of midnight we fired a big one up into the sky. Unfortunately it hit a branch of the tree above us, came back strait towards us and fizzed around frighteningly on the ground as we scattered into the night.

ice cold but stunningly beautiful Kennet
We would play Frisbee to relieve the tension of trying to catch, especially curving it skilfully through trees … or back and forth over the partly frozen Kennet. If you failed to clear the river, you were the one who had to wade into the icy water to retrieve it.

Boilie wars with catapults was a painful version of paint-balling ; we all had the bruises to prove it but best of all maybe was when Bob fell into a ditch on his bike. It would have been rude not to laugh, especially as I was filming him at the time.

Things went wrong as well. Bob and I had a trial run at Chew Valley Lake to see if we could catch big perch and had loads of three pounders.

Then Chris brought Bernard Venables along to shoot the sequence and non of us could even catch a cold. 

the rehearsal went well
We caught too many fish as well. When we set out in mid June 1989, [nearly 25yrs ago!] our original plan was to make just one half hour film on Redmire. However, using a whole range of techniques, Chris and Bob caught four twenty pound plus carp and along with all the other elements that make a good story, there was no way they could be edited into one half hour film. So the idea of the series of six films was born and when asked if they agreed, Bob and Chris said yes, a decision that, four years later was wearing a bit thin!

Chris with big grass snake
I’ll always treasure opinions from the likes of friend Mr.Yates himself:

“What I’m particularly proud of is that it helps non-anglers, the wives and girlfriends to understand why we have to go fishing”.

… and John Wilson : “includes everything I hold dear in fishing”.

…and someone responding to my blog recently : “A Passion for Angling is how you want your next fishing trip to be … but it never is”.

… and a last word from me …
battered camera and operator

In the twenty years since ‘Passions’ first showing, angling seems to have become increasingly obsessed with what we catch and how big it is … and maybe one of the reasons the series is a success is that it stressed this simple truth about angling …

“It’s not just about how to catch … it’s about how to enjoy”
still trying to weave some magic

… and I for one believe that we need to remind ourselves that this is the most important element in any day by the waterside, otherwise, what’s the point.
DVD still available via our website -


  1. Many happy returns. I replied in another post but forgot to say how beautifully made and filmed the entire series is. The production values are astonishing. It just oozes quality. Like you say, the fact it was shot in film is hugely important, I think. So thank you for your time, dedication, skill and money. It was worth every penny.

    Also, another vivid memory I have is that no one in our family fished but we watched the series together as a family. My Dad had fished as a child a few times. My Mum had/has no interest in fish or fishing. My siblings and I had never fished before but it was something we all enjoyed and watched together.

    Mum controlled the remote too so it wouldn't have stayed on long if it wasn't any good!

  2. I can't even describe how much I love this series and how deeply it touched me as a young lad in the early 90s when I was fortunate enough to come across it. This and Chris Yates' Casting at the Sun have arguably done more to shape my philosophy on nature and conservation and how to enjoy life and of course angling then anything else. A belated happy anniversary.

  3. PFA was the reason for me getting back into angling after a long lay off. it was fishing as i knew when i was a kid and it is captured brilliantly in the series. it really is an angling classic along with issac waltons book, mr crabtree, nad i cant ever see it being betterd although i think hugh`s other film with chris yates " caught in time " could be best described as the 7th episode of PFA.
    i hope one day hugh and chris will finish the second film.