Saturday, 23 February 2013

TERRY LAMPARD - A TRIBUTE - 1947 to 2013

What very sad news, the loss of such an inspiring, gentle and kind man - and like many of us no doubt, I find it difficult to believe that he isn't still out there on the river, waiting to pull off yet another awesome conjuring trick.

Terry's 7/4 River Stour chub
We all know that Terry  was a great angler but more than that, he was simply a lovely bloke, always full of fun even when he had his sights firmly set on a giant fish. 

Typical Terry - out there with a few of his many friends + big fish of course.

I was very fortunate to share experiences and favourite swims with Terry in the good old days when we were pursuing 3lb roach on the River Stour at Whitemill Bridge. He was always generous with his stories and optimistic about the prospects, even after we had both blanked, a familiar occurrence when hunting those elusive monsters … though of course, he blanked a lot less often than I did!

Virtually the only other angler I saw in those rock hard days was his very close friend Tim Norman, so I always felt honoured to be sharing the same challenges as these two wonderful blokes. Do read Terry's descriptions of those inspiring winter days on the Stour in his book ‘First Casts’ – as good a book on fishing as you are ever likely to read.

Terry paid Martin Bowler and I the honour of agreeing to help us with the filming of ‘Catching the Impossible’. We set him the challenge of catching a seven pound chub … certainly not ‘impossible’ for a man of his 'kaliber'!  After all, he had already caught so many he had lost count … and that is not a suggestion that he ever showed a hint of false modesty. He was just good at it!

But catching a seven pounder to order with the camera clunking about on the bank, well that is just a little more difficult. We enjoyed many happy hours together trying to hit the target and these even turned into days … but in the end of course his legendary perseverance paid off … as can be seen in the film clip from the series.

Then we did set him an impossible task, a three pound roach but from a river! Martin and I considered this to be the only truly impossible target in the series, the title just being a device to help us tell the story. Tim and Terry even doubted there were still any three pound roach left alive in the River Stour, let alone being able to catch one but they generously gave it a go and needless to say, Terry turned our dream into reality. It was one of the happiest moments in angling that you could ever imagine. 
a 3/5 river roach - impossible!
No doubt I’m not alone in thinking that everyone who ever met Terry will miss him deeply. What a lovely man.

We hope you’ll enjoy watching Terry doing what he did best - catching monsters. He’s probably still out there in a favourite swim, catching even bigger ones!

Monday, 18 February 2013



Maybe beautiful if painted by one of wildlife's leading artists.

Nearly 2lbs from the Avon and still alive.

It takes ten years for a prime roach like this to grow to 2lbs. It takes a cormorant two minutes to consume it. Roach are in big trouble because they are running out of time.

PREDATION is a provocative word these days, even if it is a fundamental part of any healthy ecosystem. Perhaps our sometimes hostile attitude stems back to ancient times when predators used to eat us!
The eyes might have it but it's the nose that finds the prey.
I’ve filmed more than enough predators that could have eaten me if I hadn’t been paying attention but I loved them because they create dramatic stories for TV audiences.

A male tiger - big enough!

Tigers still consider humans legitimate prey, though this large male was not killed for eating one of us. A competing male had moved into the territory where we were filming, killed this tiger then ‘our’ female, who died trying to defend her cubs from him. He eventually killed a local who was gathering wood in the forest.

Makes the heart miss a beat c. Stanley Breeden

A mountain lion or puma - one eat a fisherman just after I'd finished filming c. Laurie Campbell
Apart from tigers, mountain lions kill one or two of us most years, grizzly bears likewise. There are always polar bears that threaten adventurous travellers, crocs can be deadly and if we are to believe some TV programmes, even fish have a nibble once in a while. But these are the freak show exceptions. 
Even a dentist might flinch at this mouthful c. Carl Englander

The truth is that it’s a dog eat dog world out in the wild and there is always something eating something else. We all know that pike eat perch and perch eat roach and roach eat little critters and some of us were hostile when fish eating zander where introduced to the UK, even leading to culling ... and in the bad old days we were  even encouraged to kill pike, so in spite of our possible hostility, predators are a natural part of our everyday life by the water.

A gripping story c. Jonathan Scott

At risk of stating the bleeding obvious, predators need prey and prey need predators, otherwise there wouldn’t be enough food to go round. In most healthy ecosystems, it’s the prey that control the predators … for without prey, the predators would starve and die. 

One classic and familiar relationship is the lions and wildebeast in the Serengeti. 

Leap of faith c. Jonathan Scott

Without the lions and crocs reducing their numbers, the herds would soon run out of grass and conversely, if the wildebeast fail to complete their migration to Kenya, the lions die.

Quenching your thirst comes at a price c. Deeble and Stone

Tempers flare when food is scarce c. Jonathan Scott

Problems arise when the balance between predator and prey is lost and that is exactly what is now happening in our rivers and lakes. Predators have eaten so many fish that some species like roach are in serious decline and this becomes even more critical when the prey species are so low on wildlife enthusiasts radar that they don’t even notice. 

Avon roach at Britford.
Fish are the great ‘unseen’ in our countryside - literally out of sight, out of mind. It’s only anglers who are aware of them and care about them and so it’s up to us to do something when the predator/prey relationship goes wrong.

They sometimes look quite cute?!

Ringing recoveries show where the cormorants are coming from.
Most anglers are now aware of just how much damage the winter invasion of between 20 to 30,000 cormorants from the continent do to our fish life and if scientists are correct when they say that each cormorant requires about a pound of fish each day to just survive, [not to raise young], then that means that throughout the winter, 20,000lbs of fish are removed from our waters every day.  

That deadly hooked beak.
So in four months, cormorants eat more fish than the largest fish farm in Europe produces in a year! This is surely unsustainable and must be damaging our biodiversity and this is exactly what has happened.

As the British Trust for Ornithology graph shows, cormorant inland breeding numbers have also increased from nil in 1980 to 2096 pairs in 2005, so there is no escape from the plunder, even in summer.

All of the above are the ones that survived the attacks.
The Hampshire Avon was once famous for it’s thriving roach populations but two recent Environment Agency Surveys shows just how dramatic the decline has been since the increase in cormorant predation. 

Missing millions from the Hampshire Avon.
The graph indicates roach presence in yellow and highlights the almost complete absence of them from the middle reaches of the river, historically their stronghold. Not content to see the river die, a group of us passionate roach anglers, led by Trevor Harrop and Budgie Price of the Avon Roach Project wrote a petition ‘Biodiversity in Danger’, raised 16,000 signatures and with the Angling Trust now supporting us, delivered the petiton to the Minister, Richard Benyon.

As a result of this and pressure from the Angling Trust, a  government review into the cormorant problem has been carried out by DEFRA. We are hoping the minister will place the cormorant on the general license, thus enabling river keepers to protect their fisheries more easily when and if necessary. We are expecting a decision in the next few weeks.

Decline of roach catches on the Dorset Stour.

Some of the evidence of declines put forward to the review group is alarming. For instance, I compiled this summary of the dramatic fall off in catches at the once famous roach fishery on the Dorset Stour at Wimborne, based on ten years of match results.

Cormorant increases in Germany.

Recent scientific reports from Europe show the extremely rapid increase in cormorants there … and they will be heading our way sometime soon. Cormorants are a big problem in Europe but it’s not clear why they have reached these epidemic proportions.

If you add all the other threats to our rivers … abstraction, pollution, siltation, American signal crayfish eating the fish eggs, hydro schemes, loss of habitat and not least climate chaos leading to dramatic floods or drought, then fish life has never had it so bad … and don’t blame the Environment Agency. They are doing everything they can to help our fish populations and have achieved impressive results in our neck of the woods. Alas, recent cuts in funding is limiting their ambition.

Everything in nature is complex and I bet it isn't only the cormorants that are to blame for the declines. Apart from those problems listed above, there are chemicals from trout farms and cress beds and even more important I believe, the loss of the refuge and nursery areas provided by the derelict water meadow carrier systems. Then if you add us humans to the equation the solutions become almost impossible. Suggestions by the RSPB that we should leave tree cover or build fish refuges in rivers are sensible if such structures weren’t removed by Natural England to provide better habitat for wading birds or by the EA to alleviate the risk of flooding. We humans have done so much to destroy our wildlife that it is no longer an option to do nothing.

Article in recent issue of BBC Wildlife.

I recently contributed to an article in BBC Wildlife ‘Licence to Cull?’ about perceived ‘troublesome’ species like mink, wild boar, deer, ruddy duck, badgers, grey squirrels, corvids, even hedghogs and yes, cormorants.

Predator eats predator - perch for breakfast c. Steve Allen
During his research, James Fair, a very experienced senior editor wrote that ‘in any discussion of culling, it’s noticeable that birds tend to have more friends than mammals’. So were does that leave our fish – with no friends at all? Us anglers need to tell the world what is happening out there, to work with the Wildlife Trusts and the RSPB, to get them to listen to our cries of help. If most of the wildlife protection organisations weren't so ignorant about fish,  admitted that there is a problem and stopped being in denial then our task of finding solutions might just be possible.

Another perch bites the dust c. Brian Bevan
I suspect there is a hint of 'anti-angling' in some organisations and if so, then it's up to us to tell them all the good work we do for our rivers and lakes. Through our rod licences and voluntary help we put at least twenty five million pounds back into the environment and all wildlife benefits from our care and attention. Without us there will be even fewer fish and as a result, fish eating birds and mammals will suffer. 

More than a mouthful of pike for this great-crested grebe.

So rise to the challenge and involve yourself with your local wildlife trust like I have. It doesn't take long to tell them about how important fish life is to their treasured freshwater ecosystems and what us anglers are doing to help. We all need to work together on behalf of our wildlife and that includes fish.

Big bill.

What every one of us can do is join the Angling Trust and the Salmon and Trout Association so at least our combined voices can be heard in the corridors of power. It helped us to progress with the cormorant problem so lets hope the Minister comes up with a solution that allows our fish stocks to start making a recovery. We are up against a million RSPB members but there are more of us than them, so just join us and get your voice heard. Membership costs very little but the results can be impressive :

Nearly a Test two for Martin.  

Below is a film I made with the Avon Roach Project and Martin Salter for the Angling Trust, ‘Action on Cormorants - Protect Our Fish' :

Saturday, 9 February 2013


A midsummers dawn - simply the best time to be alive. The longest day had just passed and there was everything to look forward to as we headed towards the best of the years river fishing … but not yet.

There is one species of fish that I have an even greater passion for than roach and that’s rudd. Growing up in the Fens at Ely on the Gt.Ouse and enjoying family holidays on the Norfolk Broads in the late 50's, I grew to love the gorgeous, golden beauties and even today the mere thought of them gets me excited.

Like many of my generation, I was inspired by Bernard Venables' book, 'Mr. Crabtree Goes Fishing' and still enjoy going down memory lane when looking at my battered copy. It's pleasing that the great man is being honoured with a TV series and new version of the book right now.

I was keen to 'live the dream', convinced Mum and Dad that I just had to visit the Broads and when finally there, carefully followed Bernard's lessons to Peter.

I only caught small ones when using the anchored bread trick, but remembered to keep my little boat well away from a large shoal I'd found in a remote corner of Hickling Broad.

I really was 'living the dream'

In the evening I rowed back to them in my little dinghy and remembering to keep well away, made a long cast to the reed edge with bread flake under a stubby waggler. I caught 22 of them before it was too dark to see. The smallest weighed 1/10 and ten of them were over 2lbs, with the best going 2/5 and 2/3. I’ve never really recovered. 

Sorry about the bobble hat but I was only sixteen
With so many happy memories still fresh in my angling memory bank I had to return, so this last two years I’ve made a pilgrimage back to the Fens, exploring the rivers, drains and lakes in the hope of beating my PB of 2/9, a figure I’ve managed to equal in five different waters, including Ireland … one day I might beat it … one day?

red maggots lured them in front of the camera
2/11 and 2/9 - a perfect brace

I had my chance when filming 'Catching the Impossible' with Martin Bowler, a shoal of 14 large rudd swimming beside us in the crystal clear water. I had to film the underwater shots first, then Martin had to catch a couple for the camera before it was my turn. Sadly, my turn never arrived because the shoal just drifted away ... one day ... one day.

 tranquil tench time
In 2011 I tried the River Cam and the drains and lodes, the first time I had fished them for fifty years. Back then, us energetic schoolboys used to cycle over there from Ely, catch rudd and then cycle all the way back. Funny how the wind was always against us whatever direction we were travelling! It’s still a wonderful place, 'the land of sky’, as inspiring as ever and even better now than in my childhood. 

The Land of Sky
c. Danny Green
c. Richard Brooks
Wicken Fen didn’t have breeding marsh harriers and bearded tits then but it does now. I spent as much time birding as I did fishing, harriers regularly drifting over cruisers on the Cam, the occupants blissfully unaware poor souls. In 2011, I managed rudd to 2/4 so a return to the Fens was inked into the diary, especially as all the  locals like Chris Hammond had made me very welcome.

Fish don't get any more beautiful do they?

Yes, that is a swing tip - very effective too
Last year, with help and advice from Graham Tweed – thanks Graham – President and Sec. of CFPAS – enjoyable company on the bank too – I decided to try Milton Country Park, a complex of crystal clear weedy lakes … classic rudd country. Friend Chris said he thought the decision was a bit ‘left field’ but ‘it seemed like a good idea at the time’! I picked the lake with the biggest ones of course and started well, the first rudd going a respectable 1/9. [No picture as it had two ugly cormorant slashes across it’s body]. However, I never managed another much over a pound and I blamed the weather. Strong wind and heavy rain battered into my face all week, the mud getting deeper and the rats more numerous.

I did enjoy the challenge though, especially when of all things, a marsh harrier hunted a nearby reedbed. It was such a rare bird when I grew up in the 50’s, restricted to just three surviving pairs but here it was now, floating over houses by the A14 in Cambridge – wonderful. Just goes to prove the cliché that there’s more to fishing than catching fish. It also proved that not all is gloom and doom out there in the wild.

I did catch plenty of small rudd, some splendid tench to 6lbs or so and several ancient, wild looking bream. They certainly were wild when hooked, one clearing the water by a good two feet. They all weighed about five pounds, their impressive bids for freedom making up for their lack of size, a highlight of the trip.

Believe me, it really did fight

The low point came at the end when the rats got to me ; a dose of what felt like Wiel’s desease or leptospirosis, the symptoms matching perfectly. I felt so awful I delayed driving home for a day. Hospital blood tests and stomach analysis were inconclusive but it took me three weeks to recover. Those big rudd still beckon though ; I saw them out there.