Friday, 24 October 2014

A Passion for Angling Newsletter - 2014

the terrible trio - Bob, Chris and Hugh with a brace of monster roach
Amazing really, for twenty one years after ‘Passion’ was first aired on BBC2 [Sept 1993] it is still going strong. Most TV programmes are dead in the water after a year or two but thanks to the fact that many of you still think these films are the best series of fishing programmes ever made, Bob and Chris's adventures live on. We started filming in 1989 so as my wife Sue says ‘everything is a long time ago’!

Four and a half years in the making, we all took a lot of trouble to make the six films as well as we could and we are constantly grateful, even surprised that you think we made some good decisions.

The BBC series 'Kingdom of the Ice Bear' was a  big hit and won us an amazing six Academy Award nominations
Like all creative endeavours, making films is an inexact art, there is no right or wrong … which is probably why I was able to earn a living making wildlife films! I have made over sixty now, for all the worlds major TV companies, so I guess I got some of it right. Whatever the truth, it was a privilege to go to so many wonderful wild and remote places to share my life with charismatic animals and meet so many great guys and gals.

I’m still trying to support the invaluable work of Dorset Wildlife Trust, the Salmon and Trout Association and Angling Trust by making films for them. Our rivers are in crisis and need all the help we can give them, so education is one way of making people aware of what they can do to help. However, when it comes to volunteering, Sue is trying to teach me to say no!

freezing feline grace - a snow leopard high up in the Himalayas
I was once super fit but my body is creeking  now, so much of it hurts, the price of chasing pussy cats in the mountains and sitting in freezing cold and wet hides. But given the chance, I’d do it all again. 
filming pumas in the Andes Mountains

our star puma, named Penny after an old friend ... ace photographer Laurie Campell captured this magic moment
Having two new hips is brilliant, so I won’t hear a word said against the NHS. Much of the rest of me is painful … as they say, ‘if it doesn’t hurt it doesn’t work’ so I have a season ticket with my physiotherapist Vicky. I’m retiring bit by bit, trying to do less work and a lot more play and fighting back by walking the beauty spots of Dorset with Sue, searching our local river banks and digging our patch.

our lovely garden with it's otter pond. We used to have fish in it!
Sue and I have a big garden, it seems too big on some days, so that keeps us fit and healthy. Then she has lots of friends and hobbies and I have fishing and birding … so there are never enough days in the week.

My fishing this year has been remarkable, for I have been lucky enough to catch four PB’s as anglers call them … meaning the biggest of a species in a lifetime of trying … and after sixty years of dangling a worm in the water some of the species I concentrate on take some beating.

simply beautiful creatures
Only yesterday I caught my biggest ever barbel … but as I seldom fish for them – 'why not' I always think when I have such golden beauties on the bank, landing a PB wasn’t difficult. It was only 11lb 2ozs, not big as barbel go but I was delighted to see such a lovely fish, so much so that I took no proper pictures in order to return it immediately to the river Avon.

our son Pete with his Yates inspired barbel

More remarkable was the fact that it came from a swim just thirty yards downstream of where Chris Yates and young Peter caught a barbel in the first programme of ‘A Passion for Angling’. It’s called ’Childhood Dreams’ and catching a barbel will always remain a dream, a happy one.

a first Wye barbel for Mr.Yates - we had a splendid day and he was very happy with the result
Just two weeks ago I was fishing with Chris on the River Wye and he caught his first ever Wye barbel … only 7+lbs but a beautiful fish in a glorious corner of our countryside.

a PB roach of 3/5 from Sway Lakes - not on a bolt rig either

I am first and foremost a roach and rudd angler so was delighted in April when I beat my ‘best ever’ roach by an ounce, all 3lb 5ozs of silver beauty.

While tenching in May I fluked a PB carp of 21lb 9oz but being a 'nuisance fish' when tench fishing it doesn't count ... and it had two carp rigs in it's mouth so had broken two anglers prior to my lucky landing. As it's only my second twenty pounder you will realise that I am no carp angler ... and if I do fish for them, it is only when stalking in the margins, an exciting branch of our glorious sport. The idea of bolt rigging and waiting for them to hook themselves when you are asleep is not for me. The bite and when to strike is the essence of angling ... but whatever turns you on.

an old warrior but fit enough to break the previous two would be captors
On a memorable day in July I fulfilled a fifty five year old quest to catch a rudd of over three pounds. At 3lb 9ozs it was a true monster and I still can’t believe I was lucky enough to see it slurp down my large piece of floating bread. It was raining at the time so no proper pics, especially as I wanted to release this golden jewel as quickly as possible.

my monster rudd - I couldn't believe it's size so had to weigh it twice on different scales to be sure I wasn't dreaming
If you are looking at our PFA website ... ... you will notice that we are giving away copies of ‘Catching the Impossible’ [just postage to pay] when you purchase the ‘Passion’ DVD. It was written by Martin Bowler and myself and charts an exciting journey through Britain in search of monster fish., accompanied at times by the legendary Bernard Cribbins.

Bernard being as big a star as ever ... a twenty plus pike to order
We filmed it all for Ch 4, making nine one hour films and you can read more about it and where to purchase the DVD’s and book on our ‘Catching’ website :

it's a lovely book - free with the PFA DVD too
Some also claim  ‘Impossible’ to be better even than ‘Passion’, others disagree ; you’ll have to decide yourselves. Incidentally, we planned to catch a 3lb rudd for the series but that did prove impossible!

Sue sends out the DVD and books pretty much every day so please keep the orders coming in ...
and please give us a chance to get the orders to you in time for Christmas. Receiving them with only days to go just doesn't work!  Do have a good one and a really enjoyable 2015 … already ; where does the time go?!

If you want to read more about our year and conservation issues, please continue to visit this blog … we have had 67,000 views already so some of you obviously have time to waste … and I'll try to keep the words and pics rolling in ... when I'm not out fishing or filming.

Here’s wishing you all a great year … and here’s hoping we have as warm a summer as this last one … be lucky ... Hugh and Sue.
happy birding in the Hebrides ... and sipping malt whisky!

Saturday, 11 October 2014


what an inviting watery world
Yes, I realise that most of you know this already but isn’t the Wye a truly beautiful river.

rolling meat - eat your heart out Mr.Walton
I filmed Chris and Bob fishing for salmon in the upper reaches more than twenty years ago for ‘A Passion for Angling’ but I haven’t been back since and neither has Chris. So when Martin Bowler invited us to join him a couple or more weeks ago we jumped at the chance.

Martin had to be there because two very generous anglers had paid silly money to be guided for the day by Martin, probably not so silly money! and all proceeds were going to the Walk the Walk breast cancer charity.

Auction winners Jake and Tim had both fished for Wye barbel several  times before but were still delighted to make contact with the river again and catch eight barbel, no doubt helped by Martin’s cunning adjustments to their rigs. After a record low summers rainfall and a river running on it’s bones, such little details as twiddling with the leader material and length can make all the difference, just like the increase of as little as an inch in depth can make a difference when roach fishing.

ace cameraman - and is Chris about to kiss his feet?
Martin was to be on hand guiding and photographing events for Jake and Tim and don’t you think the one he took of me in the misty dawn is an absolute classic, one for me to treasure when I can no longer stagger into the wilds.
my first cast and a day to treasure - a classic image by Mr.Bowler

His new book ‘Totally Immersed’ is full of wonderful images, especially those of our favourite quarry taken below the surface. I probably know better than most how difficult most of those images were to capture and I’m full of admiration for the effort Martin put in to make it happen. I’ve had a sneak preview of some of the chapters because Martin gave me the privilege of asking me to write the forward. But that doesn’t mean I have to be kind to him ; it is simply a stunning book. It’s a diary of his fishing adventures during this last year but this is no ordinary diary, not just because of the pictures but because he catches more in a year than most of us can hope to catch in a lifetime. He certainly can fish a bit that bloke Bowler.

fantastic book - go buy it - you'll be impressed
Being a comparative barbel novice I naturally followed Martin’s guidance, swung out a Method feeder and boilie on a short hooklength and got lucky on virtually my first cast. I was chuffed to see my first Wye barbel in the flesh, a golden bar of muscle glowing warmly in the sunshine. A chub quickly followed but then I missed a barbel ‘twitch’ as I took a picture of Chris upstream, the rod clattering noisily across the rocks. As dear Peter Stone strictly instructed ‘always hold the rod’. I like the picture I took of Chris though …

Chris barbelling in this glorious sylvan setting
Once the magic of the misty dawn had melted away, Chris and I retreated to the van for a bacon butty and a cuppa, then suitably fortified, we sat together for some relaxing social fishing, leaving the cares of the world far behind. We agreed that the river was as beautiful a place to fish as anywhere on our planet, ravens cronking above, buzzards circling and kingfishers fizzing past. As the Passion for Angling script said, ‘there’s more to angling than catching fish’.

only average but well pleased with this scrapper
But we did catch barbel, my method feeder producing a result almost immediately, followed by a couple of chub. Chris rolled meat through the slick of bait running downstream from my casts but without  the desired result so I insisted on him using my rig in the hope he could connect with a barbus on my carbon stick. It wasn’t long before he did but he didn’t appear to trust my knots … very wise … as he made little impression on what was proving to be a feisty adversary. Still fighting deep in mid river I encouraged him to put his back into the battle but the barbel continued to strip line. Eventually Chris did start to win and we could then see why he was struggling ; the fish was twice the size of mine … of course! I did the honours with the net and it was warm handshakes with the victor.

Chris with his first Wye barbel - he's a happy chappy
This was Chris’s first ever barbel from this glorious river and he was suitably chuffed. We agreed that we enjoyed our fishing there as much as we ever have, the numerous bites and warm sun on our backs saw to that. 

Chris releasing his bar of gold
Chris went back to his vintage cane after messing with my modern Drennan rod and promptly lost a proper one, the big barbel staying deep for several minutes before shedding the hook. He has a score to settle so we’re hoping Martin will invite us back – soon!
the big one fell off - as they do!