Tuesday 28 May 2013


2/2 of perfect roach
Why don’t I go fishing more often? It’s a question I’m sure we all ask frequently in our busy lives because a day by the water is always so enjoyable whether we catch or not … and my last outing was no exception.

our view of the sunny Scillies from above our cabin
a happy crew
Sue and I, along with close friends Michael and Penny had just spent a week in a beachside cabin on the Scillies and despite an un-seasonal force ten gale and rain, we had enough sunshine to convince us we were on holiday. 

our cabin in a sea of flowers
The wild flowers were glorious and I even managed a few casts off the rocks outside the cabin, catching a little ballan wrasse on half a rubber bass lure tweaked between the kelp. They certainly fight with ‘attitude’ and I’ll be trying to repeat the trick off Dorset’s rocky shoreline before too long.

a bonnie ballan wrasse
On return I was really keen to catch my favourite quarry, big roach, so I arranged to meet an old pal at Sway Lakes for a catch up and hopefully a hook up too. Malcolm Swinfen informed me that we last fished together there ten years ago, a gathering that included Paul Hamilton and Chris Yates, along with Peter Elleray who sadly is no longer with us.

Robin in his element - the wilds of Patagonia
Only last week I lost one of my closest friends who I had shared many adventures with since childhood. We grew up together in the wilds. He was our best man at our wedding and I his and it served as a stark reminder that we should make every effort to share our days with friends as often as possible before it’s too late.

Malcolm concentrating on his precious float
Malcolm and I had kept in close touch on the phone but hadn’t fished together since Oct 2003 and judging by our results last week we should do it more often! I found priming roach close to the reeds in the half light of pre dawn … I was keen … and creeping down to the waters edge with a couple of pole sections I lowered a pellet in very gently, the float didn’t and I landed a splendid roach of 2/9. What a start!
polling station - coiled like a rusty spring
what a great start - a 2/9 first cast
Malcolm with a two - first of several
Malcolm arrived soon after and it wasn’t long before I was happy snapping a two pounder for him, followed by another cracker an hour later. He was fishing a pellet below a tiny crowquill he has treasured since 1972 would you believe and we had a bit of a crisis when he nearly lost it in an overhanging branch. The day was saved by my extending landing-net pole with weed-cutter attached.

you can't beat pole fishing short for ultimate sensitivity
Malcolm considered this a 'marvellous moment' and certainly the highlight of the day, despite catching more than ten roach over 1/8 with three two pounders the icing on the cake. I had ten big roach, the last one another two pounder, along with a feisty little tench, all on poled pellet. 

another biggie
It sure was a perfect day, for I left Malcolm still catching big roach, having decided by mid-afternoon that I had caught enough. We decided after that splendid result that we should fish together more often … and we will.
what a cracking roach

Thursday 9 May 2013


Charlie with a cracking roach
Charlie showing us older anglers how to do it
It’s easy to dismiss a child’s success in angling as beginner’s luck but I believe there is something more fundamental going on here that we more ‘mature’ anglers should take note of.

Bernard Venables' Crabtree' lean'
pike imagery at it's best

pure Crabtree as Ben fights a monster
It is wonderful when our young anglers catch good fish and when friend Jim sent me pics of his two boys, Charlie and Ben before the end of the river season, I felt it was an opportunity to explore the reasons why they were successful when we were struggling.

a cracking fat thirteen pounder from a small carrier for Ben
Jim happily blanking for roach

Jim works for the Environment Agency and along with several other friends I have working there, does everything possible for our rivers and fish life that tight government budgets allow. I know it is fashionable to knock the EA, as it is the NHS, but in the case of the work carried out from the Blandford HQ, criticism is inappropriate and unfair. If our government actually cared about our environment and did something instead of just talking about it then we would all be better off and so would our fish and other freshwater wildlife. Anyway, rant over.

a beautiful big brownie for Jim
Charlie and Ben have the first requirement to be successful and that is a knowledgeable Dad who is keen to take them out and help them catch. But more than that, both boys have enquiring minds and are prepared to try smaller bits of water in the Hampshire Avon water meadows that we ‘grown ups’ might overlook or dismiss.

Charlie trotting successfully for grayling
Secondly, have you noticed how you are often successful when first visiting a water but never quite as successful after that? It’s a tricky one as knowledge is meant to be helpful … and it’s essential when making wildlife films … but I for one suffer from a lack of open mindedness once I’ve visited a water and don’t think it through as thoroughly ever again. Your mind is already cluttered by past experience and so you are less likely to make a decision based on the conditions facing you at the time. You naturally tend to head for a swim where you have caught before when you should be at the other end of the lake or different stretch of river.

using a pin - good boy!
No such problem if you’re a beginner, you just do what comes naturally and catch! You are more inclined to explore and try different things and different places, so the lesson for me at least - “must try harder”!

the cue's for the show stretched into the street
… and now for something completely different. I’m certainly a beginner when it comes to giving talks and film shows, so Friday night saw me well out of my comfort zone. As those who’ve read this blog before, I decided to attempt a fund- raiser to help support the Dorset Wildlife Trust and their sterling work to restore our local gem of a chalk stream, the River Allen.

struggling with the lapel mic - it didn't work
if it can go wrong - talking about pumas instead of showing pumas
I booked the largest hall in Wimborne, a big projector, large speakers and twelve foot screen, then wondered if anyone would show up! In the event, thanks to tireless work by DWT staff, we filled the place and 310 folk contributed £2,000+ to the project funds. The auctioned pic. of Penny the Puma raised an impressive £230 and might have done even better if the DVD hadn’t failed to play after twenty minutes!
 heavy gear - no wonder I needed hip replacements
The audience had to put up with me rabbiting on about my lovely pussy cat instead but they didn’t seem to mind, especially as I was asked if I was ever near to getting eaten by her.

the lady winner of the portrait of Penny the Puma with DWT staff
I survived to tell the story … and survived the even greater ordeal of being in front of an audience, so I guess, if invited, I might even do it again, especially if the river will benefit from the effort everyone put in.

Our BAFTA award winning tiger film next - maybe?
two of our three cute cubs