Tuesday 31 December 2013


Chris concentrating on stripy dreams

You can’t beat sharing a day out in our beautiful countryside with good friends and I’ve been privileged to enjoy the company of many pals during this last year. So I thought it would be fun on this final day of the year to scroll through my diary of events and show their smiling faces … mine too if I’ve caught anything.

a perfect cup of Kelly Kettle tea
Mr.Yates and I spent many happy hours trying to catch perch on the River Stour, in between tea drinking and watching otters … but my best perch came from Sway Lakes when roach fishing.

a beautiful big perch 

Apart from Chris, my regular fishing partner is Trevor Harrop of Avon Roach Project fame. We try to get out for a day once a week but the realities of life mean that we only ever manage a few of the outings we hope for. Having said that, we always enjoy the banter and camaraderie, fish or no fish and though we did catch our share, that cliché I mentioned in my last post, “there’s more to fishing than catching fish” is never truer than when out with a good friend.
Trevor doing what he does best - trotting a float for roach
I was doing the same but only caught a bream

Jim's always smiling, even when blanking!
Whenever he had time off from the EA, our friend Jim Wreglesworth would join our happy gathering. He has two lads and is brilliant at encouraging them to go fishing. They love it and often show Jim how it should be done.

Charlie with River Ebble  grayling
a carrier caught pike for Ben
Charlie's big roach from a small stream
We must all try to invest in our children and encourage them to care for our wildlife and countryside in the hope that they become our future conservationists. Our rivers need all the help they can get and Jim is certainly doing his bit.
a splendid brownie for Jim

filming Matthew Wright on the Wylye
Avoiding work whenever possible didn’t always succeed and I ended up doing rather too much as usual, though I appreciate the chance to try to help our rivers survive the many threats they face. I made a film for the S&TA on their legal challenge to the government for not looking after our chalk streams properly.
Matthew with S&TA's CEO Paul Knight and Head of Science, Dr. Janina Grey

I also worked with the Dorset Wildlife Trust in trying to raise the profile of our lovely local river, the Allen, one of the finest chalk streams in the country. I made another film about it and gave several talks to raise the profile of the river and it’s fish life … and against my better judgement, ran two fund raising film shows on behalf of the Trust so that more habitat enhancement and protection could be achieved for the river’s wildlife.

I’m shy, so standing up in front of three hundred people [twice] is more frightening than facing an angry tiger … but thanks to DWT’s help and  the many generous supporters, we raised more than £4,000, so I guess it was worth the effort.

With publicity for our beleaguered rivers in mind, I did a long interview for the Angling Times, filmed for their website, along with another one for the BBC which went worldwide, so I was trying to get the message across to as many folk as possible, something I failed to do when filmed by the BBC for a major wildlife series. As I mentioned in my previous post, my warnings hit the cutting room floor, so maybe we need to shoot the messenger! At least I got to meet Ellie Harrison ; what a lovely lady.

Enough about work for one year. Mr.Yates is a keen supporter of our local football team, Southampton and one of my best fishing pals is Gerry Higham, a lifelong supporter of Man.U … along with being a generous supporter of the Avon Roach Project … so Chris and I were kindly invited up to Old Trafford for the match between our two teams, [I for the second time this year].
three great men?!

in the theatre of dreams - we came away with a point too
Gerry with a fat chub
Yates knows a thing or two about chubbing
We also fitted in a bit of fishing on the River Dane and were joined by ‘A Passion for Angling” fan Tommy. 

carp angler Tommy caught his first ever barbel on his first ever try at river fishing! 
We all caught fish and we shared the points at the football too, so we were all happy apart from Gerry who was sad to loose two points to us southern softies. I took him crucian fishing down here in the summer in recognition of his kindness and luckily delivered him his first ever crucian over a pound, a cracker of 2.8, so we were all happy.
Gerry with a cracking crucian

the Scillies are glorious - our little island of Brhyer from a hilltop on Tresco
our happy foursome - we go back almost to childhood
May saw Sue and I enjoying the lovely sunshine on the Scillies with long time friends, Michael and Penny and in between lots of walking and birding I managed a cast or two for a wrasse. What bonnie fish.

Then with my friend for life, wife Sue, enjoyed walking some of the most beautiful spots in sunny Dorset.

the views of the Jurassic Coast from Golden Cap are wonderful
dreaming about fish soup in Lyme Regis
Come June 16th I had to abandon her for other friends! Crucians, roach, tench and mullet filled our heads and landing nets and we were smiling all the way home.

Angler's Mail portrait by Gary Newman
first day bar of gold
nothing like a risky swim if you have dodgy tackle
a perfect summer fish
Trev happily crucian missing
computer guru Chris Wild with a PB golden tench
celebrating the start of the season - why are these party pictures always blurred?

long time friend Malcolm with a biggie
a perfect Sway two pounder
a welcome round the door when I eventually returned - but not for long
countless mullet swirl before sunrise but you can't catch them!
The summer sun burnt down from a cloudless sky and many days were spent with friends, drifting Christchurch Harbour for roach and mullet. If a mullet grabbed the bait offered on roach tackle, the fear of a broken rod was very acute.
another battler for a happy Steve
pre wedding party with Ollie and Rachel on my birthday - blurred again!
Michael and Penny’s son Ollie and Rachel were married in Sussex so I had to clean some of the mud off my wellies ... but it was a happy weekend of lovely frocks and tasty food.

Summer rolled on into Autumn. A brief foray into the Fens to go back to my childhood haunts before yet more harbour battles, then barbel called.
Chris Hammond with a lovely big Fen rudd

Steve with a monster mullet and a fight to remember
a tasty sea trout for Sue - but I had to put it back

Trev laughing at the diver that rose in our swim

you couldn't make it up

so we moved and Trev caught this thin but sparkling bass
we smiled a lot in the Bridge Pool because we caught lots of roach
what beautiful golden fish - wye don't I fish for them more often?
Autumn is a time for reflection perhaps. We have all lost loved ones and angling has too, though it's not for me to single out any names as we all regret their loss in our own ways. My great friend from childhood Robin Pratt passed away and I shall always miss him. We had so many adventures in the wildest places and grew up together. and though he's gone physically, I'll always have the memories to treasure.

Robin in the Andes Mountains of Patagonia
their garden has spectacular Cotswold views - and some
We spent a lovely Autumn weekend in the Cotswolds with long time friends Rick and Jen ... we worked together in the BBC film unit forty odd years ago and have met up every year since - it's a tradition we treasure ... and our friend from BBC Springwatch filming Mark Rylands came to study river monitoring locally so stayed and cooked us a memorable Thai meal.
Rich and Jen taking the sun 

blurred yet again
as tasty a plate as you could ever wish to eat - Mark can catch barbel too
Lots of filming and editing was required in the Autumn and so was a holiday to mark Sue’s birthday and our 42nd wedding anniversary … blimey, that’s a long time! We went to Islay again … one of the most wonderful places for wildlife in Britain … and malt whisky!
Hebridean skies like a Turner painting - I tried and failed

self portrait on the exact spot we camped on 42 years ago
A days walking and birding on Brownsea Island followed before the storms hit. The River Stour cut Wimborne off and sadly, two large birches were blown over in our garden but we didn't suffer hardships like some poor folk.
it was so warm that it was difficult to believe it was December
River Stour floods closed the road to Wimborne
50ft of old growth birch uprooted by the gales
the old birch on the left on it's way over - it was woodpecker heaven too
A treat before Christmas involved filming the catching of winter carp for Martin, then Trev. put the iceing on the cake by catching that rarest of fish, a two pound river roach.
a glorious winter carp for Martin

in Britain it's now one of nature's rarest creatures 
Ain’t it wonderful when friends smile into the camera in delight at actually getting to touch the creature of their dreams. No wonder fishing is good for you ... and Sue loves it too because when I return from a day out with my mates, I’m a happy man. And today we have Michael and Penny and Rick and Jen coming for our New Year celebrations. All six of us have gathered at each others homes for over forty years and we still manage to stay awake until after midnight ... but only just!

Do hope you all have an enjoyable year of happiness and fulfilment. It’s good out there in the wilds … we'll certainly be trying to be there more often next year.
wonderful walking country - and there's eagles in them there hills