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!

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