Monday 7 December 2015


a magical end to a perfect day in paradise
There is so much to celebrate when you’re an angler these days, even if the gloom and doom merchants try to convince us otherwise. It’s always a treat to be out there in the wilds with the wildlife and it’s a shame that more don’t appreciate the benefits of getting sunburnt - or cold and wet! 

What next? A tench or bream, perch or rudd, barn owl or avocet? I've loved the Fens since childhood
Mystery is the essence of life and angling provides it in spades ... and over time you realise that without it life [and angling] becomes mundane, so new challenges have to be discovered. When wildlife filming was my whole life I'd constantly be searching for new adventures in ever more remote places and with increasingly rare and even 'impossible' animals. Mountain lions and snow leopards were some of the more memorable challenges and I'll always be grateful for the rewards they gave me.
the Andes Mountains on a wild day - home to elusive pumas

'my' Penny the puma - she trusted me to be by her side and I trusted her not to eat me © Laurie Campell
a tencher's dawn - simply idyllic
a birthday tench - only 4/12 but along with three others it was mission accomplished
How can you not appreciate the privilege of sharing a misty dawn with a red-eyed tench, a glorious summers day with a golden rudd or a warm and drizzly autumn morning with a big, bronze barbel.
wildlife doesn't get any more beautiful than a big rudd

... except maybe a chalk stream barbel
Then fishing apart, there’s the increasing enthusiasm for creating crucian waters, the long awaited protection for bass and the increasing support and funding for the Angling Trust.
happy days are here again ... silver roach for Martin and I and a perch for Mr.Yates

happy crucian catching friends

I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy some wonderful days by the water with friends and we’ve caught some special fish along the way, so it’s been a particularly good year, especially as those fishy moments are all the better for being shared. Camaraderie beats competition every time and below are the results of just a few of our special days out exploring the mysteries of our watery world.
my computer guru, friend and ace guitar maker Chris Wild with a beautiful PB common of 22lbs
Gerry with a 14lb Hampshire Avon barbel
Mark with a Cotswold Water Park male tench of 6/12
Steve's awesome mullet of 7/12 that circled the boat three times when battling for freedom. We slipped it back carefully of course
Mark again with a PB Avon chub of 6/9
Another cause for celebration is the continued success of ‘A Passion for Angling’ and as it’s nearing Christmas present time, I’m not afraid to publicise it here. Sales of the DVD’s don't earn us much money but at least it enables Bob, Chris and I to buy a bit of bait. We have just updated our website :  so will repeat it here :

           Newsletter - 2015                                            
This is the poster we made when first releasing the DVD’s of ‘A Passion for Angling’ and ‘Caught in Time’ and despite the many intervening years, both films are still going strong and available from our website. Ain't it great when a plan comes together ... a big surprise too!

‘Passion’ was first shown on BBC 2 in September 1993 and it’s remarkable that it’s appeal lives on so strongly. Most TV programmes are dead in the water within a year or two but in spite of the BBC investing heavily in a new angling series recently called ‘Earth’s Wildest Waters - The Big Fish’, it seems inescapable that any films on angling get compared to the attractions so widely shared by our Passion enthusiasts. 

Our star anglers, Bob James and Chris Yates are understandably honoured that so many folk think PFA is the best angling programme ever made. Having filmed, written and produced the series, I feel chuffed that this belief among so many lives on.

Many of you will be less aware of the charms of our film ‘Caught in Time’ but it’s a classic story of Chris Yates’s desire to catch a big carp from a beautiful southern lake. 

It’s much admired and many folk keep on writing to us asking when parts two and three are going to be available. Sadly for them, Chris and I have decided to go fishing instead of making more films for the series … but one day maybe?!

More recently ... but still about ten years ago, Martin Bowler and I created the Ch4 series "Catching the Impossible" and DVD's of the nine one hour series are available via our website :
our star presenter and friend Bernard Cribbins caught more than a few big fish and narrated both 'Catching' and 'Passion' for we all know he's the best in the business
you'll be in A&E if you drop it on your foot

There's also a big book telling the story of the making of the series, 300 odd pages, more than 400 pics, illustrations by leading wildlife artist Rodger McPhail and film clips from the films, so it's a big enough book to anchor your Christmas trees. We're giving away free copies when you buy the PFA DVD, with only £4 postage to pay. It hurts to give such a lovely book away but not as much as if they were burnt! We were too ambitious and printed too many copies - stupid boys.

Sue and I have had a most enjoyable year with one or two holidays in between many days spent tending our large wildlife garden. It’s a lot of work but we love it and the digging certainly keeps us fit. Our major task this winter is to clear our main pond of reeds and the dreaded invasive water hyacinth. We can't do it in the summer due to mallard ducks nesting on the island, so it's a cold job 'pond-dipping' the roots out with bare arms after overnight frost. Still, we are making progress slowly and the achievements often seem to beat blanking on barbel ... but not always. We'll be at it all winter mind, so I hope it doesn't get in the way of my roach fishing too much.
our beautiful wisterias look down on a fish pond that is now a dragonfly pond thanks to our playful otters

there's little in nature that beats an English country garden
making a start on clearing our main pond - it's a big job but the dragonflies will love it
pulling the reeds and water hyacinth out by their roots is cold work in winter
making progress but still some way to go - three months I should think
As a result of this major pond clearing, along with woodland management, my fishing adventures have been all too infrequent but when I have had time to go forth with rods I’ve been lucky enough to snare some cracking fish including perch up to 3/11, several specimen roach and rudd of over two pounds, an 8/2 tench and a 13/11 barbel. Then there was the magic of mulleteering in this little green boat, an endless quest to find the answer to catching them and failing most of the time ... but when you do hook one the fight is so extreme that you can't wait to get back out there for some more mental and physical torture. I love it!

a 'proper' perch of 3/11 that grew on to be caught by friend Mike Townsend at exactly 4lbs. - perfect. 
yet another sparkling roach of 2lbs
a spring treat of a tench at 8/2
what a monster - well it is for me because it's a PB of 13/11
a scale prefect roach that's grown on from the Avon Roach Project releases

While trying to avoid work, [Sue has been teaching me to say no!] I have remained keen to help out some of the angling and wildlife charities, particularly our friends Trevor Harrop and Budgie Price in their quest to reinstate self-sustaining populations of roach into the once iconic Hampshire Avon. 

the stews for growing on the fingerling roach to three years old and release in the Avon + pond diggers in background
the project's recently completed pool for breeding yet more and bigger Avon roach
Having released many thousands over the last five years, anglers are once again beginning to catch these silver beauties … so congratulations and thanks to Trev and Budgie for their imagination and years of hard graft.
Trev releasing three year olds in the Hampshire Avon at Fordingbridge

Trev in playful mode as he recovers from the stressful battle that this 4/12 mullet gave him
I use my blog to promote admirable activities like this, along with the work of the Angling Trust, the Dorset Wildlife Trust and the Salmon and Trout Conservation charity, all of which I’m a staunch supporter of and if you’re keen to offer help to our beleaguered rivers I strongly recommend you join at least one of them.

I see from last years PFA Newsletter that my blog has grown from 67,000 views to 108,000+ so is proving ever more popular, even in countries as far flung as Alaska, Russia, Argentina, even Mauritius. I’m constantly amazed by how far away these foreign readers live and wonder why they are interested. It certainly can’t be to help them learn English!

Writing and illustrating the blog is time consuming and keeps me from my other hobbies such as music and gardening but it does fulfil my need to be creative. It also partially replaces the loss of my travels round the world making wildlife films.

one of our snow leopards at 17,000 ft in Ladakh, deep in the Himalayas
I miss my colleagues and all the great locals I used to work with in far-flung places but at least sharing fishing and wildlife stories with my readers is rewarding.

Sue doing her bit to ensure Bob, Chris and I can afford to buy some fish bait
With Christmas approaching fast, please ensure your orders arrive in time for Sue to post them. Also, if you want any for birthdays etc. please indicate that to Sue in the order so that if necessary she can post them first class. She sends the DVD’s + books out virtually every day but please give her a chance to meet your deadlines.

Post and package charges are always changing, especially when sending abroad, so please check the details on the order form.

 a really cracking read with splendid photography as well

If you don’t want to send a cheque or postal order, you can buy PFA from Martin Bowler’s on-line shop and use PayPal. He has lots of other first class items too, including his two film series and books. His recent book, ‘Totally Immersed’ is a great read as well as wonderfully illustrated.
Visit for those Christmas presents.

happy days on a winter sunshine holiday

Sue and I hope you enjoy the festivities and you all have a thoroughly happy and healthy 2016 … and if you’re into fishing, may your float sink more often and your rod become seriously bent.