Monday, 23 December 2019


Not alone on the River Wye. Chris Yates was just upstream and Martin Bowler took this beaut. picture of me barbel fishing
If you happen to read this blog because you are an angler then you might think I’ve given fishing up because I haven’t written a fishy story for ages. The reason is simple, I haven’t been fishing!

I still love the idea of being out in the countryside with a rod but our big garden has taken up all our time as we create a flower filled gravel garden for butterflies and bees. We haven’t finished it yet but to see the squadrons of buzzers already feeding there is a joy.

a silver-washed fritillary on a hebe

No fishing might mean no stories but I have many happy memories of fishing with friends, so this will be a celebration of those special days when we shared our catches and time together.

                    Fishing with Friends

Fishing alone can be an intense and rewarding experience and might even lead to catching bigger fish but for maximum enjoyment you can’t beat sharing those moments of triumph and disaster when you both cheer when one of you catches a big one and cry when the big one gets away ... or maybe you laugh when your mate loses the big one!

Here’s a selection of some of our catches during the good old days when we had the good sense to ignore all the horrible things going on in our world and made time to breath fresh air. These pics are  just a random ramble through the archives to celebrate the joys of angling together with friends.

First up are some happy gatherings during glorious summer days of crucian fishing at an intimate Wessex lake. We almost always caught a few, even over three pounds but we were sensible enough to simply enjoy the company and take time out for more important matters, like my wife Sue's famous cake.
close friends Chris Wild, Avon Roach Project Trev and Mr Yates getting their priorities right - tea and cake!
happy days of sunshine and golden nuggets
Please read on - there's more friends and the fish grow bigger

Chris with an old warrior
a perfect pair - the crucians are splendid too... 

... and now for something completely different for someone was right when they said that variety is the spice of life ... and out on a windswept estuary is far removed from a peaceful crucian lake. 

dawn on the estuary is always full of anticipation, even if the mullet never bite - well, almost never ...
a place of dreams - the upper estuary photographed from Hengistbury Head with Christchurch Priory in the distance
I share Steve Derby's boat whenever I can and here he is with a good'un. We love it our there in the windswept tides, one of the wildest corners of Dorset, challenged by the hardest fighting fish in the UK.

Another of our favourite places was India and our annual trips to the Cauvery River were a delight and always resulted in us landing some arm wrenching mahseer. Here's Pete Reading with a splendid specimen and I was lucky enough to catch one occasionally too.

We loved our holidays there, such great fishing and the Indian guides were always memorable company. Sadly, the authorities put a stop to the angling which means many of these rare and valuable fish will have been poached instead of providing a renewable income to many local communities.

A few years back Pete asked me to make him a barbel handling code film for The Barbel Society. It's always enjoyable fishing with Pete bacause he always produces the goods to order and he did the same for 'Catching the Impossible'. Pete normally catches bigger ones than this and caught us a twelve pounder for our Ch 4 series.

Pete made history recently when he landed the largest barbel ever caught from the Hampshire Avon, all 19lbs 11ozs of it and a richly deserved reward for all he did for our barbel throughout England. A truly awesome fish as you see.

The catch was my highlight of the season, proving that a friends catch is even more important than your own and cause for celebration ...

and I'd had my own cause for celebration last November when I caught a massive roach of 3/11, falling short of Bill Penny's inspiring record that I'd grown up with by just three ounces.

This catch was inspired by friend Mark Woodage who had pioneered the catching of these giant roach after hearing of one or two big ones landed by carp anglers. It could be really difficult fishing, my one bite coming after 40hrs of waiting. 

At that stage this was the biggest of all those caught but fittingly, Mark eventually topped it with a record shaking roach of 3lb 14ozs. and he really deserved the accolade of being awarded the catch of the season in the Angling Times recently by catching four three pounders in one afternoon. Bravo for some fine angling, as always.
3lbs 14ozs of perfect roach - Mark was just a little pleased!

I count myself lucky that we've fished together for many years, not often enough but Mark always shows me how it's done with large tench and barbel, this winter beauty going 14lbs 9ozs.

One of my most enjoyable holidays was in Canada, fishing for the prehistoric and awesome sturgeon by being given the privilege of joining Keith and Sandy Armishaw on one of their globe trotting  holidays. It was so enjoyable we returned the following year.

Keith's took 1hr 28mins to land and mine knocked me in the river though I was wet from the rain already. We caught some splendid salmon too, using switch rods and lots of slack to get the fly down in the rapid current ...I loved it.

It was friend John Slader who had taught me to cast - he's an Orvis guide and instructor so is quite good - I'm not.

We went hunting bonefish in the Carribean and enjoyed the sunshine and wildlife and some reel melting runs from these Formula One fish.
Good fish and good company, what more can you wish for ... just tasty food and wine I guess and a birthday or two.

I could go on with lots of other fishy stories but I'm sure you will be wanting to prepare for your own catches over the festive season, so I'll end by wishing all those who follow my blog a really splendid Christmas and a fish filled and fun New Year ... with good health and happiness thrown in. 

                 Just catch one for me please.
Great friend Chris Wild with a beautiful common, caught stalking and hooked just inches from the bank. Proper fishing!


  1. I don't fish at all l'm afraid..
    Why? Patience! Or the lack of it..
    When l was ten years old, my Dad
    took me the Conyers, here in B'ford,
    where l live..bought me a rod/line.etc..
    Took me down the Ham, geared me up, bait
    and all, we could see some trout, just
    by the weir..well..the hook and line were
    in and out the water, more times than l
    care to think...HeHe!
    So, l gave up, my Father gave up..! Have'nt
    fished since..
    Don't get me wrong, l do enjoy the end product..
    The fish, a number of friends who do fish, have
    always supplied my with said creature..
    AND! with a few can't beat it..! :).
    God bless! Merry Christmas..! Love the Blog though..!

  2. Hello Hugh
    Good to see Pete reading here. I was lucky enough to meet Pete back in 1976 when I was staying at a fishing guest house in Throop on the Dorset Stour. I was there with my mum, dad and brother on a family holiday but I returned many times by myself in later years. Pete was staying there with a couple of his angling mates, Nick and Mick, and was in the process of moving to the area.
    The fishing was difficult that summer, with the drought and low river levels - "grim" was how Pete described it. Pete and his mates were very helpful to me, a young novice angler. I eventually caught my first ever barbel, 8lb, with my last cast on the last evening of my stay, just upstream from School Bridge, before returning home on the following Saturday morning.
    Treasured memories of a very beautiful place and good company. I'm still in touch with Pete, although we are both a lot older and greyer now.