Thursday 30 April 2020



There are several sequences in each story that I particularly enjoy but if I have to choose a favourite of our six films, ‘Monster Myths’ would be it, not just because the monster carp lived in such a beautiful lake but because it makes such a good story … and what's more, it’s true!

I’m told by Joe of ‘CARPology’ that this is the yarn that intrigued viewers most and on reflection, I realise it could actually have been made up! So it makes it even more extraordinary that without Donald Leney’s stocking records, the mythological carp 'longer than a 20lb salmon and wider than a Labrador’s back' could have been a figment of forester Harry’s imagination.

However, this mythical monster did exist and we actually saw it once, peering out from under a thick weedbed. There is even a brief shot of it in the film and ex. record holder Chris Yates was in no doubt that it was a true monster.

Hidden in a secluded and very private estate meant it lived a charmed life, for the landowner was a keen conservationist,  strictly protecting all his wildlife and as a result had no less than five pairs of breeding barn owls, one of which would float over our camp on most evenings, nearly taking Chris's hat off. 

I was very surprised but delighted that my reputation as a professional wildlife film-making nut meant he gave us permission to film there.

On one memorable day, I was chatting to him in the spot where Harry sometimes saw the monster carp when a hobby flashed past us really close, chasing a dragonfly. 

His Lordship was very excited because it was the first hobby he had ever seen and we enjoyed many wildlife encounters in this wooded wonderland his ancestors had created. We all enjoyed the nesting dabchicks, the ever alert herons and numerous ducks. It was a wildlife heaven.

The lake was long and narrow, about four to five acres of shallow, crystal clear water and being fed by chalk stream springs, was very rich. The springs ensured it was always cold and Chris thinks it very unlikely that the carp ever spawned successfully, so those few we saw were almost certainly from the original Leney stocking in 1935, meaning our monster was at least 57years old.

I’d built my scaffold tower on the lake edge to give us an osprey’s eye view of the monster and despite the lake being shallow, it was also solid with weed and though I spent many days up there with the film camera, we never did see it again.

Chris spent days quietly stalking likely spots, Bob trying the more modern way of baiting with boilies and waiting night and day, but to no avail. He also tried stalking and favoured a spot that was a bit less clogged with weed. 

By baiting regularly he attracted several of the few carp in the lake, maybe eight in all and this lovely painting by our countries premier wildlife artist Rodger McPhail shows how the moorhens watched the passing commons too. His illustrations for our book are beautiful but to this day I cry because the BBC and publisher decided to save money by reproducing them in black and white. In colour they are stunning, so thank you Rodger.

When Bob finally had a chance I was filming from the scaffold above him and the result was conclusive, as you'll see in the film. His reaction "I think it's time for tea"

I often saw what we believed was the second biggest fish that we understandably called Arnie, a magnificent common which we guessed might make as much as forty pounds, and though I often got it feeding enthusiastically on floaters, it was never hungry when the lads were there with their rods, which wasn’t often enough!

However, after four years of catching big fish and many weeks of filming, Chris and Bob were understandably running out of motivation and in spite of the remarkable success of its’ five showings on BBC 2 and the pleading of the BBC to make another series of ‘Passion’, the troops would have mutinied if I’d agreed to more episodes. 

They had given great lumps of their lives working on our creation and did so with impressive conviction and imagination, so it was time to thank them for their efforts and put the idea to bed. 

And we thank you all for your enthusiasm over these past twenty eight years and for watching them yet again during these last few weeks. Our sincere thanks go to Peter Drennan for kindly hosting the films on his website. Hopefully they proved enjoyable and helped you through these difficult times. Maybe they even made you smile.

Please support the Angling Trust in the hope that their impressive initiative to get us fishing again will be successful. Stay safe, be patient and keep smiling and our best wishes to you all from us three blanketears -
 Bob, Hugh and Chris. 

If you’d like to view the series at your leisure and in less challenging times,  then please visit our website and my wife Sue will pop a copy of the DVD of the complete series of six films in the post.

Thursday 23 April 2020



For many of us river fishers, winter is our favourite season, especially if you are a roach or pike angler. And if you have access to a prime beat of the River Kennet as we did in the good old days before the ravages of predation and water abstraction, then you were in seventh heaven.

The year was 1992 and we were trying to complete our fifth film of our series, this one being about winter fishing, with big roach, chub, pike and grayling our quarry. We also wanted some truly cold and frosty weather so the river looked the part and luckily, all our dreams came true.

However, it was so cold on many days that the line kept freezing in the rod rings and the grayling were so lethargic that we could only catch them on the ledger with a single red maggot on a twenty hook. But eventually Bob skilfully winkled out a colourful two pounder by edging a float down a deeper swim called the ‘Wine Cellar’, so we had to try a bottle in celebration.

Suitably lubricated, our banter between friends became ever more outrageous, and because big roach are notoriously difficult to catch using a float in the crystal clear waters of the Kennet, Bob threw down the bold challenge that he would catch a three pound roach on the ledger before I could catch a two pounder on the float, the winner given a bottle of port.

Ridiculous really, but I was up early the next day to be at a favourite swim as dawn broke and trotting a single maggot on a tiny stick float, amazed myself by having a two pounder in the net on almost my first cast and not satisfied, even caught another one before Bob and Chris came down the bank after a leisurely breakfast. Triumphantly, I asked Bob what vintage he was going to buy me but he was undaunted and at dusk on that same day I was able to film him catching a roach on ledgered bread of just a whisker under three pounds.  Thrilled at this success, we called it a draw and gave each other a  bottle of port for our curry night, celebrating a great days fishing and filming in style. The next mornings early rise was rather painful!

Fishing was only part of the fun because we had rented a cabin alongside the river and to keep warm in the evenings we played frisbee in the dark. Firing across the river was the challenge because if it ended up in the ice fringed water it was the thrower who had to wade in to rescue it, a very cold punishment. 

This game developed into ‘killer frisbee’, the object being to hit each other, so Chris cheated by shining his car lights in my eyes and catching me with a throw fully in the temple. The stars in the sky weren’t the only ones I saw that night. 

I think it was part of Chris's plan to stop me getting up so early in the morning because on one memorable dawn we started filming so early that I thought I had nearly killed him. He was curled up unconscious in the car seat and I only just got him upright in time to shoot the sunrise scene I had in mind.

Chris was catching lots of splendid chub but it was Bob who was on a role for this film and amazed us all when catching not one big pike but two and they were both twenties, the best going 26lbs, an awesome brace that had probably fattened up on our beloved roach and chub!

We do hope you’ll enjoy this episode, it's certainly one of my favourites and as we continue to dream of fishing again, hopefully it will be for tench or carp when we can cast again, not winter. The Angling Trust are working hard on trying to get angling allowed as soon as possible, so please support them by joining ; they are our best and only bet to allow angling to recover and move forward.

I don't know about you, but I'm finding that when you’re unable to be out there, the mere thought of being by the waterside with a rod makes it ever more desirable. So stay patient, keep safe and keep smiling and if you want to buy the whole six part series so that you can enjoy going down memory lane, please visit our website and my wife Sue will pop it in the post pronto.  

Friday 17 April 2020


A fishing series showing at a peak viewing time on BBC2 has to appeal to the widest possible audience. It also has to appeal to what we hoped would be our main audience - anglers, so catching sizeable fish was the challenge for our star anglers, Bob James and Chris Yates and this had to include a two pound roach.

I have loved roach fishing since childhood, catching a good 'un from the Great Ouse at Ely when at school and suitably intoxicated by roach, have gone on to catch hundreds of two pounders from around the country.
this one only went 1lb15ozs - so many do don't they!

More than a few of these two pounders have come from still waters and as my good friend and river keeper at the famous Britford Fishery on the lovely Hampshire Avon Stuart Wilson says 'they only count half and I have to agree'!

A river two and especially a three pounder are the true monsters of the freshwater world ... this roach weighed only 1lb11ozs, just in case you were wondering. I couldn't catch him a two for this happy snap - must try harder!

Like many of my generation, I had been inspired as a child by Bernard Venables and his creation, 'Mr Crabtree Goes Fishing', so we were very keen to include Bernard in our film. 
Autumn perch fishing seemed the perfect subject. 

How could anyone forget Bernard's wonderful painting of a shoal of perch attacking minnows. 

Filming with Bernard was one of the highlights of my fishing life - catching big roach has been another.

I've been lucky enough to catch eight three pounders - so far! - to a best of 3lb11ozs and one of these was from the Hampshire Avon, so our quest for a two pounder in our autumn programme was right up my street. It felt like I’d spent half of my life trotting its' crystal waters and this was to be our location for this episode of our six part series.

Luckily Bob, Chris and I lived close to its’ banks and were members of the Longford Fishery below Salisbury, so we knew where and how to catch big roach, or so we thought, but after a week all we had to show for our efforts were too small.
As all roach anglers know, roach have a habit of rolling on the surface at dawn and dusk and in spite of a week of failure I was still on the bridge at Longford Castle before dawn, looking for signs on this hallowed stretch of water.

Just as the light increased slightly I thought I saw a slight furl in the main flow upstream and suspected a big roach so without waiting for a second invite, I grabbed a rod and cast into the spot with a large lump of breadflake. The line had hardly settled before it tapped, then pulled tight and several solid thumps told me we had at last found the big roach shoal. That fish weighed 2lb6ozs and on the next cast I landed one of a bit over 2lbs10ozs, then two more two's.

I had slipped these fish back while starting to think about not calling Bob and Chris and carrying on compiling my greatest ever catch of big roach but duty prevailed, the lads were summoned and Bob went on to make a historic catch of ten two pounders, the best an ounce short of the even more magical three pounds.

It was a perfect overcast day and the roach simply wouldn’t stop biting, even when Chris and I punted out over the shoal to get shots of Bob casting towards us. Chris held the boat in position in the shallow swim by sticking an oar in the gravel and when I asked Bob to cast closer to the camera he couldn’t because he had hooked yet another big roach from right under the boat.

It was just one of those days when dreams come true and even when we had finished filming, I couldn’t get back in my swim as Chris grabbed a rod and promptly caught his biggest roach for twenty five years. At two pounds five ounces we were all very happy, so we retired to the pub for a pint to celebrate a days fishing for the history books.

We had to catch a big Avon barbel too of course and Chris lost a monster on our first evening of trying. Upstream of his swim was the hot spot under an oak tree and it seemed only fair that this should be competed for, so instead of a coin toss, arm wrestling or tiddlywinks, Chris and Bob chose a conker fight as illustrated by Rodger McPhail. And what a privilege it was for us when he agreed to add his wonderful works of art to our book.

Bob won the contest and did splendidly by also winning his
fight with a superb barbel of 11lb13oz. caught from this book cover spot ... I know that isn't big by today's standards but it was twenty years ago.

We had invited our ace artist Rodger McPhail down to put the finishing touches to our Passion book, promising him a fish for his troubles and he caught a feisty little mirror to end our  celebration with some fun.

If you enjoy the programmes on YouTube you might like to purchase the boxed set of six films from us at:

Sadly we have run out of copies of our film following Chris's carp fishing adventures "Caught in Time".

Friday 10 April 2020


Having enjoyed such remarkable success with our fishing at Redmire, I managed to convince Chris and Bob to join me in making not one but a series of six films and it was then a question of selling this mad idea to the BBC so that we had some funding to finance the project.

Much to my surprise I was successful in raising half the budget, the rest I’d fund myself, but then came the task of creating a varied menu of subjects to film. This surely had to include trout and salmon and as Bob and Chris are all rounders, it wasn’t long before we hit the road for the beauty and wildlife of Scotland. The River Spey was our privileged location, thanks to a generous laird, a friend from my osprey filming days.

Bob's dogs Wraps and Chester were to be our ghillies as they are very adept at landing trout without removing a single scale but salmon are beyond them.

They were beyond us too, though catching a salmon is always difficult. Luckily ‘I knew a man who can’ and with the generous help of friends David and Kim and another laird, we had a day on a prime beat of the Tweed at Floors Castle. 

Kim is a lovely lady and when I was with her in Africa researching an IMAX lion film, all the tourists were looking at Kim rather than the lions, no doubt wondering how a rough old bloke like me had such a beautiful lady in the camera car! She can fish too, for before I’d even finished putting the camera on the tripod, Kim had caught a ten pounder.

What a great start I thought, job done, but then followed an amazing catch when Kim hooked a cracker of approaching twenty pounds. The fight was long, giving me time to wade out and be at the heart of the action with Kim, Chris and Peter the ghillie.

Bob was with David, who in three days caught ten salmon while Kim caught fifteen - they say it’s the female pheromoenes that make ladies such deadly salmon anglers!

Over the years I had done a lot of filming in Scotland so was able to put Bob and Chris among lots of wildlife, including those magical red squirrels and ospreys.

We were camped in a lovely birch wood overlooking the mountains, the birches providing the perfect pitch for games of 'round the corner' frisby - suitably challenging. 
It was a wonderful adventure in the summer sun but we hadn’t finished yet and returned in the autumn to try for sea trout and salmon on a tributary of the Spey.

Heavy rain overnight was just what we needed and with the rise in water came the fish, lots of them and within a day we had caught twenty five or more silver tourists. What’s more we saw a goshawk, a golden eagle and a white tailed eagle. 
a magnificent sea eagle photographed by friend Mike Read

The evocative illustration of the salmon at the start of this blog was painted by friend Rodger McPhail, one of the finest wildlife artists in the world.

His illustrations for our 'Passion for Angling' book were wonderful and also in full colour but it is a regret to this day that the cheap-scape BBC publications decided to save money and only reproduce them in black and white.
Little did they know that the book would be in the 'best seller' lists for several weeks.

I just love Scotland and hope that you too enjoy this adventure to the far north and if you enjoy the films as much as we did making them, then you can always buy the complete set of films on DVD :