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.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Hugh. I've got the DVDs (and VHS!) but it was lovely that you made these available on the Drennan youtube page during the recent 'lockdown'. I think 'Monster Myths' is probably my favourite too. The whole series is just glorious but you really captured something special with this one. I wouldn't be an angler if we hadn't sat down as a family and watched A Passion for Angling on BBC2 all those years ago. I can still remember it was my Mum who suggested we watch it (and she's never fished in her life!). The episodes were even discussed in the playground the next day at the time. And now I can't open a bottle of claret without thinking of Chris & Bob.

    Have you ever thought about writing an autobiography? It would be fascinating read all about your adventures and the highs and lows of your life behind the lens. Best wishes.