It’s almost a year ago now since Fred Bonney of the Barbel Society announced that they would be having an auction for items and days out to help aid their Research Fund. Richard (FM’s owner) e-mailed the (then) FM staff of Geoff Maynard and myself with something along the lines of: ‘Can either of you two chumps come up with anything that we could offer to help them?’
Fortunately the little group I run in Marlow had a new intake that year in the shape of former Arsenal and England goalkeeper David Seaman and I wondered whether he would give up some of his time to offer a day on our stretch of Thames. Without hesitation he agreed and I set about putting together a package to make it all the more interesting: whoever won the bidding would also have lunch in the hotel and maybe, if they stayed late enough, one of my DBS (Death By Sausage) sandwiches cooked en plein air.
We kept that last little bit out of the announcement just in case it frightened anyone away and the item was duly won by Les Darlington who would be bringing his friend (and Golden Scale Club member) Jon Berry. So far so good but the dates had to be arranged; I was hoping for a late winter day, March to be precise, but either Les or Jon couldn’t make it and after eliminating many other dates we all finally settled on 22 August. The next bit came as a shock to me, meeting at 6:30am!
And so the day dawned with fair weather in prospect and despite the early hour I set off and was soon reminded of one of the things I love about living high in the Chiltern Hills is that when you drive down to Marlow you can see the early morning mist sitting in the valley, something the Marlow residents rarely get to see. By the time I pulled into the car park David was already waiting and I had to excuse my bleary-eyed appearance as early mornings are NOT my favourite time of day. However, saying that, the view across the weir is so beautiful at this time of year I really ought to do it more often.
Les and John duly arrived and David and I had tossed a coin to see who would fish with whom and who would have the choice of top or lower swim and guess who won? Well, I like to put the inexperienced ones in the best swims first, it gives them a better than average chance of hooking something…or at least that’s my excuse…
The rods hadn’t been out that long, in fact I still had to tackle up, when we saw David leaning into something; something very big indeed. The fish soon got the message that David’s a big lad and the winner of this fight was never in any doubt short of the line breaking.
The day I first met David was opening day last year when he was on our water fishing with Keith Arthur for a sequence for Keith’s Tight Lines programme. I’ve known Keith on and off for the past 12 years and so when I was sure they weren’t filming I went to have a word and, hand on heart, I had no idea who the guy fishing with him was. Keith went off to have a word with the technical guys doing the filming and I asked his ‘guest’ chap about his fishing.
He mentioned the fact that he only lived across the road, quite literally, and asked how he could acquire a ticket to fish here regularly. Since I do the tickets I said I would ask as all members have to be cleared by management first and since it was a working day I was able to give my contact a call. I then asked what the chap’s name was…”David Seaman” he replied. “David Seaman, the footballer, goalie, played for England?” (even I knew that much). “Yes” he said.
I had to apologise for not having recognised him for gone was the moustache and gone was the pony tail. So I spoke to management and explained he would like a ticket and back came the immediate response that he could have one – and since it was the very beginning of the season he could pay full price. Fame might bring you a lot of benefits but it doesn’t get you a discount at our fishery!!!
Keith caught a barbel that day, the same one he’d caught in a match I’d organised some years before, but second time around it weighed 11lb 1oz, if memory serves me. It was caught on a bait and with some feed that David had given him and at the time David did say he was owed one.
Despite having a ticket we still didn’t see much of David because he likes to fish outside his apartment on the upper section of the Thames where he’s taken carp to 35lb, I think he said. He has also had some big pike, a monster river tench, and I think it was there that his father caught a 4lb eel. He also came to our pre-season barbeque this year and donated a pair of his old training shoes to Frank Guttfield and his wife Jackie to be sold at a charity auction.
PRESENT DAY AGAIN:
With the fish in the net it was lifted onto the unhooking mat and it was only then that it became apparent that it was a really big one and on the scales it registered 13lb 14oz, not the heaviest out of there this year and not David’s biggest, but one cracker of a fish nonetheless.
We took it down to a landing stage to release it where the water is quieter but still well oxygenated, allowing it to recover without having to fight a current. Slowly it regained its strength and David released it – upon which it slipped into deeper water ‘sulking’ almost as if thinking how foolish it had been to get outwitted! One thing was for certain, David had finally collected his debt from the weir and had obliterated Keith’s 11lb 1oz catch from the previous year.
With the fish safely away and the time yet to reach 8am we hoped it would be the first of several. We re-baited with hemp and other stuff and waited for more big fish to arrive and as the morning progressed it got hotter and hotter with the forecast suggesting 26°.
Lunchtime arrived and we retired to the Bowaters Restaurant where we all enjoyed a splendid three course meal. David and I stuck to beers but the lads were promised a bottle of wine and the banter and stories were terrific as you can imagine coming from someone who had travelled the world and come into contact with so many people… David’s stories weren’t bad either (insert winking smiley) such as the time Noel Edmonds caught David out with a ‘Gotcha’ award over the catching of a pike that turned out to be one bought from Billingsgate Market.
After David had kindly signed some programmes and photos we got back to the fishing and for a change Jon and I tried trotting a few maggots downstream but this only resulted in some small dace so we went back out on the heavier leads with pellet hookbaits and another load of hemp.
David, yet again, managed to catch another fish although you wouldn’t believe a perch could fancy a 14mm hair-rigged pellet!
The afternoon was scorching and with little in the way of shade it started to look as if David’s fish would be the only one, and so it proved. David had to leave around 6:30pm – before the DBS – perhaps he had learnt his lesson about my cooking from the pre-season barbeque (although he did say he’d enjoyed that!) So after thanking him and bidding him farewell, I started cooking the sausages and onions my wife had brought down fresh, late in the afternoon.
Even into the early evening nothing else happened and by the time Frank Guttfield turned up to say hello at around 9pm we were packing up. I only had to travel five miles up into the hills but Jon and Les had a long journey. I think that everyone enjoyed themselves and in confirmation of that I got an email from Les confirming the fact.
They are welcome to come back anytime they like and try again, in fact Jon is a regular visitor and has been on Roger Wyndham’s boat in the area a few times; he says it is his favourite fishery – if only for the view. There will be another time, there always is, but for now it looks like David Seaman, just as in his football career, saved the day once again.
My thanks go to all concerned; The Compleat Angler and Macdonald Hotels for their generosity, Richard Hewitt, the owner of Fishingmagic, for suggesting we did something for the Barbel Society and partly sponsoring it and last but not least, my latest friend (dare I presume that?) David Seaman for making it a perfect day whatever happened.
It’s a bit sad that he’ll shortly be leaving Marlow, although he’s not going too far away; this could mean either we don’t see him again as he will have his own bit of river running past his back garden or we’ll see more of him as he yearns to get back on the Thames for a 15lber! I hope the latter.
PS: If this article appears to be like a David Seaman Appreciation Society Newsletter then I’m sorry but the fact is he was the only one lucky enough to catch anything. Another time, another day, just wait and see!
(N.B. The fishery is extremely private and only well-to-do people, anglers in-the-know, and retired famous football players are allowed in. Oh, and me of course.)