Barbel Fishing – The Pope’s River Diary: March 2012
This month The Pope delivers another sermon from down under looking at, amongst other things, the new kids on the barbel block and the use of social media in angling.
I’m still exiled on the other side of the world and here it is now officially autumn and although the clocks went back a couple of nights ago there is still a clear blue sky with the ever shining sun maintaining a very comfortable twenty five degrees. It makes me smile to see the Aussies getting out their sweats and mothballing the barbies when back in dear old Blighty similar unseasonal temperatures cause a mass migration to the coast, it’s a strange old world.
Quiksilver, Billabong, Ripcurl, cool sounding names, and so they are to the local surfer dudes, but for me it’s Huggies, milk bottles and banana puree...you see I’ve been revisiting long lost times from way back. For most of my stay here in Oz I’m seeing life through the eyes of a child, to put it plainly I’ve inadvertently become a full time child minder to a ten month old boisterous lad but it really is tremendous fun and there’s always the promise of fishing trips with the little fella in the not too distant future, so it’s all good.
I’m obviously in touch with everyone back home and a couple of days ago I met up with a guy I took out barbel fishing on the Kennet right here in Manly, it really is a small world as well as a strange one. Simon was here to arrange his wedding later this year but to give him a break we spent a good few hours in the bar reminiscing about the time a twelve pound barbel put in a last cast appearance on the day we spent together. For a while I was feeling homesick but that soon passed, there are dozens of fishing days to look forward to when 16 June comes around.
I have been keeping tabs on the end of season catches and it seems to me that barbel fishers had a good time and the weather certainly helped, as it often does at the back end. I’m not one of the doom and gloom merchants and when you look at how widespread barbel are today the reality is we’ve never had it so good. It’s always about the point in time you are measuring from.
It’s not that many years ago when the barbel angler had very little option if he wanted to catch his fish and a double was the stuff of dreams. No matter what problems we have at the moment on our rivers, and there are plenty, today’s barbel angler has far more options than when I first started out and that’s why I keep things in perspective.
So moving on and this diary entry may turn out to be a bit of a mixed bag, I’m going to start off by bringing the journey as to who is who in the barbel world to a conclusion and this entails looking at the reluctant characters, the new kids on the block and what impact social networking will have in the future.
Now you see them, now you don’t. Here I’m talking about the guys who prefer to stay just beneath the radar but then stick their heads up occasionally and when they do they are usually worth listening to.
I’ll give you just two examples but there are more I could add; the first is Lee Fletcher aka The Trent Barbeler. Not only is Lee an excellent angler with a vast wealth of knowledge but I consider him to be one of the finest writers around today, I just wish he would stay around longer when he does put in an appearance!
The other is a good friend of mine, John Found. Those who read Coarse Angling Today will often see photos of John, you can’t mistake him as he smiles less than Stef Horak but is better looking, as he fishes with Phil Smith on a regular basis. John would be a brilliant writer but he has chosen not to go down that route and that is a loss to us all.
Next I want to mention the young guns; the relatively new kids on the block, the household names of the future. There are a number out there so the magazines and websites should be full to the brim with articles in years to come when the old guard finally runs out of steam!
Here are a few people who have already made an impact and will continue to do so in the future, although there are many more:
• Steve Williams –very well known in the Severn valley and does sterling work for Kinver Freeliners club.
• Rob Swindells – a great friend of Dave Mason, has caught some stunning fish from the Dove.
• Ashley Burton – Been around a while and has made a name on the Warwickshire Avon.
• Lewis Baldwin – Peg One consultant with some great catches on the Midlands rivers.
• Steve Collett – Well known and firmly established on the scene now, the only way is up.
• Luke Ayling – Huge fish from the Kennet has forged a fine reputation, well on his way.
• Alan Stagg – Already well-established as a top angler through his Drennan Cup exploits and is a regular contributor to the magazines.
• Richard Easom – Good Trent fish plus a big presence on the web have put his name in the frame.
• Jerry Gleeson – His charity work for the Army Benevolent Fund will cement his reputation and then there are the huge fish from the Goyt.
And so to social media: Facebook, Forums, Twitter, websites and blogs - is this where the next generation of household names will stake their claim? Blogs and Twitter have their followers; Facebook has its friends, websites have their page impressions - it’s about how many! You Tweet a thought, expand it a little on Facebook and then write a full blown account on the website or blog and hey presto – they come, that’s how it is and that’s the reason I do it!
Perhaps the number of FB friends you have is a measure, better to have 500 than 5, I jest but when you see thousands attached to some you can appreciate that a wide audience is being reached and it is a great marketing tool.
Some of the most well respected anglers in the country and many angling editors have already cottoned on and have very active Facebook pages; a few have their own websites. There is a growing blogging community that attracts its own groups of followers and then there are those who enjoy their own particular forums…..this is how the future will continue to evolve, of that I’m sure.
In the not so old days it was about whom you knew and how good your networking skills are. It took time to establish relationships, these days it’s made so much easier because of the ease and speed of communication. Much has been written about forums but without doubt each one has its own personalities and characters and by and large they have settled down into cosy clubs. However unless you are a very careful poster and put courtesy and politeness as your main driver, the forums often don’t do any favours, especially in the likeability stakes. The number of times you hear it said, “When I actually met the poster he was a totally different person to his forum personality.” That says it all.
Be nice, it pays in the long run.
There are a great variety of fishing blogs available so there really is something for everyone. There are the newspaper/journalistic type of which Bob Roberts is one and he goes where many others fear to tread. Then there are the fishing diary types and these are the most common, and some are beautifully written.
Others, although diary based, contain more than just fishing and offer a real insight into the blogger’s life and that’s how I tend to approach it. I don’t take the Mickey and I don’t get too controversial and it works for me.
For those who don’t or won’t embrace the new world, you cannot turn the clock back fifty years, this is now and it’s a whole new ball game. Spreading the word about yourself, and indeed angling in general, is now as much about being online as it is about casting a line.
Summing up; there are very few celebrities in the barbel world, plenty of household names, and just a handful of true legends, as well as a healthy number of young guns chomping at the bit. There are others who were well known in their day but just don’t seem to be around anymore. There are members of the Barbel Catchers Club who play their cards very close to their chests and there are those who just keep themselves to themselves. Whether today’s names will be remembered in fifty years, who knows? Longevity only comes when you put something back in.
You will make many friends but you will also make enemies as well, the more opinionated you are the more you will polarize people. Take your fishing seriously but whatever you do don’t take yourself too seriously! Be known as a good guy, there are only a few who get well known and get away by being Mr. Nasty, no room for Simon Cowells in our game! If I have nothing nice to say about someone these days I say nothing at all.
Good luck to anyone with these aspirations; barbel fishing is a great pastime and a little bit of recognition can only enhance the journey, if your skin is thick enough. As with anything in life it’s all about staying around for the long game. Anyone can be famous for five minutes, it’s a lot harder to last five years and if you are in it for the long run - say twenty years - who knows you may become a legend yourself by 2035, doubt if I’ll be around to see it though!
That’s it for this topic, so in the immortal words of Ant (or is it Dec?!)….get me outta here!
Before I sign off for this month I want to say a few words on a couple of topics that have stimulated recent discussion on the FM forum starting with that perennial old chestnut – the close season. I don’t sit on the fence on this one, over the years I’ve written many words, read all the arguments, attended a number of meetings and my support for the status quo is unequivocal. I really don’t care what the boaters, walkers, kayakers, canoeists, Uncle Tom Cobley and all do; we river anglers show we actually care by observing a seasonal break and that really is good enough for me.
The Barbel Society Handling Code is now the subject of an excellent film produced by arguably the best filmmaker around Hugh Miles, and featuring one of the country’s finest anglers, Pete Reading. I’m very proud of the Handling Code, I wrote the draft as an article for the Barbel Catchers magazine taking the idea from the Pike Anglers Club and it went on to form the basis for the Code as it is today. It has been tidied up in recent times by among others Lee Fletcher who I mentioned earlier.
In one of the early Barbel Fisher magazines; I’m going back fifteen years or so, I was taken to task by the editor at the time, the much missed Gordon Scott, for stating that I did not weigh fish under nine pounds. Gordon came back at me saying that many, especially those new to the game, enjoyed recording the weights of their fish and my view sent out the wrong signals. Although I stand by what I said for myself I totally agree with Gordon’s point and so the code is in place for less experienced anglers to have a set of guidelines as a reference point. Those who are experienced no doubt apply their own touches to the general principles. I’ve learnt to lend a helping hand whenever I’ve witnessed bad fish handling and I’m sure it works. Offering good sound practical advice is the way to go and I’ve often seen the same anglers who made fundamental errors taking onboard the recommendations further down the line.
I mentioned the Barbel Fisher magazine and the latest issue has just come out and I’m looking forward to reading it when I get back home. This is a brilliant magazine and to receive a copy all you need to do is join the Barbel Society, the new membership year starts from 16 June, there it’s that date again!
Next time out I’m hoping to tell you about the fishing here in Sydney and also how angling is portrayed in this part of Australia, it’s a bit different to the UK. I’ll also be talking about why you really must get along to The Barbel Show in June and also making preparations for the new season.
That’s it; I’m off to chuck some plastics around the bay!
By the Same Author
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