Barbel Fishing: The Pope’s River Diary May 2012
This month Steve is back from Australia, confused, and attending the Barbel Society Show.
Back home now and boy is it cold and, coupled with that, I’m well and truly disorientated! I left Australia just as winter was officially about to kick in and yet I was still enjoying most days down on the beach. Mind you as I said before the locals were all in hoodies, scarves and overcoats while I was more than happy in shorts and T-shirts – all very strange.
And so I arrive back in the UK and it’s bloomin’ freezing by comparison. The central heating is on and I’m trying to find my thermals and I am just one step away from putting logs on the burner yet summer is supposed to have arrived, you couldn’t make it up – it’s no wonder I’m confused!
It has been a very busy month but now I’m back my barbel fishing life has well and truly kicked in. But before I expand on that I’ll sum up what has been for me the best four months of my life since I was in my late twenties - and I promise you that was a long time ago!
My great friend, and a man who can find exactly the right words, Lol Breakspear, said to me recently,
“Grandchildren bring along a life review clause with them that makes you evaluate yourself, your life and what is really important, and what I realised was that things like fishing are just part of your life, not all of it, but ironically you begin to enjoy it more because life balance is achieved. Look at Des (Taylor), what a transformation his new granddaughter Grace brought to his life...he has never caught so many big fish and enjoyed life as much as he is now!”
I don’t know about you but Lol’s words really struck a chord with me and perfectly describe where I am at this moment in time. The excitement of witnessing my grandson’s very first steps has outshone any big barbel capture, especially as I had been helping him along the way. Just one of many magical moments I have experienced this year.
So, what about Australia, is it all it’s cracked up to be? I’ve only spent time on the East coast of Australia but I’ve been there a few times now, is life better over there? Without a shadow of a doubt!
Would I want to live there all the time – probably not, my London roots are just too strong and no matter what its faults I’m an Englishman first and foremost.
Will I be going back? Hopefully in January, life for me now has real purpose and spending what are supposed to be our winter months down under has a certain appeal and, apart from that, I really do want to get to grips with the fishing over there.
I did manage a few last sessions off the rocks by the house and on one memorable morning I was amazed to see a school of dolphins invade my swim! I rushed back inside to get the camera but by the time I got back they had moved further away, they had been spotted by the kayakers, but if you look closely you can just make them out in the photo.
My planned carp fishing trip was cancelled which was a shame as my fishing buddy had been catching a good few twenties from the place we visited earlier, he’s back in the UK now and I’m hoping to meet up on the Kennet to get him a barbel. We’ll get it together again on the Hawkesbury next year and do our best to find some Murray cod.
Somehow I also managed to find myself on a golf course, have to say it was a superb place, reminded me of Augusta, I did sink a thirty foot putt but unfortunately that was it, less said about the other hundred or so shots the better! Golf isn’t really my game.
The Aussies like our football and I kind of enjoyed watching all the Spurs games live on the box, but being a Tottenham fan is not good for your health and as you can see young Henry has picked up on that as well at a very early age!
So the nearest I managed to get to another Aussie fish was seeing it on the plate in Doyle’s restaurant, which for me is the best chippie in the world, right on the beach, you never know who will be sitting at the next table, it’s a cool place.
So that was it, my four months in Oz was over, an excellent flight back to London and back to my barbel world.
From Heathrow it was off in a rather plush car to St. Albans. While there, staying with my other daughters, I paid a visit to my dear friend Fred Crouch. Now Fred has not been at all well recently and there were times while I was away that I truly thought I would be getting an early flight back. Fred unfortunately managed to pick up a bug while on a routine hospital check-up and in his own words he thought he was a goner. Luckily for all of us he pulled through and is now on his way to recovery and as I said to him, “I’ve seen you looking far worse in years gone by!”
However he was certainly not strong enough to be able to attend the Barbel Show which was a great shame as he has so many friends there who love chatting to Mr Barbel, he’ll be back next year.
On my way home to the Welsh hills I stopped off in Worcester where I have a static caravan – I had to pay the rent! Now I mention this because over the many years I’ve kept it the start of a new season always fills me with trepidation as there is always one caravan standing empty where the owners won’t be coming back, and I don’t mean because they haven’t wanted to.
The one left vacant this time was right in front of mine and belonged to Stuey, a good friend and a good fisherman, we always talked about the monster barbel I was going to catch and he always told me where it resided, we had a good rapport. No more though, and I left the site to head back home feeling very sad, it focuses your mind.
Barely in my cottage for a day and it was off to Hinckley in Leicestershire for the biggest weekend of the year in the Barbel Society calendar, the AGM on Saturday and the Barbel Show on Sunday. After giving up on a breakfast in the carvery next to the ‘van I set off for Hinckley and found I was the first to arrive. As I checked in and they were still serving breakfast so I took full advantage.
Not long after the barbel boys and girls started to arrive. A good friend of mine, I won’t name him, took me to one side and told me he had left his wallet behind, a seriously senior moment to suffer! So within an hour of arriving my money supply was reduced by half... he is a really good friend! Things could only get better.
The AGM went by quickly and I actually enjoyed it. Not many people in attendance but you can take that in two ways; I take it in the positive one that the great majority are happy with what goes on. Some may disagree but the turnout on Sunday with its great camaraderie would suggest I’m right.
An hour or so back in my room to sort some notes out for the next day and then it was back to the bar and restaurant for a slap up dinner with the lads and our very special guest, the one and only John Wilson. It looked like John was having a good time with Dave Steuart as the wine flowed, I managed to collar him for a half hour and among other things we talked at length about the otter situation but as they say what goes on tour stays on tour!
In years gone by I have been known to stay around in the bar until well past three but I leave the last man standing routine to the younger ones now, I had a busy and exciting day looming and was up bright and early with no ill effects from the previous evening; I even managed a sensible breakfast of fruit and muesli and that kept me going all day.
Now at 7am on the morning of a Barbel Show the hotel foyer is a worrying place to be, you just hope everyone will turn up! Rich Frampton who carried the responsibility as organiser was running around with an air of apprehension making sure the hotel had everything in place. We had an added concern this year because of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the Bank Holiday, I might add that the venue we use is extremely popular and there was no choice regarding the dates available, we took a risk and fortunately it paid off.
The sound and vision guys were first to arrive as they always are, then the exhibitors started to appear and as if by magic the trade room was transformed from an empty soulless area to a vibrant and colourful Aladdin’s den awaiting the hordes of eager barbel aficionado’s eager to sample the wares! And Rich needn’t have worried, all the exhibitors turned up and the people came in good numbers, jobs a good ‘un as the saying goes.
Now as I mentioned earlier Fred Crouch, the Barbel Society President, was unable to attend and the job of giving the opening address was to be carried out by our Vice President Peter Wheat. However Peter too had fallen prey to a poor health situation and was unable to be at the Show so the job fell to the next in line, yours truly. I have to tell you that public speaking does not faze me, in fact I actually enjoy it, but this was a bit different, Fred is my best buddy and delivers a brilliant opener and the audience always look forward to it, I was nervous.
Fred had given me his script and that made things a lot easier and my delivery seemed to go down well, at least no one threw anything! I took the opportunity to pass on the best wishes of all to Fred, Peter and Dave Mason and to a couple of founder members who are not having the best of times and then the Show was underway with Phil Smith first on the bill.
Phil’s talk on alien species was certainly different and very well received, there was no mention of barbel and I think Phil was well pleased to see slides of himself in younger days up on the big screen!
Next up was Simon Pomeroy of Pallatrax and he gave an interesting talk based around his innovative baits, he had his full team in attendance and I know he had a great day.
Then it was the turn of Budgie and Trevor, the Avon Roach Project, now all I’m going to say is that if you have never seen these guys give a presentation then you really have missed something quite inspirational. I enjoyed their company at the previous night’s dinner and trust me these two lads are two of the angling world’s finest.
I had been told that there was a chance that Dave Mason would be coming along at some point and just a handful of us knew this and we kept it under wraps just in case. When he did arrive in the hall it was without doubt one of the most emotional moments I can ever recall at one of our shows. I struggled to hold back tears when I saw him and I guarantee I was not the only one, this man is a true star and inspiration and with the genuine love and affection that permeated throughout the place all focused on Dave I know it won’t be long before he gets down to his beloved River Teme once again.
The committee had already decided that we would run a collection for Dave at the Show and the attendee’s truly dug deep and it was wonderful to be able to present him with the proceeds which I know have already bought him a new laptop! The cheers for Dave when he appeared on the stage were deafening. There was only one man who could possibly follow Dave and that was John Wilson, he didn’t disappoint and kept the packed room enthralled with his tales of mahseer fishing, getting through more than 150 slides in just over an hour; it was a pleasure watching a consummate professional at work.
The final speaker of the day was Dave Harrell and I felt the irony as here was the first mention or picture of a barbel and it was in a matchman’s presentation, mind you Dave is some angler!
During the day’s breaks I managed to catch up with a lot of old friends: Howard Maddocks and Brian Ridley, Society stalwarts and BCC members, Ray Kent a founder member and an old London Region member of the BCC and he turned up with someone who has not been around for a long time but was extremely well known not so many years ago, Dave Williams - a man who caught three fourteens in a week when the record was still fourteen something.
My old mate Fred Crouch told me way back that once people know who you are you will find yourself saying hello to many people who know your name but you won’t always know theirs, this Sunday I realised just what he meant, thank heavens for name stickers!
Plenty of well-known faces were to be seen, Stef Horak, Tony Miles, Lol Breakspear and Len Arbery to name just a few. I found myself listening intently to how Len and Pete Cranstoun hit the small barbel bites and was waiting for Stef to gate crash the conversation – he didn’t!
Before Fred Bonney brought the proceedings to a close I had one more very important task to carry out and if I was nervous earlier this time I was positively shaking in my shoes. I was expected to deputise for that master orator Peter Wheat. One of the Show’s highlights is when Peter presents the Barbel Societies’ prestigious Gordon Scott Award. Being the wonderful speaker that he is Peter always keeps the audience entranced as he delivers his annual homily before surprising someone in the hall.
Now Peter, like Fred, is a hero of mine and it was important to me not to let him down while at the same time endeavouring to pull a fast one on the unsuspecting recipient. This award is given to someone who has made an outstanding contribution to the Society and is chosen by the committee. Now if one of the committee is picked a problem presents itself in keeping it a secret. Well this year Pete Reading was the unanimous choice and I’m proud to say that we managed to keep it from him right up until the end but I paid dearly for our little ruse as the picture shows! Pete is a giant of a man in every respect and it was an absolute honour to be able to make the presentation, the audience certainly agreed with our choice!
And that was it, a hugely successful day; the atmosphere was tremendous, not far short of three hundred people in the rooms taking into account all the exhibitors. We’ll do it all over again next year, the Barbel Society always put on a good show. We do it because we enjoy it and plenty of others enjoy it as well.
You will probably be reading this just as the new river season gets under way and like you I just can’t wait. I have lots of trips planned with an assortment of characters that should make for some interesting reading over the coming months.
Have a great start to the season; I’ll see you again soon.
By the Same Author
- Barbel Fishing – The Pope’s River Diary: April 2013
- Barbel Fishing – The Pope’s River Diary
- Barbel Fishing – The Pope’s River Diary: February 2013
- Barbel Fishing – The Pope’s River Diary: January 2013
- Barbel Fishing - The Wye Valley Experience 2013
- Barbel Fishing – The Pope’s River Diary: December 2012
- Barbel Fishing - The Pope's River Diary: November 2012
- Barbel Fishing - The Pope’s River Diary: October 2012
- Barbel Fishing - The Pope's River Diary: September 2012
- Barbel Fishing – The Pope’s River Diary: August