Since arriving back in the UK my feet have hardly touched the ground, so much for being able to put them up when you retire – I must have read the wrong manual somewhere along the line because my life has never been so busy!
As I type this diary, from somewhere deep in SW19, I’m full of the joys of being a grandad for the second time as my youngest has just given birth to a beautiful baby girl, I have to say that life really doesn’t get any better – an Aussie grandson who I’ll be spending a great deal of my time with and a budding English rose to dote on when I’m here, I’m a lucky man.
But enough of that, let’s talk fishing!
The first item on the agenda was this year’s Barbel Show, put on by the Barbel Society, and what a show it turned out to be.
Credit has to go to Rich Frampton for organising what was certainly the best one in recent years. Although I was out in Australia I kept in regular contact with Rich and was well aware how much he was putting into it and how anxious he was for it to be a great success. He needn’t have worried because the turnout on the day was superb and everyone was treated to talks from some of the very best speakers around, plus a great array of tackle stands to peruse and buy everything a barbel angler could possibly require with the start of the river season just days away.
It’s hard to say what the highlight was as there really were so many but I have to mention Des Taylor, he really is special, he combines great angling knowledge with a sense of humour that makes him the consummate angling entertainer. He has just launched his own website and I would recommend you check it out.
The book launch went very well, we are now well on our way to selling all the copies and the feedback on the content has been excellent. A great deal of hard work went into the production of ‘Barbel Tales’ and it has been a huge relief to see it being received so well. I can see there being a ‘Barbel Tales 2’ and having observed what goes into the production of a modern day book I’ve been prompted to start work on my own, I hope I can get it all done within the next eighteen months.
I have not missed a single show since the Barbel Society started and for me the day is all about catching up with old friends, and relatively new ones, and on days like these any differences in opinion are put to one side and it’s all about the spirit of camaraderie that for me is one of the most important factors that keeps me staying involved. If you have never been to one of these shows then I would thoroughly recommend that you do, they are great fun and an excellent way to get in the mood for fishing on the rivers once again.
Back home I took some time out to make sure the batteries really were fully charged, looking in my diary I knew a hectic schedule was about to open up!
Before I hit the river I had a date to keep in Coventry with the main man, the Boss himself. If you follow my Diary you will be well aware that I am a big fan, so much so that I decided to queue up more than a day in advance of the actual show. Now you may well think I’m mad for contemplating such action but let me just say that there were already more than one hundred people in the line when I arrived; I have to say I was amazed but at least I consoled myself in the knowledge that there were people out there slightly more insane than myself!
To cut a long story short I somehow managed to bag a prime position, I was very close, and enjoyed a fantastic show. If you are a Springsteen fan there are more words and superb photos on my website.
Four days later and raring to go I found myself on the banks of the glorious River Wye, at the Llanthomas stretch owned by FishingMagic stalwart Geoff Maynard, and it is a stunning place to be I promise you.
The fishery has the lot, deep pools, fast flowing shallows, overhanging trees, bends, beaches, islands, stunning scenery and a great head of fish! Geoff has found his own piece of heaven and I for one am envious!
With me in this veritable paradise was Chris, who had bid for the day out with me on the Barbel Society Auction, we were both looking forward to a full twelve hours or so trying our best to outwit the barbel and chub that inhabit the stretch.
The fishing was by no means easy but with a little bit of help from our friends – that’s Geoff – a barbel not that far off double figures found its way into Chris’s landing net and what a beautiful looking fish it was too, these Wye barbel are simply stunning, certainly some of the best looking Barbus barbus I’ve ever seen.
Some nice chub also put in an appearance and Chris went home a happy man, I retired to my trusty sleeping bag to make sure I was ready for another try the next day.
Up bright and early, the vivid blue sky framing the wonderful Wye Valley landscape with the Black Mountains in the distance, I was looking forward to meeting up with Martin Salter, we hadn’t managed to get it together down under but we had managed to work it out on the Wye.
Before Martin arrived in the afternoon I managed to tempt a couple of nice barbel from the deep hole under the upstream bush from a swim appropriately named ‘The Pulpit’. I had a fair few chub as well and just like the barbel these fish also were in mint condition.
Martin arrived and so too did Will Barnard and Adrian Eves, we spent more time talking than fishing! The sun was shining as has been the case for some while – must have brought it back with me – and it was unlikely we would catch more fish until it had set, so we ate and talked!
I think we put the world to rights, we had a very interesting chat outside Martin’s camper and I think it’s fair to say we were all enlightened by some of the revelations that came out!! Unfortunately what’s said on tour has to stay on tour as they say! A great day with great company, sometimes that’s what is important, barbel on days like that really are a bonus.
Before I leave the Wye I must mention another visitor, none other than Jerry the Barbelboi from the Fishing Magic Forum, I wouldn’t like to guess the number of anglers who have enjoyed a cup of tea in Geoff’s fishing den!
You just never know who is going to turn up!
I also spent a day on the venue in the company of that larger than life character Bobby Baker and his even more extravagant dad, but I’ll save that for another time as there is a part two to that story that hasn’t even unfolded yet!
Next stop was the Kennet and the gleaming red sports car in the car park signalled the arrival of a rather special visitor, we had both waited a long time for this meeting on the river!
Yes, the day had finally come when I would be spending time with the boss, that’s Welchy not Bruce!!
I’ve known Ian for many years but this was the first time we had actually fished together – that wasn’t exactly true though – although he had a bait in the water Ian wasn’t ‘really’ fishing we spent the best part of twelve hours talking about just about every subject under the sun and my rod stayed in its sleeve!
It’s a good job we had lots to chat about because the Kennet barbel steadfastly refused to pick up Ian’s bait even though it was arguably one of the very best there is – a Fred Wilton special!
It’s fair to say we know a lot more about each other now and I am hoping to convince Ian that we should set aside another day, perhaps in October, to try again when the barbel are far more likely to respond.
My respect for Ian in producing a top quality weekly feature for Angler’s Mail is total, it’s difficult enough to do it monthly, there are very few anglers who would be able to produce top quality material like that every seven days and my hat goes off to Ian for doing that job so well. And I have to admit to a hint of envy when Ian told me about the weekend he had in store, the Wimbledon men’s final and the Stones in Hyde Park – it doesn’t get much better than that!
But on the fishing front it really was just one of those days, even John (A fellow syndicate member) who is a very good angler and was on the stretch also suffered a blank. After Ian left I actually fished on and still nothing showed – the barbel were just not playing ball.
So a slow start for me, not entirely surprising bearing in mind the conditions, I decided to take it out on my old dilapidated greenhouse, made me feel a lot better I have to say! The greenhouse is no more.
I know I’ve said before that when I’m on the river I’m there to catch fish, if I want to smell the flowers and catch the scenery then I stay at home and sit in the garden but somehow this month has been different. It really has been all about meeting up once again with people I had not seen in a long time and readjusting to life back here.
However in my next Diary I’ll be telling you how it all came right on the Kennet with the doubles putting in an appearance, how the extreme weather made life difficult on the Wye, why I like to superglue my meatballs, why the early bird catches the barbel, and how the birth of a child – that’s my granddaughter, not George, put fishing on temporary hold.
The best of luck if you’re out on the rivers, enjoy your fishing.