This is a milestone article, being the 75th I have written under the banner of ‘Alternative Angler’. Two years of me rambling on about everything and nothing, over sixty thousands words of waffle masquerading as ‘humour’. To those who may have taken the time and effort to actually read the articles I have written, I can only sympathise with what you have gone through!

In truth I have to say that I feel a fraud at times. All that drivel will have taught you absolutely nothing at all about fishing. It is probably a good thing I don’t regale you with tales of my angling adventures, as they are not studded with brilliant captures, there are no stirring tales of arm-aching battles with leviathans, no cunning strategies hatched to outwit previously uncaught monsters.

I am just a bloke who likes to go fishing now and then, nothing more, nothing less. My PB’s are just that, the biggest fish that I happen to have been lucky enough to catch. None of those captures are impressive, indeed not all the fish I catch get weighed, (don’t always pack the Avon’s) so those PB’s may or may not have been bettered. You can see how much importance I place on recording details……..

As to tactics, I will admit that once I have found something that works, I tend to flog it to death. I have slung so many sea fish baits into a certain venue during many fruitless sessions after pike, that I have raised the salinity level to a point where freshwater fish are having difficulty in hanging on and flounders start to appear in catches!

I don’t subscribe to the idea of being a tackle tart, as my gear is definitely not the most up to date, and, like many others, I suspect, I go into tackle shops and see items that I don’t recognise at all. In fact, despite two yeas of article writing, the great thing is that I don’t get recognised when I am out, a positive bonus if you are as inept at fishing as I sometimes am.

You know the kind of thing, kicking over bait boxes and scattering their contents to the winds. Opening up your tackle box to discover that those carefully refilled/oiled/polished reels are still on the kitchen table. (Usually next to the also overlooked sandwiches and flask). Heroic two hundred yard casts that are ever so slightly foreshortened by you forgetting to open the bale-arm. Tackling up in the dark and discovering that you have missed threading the line through one rod ring (or worse, threading it through the same ring twice – that cuts down your distance too!). Throwing out the keepnet before you have secured the top ring to a bankstick. If this kind of thing happens to anyone one the bank, it always seems to happen to me!

I would love the opportunity to widen my fishing knowledge, and even though I am not a carp fanatic, a session with acknowledged experts such as our own Stuart Dennis or Big Rik would no doubt convert me. Likewise, the opportunity just to watch a master such as Gary Knowles in action, chub or perch fishing on his local river, the Great Ouse ‘above Bedford’, would be worth a thousand words of text on the subject. In fact, I would be really intrigued to see how Gary would tackle a certain extremely underfished weirpool of my acquaintance on the Upper Thames. If you fancy a session around October time mate, the offer’s there! But to date, my only contact with other members of FM has been just the once at Clattercote. Probably for the best, I would say.

In fact, my apparent lack of notoriety has been confirmed by the response I have received to e-mails and letters sent to Tim Knight (Anglers Mail) and Richard Lee (Angling Times), regarding the lack of humour in their respective illustrious weekly publications. (AT have recently published a letter from an angler asking for more humour in their articles, so that makes at least two of us!). Their comments were, and are, unfortunately unprintable, for the sole reason that both of these fine gentlemen haven’t been able to find time to fashion a reply to my queries.

And here is the crux; is there any future for someone who writes ‘humorous’ articles about fishing? They are apparently not the type of thing required for the weekly angling press. I can rattle away on FM for a while, but after 75 episodes I am beginning to run out of ideas. And I don’t want to start repeating myself, I say, I don’t want to start repeating myself (please read in best Fred Elliott dialect!)

The Adventures of Donald Effingham-Mudde and Damien
In addition to ‘no funny business required’ in the weeklies, publishers approached by Graham have refused to consider a book of my stories about two obscure characters called Donald and Damien. Probably the worst kept secret on FM, but these are written under the nom de plume of a certain Herbert Henshall (95% me, with the funnier and more earthy bits added by our esteemed editor).

*Hurry – only 496 copies left!

As a short historical note, this was not a planned series, merely one article about a bitter and cantankerous, Victor Meldrew type old git originally named Mr. Crayfysshe-Bush, and his caring, sharing, environmentally aware, tree-hugging nephew, who was trying to educate his uncle into the modern ways. That alone had so many re-writes it nearly got thrown in the bin as too much trouble! Other characters I have introduced in AA articles have received little or no response at all, so I wasn’t planning much of a future for the ‘Uncle and Nephew’ duet, but they seemed to strike a chord with the more discerning readers on FM from the start.

This has unbelievably stretched to almost twenty thousand words over twelve chapters*, and I am at a loss as to what to do with the pair of them. You will not be aware that each of the ‘Donald’ episodes is ‘road tested’ on work colleagues and friends (male and female, anglers and non-anglers). What has come as a pleasant surprise and believe me, totally unexpected, is the positive response that the members of FM have shown to these two reprobates, with many kind words and numerous requests for a book of their exploits.

And here again I find I am at a crossroads. If ‘Donald’ isn’t deemed to be a good enough risk for the publishers to take on, I can print the book myself, on high quality paper and have it professionally collated, stitched and trimmed. Trouble is, there is a minimum quantity of 500, and I will have to shell out all the production and materials costs up front. Will I be left with 496 copies (one for me of course, one free copy for Graham, one for the wife, one for my mum) of the book, or is it really going to appeal enough to the members of FM for the orders to flood in?

I am at odds with book publishers because, let’s say, 50 out of 12000 members of FM would find the Donald stories of enough interest to buy a book. If there are two million anglers, then simplistically there is a potential sales market of some 8000 copies, is that not enough to bother with? I understand it’s not exactly Harry Potter, but we all have to start somewhere. I fear it is more to do with the publishers’ perception of angling. All my local bookstores are crammed with books of anecdotes and hilarious stories about golf, cricket, football and just about every other sport, But fishing…well it’s just not funny. Is it?

Sorry to rattle on, but please appreciate that I am still relatively new to the writing game, my style is probably not to everyone’s taste, the humour is very hit and miss at times. I seem to put more effort into writing the pun headers for the articles than I do on the content. But with Donald I have tried to make it far more about the two characters than about fishing. There are no in-depth descriptions of tackle and rigs for this reason, the fact that they go fishing is almost incidental to the plot, it could be any sport that two people of their respective ages could take part in together.

I am beginning to understand how other regular writers feel after two years or so, perhaps that is the natural life span of article writers, particularly one who is out on a limb trying to write ‘humorous’ angling pieces that appear to be rushing up a literary cul-de-sac. With particular reference to Donald, The twelve chapters so far seem to have reached a natural conclusion for the time being (You haven’t seen episode 12 yet, it’s currently having re-write number seventeen or eighteen, can’t quite get it right). I normally do two new ‘episodes’ at a time, but the tank is empty for the moment.

As for the weekly articles; I want to continue writing these ‘humorous’ articles and carry on bumbling away incoherently to no one in particular, for as long as the FM readers want to read them. What I don’t want is to go well past my ‘sell by’ date and no one has the heart to tell me my writing is now cr*p? (Which is a huge assumption on my part that it is better than cr*p now!).

Donald is another matter, the twenty thousand words done so far seem to have reached a natural break, and I am afraid that if I do any more they may not be up to the same standard. Perhaps he should stay where he is, having become something of a minor cult, rather than risk over-exposing the old git?