Monthly tales from our angling adventurer

Bob Roberts’ Diary

ERHAPS I should know better at my age than to tempt fate, but you might recall I closed last month’s diary with those fateful words, “let it snow”. We never learn, eh? Driving up to the A1 in the pitch black of pre-dawn it was impossible to ignore the pulsing amber lights on the overhead matrix signs announcing: ‘SEVERE WEATHER FORECAST’. What they actually meant was: ‘DON’T BE STUPID, BOB, TURN ROUND AND GO BACK TO BED’. The radio was no more encouraging: ‘Warm air from the west will run into cold air in the east leading to snow falls on high ground at first, spreading to all areas. Accumulations of 5cm-10cm are likely.’ “At least the track will be frozen solid so it’ll save us a walk!” said Stu. “It’s minus 7 and I reckon we can drive all the way down the lane today.” Always the optimist is Stu. We had to go, though. The winter filming for our Caught In The Act DVD has completely exceeded our expectations but an opportunity to shoot in the snow couldn’t be missed. It would be the icing on the cake. We simply had to be there when the snow fell, so onward we pressed. I was perched high on a distinctly chilly hill, camera rolling, when a watery sun crept over the horizon. Stu was already half a mile away,


Bob Roberts enjoyed a great end to the river season. To fend off your withdrawal symptoms here’s how he did it
silhouetted against the gold and crimsons reflected in the river. It was an awesome shot. Yes, it consumed an hour but these are the scenes that make a film special. It was my turn on the cameras today. Stu’s on the rod and, if I’m honest, I was pleased. I didn’t fancy sucking ice out of the rod rings every other run down in temperatures that would barely rise above zero all day. I honestly didn’t fancy his chances much. Undeterred, Stu trickled in a few maggots while he set up a stick float rod. The river did look in fine fettle with that greeny-blue tinge. Low and clear, admittedly, and freezing cold, but it had been cold for a good while and chub soon acclimatise. Even so, I didn’t expect his float to bury on the first run through. It was to be the first bite of many. Chub followed chub to the point where it was getting silly. I urged him to ease off and not kill the swim before the snow arrived but there’s no stopping him when he’s got his ‘fishing head’ on. Stu was bagging. When the first flakes of snow fluttered down we were buzzing. It settled instantly, on anything it touched, including Stu. It covered his hat, his hood, his shoulders and all the while his float kept going under. It was getting late when I insisted he called it a day: “Come on Stu, the roads are going to be treacherous!” My plea made little difference. He only stopped when he ran out of bait, having fed more than four pints of maggots. He’d landed well over 30 chub, the best a respectable 4lb 11oz, and most were 3lb – easily over 100lb in total. It was an astonishing catch in plainly ridiculous conditions. I filmed him walking off into the distance in a world of white. It was a wrap.

Madness, magic and a touch of Eden paradise

Catching fish to order is rarely easy but this 6lb River Lea chub duly obliged

That’s no chub!

You never feel the cold when you’re catching fish like this in the snow for the new DVD

A few days earlier we’d been back to the River Lea. Stu wanted to get some underwater footage of big chub feeding and, oh, would I be able to catch a 6lb chub to order? He wanted to get some close-up action shots. Amazingly, my very first chub turned out to be a six! The fishing Gods were certainly smiling on us this month.

What viewers may not realise when they watch one of our films is that a little magic is applied in the editing suite. I suspect all film makers do the same, but on screen there’s this seamless sequence of an angler casting out, feeding, the underwater camera showing fish feeding, cutting back to the float or rod tip to see the bite, the strike, the fight, a fish being drawn over the net from three different angles, unhooking and presenting to the camera. “Let’s slip this one back and get another one!” What you might not appreciate is that sometimes the angler might have had to catch three or four fish to create just that single catch sequence. Not always, but that’s showbiz folks.

It can be a tough ask for the performer, especially in winter when bites are at a premium and light values change constantly. One sequence that had to be shot in one go came when the float buried and my strike connected with something much more powerful than I was expecting. Whatever it was powered off downstream, then back again before running at me. This was clearly no chub and I began to suspect I’d latched into a barbel. When it then forged away upstream, right into the white water of the weir I was worried it would find a snag. But no, giving it all the power I dare apply on a 2lb bottom to a size 20 barbless Gamakatsu Pellet and Paste hook, it turned and rolled on the surface.

This River Eden grayling went 2lb 7oz – a brilliant end to a great month! IYCF April 18 – May 16, 2012 • 127

126 • IYCF Issue 258

Monthly tales from our angling adventurer

Bob Roberts’ Diary

On first glimpse of a golden flank I thought, carp, a bloomin’ great river carp. When it boiled again I saw it had spots! What? Blow me, I’d only hooked into a great big wild brown trout, bigger than any I’ve ever seen, never mind caught. To cut a long story short I eventually mugged it in the way Will Raison mugs carp, placing my net in its path as it swam by. The kype (curve) on its jaw and rows of teeth suggested this specimen normally makes its living eating fish but my tiny hook was just outside the teeth on the tip of its top lip. How the hook stayed in I’ll never know, but what a memorable catch.

“Whatever I’d hooked moved into fast water. This is what we’d come for”
Both flow through ‘God’s Own Country’ according whether you’re speaking to a Yorkshireman, a Lancastrian or a Cumbrian. With snow on the tops, wicked cold temperatures, plus a low and clear river things looked perfect for grayling so I gave Chris a ring. We met at Warwick Hall as dawn was breaking on a crisp day with ice fringing the margins. The sky was powder blue, the light delightful and I was into grayling from the off. These weren’t monster fish, but worth catching all the same, averaging 12oz to a pound. Folk get carried away with the idea that a handful of chalk streams in Dorset and Hampshire are the best, or only, places to catch grayling, but it’s not true. I regard grayling like roach. The British rodcaught record for each is practically identical so, to me, a pound fish is a cracker, a ‘two’ is a genuine specimen and once you get up to 2lb 8oz it’s approaching the fish of a lifetime. After little more than an hour Stu announced that he’d got the shoot in the can and maybe we ought to move elsewhere and try for a bigger specimen. Chris reckoned he knew the place, so off we went. We headed upstream through the most delightful scenery and arrived at a breathtaking spot. Snow covered the tops yet snowdrops were blooming by the river. Chris showed me a couple of his favourite swims, one of which really grabbed my fancy: “There’s nowhere near as many fish here but they’re bigger,” he told me. To be honest it was a struggle. We hopped swims, shot beautiful footage and, as the afternoon wore on, I felt an urge to drop back into the first swim. The hunch paid off. I had two fish over a pound in two runs through. Then the float buried and whatever I’d hooked moved out into fast water and powered away. This is what we’d come for. The difference in the fight was amazing. A big grayling is incredibly powerful and I could actually see it fighting in the clear water. Stu moved in between me and the fish to get the ultimate netting shot but, as I tried to keep the line clear of him, pull the fish on to the surface and poke a net round his legs, the inevitable happened. A huge dorsal broke the surface, I saw the width of its back and with one swirling writhe it shed the hook. I was gutted! I couldn’t even begin to put a weight to the fish. Neither of us could speak for a while other than to utter a few profanities. But blow me, the next trot down saw the float bury and I was into another lump. This time my knees were knocking. “Please, don’t come off!” The fight was heart-stopping but when this lady off the stream was bundled into my net I was ecstatic. At 2lb 7oz it was a new PB. What a way to end the day! z Chris Bowman provides a reasonably priced coaching and guiding service and can be contacted on 01228 674519 or 0771 416 8939.

Grayling in God’s country

The final trip I’m going to share from this month was another filming occasion. I had fished the River Annan in the Scottish Borders around four years ago with PAA coach and professional angling guide Chris Bowman. He suggested I ought to try Cumbria’s River Eden for grayling. By coincidence, the Eden and River Swale rise on the same peat bog high in the Pennines barely a mile apart. But the Swale flows east and south to join first the Ure and then the Yorkshire Ouse before emptying out into the Humber Estuary, while the Eden flows west and north to the Solway Firth.

During one incredible session in the snow Stu couldn’t stop catching chub to over 4lb for a total catch exceeding an incredible 100lb

Bob heads for the Bay of Bengal with the rocket-powered Giant Trevally in his sights. Does he manage one? Find out on May 16.

This bonus wild brown trout from the River Lea gave Bob the runaround

128 • IYCF Issue 258

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