Life After The Mail

I guess most of you know the Anglers Mail has reached the end of its half-century journey and I thank very many of you for your messages of commiseration and support.
The major issue here is that the sport has lost a beacon of sanity in ever more bonkers times. Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate the part that the internet plays in every part of our lives now but sometimes the solid common sense you found in papers like the Mail was reassuringly valuable. Very many of us grew up in a time when angling was a very literate pursuit. I remember Angling Magazine and older readers will mourn the loss of Creel even further back.
Angling is poorer for the loss of the Anglers Mail
Coarse Fisherman came for a quarter of a century-and went. Most of the carp mags have foundered along with many of the trout periodicals. Even into this century many, if not most, of the major publishing houses had a fishing list. Today, most of these have gone or at the very least, would not consider angling a fit subject any more. What books are available today come from small independent publishers in the main. I have nothing against this at all, though I do wish more of them would obey the most rudimentary rules of grammar and spelling. Still, the point I am labouring to make is that without the Mail now, our angling is a poorer sport.
It has hit me hard

As am I! I have been writing off and (largely) on for the Mail for 45 years and its demise has left a large hole in my working and fishing life. For many years, my week’s guiding would be targeted towards obtaining copy for Sunday when I would sit down and hammer it all into shape for my Mail column. I enjoyed the discipline, the focus and feeling that I just might be helping people catch more fish or at least appreciate why they were NOT catching fish.

Increasingly over the years I began to take an ever-larger interest in conservation and wrote ever more about the degrading of my rivers especially. I hope in all these hundreds-if, not thousands-of columns I did not come across as arrogant, smug or superior. I took the view that because I fish so very much, I’d be a fool if I did not learn from my experiences. Further, because I was a teacher for the start of my professional life, I have always felt a compulsion to pass on what I know, what I have learned and what has excited or infuriated me.  I hope moving forwards I can do this online, here at Bailey and Fishing.
My beloved Roach
Because of my guiding, filming and consultancy work, I truly feel there are a few weeks when I do not have something useful to say. Can we take the week just gone as an example? I was out on my beloved river Wensum with four of my dearest angling friends. You ought to know that for years a genuine two-pound roach from the river has been a constant, nagging target of ours. In fact, it has become an obsession. Back in the Seventies, I counted on taking at least fifty such fish a season. Until last Saturday, I hadn’t seen a Wensum Two for at least eight years or so. Devastating in so many ways and an itch every one of us has been yearning to scratch. Well, it happened. If the Mail had still been in existence that is where you would have read of this historic moment now it is online and hopefully just as good. A little after lunch, Ian Miler’s float went down and Ian, better known as Pingers, went on to land a Wensum roach of 2.02.
Now there are several real points of genuine interest in this story. There is the fishing aspect. On a slowly falling river with colour still in it, trotted maggots are a great way of building a swim-up. Feed red or white maggots      (my choice) generously and work the swim-up. Feed for twenty minutes before casting to encourage confidence. Choose a swim between four and six feet deep. Look for water that looks a flat as an ironing board and avoid water heaving with heavy boils. Go as light as you can but ensure the float has enough weight to allow complete control. Play a big roach with conviction and do not get bossed about-you’d be surprised how hard a Two actually scraps.
The Environment Agency
All this is good stuff I hope, but the real message is this. The Environment Agency has all but given up on the Wensum and rivers like it. Abstraction and pollution and predation especially have reached such a point that the EA has stopped even pretending they are trying to reverse the decline. Their view is that the Wensum, for example, is physically incapable of housing fish like this and that time, effort and money spent on it is all wasted. This extraordinary fish gives the lie to this policy of shirking and disregard. This fish proves that the Wensum is still fertile enough to breed huge roach if the river is properly protected. IF! That is the question. IF the EA were doing their job, Ian Miller and the rest of us could be catching clonking roach as a matter of course, not seeing them as a bolt from the blue.
Join with me
This is my pitch then. Of course, I would love to talk about the actual catching of fish, wild, natural fish. But I feel we all have a duty in these strange and dark times to speak out at what we perceive as abuses. The future of natural fishing is on the cusp and I believe it is at the heart of what our sport is all about.
Though the Mail has gone, I hope you will continue to read my thoughts on what we can all do to catch more fish..and ensure we have fish to catch well into the future. I really hope this is a new start of a fresh relationship for us all.
Thank you deeply for reading me.