Tag: coarsefishing

Tench Fishing Tangles

I really don’t know if I am the only tench guide in the country but I am sure that between April and August there is a huge demand for the species that I have been trying to satisfy for years. There is something quite magical about fishing for Tench which is clearly appreciated by many thousands of anglers up and down the country.Tench can often be quite obliging to fish for but certainly not always! In this blog I take a look at why Tench can sometimes confound and what tactics pay dividends most often for me.

By and large i have been pretty successful. In the past 5 years catches have averaged between 800 and 1200 tench each  season which when you think about it is a hell of a lot. We are looking at around 10 tench per day which can be a killer to achieve in several weather scenarios. Tench are far more picky that carp and a whiff of an easterly will send them packing most of the time.

Gone Fishing

The popularity of Tench fishing and it’s challenges was illustrated while when I was working with Paul Whitehouse and Bob Mortimer on the BBC2 series Mortimer & Whitehouse:Gone Fishing which I am the fishing consultant on. Paul and Bob were very keen to have a Tench fishing episode in the mix and who was I to argue. I baited heavily a number of swims on pits I thought I could rely on to deliver a fish or two. As is the way with mother nature on the day , yes you guessed it we had a easterly blowing.  After 5 hours of fishing we had caught nothing for the cameras. Whilst we had plenty of hilarious banter from Paul and Bob we needed a fish or two to make the show work. Fortunately finally late in the afternoon we managed a couple of super fish which was of great relief to me and the producers

Paul and Bob from Series 1

 

I’m well aware that much of the time success I have had over the years is down to the waters I fish. That is obvious. However, I have been fishing for tench since 1962 so if I haven’t got a clue by now it would be a sad admission. Of course , over 57 years, I have had to scratch my head a number of times but I can’t remember a year when the tench have had it so much of their own way. Every tench i have put a net under this year has been hard won and sometimes a fish has seemed impossible. What is going on??

As I see it, there are two issues.

Tench wise up

One. Tench on each and every one of the 14 lakes I guide upon have wised up to some degree. We all know this happens. Whatever the species, after a while you do get rumbled. I first truly realised the extent of this back on the Red Lion stretch of the river Wye in the early 90s. It became blindingly obvious that if you pressured a shoal of barbel there they would learn the game with startling rapidity. I began the practise of catching one or two fish from a shoal and then resting that shoal for days /weeks even months. The trouble was that on a public water you could not control the actions of others and the shoals that I was cosseting increasingly became blitzed by others. That’s fine. That’s life. That’s why I moved on.

A stunning float caught 5 lb Tench

Swim rotation?

Back to tench, that is why up here I have spent a long time building up a portfolio of private or semi private waters. At least that way I have some measure of control over which swims are fished when, how and to what degree. I certainly learned form my Red Lion days and I like to think I have treated my Norfolk tench waters and swims with kid gloves, rotating swims and moving anglers on to new swims and lakes once they have caught a certain, generally low, number of fish. And the approach I talk about in my top tips for tench blog has seen most of my success. The trouble is that as I see it, time has caught up with me. Despite my care, in all the lakes a certain proportion of tench have been caught or hooked or seen shoal members hooked and they now know the game. Back in Red Lion days, I saw it as a fact that once those barbel were educated to us , they never forgot, they never became unlearned. You could rest a shoal a month or a year but it never reverted to its virgin state. Is that now the state my tench have reached?

Heidi with a 8lb personal best. =you can see how happy she was!

A numbers game?

I am talking the roughest possible figures here. But let’s say that each of the 14 lakes hold on average 500 tench that equates to 7,000 fish, give or take quite a lot I know. Let’s now say that my clients have landed 5,000 fish and perhaps hooked or bumped or lost a further 1,000. Well you can do the sums on this one. Of course you can say that it is possible to try new swims-the lakes are large ones-new baits and new methods and of course these are the avenues I am exploring with some success right now. We’ll see and I’ll report back at every twist and turn. What this does make one realise is the immense difficulty of catching decent tench from day ticket and club waters where the fish are fished for on a daily basis. No wonder so many of my clients complain their home waters are beyond hard to crack.

A critically balanced bunch of live and fake maggots

Crack the code

This still does not explain why a handful of waters in my tenching life have been on the verge of impossible from the very get go. Lost Lake is a prime example. As its name implies, Lost Lake was completely virginal when I stumbled upon it 3 years ago. It has a good head of big fish and it is only four acres in extent , so location is no issue. Nor is it hard to concentrate tench and get them feeding on your bait. Day upon day, we have had swims frothing with fish very evidently on what we are giving them. Yet even a bite is a rarity and a fish cause for celebration. How can this be? The tench cannot have wised up. The tench are obviously feeding on bait. We have tried at least thirty different rigs, set-ups, baits, hooking arrangements-you name it and we have done it. It is not even as though the lake is crystal clear.
So the memory span of a fish is the supposed ten seconds is it?? tell that one to my Norfolk tench and hear them laughing all the way to safety.

Tench tactics and approaches that work

Having said all that I have to be pleased with the numbers of fish that I and my guiding clients have caught. Fish into double figures, probably in excess of 100 9’s and a high proportion of 8’s and 7’s. So what have I learned.

Float fishing can be devastatingly successful if you pay attention to minimising the visibility of line in the water and critically balance baits. See my Youtube video Tench on the float for more tips and advice.

 

Some of the tench floats I use created by Ian Lewis of Handmadefishingfloats

1. Ring the changes with baits

– this can really can pay dividends and especially naturals like bloodworm and caddis grubs when they become preoccupied.

2. Baiting swims in advance.

– If you have the time and the pit you are fishing is accessible baiting consistently,will draw fish in and on big pits this can pay off big time.

3. The biggest Tench tend to come to feeder and scaled down carp tactics.

– and often the bait will be boilies, they will often feed alongside carp and consequently have a diet of carp anglers fair.

4. Remember the way Tench feed is to suck in food.

– make sure your baits are critically balanced so that the force of the suck lifts your bait into the fishes mouth.

Well I hope you are cracking the code for Tench fishing on your local Tench water and I would love to hear about the approaches that have work for you when times get tough.

 

John Bailey

 

John Bailey’s 10 tips to become a great angler

In this article i look at my top tips for how we can all be good and even great anglers if we want to improve enough and if we think about the whole process deeply enough. I’m proud to have known many anglers who I have watched going from decent, to good, to fantastic. In my book, they are the real heroes and you could easily join them.

I’ve always said that if I haven’t been working, I’ve either been fishing or playing football. I’m going to mention the World Cup to try and show what I mean about greatness. I enjoyed nearly all the matches but what I was aware of constantly was that in my view good footballers were only a hair’s breadth away from being great. Think about the Japan Belgium game. Japan so nearly won it because they were good, organised, motivated players following a well-schemed-out plan. In fishing or in football, you can achieve all your objectives if you follow certain basic rules. I have talked about what i see as the foundations of how to catch more fish,so here i am going to concentrate on some of the intangibles that can propel you on the road to greatness.

STEP ONE -DARE TO BE DIFFERENT

So many of us are held back by the fear of looking silly. There is a great amount of peer pressure in some forms of angling and I’m like many people in that I don’t want to look stupid. But who cares? Does it really matter if you’re catching? Rob Shanks, whom I’ve often talked about, is not only a tackle dealer but a great carp angler. I’ve watched Rob spend an entire session not putting a rod up, just walking, watching, thinking. Most of the other carp anglers on the lake have dashed to a swim, thrown up their bivvies, whopped out their boilies and sat back to snooze. You might think Rob is an odd one but, given the time that family and shop allow, he catches shed loads. Don’t bother about how you look. Concentrate on what you catch.

STEP TWO – FISH WHISPERING

I’ve got to flag up Chris Yates here. He is typical of those great anglers who have an affinity with fish that is impossible for me, or for anyone, to put into words. They just click with fish, sense how fish are feeling and thinking and it pays massive dividend. A lot of great anglers have fished from childhood and I guess that’s something to do with it. They were brought up with fish in a way that anglers taking up the sport in middle or older age just can’t get their heads around. You don’t have to be an angler from childhood but I guess it helps when it comes to feeling at one with the water and the fish that the water holds.

STEP THREE – WATER WATCHING

            In large part, you become a fish whisperer by simply watching the water. If you do this long enough and intensely enough, you will begin to start seeing fish that you never knew previously were there. The great anglers know this. Richie Macdonald once told me that his binoculars were the most important part of his kit and a string of bubbles sighted at a hundred and fifty yards could change his season. On the other hand, a great mate of mine, sadly passed away, was Bernie Neave and he was eagle-eyed at watching fish just a rod length out. He could interpret every bubble, every swaying reed, every twig rising from the bottom. Watching the water and interpreting what you see is a fabulous gift and is one that can be learnt if you take the time to do so.

STEP FOUR – GETTING YOUR FISHING GEAR INTO PERSPECTIVE

This is a vital one. All the great angler I have known have good kit, good bait and good methods. They’ve worked to put all these together and then they totally forget about the mechanics. They’re just not bothered about the hardware anymore, it’s the fish and the fishery that consume them. Too many anglers fret about their gear session in and session out. It’s a complete waste of your energy and it deflects you from what you should really be thinking about. Get gear, bait and approach right, then move on to the important bits.

STEP FIVE – TAKING YOUR TIME

I’ve already alluded to this aspect talking about Robert Shanks and Richie Macdonald. The fact is that if you just rush to the water, set up like a lunatic and get fishing, you are going to miss ninety-five percent of the opportunities throughout your fishing life. At its most basic, you might just miss some feeding fish in your haste. More importantly, you won’t sense what the water is telling you, you just won’t go with the flow. The more you strategise, the more you sink into the rhythm of the river or the stillwater, the more confident you will become and the more your ideas will flourish.

STEP SIX – IMMERSE YOURSELF IN YOUR CHALLENGES

Now, importantly, I’m not talking here about the Alan Wilson approach which is to sit in a good swim, in a good water for months on end. I’m talking about taking your challenges with you in your head. Think about what you want from a water before you fall asleep, or on the tube, or in your lunch hour, or in any idle moment. You might be at work or on the motorway or wherever but in your soul and in your mind you are back bankside. If you live your fishing this way, it becomes part of your psyche.

STEP SEVEN – MOBILE FISHING

All the good to great angler I have known set themselves up so that they can be mobile and can move at a moment’s notice. They’re not anglers who rush to what is supposed to be the best, going swim. Rather, they will take each fishing situation at its face value and plot where the fish are going to be. if they pitch down in the wrong place, then they are not so bogged down with stuff that they can’t get up and keep searching for where the fish are feeding. Rod Hutchinson would listen to weather reports and drive to a different part of the country or even to a different country depending on what they said. That’s extreme but you won’t catch a great angler sitting in a swim that his gut tells him is not going to produce.

STEP EIGHT – WATCHING FOR WEATHER WINDOWS

Great anglers are like lions. They might spend the majority of their life asleep but, deep down, they’re watchful, waiting for waters to spring into life. A change in wind strength or direction. A sudden, intense cloud cover. An approaching storm. A change in barometric pressure. There are a score or more of natural phenomena that will spark the great angler out of lethargy and into life. Most big fish come during small windows, during short feeding spells. The great angler is alert enough to profit from these.

STEP NINE – MASTER THE MARGINS

Start with the margins. Many, if not most, of the greatest anglers have been experts close-in. It’s when you can see fish and when you know a piece of water intimately that you can make proper advances. Often huge advances. One of the truly great anglers of the modern era was Lenny Bunn. Lenny was a carp angler who took Norfolk apart, Redmire apart and then the whole English carp scene apart. He was the co-inventor of Black Magic, the forerunner of all modern baits. But above all, Lenny was the master of the margins. He never put baits out at random, only in tight feeding areas, often with a pea-shooter or perhaps even down a drainpipe. Along the margins, he could use his mastery of close control and above all, read the fishes’ exact reactions. This intimate approach can teach you huge amounts about fish, how they behave, what they like and what they’re afraid of. It’s an essential step to greatness.

 

STEP TEN – LONGEVITY

            Unlike football, fishing is a sport where you often get better as you get over. There are a lot of promising anglers who simply burn themselves out. The Angler’s Mail through the decades has been full of fishermen who have made a splash, if you’ll pardon the pun, but disappeared after a season or two. Really good, verging on great anglers, have long track records. They are in fishing for the long haul, for life. There are plenty of young anglers I admire tremendously but it’s words of wisdom from the oldies that I’ll really cock my ear to. Rock on Archie Braddock my old friend.

TIPS

  • Master the basic skills and then, confident, move on to fishing’s endless subtleties and satisfactions.
  • Don’t bog yourself down with the mechanics of tackle, bait and rig. Be happy with what you decide upon using and then clear your mind for the important stuff.
  • Eyes. Binoculars. Polaroids. These are your most essential aids so learn how to use them.
  • Matt Busby once said it only takes a second to score a goal and it’s the same in fishing. You are better spending four hours watching, thinking and feeling and then make one successful cast. Great anglers live a quest, a water, a single fish can even inhabit their dreams. The more your fishing becomes a part of your mental world, the better you will be at it.

John Bailey

Where do you stand on the issue of your fishing PB’s?

Bob Mortimer, star of Mortimer and Whitehouse – Gone Fishing, is aglow with the glory of his PB pike. But how important are fishing PB’s ? Is there a danger that obsessing about PB’s can take away some of the pleasure of the majority of the fish we catch,as most will not be PB’s!

Weighing fish

As I guide, I see my anglers excited about fish that could be their Personal Bests and so I can’t just slip the hook and return fish of this magnitude. We have to weigh them and I understand that. But, I guess, we should all make the process as quick as we possibly can. The big issue, I truly believe, is to keep fish wet, especially in the heat of the sun. Make sure there is a bucket full of water so you can douse them regularly. I personally like to weigh fish in a plastic bag just with a skim of water in the bottom. You can make allowances for this when you set the scales. My aim always is to keep the unhooking, weighing, photography and return to under a minute.

Weighing a fishing PB Tench for Anthony Butterworth

I still occasionally wonder why we bother with this process. I guess knowing the weight of a big fish is partly down to simple human aspiration. Perhaps a list of personal bests also is a yardstick to how well we are doing as anglers and how we are progressing in our careers.

The question of postcodes

Compiling impressive Personal Best lists is dependent on more than our skill alone and perhaps one of the most important elements to the whole business is a question of postcodes. That’s where we are so fortunate here in East Anglia. A normal fish for us would be an absolute whopper on Merseyside or in Rotherham! A record fish for Barnsley we probably wouldn’t bother to weigh here in Norwich. We do well, though, to remember that any water’s performance is hugely variable. If we take 2018, we have big specimens of some species we would not have dreamt of 30 years ago and yet other species are in very evident decline and much harder this century than last. Let’s look, though, at some of the big asks in East Anglian fishing today.

What constitutes a big fish?

I guess most of us would say that a 2lb river roach is just about the top of the wanted list for most general anglers. Last century, certainly in the ‘60s and ‘70s, they were just about everywhere. And now? You tell me!

Back in the ‘70s, a 5lb chub was a target but now, I guess, we’ve got to set the bar at 7lb. During that period, 1lb dace were coming out like peas in a pod, but just the other day I netted a 12-ouncer and it made me gasp.

Ping Pong with a 7lb chub from the Wensum

A fish I’ve never pulled off is a 4lb East Anglian perch and there aren’t many anglers that I know who have. It’s interesting you can catch a hatful of twos and threes but that four-pounder is a magical barrier to break.

I was nearly 30 before I caught my 6lb tench and I still remember the euphoria that surrounded it. Today, most of us wouldn’t even get the scales out. Most of the tench fishers I know are after 10s, an unbelievable weight now. It’s the same with bream. Back in the day, my PB was just over 7lb. This autumn, I’m looking to bump that up to 19lb! Would you believe it?

We all have to admit that right now any East Anglian barbel is a mighty challenge indeed. Just 20 years ago, a 12lb or a 13lb fish was about the standard. I’d settle for 2lb or 3lb today. In the rivers, it’s absolutely magnificent that wild brown trout are coming back on several of our rivers. I’ve always longed for an 8lb-plus, naturally-born brownie and I might just have an opportunity in the next year or so.

Let’s talk about the biggies! I suppose for the carp angler, or at least the ones I know, the capture of an unknown 40 is getting close to the dream. As for pike, Fred Buller got it right many years ago in his classic title, The Domesday Book of Pike. Fred, in his wisdom, set the entry level at 35lb and that weight remains valid to this very day. You can read reports of fish of 30lb to 32lb but those extra 48oz take some locating.

Ratters with a previously unknown 42lb Common

The central issue in searching for big fish is to make the most of any window of opportunity. Big fish come, but more importantly, they can go with alarming speed. Many waters have produced extraordinary fish, but for a limited period only. The key is to explore, to keep your ear to the ground and listen for the merest rumours of big fish being caught. Best of all, be first. Try to locate your own big fish, and then, I suppose, keep quiet about their location.

John Bailey

An in-depth look at the influence of Richard Walker on angling.

There probably isn’t an angler out there that hasn’t been influenced by Richard Stuart Walker, one way or another, even though he was born almost exactly a hundred years ago.  For those born anytime between 1940 and 1970 or so, that influence will be especially real and vivid, whatever species you fish for. Like me, you will all have read his books, his articles and have been aware, in awe even, of the twentieth century angling god.

Amongst historians there is the phrase called ‘the stream of time’ that is useful in assessing the impact any of us make, whatever our position in society. Of course, great men tend to be analysed more closely. Let’s take an example, Winston Churchill. Would he be remembered without the Second World War catapulting him to Number 10 and eternal glory as a war leader? In the same way, Walker was no doubt helped in his life of angling glory by the way society was changing around him. Post war technology to pioneer angling in the unique way that he did. Without the advances in monofilament line, reel, rod and hook design it is doubtful if he could have hooked or landed his record carp, for instance. However, even given these leaps that tackle had made, it still took someone like Walker to capitalise on them fully. Like Churchill, Walker was the man of the moment and he, more than any of his contemporaries, seized his opportunity for angling greatness.

Let’s add some other significant factors to this particular thread. By the 1950s, there was more general affluence and more anglers could afford better tackle. Even working men began to see more free time, too, from the 1960s and, of course, travel was revolutionised. Walker made his way to Redmire in September 1952 to catch that record carp in angling companions Pete Thomas’s car. The fact it broke down on the way didn’t stop private transport revolutionising the range that anglers could fish between the 1950s and the 1970s. Walker’s words, Walker’s tackle, more pay, more free time and the wheels to enjoy all this changed our fishing world.

 

WALKER THE ANGLER

Walker was an engineer by education and trade, he studied at Cambridge on the eve of the Second World War and brought a supremely logical mind to fishing. It is completely wrong to think angling mentality was mired in the bunkum of Izaak Walton’s day and the Victorian and Edwardian period had produced great angling writers like John Bickerdyke, Francis Francis and J W Martin, better known as The Trent Otter. Still, much mumbo-jumbo still remained, as Walker saw it, and his fishing was pledged to putting clear thinking into practice, whatever the species, whatever the bait, method or approach. Walker brought science to general coarse fishing, to carp fishing famously and latterly to stillwater trout fishing. He caught a record carp, a near record trout and huge barbel, dace, roach, bream, perch and virtually every species that swam. In pre-Walker days, the capture of a big fish was regarded as something that happened by chance, and perhaps happened once or twice in an angler’s lifetime. Walker proved that luck played very little part in the matter. He showed us that by applying logic, by using the right gear and placing the right bait, in the right place, at the right time could result in big fish for us all. Walker truly heralded in the age of specialist angling and made us all feel we could become specimen hunters ourselves.

Walker, though, was not simply a fish catching machine. He did, as they say, appreciate the roses along the way and the companionship of his own particular, very special gang of fellow fishermen. Yet, he would still say that a day without a result was in some ways a day wasted. Walker was at the bankside to catch fish and, should he fail, the day had to be scrutinised, analysed and put right. With Walker, it wasn’t catch at all cost but it seems that his career came close to that.

I never saw Walker actually fish, though I spoke to many of his companions who did on many occasions. Devastating efficiency was their general verdict. He perhaps wasn’t a great float man (though he pioneered a drift-beater for stillwaters) preferring big baits on the bed for big fish. It was this aspect of Walker’s fishing that inspired kids of my generation. I’d been brought up in Greater Manchester, on the float, on the canals for jam jar fish. Walker’s teaching gave young anglers like me the hope of big fish, fish we could barely dream of. Walker amassed PBs that were colossal for his time. When he turned from coarse to pick up the trout rod in the autumn of his career, he broke records in that arena, too. You have to give the man a 9.5 as an angler.

WALKER THE INNOVATOR

After university, Walker worked for the Royal Aircraft Establishment during the Second World War, developing radar but also flying regularly over Germany where he was deafened in one ear by a shell which exploded just outside the aircraft. He went on to manage a company designing lawnmowers so his world was very much rooted in technological development. There was barely a tackle manufacturer of the time that he didn’t advise and his relationship with Hardy was legendary. When I worked for that company for twelve years, I’d have done it for nothing, so proud I was to follow in his hallowed footsteps.

There wasn’t much Walker didn’t influence in the world of tackle design. Floats. Fly lines. Fly patterns. Hooks. Bite alarms notably. Without Walker, would we have ever had Delkims, bivvies and the whole carp scene? Perhaps we would but perhaps later and in a different form. It is for the Mark IV Carp and Avon rods that perhaps he is best remembered. These rods, to Walker’s design, were the greatest of all steps into the modern age. Originally, Walker conceived them and built them in cane but they went on to translate very well into glass.

It wasn’t just tackle where Walker had his innovative impact. He talked to us about the thermocline, the importance of barometric pressure, moon phases, wind strengths and directions and the senses that fish use so successfully as their defence mechanisms. What a think Walker was. What a man.

WALKER THE COMMUNICATOR

Walker wrote his first article in the 1930s for a fee of less than a pound and then went on to write many thousands of illuminating columns throughout his career. He wrote books, too, and for many of us, the big three are ‘Drop Me a Line’ with Maurice Ingham, ‘Stillwater Angling’ and ‘No Need To Lie’.

‘Drop Me a Line’ was great. Maurice Ingham and Walker traded letters, pre-email, of course, and there is a tangible sense of excitement as the two anglers began to apply their original theories, especially to uncrackable big carp waters. The book is full of vibrant writing, humour, generosity and deep, affectionate friendship. It’s a true insight into the start of angling’s specialist era.

‘Stillwater Angling’ was, for most of us, a true bible. Walker was right in predicting the decline of river fishing and saw that stillwaters would become more and more important as the twentieth century progressed. ‘Stillwater Angling’ was a tome, a textbook, a complete guide for a new generation of anglers on a water type that was to a great extent unexplored and unexploited.

Whilst ‘Stillwater Angling’ was to a large degree, though not entirely, a technical treatise, ‘No Need To Lie’ showed the other side of the man. Published in 1964, it highlighted the best of his descriptive writing. The tales in it are wonderful, telling in richly evocative tones the ins and outs of his great, red letter days. It might have been an endless success story but Walker was ever modest, never patronising and always gave the highest of credit to his angling companions.

Walker appeared many times on TV and radio, notably on Desert Island Discs and it’s worth going onto the internet and listening to this in full. He was also an intensely active writer of letters. We corresponded between 1978 and 1983 and it was with the greatest sadness that I realised I had lost some thirty of his letters during a house move a few years back. If he wrote thirty to me, how many countless thousands did he write to all the other anglers begging him for his generous advice and support?

WALKER THE MAN

In angling, there has always been gossip, especially around the celebs of which Walker was one of the first. There is so much to say about him. He was certainly a force of nature. He had strong opinions and he was never backward in expressing them. There were times, in the sphere of his writing, that he could be accused of arrogance but, in the flesh, all his friends spoke of him being charm itself.

He was very much a part of the Joyous Crew that Fred J Taylor described, although, in truth, he was probably first amongst equals. You only have to read ‘No Need To Lie’ or any of Fred J’s works to realise that to fish with Walker was always a warm, life enhancing experience. He was very much into his music and songs often were sung at the end of the day.

My old piking friend Bill Giles of Norwich, talked of a 1960s trip that he, Reg Sandys, Pete Thomas, Fred Buller and Walker had taken to Loch Lomond. They’d camped and met at dinner times for food, wine and talk in the central caravan. Bill had placed a recorder on the table and taped the evenings’ debates. On the 25th December 1988, Bill gave me those tapes, all wrapped up as a Christmas present.

I played the tapes in the car as I drove home and at first found them hard to follow until I realised Dick’s habit of talking in so many different dialects. There were many exciting pieces. Dick always dominated but Fred Buller was a constant foil, holding his ground, countering argument with argument. The tapes show just why Walker was a centre of such a strong, intellectual group of anglers that included men like Taylor, Buller, Thomas, Ingham and Peter Stone. Generosity comes out of the tapes as he talks about helping people learn to trout cast. There is humour as he explains how his old granddad always used to give a taking pike ten minutes by his fob watch before striking. There is a great awareness of the need of conservation in angling and the promotion of new fisheries for the ever-growing number of anglers. He is also constantly controversial. On every issue he provokes debates and flares Buller into constant retaliation.

It’s no wonder that when Walker died, his friends found him impossible to replace. So did angling.

WALKER, VENABLES AND HIS LEGACY

It was my mistake never to meet Walker, though he often offered me a meal, a discussion and a bed for the night. My mistake. I did meet Bernard Venables, though, many times in the great man’s later years. It’s almost like a Ronaldo/Messi debate. Many of us were Walker men, an equal number followed the great god, Venables. It is very well-known now, of course, that Venables did not have a lot of time for Walker. I was lucky, of course, to be able to ask Bernard why and, for him, Walker stripped too much of the magic, the mystery and the soul from our sport. Bernard accused Walker of virtually declaring war on fish, of pursuing them by fair means or foul. Bernard believed that the Walker philosophy had bred a new and alien spirit in angling, an obsession with the self, PBs, big catches and personal glory. For Bernard, angling was about nature, contemplation, nourishing the inner man.

The obvious truth is that Walker and Venables in fact worked in tandem. They were complementary. Superficially, Walker appealed to the mind, whereas Venables pulled at the heart strings. In their different ways, they inspired millions, yes millions of us. ‘Stillwater Angling’ went hand in hand with Crabtree. Together, they showed us how to catch fish, love fish and live for fishing. Between them, they changed the face of fishing for ever. Walker and Venables truly were the Titans of our Time.

John Bailey