Bideford & District Angling Club Presentation night

Bideford and District Angling Club held their presentation night at Bideford Conservative Club  Friday February 23rd with close to forty members attending. I was privileged to join in presenting several awards along with Simon McCarthy from Summerlands Tackle. The evening was very enjoyable and a very positive vibe was apparent as members cheered the winners and added the occasional good natured banter to proceedings. It was very encouraging to hear of a very healthy number of Junior anglers taking part during the summer Coarse series. Many thanks to Adam Wheeler for taking some excellent pictures of the evening.

Bideford’s Triumphant Coarse Fishing Team who beat Plymouth in their annual inter-club Match

Season 2023 / 24

Matchmans Cup  

 Nathan Underwood 

126 points


Kevin Shears

 115 points.

Junior winner

 Brodie Allin

57 points

Junior runner-up

Ted Blight

48 points

Evening series


Nathan Underwood

119 points

Evening Runner-up 

Richard Jefferies

107 points

Pairs trophy winners

Roger Ackroyd

Craig Lamey

Top weight in competition

Darren Polden 71lbs 

 Stephen Found 55 pts

Valentine bowl – most points in the monthly Rover.

Nathan Clements Gilthead bream 8lb 2 1/4 203.515%

Stephanie Vanstone  – Best specimen caught from the shore.

 Stephen Found Thornback Ray 13lb 10 151.388%

Jason Talbot Memorial plate – Best specimen ray caught from the shore.

 Tony Gussin Conger 14lb 5 71.562%

Snake plate – best specimen Conger caught from the shore.

 Nathan Clements Gilthead bream 8lb 2 1/4oz

Best round fish from the shore 

Stephen Found Flounder 2lb 4oz 112.5%

Best specimen flat fish caught from the shore 

 Stephen Found Smoothhound 14lb 5oz 143.125%

Best specimen shark from the shore.

 Nathan Clements Small-eyed Ray 10lb 4oz 1/2 114.236%

Winner of end of season competition  

 Paul Ackland 4lb 1oz

Big Mike Memorial vase

Stephen Found total of 1160.118%

Species challenge cup

In the game fishing section John Mc Cullam and Terry Dymond dominated the results collecting five awards between them.

(Above) John Mc Cullam


(Above) Terry Dymond


         South West Lakes Trust hosted their annual Fly Fair at Roadford where Fly anglers from all over the South West converged for this ever popular curtain raiser to a new season. A wide variety of stands represented those involved in the Fly Fishing Community. The events main sponsors were Chevron Hackles, Holmleigh Angling Centre, Catch, Snowbee and Turrall.

         Charles Jardine opened the event stressing the need for anglers to get out fishing and support their local fisheries. He also spoke of the benefits of introducing young people into the fascinating world of fly fishing that has many positive benefits for mental health and general well-being.

         Discussion flowed freely throughout the day with many plans set for the coming season. The long wet winter has undoubtedly impacted upon winter fishing with those fly anglers seeking sport with grayling and pike having a difficult time with only short periods when conditions were suitable to visit the water’s edge.

         There has been considerable change over recent seasons as society has been impacted upon by Brexit, Covid and the cost of living crisis. Angling and fly fishing has of course been affected by all of this but it is perhaps even more important that our pastime thrives to bring much needed sanctuary from this gloom laden world.

         Fly fishing has long been seen as a rather elitist branch of angling and when I started casting a fly fifty years ago the art of fly casting was still to some extent seen as a sport for the gentry.

         The boom in Stillwater trout fishing during the 1970’s broke down these social barriers to some extent as a wider section of society enjoyed catching rainbow trout stocked into water supply reservoirs.

         I remember being thrilled to catch the occasional limit bag of trout when I started out with the fish averaging around 1lb. As fisheries spread competition increased and small still-waters started opening stocking ever larger trout. Into the 1980’s and 1990’s double figure rainbow trout became a regular feature with some fisheries stocking fish to over 20lb.

         This increasingly artificial commercial fishing resulted in ever increasing expectations from anglers. Another factor that perhaps influenced stocking was a significant increase in cormorant populations across reservoirs. The stocking of rainbows under 1lb 8oz became unviable as smaller trout were simply mopped up by these predatory birds.

         Covid impacted upon us all but there was an initial post covid boom in fishing as anglers escaped to the great outdoors to enjoy a pastime that offered a safe environment. The value of fishing to mental health became much appreciated and for a time it seemed fly fishing was in a good place.

         Sadly, the cost of living and angler’s unrealistic levels of expectation has resulted in an unsustainable situation. The spiralling cost of fish food and hot summers has impacted upon the farms that provide stock fish. The result is that fisheries are forced to pass the costs onto customers. In a cost of living crisis, it is very much a case of the survival of the fittest and as a result we are seeing the collapse of some fisheries Draycote Water in the Midlands being a case in question.

         So having painted a rather gloomy picture of the fly fishing world in this country I will now look for those proverbial green shoots.

         This year’s fly fair brought together a wide dynamic of anglers from the West Country Fly Fishing scene. With a new season ahead, there was undoubtedly a positive and optimistic drive as the leaders of this pastime urged us to get out fishing and support our local fisheries.

Jeff Pearce and Russ Symons talk flies

         Concern for the environment was evident with fishery associations promoting their waters that are often surprisingly cheap alternatives to the commercial waters.

Laura Dee Invasive species information stand

Companies like Catch and Fish Pass are now offering a new way to buy day permits using the latest mobile phone technology.

Tim Price from Catch

         In contrast to the modern world traditional craftsmen like Luke Bannister were at hand to display magical wands of split cane that add sweet perfection to an angler’s day.

         I took pleasure in introducing Michelle Werrett whose new book Song of the Streams is enchanting readers to fellow author Mike Weaver whose writing has delighted West Country anglers for many decades. His book In Pursuit of Wild Trout published in 1991 is a classic tome that is timeless in its validity.

         The West Country has a wealth of wild streams that offer exciting fishing for wild brown trout and a sadly diminishing number of salmon and sea trout. Adrian Bryant has been promoting the excellent film Riverwoods across the region and I joined him in presenting a short preview of this film giving my own brief view on the tragic decline of salmon.

         Chatting with many at the Fly Fair it was apparent that there is a willingness to adapt and there are signs that new thinking is starting to break down the barriers of tradition. There is a growing desire to fish for varied species across different waters.

         Pike from large stillwater’s and canals are an increasingly reported trend. Perch, rudd and carp are also gaining a following with Dominick Garnett columnist for the Angling Times giving a thought provoking talk on fly fishing for coarse fish. There is also an increasing number of anglers targeting sea fish with bass and mullet offering exciting sport during those hot months of summer when the trout are dwelling deep down in the reservoirs.

         There are those who taking fly fishing into cross over territory with LRF with talk of using squirmy flies employed to catch blennies and other species from rock pools using 2 wt. rods more often used to target wild brown trout in moorland streams.

         The definition of Fly Fishing on Wikipedia is Fly fishing is an angling technique that uses an ultra-lightweight lure called an artificial fly, which typically mimics small invertebrates such as flying and aquatic insects to attract and catch fish.”

This differs somewhat to my own thoughts where I had always believed fly fishing to be a technique that involves projecting the fly to the fish using a line as the weight. The traditional casting styles were entrenched within my  mind set. But I now see an unfurling world of unorthodox presentations as anglers dibble and jig their flies or lures.

         This is a world far from those days captured within the classic tomes depicting Fly Fishing on the revered chalk streams of England. Surely though there is room for all as our splendid pastime evolves as it always has?

         We are living in times far removed from those of Halford whose doctrine of the Upstream Dry Fly stimulated debate within the world of the wealthy and privileged during Victorian Times.

         I returned home from this year’s fly fair full of enthusiasm for the coming season with plans made that this year I really must try to make happen.

         Many thanks to Ashley Bunning and all at South West Lakes Trust for hosting a fabulous fair.



Cold Comfort in a Polar Vortex And the climate deniers reducing global warming.

Many thanks once again to Richard Wilson for sharing his thoughts with North Devon Angling news for more of Fishrise click the link below :-

Cold Comfort in a Polar Vortex

And the climate deniers reducing global warming.

Real Men, Real Cold, Real Fishing and Fake Global Warming?

Extreme weather in the form of a Polar Vortex is hitting the USA, Canada and Northern Europe. I see that while most sensible people are staying indoors, the climate deniers are out in force declaring the death of global warming. One moment it was all thaw and uninsurable ice-fishing tournaments, now they say it’s too cold for the delicate greenies to go outside.

So are they right? On the one hand, they insist climate change is all bull-feathers while on the other it’s ‘Do you remember the good old days when we had real winters’? To try and steer a path through the confusion, here’s a handy little cartoon strip that explains what’s happening:

Zero degrees F = -20C. ©xkcd  

So nostalgia wins. Winters really aren’t what they were back in the day.

Which begs a question: If the climate is getting warmer, and it is, then what does the future hold? After all, these same climate deniers are both stridently pro- their nostalgic old-cold winters and pro-coal, which is where a lot of the warming CO2 pollution come from.

Well, the good news is that our prospects for containing the worst excesses of climate change are improving. We are fast approaching peak carbon (maybe this year, maybe next) and coal is looking a bit, well, limp.

The world’s green energy generation increased by an astonishing 50% last year (IEA). Solar accounted for three-quarters of this. In the US, utility solar power is expected to grow by 75% in the next two years while coal is in steep decline.

Consider also that the amount of energy each of us consumes has fallen sharply. Everything from fridge-freezers and washing machines to TVs, cars and keeping our houses warm is more efficient. We might have more gadgets, but they consume a fraction of the power of what went before.

They may not know it, but the carbon footprint of climate change deniers is shrinking – so give them a pat on the back. Well done! They’re doing their bit (non-consensual wokesterism – whatever next?).

The global flight of investment capital out of coal and fossil fuels and into renewable energy is becoming a stampede. This is not about greenie sentiment. Renewables have plummeted in price while their technologies have become more and more efficient. Simultaneously, the huge and long-term investment needed for new coal mines and oil refineries is very risky. Would you sink $5-15 billion into an oil refinery with increasingly uncompetitive pricing and diminishing demand? How will you get your money back?

The IEA expects a 250% growth in global green power production over the next 4 years. The COP target is 300% by 2030, so it’s starting to look doable.

And while we are now certain to overshoot the 1.5C warming set at the Paris COP, 2C or thereabouts is looking achievable. This is better than many expected, and will still be disruptive. But, even so, we can do a lot to adapt to 2C, whereas the 5C+ we were heading for would have been calamitous.

We’re getting there. To be sure there’s a lot of work to do – but I’ll back us to get it done.  The direction of travel is set, King Coal is fading and the denialists are coming along for the ride (shh…). Just follow the money.

With thanks to Not the End of the World’ by the brilliant Hannah Ritchie. A great read about positive outcomes. Thanks also to Andrew Kessler for using the cartoon before me – which is how I found it.

Job Opportunity at Ilfracombe Aquarium


A unique opportunity has arisen at Ilfracombe Aquarium with a position that would suit many keen aquarists. See details of vacancy below : –

Ilfracombe Aquarium Vacancy

Part-time Aquarist/Visitor Engagement Assistant

General Description

Based at the aquarium, the chosen candidate will assist in the overall, daily operations of the aquarium with the majority of time allocated to exhibit area servicing and management.


These include; maintenance of aquatic life support, daily husbandry work for the animals, meeting nutritional requirements and feeding practises, health and hygiene, record keeping in accordance with Zoo License requirements, engagement with health and safety policies and general planning ahead to support the collection and other colleagues.

The role will be hands-on, assisting in the preparation of front of house and the exhibit area before visitor arrivals, ongoing daily maintenance and carrying out a closing down procedure.

Visitor engagement is a key part of the role. This includes general interaction with the customers, providing educational talks, feeding demonstrations, sharing points of interest and assisting with children’s quizzes.

The exhibit team here is established with many years of experience. They remain a wholly motivated, friendly and passionate team with their primary role being in promoting local wildlife, habitats and environmental awareness to visitors. They currently care for approximately 70 species of native freshwater and marine life in their recreated natural habitats. They look forward to welcoming the chosen candidate and will support their training in order to establish them as a key supportive and valued team member.

Employment details

Job Type: Part-time

Salary: From £11.44 per hour

Expected hours: 10 – 30 per week (subject to seasonal demands).

Benefits: Employee discount

Schedule: Monday to Friday & weekend availability

Start date; 04/03/24

Requirements; Essential and Preferred Skills

  • Education: Certificate of Higher Education (preferred)
  • Experience: Animal care including aquatics: 2 years (preferred)
  • Customer facing work &/or experience.
  • Highly motivated, energetic and reliable team player.
  • To have passion for wildlife and possess environmental and conservation credentials.
  • Excellent communication skills and confidence to communicate clearly with children, disabilities and other audiences.
  • Quick to learn and approve aquarium ethos and practises.
  • Practical and good at problem solving.
  • Dynamic; able to offer ideas. Develop teaching resources for formal and informal education.
  • Full clean driving license


Submissions to include expression of interest, CV and referee/reference details. Send ASAP to e[email protected]

Those successful at application will be invited to interview.

Ilfracombe Aquarium
The Old Lifeboat House
The Pier
North Devon
EX34 9EQ01271 864533

Pithily-Shit – Richard Wilsons Fish Rise

posted in: Game Fishing, Sidebar | 0

Many thanks to Richard Wilson for once again sharing his thought provoking prose with North Devon Angling News. The alarming picture painted by Richard is mirrored here with Atlantic Salmon suffering a similar catastrophic decline to those steelhead of North America.


If you have any doubts about whether or not 2023 was a good, bad or just indifferent year for fish, I have some news. It comes, unexpectedly, from the people who like to put a gloss on the world and reassure us all is well.

Sometimes reality intrudes on their seasonal good cheer:

This year wasn’t so bad, if you make allowances for the conditions,” Salmon Fishing Travel Promo.

I’ll translate: 2023 was so bad they’re worried their clients might take up rock collecting or puddle-jumping instead of spending their money on fishing. It was the year of malevolent spirits known collectively as TheConditions. To save time listing them, I jammed my head into a free online word-cloud generator, shouted ’FISHING CONDITIONS’, and it spat this back:

‘Lying bastards’ should be in a bigger neon typeface (it’s between excrement and death), but otherwise, it’ll do. You can add/subtract your own ideas.

This is deadly serious: At stake is an entire ecosystem. Salmon prop up everything from bears and forests to orcas at sea. Their loss would be an ecological and economic disaster with terrible consequences.

I know nobody who fished anywhere in 2023 who’s celebrating greatconditions. According to one globe-trotting contact, the year’s fishing was all, and he said it pithily, Shit. Which scans like an old-fashioned train rolling down the track Pithily Shit, Pithily Shit, Pithily-Shit. Try it out loud. And it’s a great name for a fishery mismanagement award. Imagine: “And the winner of this year’s Pithily-Shit Prize is ….”. Suggestions? I have a hatful.

These Conditions come in two principal varieties; dire fishery management and climate-driven. Like many others, I’m playing catch-up with the speed of it all.

Fishing is big business in sea & river, with economic muscle and political clout. And that has consequences. And so does this: North America is a significant hold-out against science generally and climate science in particular – an astonishing 10-15% are sceptics whose scintillating mental arithmetic makes mainframe computers gasp with envy.

So, when environmental (science) data is unwelcome, route one is to attack – it’s bullshit, being a top technical rebuttal. And route two is to twist political arms.

We can follow the dollars and see this playing out just about everywhere. For example, in British Columbia – where it’s been making the news recently.

Canadian Salmon and Steelhead, a sea-run rainbow trout, swim in much the same pithily-shit word cloud as everywhere else. Although, according to the BC authorities, they don’t. Bear with me – this is relevant wherever fish migrate.

We have a lot of good data on BC’s Steelhead runs. The Skeena River test fishery, for example, shows 2023 was the 2nd weakest run in decades (10k fish), coming just 2 years after the worst (5.5k) on record. The yearly average over nearly 70 yrs is about 35k.

That’s the number arriving in the estuary, so before the lethal river gill nets and then the myriad anglers – including me – who catch (and I hope release) their share along the hundreds of miles of main river and principal tributaries.

So how many female fish in prime condition will make it to the redds in this shrunken-run year of desperately low flows and high water temperatures? Surely, not enough. And we also know that juveniles, the smolts, are surviving the return journey to sea in ever smaller numbers (everywhere). Warmer water makes for smaller smolts – and size is a matter of life or death.

This, you might think, is dreadful news for the fish. Not so, according to British Columbia’s fishery dons (the Dept of Fisheries and Oceans). It was business as usual.

“Trust me, I’m a fisheries officer …”


Awkwardly, for the dons, Canada’s Auditor General has just released yet another report revealing how they’re screwing things up, big time. It gets worse when you look at how and why.

It seems the dons, whose remit features conservation, happily grant legal protection to species of no commercial value while just about always blocking it for $ high-value species, like salmon. And why would they do that? I think you just guessed.

They make their decisions with the help of unverified data supplied by anonymous ‘collaborators’ who, according to the AG, have conflicted interests in, for example, the commercial fishery. Who’d-a thought it? And while the dons are legally obliged to report and root out such conflicts of interest, they regularly don’t (says the AG). Because maybe they’re mates, or siblings or neighbours? Or some such.

It reeks of cronyism and corruption.

As said, the Skeena is just one among many. The report covers all Canadian regions. And, worldwide, fishery managers are bigging up stocks, mismanaging and covering up threats like disease and climate change while piling on the nets and rods – and trousering the $s.

Unsurprisingly, more fishermen are staying away. Once-exclusive beats on famous rivers are becoming easier to access – and disappointing to fish.

So it should come as no surprise that a senior DFO official wrote this of the dire 2021 run: There’d be no protection for the fish because the Skeena data is “…a measurement problem and it’s not precise enough to warrant massive socioeconomic impacts and alienating those that care about Steelhead the most.” There were just 5.5k fish, a record-busting low, andhe’s suddenly spotted a measurement problem with near-70 yrs of continuous data? And who are these most caring victims of ‘massive socioeconomic impacts’. Whose money? Well, it sounds like those vested interests outed by the AG. So there’s the playbook: Undermine the facts, falsely claim the moral high ground and hug your collaborators tight. And screw the fish (and the Auditor General).

I nominate the writer for a Pithily-Shit Award (a turd on a styrofoam plinth, perhaps). I’ll have to make a lot.

The DFO Pithily-Shit Award


When a species gets into as much trouble as the Steelhead on the Canadian and US West Coast, the moral and scientific imperative is to prove fishing is sustainable. We shouldn’t keep hammering them to see if the population collapses. Here’s another DFO “measurement problem”:

The estimated spawning abundance of Thompson River steelhead. The last data point is the expected ‘23 run (ie spawning spring ‘24): about 230 fish. BC Ministry of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship

As a general observation, endemic corruption is very hard to shift.

So what to do to help the fish here, there and everywhere? If we are so minded, there’s a lot. We can start by putting people in charge who care about them. We can clean up our rivers, get rid of dams, restore headwaters, limit fishing pressure everywhere and treat them as a precious gift from Mother Nature and the foundation of an entire ecosystem. But will we?

And then there’s the really grim stuff: Events already underway that we’re powerless to influence. This is where I fear the Conditions may get impossibly tough.

For example: What was, at the time, the most powerful marine heatwave on record, “The Blob”, brought havoc to the North Pacific from 2014 to 2016. The impacts ranged from massive algal blooms to Baleen Whale die-offs.

It triggered a food chain collapse. Small bait fish are eaten by just about everything bigger than they are. The warmer water reduced their food supply (and the oxygen content of water) while increasing their metabolic rate, so they needed to eat more, but had access to less. Inevitably there were mass deaths and the survivors lost body weight and fat content.

This worked its way back up through the food chain. Everything had to consume more to keep pace with over-heating metabolic needs – but there was less to eat. Scientists estimate 1 million fish-eating sea birds, Common Murres, died of starvation and 100 million Pacific cod vanished from the waters off southern Alaska – and cod do not spawn in waters warmer than 9.6c (IMR, Norway). We’ll never know how many Salmon and Steelhead died.

This year has seen ocean temperature records aplenty (below) as the world hits its warmest for 125,000 years. There is more and worse to come.

We have it in our power to stop the rot but, oh my, there’s a lot to do. The flight of capital out of fossil fuels means that carbon emissions could start to fall in the next year or three. It’s a start, but we need to do the massively scaled-up equivalent of an emergency stop with a planet-sized supertanker.

Meanwhile, a handful of small-time idiots with mates and money in the game behave as though business as normal will deliver a happy ending for Salmon and Steelhead. They are the Pithily-Shits with the wilful negligence to fuck it up for everyone.

On a more cheerful note, good conservation practice is becoming a major project on some rivers. It’s a fearsomely complex puzzle …. but I want to go fishing in places where conservation drives management decisions and my presence (and money) make a net contribution for the better. Is that too much to ask? I can at least try – and I’ll start by not going anywhere beholden to the Pithily-Shitters.

And finally, here are some global sea surface temperatures to ponder (live link below). Is anyone dumb enough to call this Bullshit? Sadly, yes.

World Ocean Temperatures 1981 – 2023 (top). University of Maine click graph for a live & interactive link


To read more of Richard Wilsons fishrise click on the link below : –

Richard Wilsons Fish Rise – Tell Me Sweet Little Lies

Many thanks to Richard Wilson for allowing me to publish his regulars features full of dry humour and comment on todays fishing world.

For the guides and gillies on the frontline

Hey Mr Dream-Seller, tell me how’s it gonna be. Are the Salmon running? Are there fish you can see? Have you, as the song says, dreams enough to spare?

Comes the answer: ‘Fish are moving and the river’s looking great – and it should hold well for the whole of your week’.  All of which sounds very promising. But buyer beware; we hear what we want to hear and nowhere do these words say there are more than a handful of salmon in the river.

The language of guiding has always been creative and bendy, but as the Salmon and Steelhead runs diminish this inventiveness is being tested. Telling anglers what they want to hear without promising the impossible is an art form, although it helps that no audience was ever more willingly misled than we fishing junkies. There is nothing we want to hear more than that we’re arriving at a river full of fish.

Back in the real world, far from any river, deceiving clients is easier. The clerk on the airline check-in desk (if you can still find one) has always promised that your seat has extra legroom and your baggage has been checked all the way through. This is done with impunity because by the time you find out that your seat is in the loo and your baggage in Bahrain, you are a continent away. On a river your guide must sell you a dream that holds you enthralled for the duration of the trip. You’re both in it together and, for added frisson, there’s that tip at the end.

The scale of this challenge cannot be understated. At one of England’s salmon fisheries, a famous hotel, the total salmon catch last year was 1. That’s right: One salmon. Imagine being a guide with that to deal with.

So, let’s go fishing: We’ve arrived. It’s our big week and our hopes are highThe anxious first question we ask is “How’s the fishing?”.

‘Hey!’ the guide smiles broadly. ‘Great to meet you. The river’s in fine condition and we’re gonna have a really good time’. Our pulse quickens in anticipation of the thrills to come.  It’s going to be an awesome week!

Later, after all the pleasantries are done, the bags unpacked and the tackle checked, there will be a more serious word in your ear: “The river’s looking terrific and the water levels couldn’t be better, but – I’ll be straight with you – the salmon are running a little late this year”.  This should set your alarm bells ringing.  The phrase used to mean that the February salmon had arrived in April, presumably in an act of contrarian defiance against the early arrival of spring.  Nowadays this trend is taking a desperate turn and the truth would sound something like this: “We don’t know where the fish are. In recent years the redds have been a hot tub, the sea nets are longer and finer, the fish farm’s doubled in size and the town sewage works pumps raw effluent to match the farm slurry.” Apex predators vary from country to country but you can be sure they’re also in trouble. The entire ecosystem is in decline.

Against this fishless backdrop of warm and perhaps excremental water (try fishing in England or Wales) our hapless guide or gillie must keep our spirits up for a whole week. And that takes a very special sort of talent.

If I create the impression that I’m singling out guides and gillies as the reality-benders, it’s because I am. And I have a great deal of sympathy for their plight because, if I were your guide, I’d do the same.

It’s not the guide’s fault. He or she is a decent human being with a job to do and bills to pay. But the unvarnished truth can be brutal and visitors who believe there are fish to catch are easier company than those whose hopes have been dashed before a fly is cast. There’s also a trade-off in this: As less time is spent catching fish so more must go into managing the client. This is compounded by the human weariness that sets in as a dud week unfolds.

Meanwhile, back at our accommodation, the new day is here and it’s time to hit the river. The guide’s rules are simple: Keep smiling and remember that the lack of action can’t be blamed on the visitor, no matter how badly they fish. And no self-respecting guide could ever say it’s down to poor guiding. So, if we can’t blame the angler or the guide and we’ve already agreed the river is looking great, what does that leave? We can’t, at this early stage in the week, blame the fish because the illusion of their presence is why we’re here. In defiance of reality, we must travel hopefully.

For once the world is on the guide’s side. The ubiquitous Global Fishing Mega-Corp has fragmented fishing tackle into so many interchangeable and marketable parts that I doubt anyone has yet explored all the mind-numbing combinations that can now connect a reel to a fly. Mostly they just connect Mega-Corp with your bank account.

Changing tackle combinations looks like rational problem-solving and keeps the client optimistic. For a single Skagit line there can be some 28 mow-tip variations (perhaps doubling by the time you read this) one or two of which might even be appropriate. Thankfully there are cheaper alternatives. Then there’s the leader and, if time drags, we can learn some new knots. And if that doesn’t work there’s always a Scandi or a Spey or just a good old-fashioned WF line on a single-handed rod. Or a single-handed Spey line. How long have you got? (Answer: A week).

Top of this list is the fly, the interminable way to fill time. This works because most people cling to the belief that there is a right fly to deploy right now. So devoting effort to choosing a winning fly seems crucial, even though experience suggests that successful fly selection mostly works only in hindsight. And, of course, all the time you’re making these changes the fly is on the bank. Which is a lot less disappointing than having it in the water.

I was once with a Steelhead guide whose fly wallet was stuffed entirely with bright pink flies. He carried no other colour. From this fanfare of explosive and uniform pinkness he selected a single fly that he thought would catch fish. How it differed from the rest I could not tell, but I was smitten by the concept. You can have any colour you want, provided it’s pink.  And it worked. No time was wasted tying knots and 4 Steelhead were caught (there were fish in the river).

So the next time I’m with some austere gillie on a drear Scottish river I’ll have the perfect response when he asks to see my flies.  What he wants to say to me is: ‘If only you had a Dour Dreich-Black Doomster Fly you might have been in with a chance. With that lot, all shiny black + a hint of silver thread, nay chance.”  I’m going summon up all my courage and flash a wonderland of effervescing pink and then hope it works.

But back to our river: As the fishless week progresses the guide will see our mood disintegrate. Hope flees and life loses all meaning. We persevere because we must. Admitting defeat is not an option.

Life losing meaning …

This is when I get hit with The Great Euphemism of Last Resort – an intervention reserved exclusively for the fishless angler on suicide watch. I’ve heard it on both sides of the Atlantic and it’s the moment when guide euphemisms morph into lies. And it really annoys me, not for the lie, but because I willfully fall for it every time.

The week has reached the point where small mistakes multiply into big ones and my patience with myself is running thin. I just hope the guide is with my fishing partner and not watching my dire performance. My casting is falling apart. And then, suddenly and with a big smile, up pops the guide, as cheerful as a cheerful thing can be   … ‘Hey, you’re looking great! There’s nothing wrong with your casting and you’re covering the water really well’.

The effect on me is electric. Oh WOW! A real, live pro-fisherman or woman has just told me my casting is faultless.  I’m really good at this! It’s going on my gravestone as proof of a life well-lived:  Here Lies Richard – Oh Boy Could He Cast!  Confidence is restored, my casting recovers and I’m poised to strike when the inevitable fish takes. Life is great.

But only for a while, because reality is corrosive and this praise is not what it seems. It always comes at that moment when even a passing stranger can see that I need a bottle of wine, a whole cake and a long afternoon nap. It’s an undeniable, self-evident fact that I’m casting very, very badly. And yet I fall for it every time – hook, line and sinker.

Let’s take a step back and look at this dispassionately: The guide said ‘There’s nothing wrong with your casting’. They didn’t say anything much was right with it either. What this says is that my casting’s sort of OK.  ‘Sort of OK?’.  ‘Yup, it could be worse’. And if I then take another step back this is what the thought bubble over the guide’s head says: ‘What can I say?  You’re getting the line out. That’s OK. But a fishless week combined with a lifetime of accumulated bad habits is taking its toll. Even if a fish shows up, the best you’ll do is give it a slapping. It’s day 6 and I’ve run out of ideas.’

Thankfully most guides are much too canny to say anything of the sort.

So that’s it. The week’s heading for a dud, the guide has played their last card and the guest is wilting. Everyone is ready to go home.

This is now happening on too many rivers and to too many people. We all know the reasons – climate change, pollution, commercial exploitation, land use, fish farming, overheated oceans and so on.  As a result, guiding is becoming less about catching fish and more about providing emotional support for wilfully gullible clients.  The times they are a’changing.

Inevitably, as migratory runs continue their decline, I’ll be falling for The Great Euphemism of Last Resort more often. And, much to my surprise, I really don’t mind.  I’ve realised that if I’m out on the water, rod in hand, then the two sweetest little lies you can tell me are that the river is full of fish and that my casting is great. So, please, hit me with it one more time.  And sometimes, every once in a while, it will be true: my casting will find that sweet spot and a fish will oblige.

But until that happens, please don’t stop: Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies.

— — — —

This article first appeared in Chasing Silver Magazine and has been republished in Hatch Magazine.




Anglers Paradise was created by Zyg Gregorek around forty years ago a man who had a vision to transform a few acres of marshy ground into a fishing paradise. Visiting the complex to attend the annual netting event it is apparent that Zyg’s vision is still going strong.

Each year one of the complexes thirty plus lakes is netted to ensure fish stocks are kept at optimum levels. The netting also signals the start of the venue’s charity week.

This year the float lake was to be netted, a lake of around one acre that holds koi, barbel, golden tench, carp, goldfish and a large population of rudd. The plan was to remove  a large number of the rudd, transferring them to the pike lake. The koi, golden tench, ghost carp and barbel would be returned to the lake along with a few new additions including chub and blue orfe.


I arrived at around 9:00am and found the netting party assembling at the side of the lake. I took a walk around the lake capturing a few images of the partially empty lake. Late autumn sunshine illuminated the scene highlighting autumn colours on the trees.


I chatted with Joe and Zenia who between them run the complex that is very much a family business. As the working party slowly gathered one or two were undoubtedly nursing hangovers from a night before in the renowned Safari Bar.

Netting a lake requires a degree of planning and after many years the operation is a well-rehearsed project. The first task being to ensure that the lake is at the right level. Too much water and it becomes dangerous, too little water and there is a risk to the valuable stock.



There is always a sense of anticipation as the net draws together and the contents are slowly revealed. The fish within were sorted with carp, rudd and a selection of koi removed for relocation across the complex.

The enthusiasm of the team for the task at hand was impressive with no one grumbling about the mud and cold water.

The netting day signals the start of a week of events to raise money for charity. This year’s charity is Tackling Minds. Tackling Minds is a charity formed in 2020 that offers support to people from all walks of life who are suffering from a huge range of issues. In 2022 Tackling Minds teamed up with Angling Direct and Anglia Ruskin University to highlight the measurable benefits of angling for both mental and physical health conditions.

I think we can all relate to the massive increase in mental health issues over recent years. I chatted with several present about mental health and how angling provides a valuable link to the natural world that is good for the mind. Speak with young people today and it is frightening how many know of friends they have lost to suicide. This is I believe the largest cause of death for young men. A fact that is often reported in the national media.

Angling provides a vital connection to the natural world that is recognised as being extremely beneficial to mental health. There is of course also a social benefit from mixing with like-minded people who share the passion for angling.

I fear that mental health is going to be increasingly high on the agenda in future years. Elon Musk raised the possibility of AI removing the need to work and that this will result in people searching for meaning in life. As social media continues to polarise opinions and religion becomes less relevant to many mental health will become increasingly challenged.

Fishing and other pastimes will perhaps play a vital role in exercising our minds and ensuring a vital link with the natural world.

Each day of the annual charity and netting week see fund raising activities such as quiz nights and bingo nights. The week culminates in a fireworks bonanza. This year’s event raised an impressive £3000 + for tackling minds.

         The complexes thirty odd lakes are now well established and offer rich and diverse habitat where wildlife abounds. Many of the visitors to Anglers Paradise have been visiting for years and as each generation grows they bring their families. Those who first fished as children now returning with children of their own to share the joys of angling.

Anglers Paradise

Report from Zenia below :-

£3000 raised for TACKLING MINDS ‼️💖🎣✨🥳
We are absolutely delighted to share with you all that from last week’s fundraising events and events throughout the year that we have raised 3K for the inspirational Tackling Minds 💖🎣✨🥳
The Events that helped us reach this total were –
Charity Wine – Anglers Paradise
Thumbnail painting – special thanks to Nicky Lock
Bingo – special thanks to Di and Andy Mepham
Fishing Match – special thanks to Sam Wahid and his boys
Pool and Darts 🎯 matches – special thanks to Adam, Georgina and Harry Smith
Quizzes – special thanks to Paul Tegg
Tombola – special thanks to Kathryn and Ellis Williams
Treasure Hunt – Anglers Paradise
Raffle – special thanks to EVERYONE
The GUY – special thanks to Di, Di, Trace, Georgina, Adam, Harry and Dawn and to Sam Wahid for bidding for him!
Badges – special thanks to Di Mepham
Party Games – special thanks to Kathryn, Ellis, Mark and Dawn
Waxing of chests and backs – special thanks to the volunteers Toby Hayward and Devon’s Austin Powers aka Will Peyton and to Jaz Trent for getting the waxing strips
Chilli party night – special thanks to Georgina and Adam Smith
Fireworks- Step Pearson, Spen and Paul. Thank you for a fantastic display and finishing the week in style 👏🎇🎆

Meet the Klutz – Richard Wilsons Fish Rise

Many thanks to Richard for sharing his monthly essay. Always humorous and slightly off piste

Meet the Klutz

You looking at me, kid?

What kind of creature bore you,
Was it some kind of bat?
They can’t find a good word for you,
But I can … TWAT.”

John Cooper Clark – Punk Poet

A few years ago the stranger (above) and I both arrived too early for check-in at the lodge on the fabled Gjöll River. A place steeped in myth and vengeful Norse gods.

It was a warm, late-summer day and the deck offered fresh coffee with a view of the river and mountains. The perfect setting to kill time with idle chatter. Our hosts were a fine and professional bunch of people and all was well with their world and mine. It was the sort of place that puts a smile on your face and fly-rod to hand.

My fellow guest greeted me with a sneering eyeball shake-down. Perhaps it was the triggering way I had said, “Hi, lovely day isn’t it?”.

Small talk? No. In rapid succession he declared that all forest fires are started by arsonists. That George Soros is Jewish (a terrible thing, he said), heavy snowfall proves global warming is fake, wokesters are provocative bastards and Anne Frank’s latest porn book for kids must be banned & burned (both) along with the paedos, Fauci, all UN scientists and foreigners (me?). And coal is king and should also be burned. It was a lot to take in. And if looks could have killed, I was dead.

Putting the threatening bigotry aside, for the moment, when did climate change become a right-wing wedge issue? The right’s talismanic icon Margaret Thatcher must be spinning in her grave.

I kept my head down for the rest of the trip, although it turned out that it wasn’t anything that I or Mrs Thatcher had said.  The next day Mr Wedgie’s newly arrived fishing party erupted into ear-piecing verbal abuse. Our misfit was now at odds with his buddies. I couldn’t work out exactly who he wanted to kill first, but I think Mike Pence was high on the list. Mostly he generalised: Scientists, environmentalists, whales, migrants and probably cute little kittens. You get the idea: Tough Guy v World.

That night found me thinking about Twats on Banks. The who, the why and the such-like. I have a bit of weakness for this sort of thing and, generally speaking, the weirder people are, the bigger their metaphoric car crashes and the more I rubber-neck. And there we were in a Norse fishing lodge with a hotline to 1930s Berlin and I’m suddenly thrust into team Thatcher – weird and weirder.

So with the worrying caution that maybe it takes one to know one … this is my essay, formally titled A Short Discourse on Fishing Twats. 

There are two fishing twat-types chewing away at the margins of my watery world. The on-line variety and the much more alarming physical version you hope never to find in your river.

The online twat is, at worst, a minor irritant. Mostly they rally around a pick n’mix of conspiracy theories and grievances with their own victimhood worn as the shared badge of honour.  They’re found in small and grumpy internet echo chambers, bickering and shouting insults at the heresies they find threatening: Science, for example. They go unheard even by the new-agers they assertively hate, which is a pity because they have much in common. Intolerance and a high rate of attrition from vaccine-preventable diseases, to name just two.

It is precisely because they heckle the twilight that our online fishing twats are mostly irrelevant and marginalised – for comparison, the online world of Chess players is properly vicious and ruins lives.

So that brings us to the real-life Twat of the sort that invades your space and makes Hotel and Lodge owners miserable. The angler from hell (or, in this story, the Norse Hel).

First, some background: I am not a digital native and hail from the era of flesh and blood – which means my formative years were spent face-to-face with real people. This tended to moderate some of our worst excesses. Maybe you know the song:

“Soon we’ll be out amid the cold world’s strife, Soon we’ll be sliding down the razor blade of life.”

Tom Lehrer, Bright College Days.

The message is clear: Shape up, or it’s going to hurt.  So most of us reached adulthood with a basic set of social skills. For example; avoid inflicting your politics on strangers met on a fishing trip.

They say the boy is father to man, and I was a flawed teenager who, I hope, was more Prat than Twat. Not ideal, but it could have been worse and, like most teens, I have mostly recovered in the decades since. Sadly, some people don’t.

This Prat-predisposition set me in direct conflict with the biggest Twat in my teenage fishing life: My godfather – a groping, leering and utterly repellent misogynist.  He even carried a little black book of sexist jokes.  Like the man, none of the jokes were funny, and he made life miserable for every barmaid and waitress who had the misfortune to cross his path.

That’s not all: Unforgivably, he could also throw a line further and with less effort than me – something nobody else in my very limited circle could do (this was long before YouTube and Spey Casting brought me crashing down to earth). Being outperformed by such a groping grotesque annoyed me. Meanwhile, he thought I was a long-haired little jerk – and, with hindsight, I can see he had a point. We were not a good mix.

To make matters worse, every year my father would organise a week’s fishing for the three of us (for me it was free, so of course I went).

One year we were blighted by a drought so severe the fishing was impossible. Not that my teenage self was prepared to admit it. I took it all very seriously. Too seriously. So there I was, working my way inch-by-inch through a large, slow-moving pool which had some water, but no oxygen and no fish. Nobody else was making an effort. Just me.

Out of the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of movement in the pool’s neck. Something was drifting downstream towards me.  Something blubbery and brilliant white. Something that, bizarrely, seemed to be a belly-up Beluga Whale.

The whale processed all stately and ceremonial into the main pool. I slowly realised it was wearing paisley-pattern boxer-shorts and had my godfather’s porkpie hat perched on its expansive stomach.  It was otherwise flabbily naked.

I was, by now, incandescent with rage at this invasion of my territory.  My pool.  My best chance of catching a fish. How dare he! I was raging with self-righteous afront.

The imperial and imperious Beluga drifted past me and, as it did so, raised a two-fingered salute in my direction. This put me in temper tantrum territory – which was presumably the Beluga’s intention.  It was only my awareness of this that kept the lid on my head. I don’t remember how it ended, but no rocks were thrown and I assume the Beluga joined us for dinner that night.

The point of this story is that I learned a long, slow lesson: That prats grow up. Admittedly, it took 20 years for me to realise, but the Beluga was perhaps the funniest thing to happen to me on a riverbank.  Had I not been such a pompous little prat I would have been rocking with laughter.

The author pratting around, back in the day.

So I learned some humility and didn’t grow up to be a Twat.  However, my godfather, being a fully grown Twat, continued his behaviour unchanged by his exposure to me. So by the time I had eventually realised how very funny the Beluga had been, he was getting a well-deserved visit from the police following allegations of a sexual assault.

So the moral of this tale is simple: Be tolerant of young Prats. They might grow up to be you.  But if you meet a full-blooded Twat just walk away. Don’t engage. They’re not worth the trouble and, sooner or later, they’re going to get hit by someone or something bigger and nastier than you or me.  Hopefully reality.  Perhaps the police. Or maybe guests at a fishing lodge. Thor could do it – but it won’t be me, although I did read somewhere that the pen is mightier than the sword.