The first episode of this new series was aired yesterday evening. It was always going to be difficult to try and capture that magic quality of Bernald Venables’ inspirational and best selling work, however for me, that’s exactly what they did from the outset.
Summer tench fishing brought back some very fond memories of my own youthful entry into angling. John and Sam’s approach was one of simplicity. From the opening scenes of that misty dawn, with the sun just breaking through the haze and a beautiful Barn Owl, spectre like in it’s soft and quiet passage across the still waters of that peaceful lake, just captured the bewitching power of fishing again for me. The excitement was almost tangible as they crouched behind the rushes watching the tench feed in the margins, with those tiny pin prick bubbles fizzing on the surface. And to see the rapture on Sam’s face as he hoisted out that monster tench was a joy to behold, only to follow it up with a fish of a lifetime, was just sublime.
I can remember vividly my early forays into stillwater angling as a kid. The excitement of seeing bubbles and fish swirling and rolling as I sat next to the waters edge so full of anticipation and genuine excitement. I fondly recall my late father taking me to a lake in Horsemonden where my Uncle was the local gamekeeper and fishing for carp. I would have been just about 8 years old. It was incredible. We threw some pieces of bread out into the mirror like surface of that lake and soon a throng of small carp moved in to hoover up the fee offerings, slurping at the surface in their eagerness to ingest all there was to offer.
Out went a piece of bread with a hook firmly buried into its fluffy folds and then the singing line and the powerful bend in the rod as a fish fought for its freedom. Well for me, that was it. I was as hooked as those carp and the passion for angling flourished within me. It wasn’t long before I was fishing my local mill pond and I was an avid reader of any sort of angling publication I could lay my hands on from Dick Walker to Mr Crabtree, inspiration abounded. Soon I was fishing small floats next to lilly pads and feeding maggots or sweetcorn or worms. I can remember the excitement of the float dipping and the rod bending as a small roach jagged on the other end.
I can also recall the first time I spotted a really big fish, a carp cruising out in the middle of the lake. So enraptured was I by this leviathan that I was forced into fishing an area that was strictly speaking out of bounds. I tied on a thick twig which gave me some extra casting weight and baited the hook with some bread. I waited, the tension building inside me like a pressure cooker. The carp was still there and circled my ‘float’ when suddenly the stick bobbed and started to shoot across the surface! I struck and the rod whooped over in an alarming arch. The power of the fish was phenomenal and I held on for dear life. Sadly of course my experience and skill at playing a big fish was non existent and so the outcome was inevitable, the line broke and the monster carp sank into the gloomy waters of the old mill pond. I have never forgotten that first encounter with a big fish and I am delighted to say that I have relived that moment many times in my angling life and hope to for many more times to come.
It was then, as I grew older, that my desire to catch bigger and more varied fish took me to my local lakes in Frant. Here I learned to leger baits like bread and luncheon meat and I even started to stalk the resident carp with pieces of crust. Here I fished with my lifelong friend Jules and we even ventured into the exciting boyhood adventures of night fishing. Wow these were great times, when life seemed so simple and every day was an adventure. I can remember waking up one morning and there perched on it’s hind legs staring at me from the end of my camping bed was a mink, just sat there looking at me before it scuttled off in search of food. We caught lots of grass snakes and even the odd adder in our landing nets and had many, many wonderful days just exploring the lakes, watching and learning.
One winter’s day I found a swan snared up on a small island out in the middle of the lake on some fishing line. I was quite distraught at this sight and was in a quandary as to what to do. Obviously this was long before the advent of the mobile phone, so there was no option of calling for help. I felt there was only one acceptable solution. I had to go in! I stripped off, despite the chilly conditions and just jumped in. The water was freezing and took my breath away instantly. I could hardly breath as I made my way slowly towards the swan, taking in shivering breaths of air which seemed to stab my lungs, such was the iciness of each breath. The swan was obviously exhausted from it struggles to get free and put up no resistance at my attempt to untangle it. Soon I had managed to snip away at the line and the swan was free and I emerged cold and dripping from the lake. I had to stay like that all day until my dad came to pick me up and I recounted my story to him. I think he was quite proud of his little boy that day and again it’s such a fond memory of my youth and of my late father.
So to me this first series of ‘Mr Crabtree Goes Fishing’ has offered so much more than many of the modern angling series of recent years. It’s simplicity and youthful exuberance reminded me of simple days spent chasing mythical monsters, of balmy evenings under an umbrella waiting for a bite, of misty summer dawns and the heat of the sun as it shone down at us from clear blue summer skies and when catching small tench, roach and carp seemed to fulfil all of my childhood requirements and fuel years of dreams about catching fish.