Enjoy this unique insight into the story behind the scenes told from the point of view of Director Lester…
Starting off on the Wye, John wanted to show and teach James the art of touch legering and actually getting into the water so that they were up close and personal with the fish they were trying to catch. As this was all about chasing shadows, this style of fishing – which is one of John’s favourite techniques – was perfect as John and James could actually see the fish they were after.
They are fishing dimly, using a centre pin on one of the beautiful new Chub/Light Barbel rods from Lone Angler, a Pallatrax Stone and Pallatrax pellet with John trickling in handfuls of maggots as loose feed.
We had cameraman Steve set up on a the bridge above John and James with Jack in the water with them so that we could get both a sense and feel of the action and the build up.
The first strike was a miss and, as you see from the film, both are totally peeved at a strike and missed chance. James because he’s so full of excitement and just wants to catch fish all of the time and John because he is worried that the fish may have spooked.
These fish are only metres away from where they are standing in the river and they are wary and easily spooked.
John continues to trickle in the bait and re-casts. Both James and John are like coiled springs and, with constant knocks and pulls on the line accompanied by James constant chatter, it sets up a very nice sequence of anticipation – a feeling all anglers know well.
Not long later James strikes into his first Chub and after a good scrap brings a lovely fish in the region of 4 lbs to the net.
This is soon followed by another Chub, slightly bigger, again on the same technique.
The next fish, a smaller Chub falls to the float still in the same swim.
John then wants to move up to another of his favourite Wye swims so that James can practice touch legering from the bank. As they sit on the bankside of this stunning river, John talks to James about why he loves this oft overlooked and misunderstood style of fishing which is really in keeping with the chasing shadows theme of this episode.
Very soon James hooks into a really great looking chub that, after a nice fight, goes 5lbs .
Moving from the Wye to what has to be as near to perfect a Crabtree swim on the Wensum – a stunning picturebook weir pool that JB knows well and has got permission for us to fish and film on for what looks like some huge Chub. We have looked at this piece of water on previous visits and thought it would be an ideal location to film for an episode. The crew had thrown in bread to the dark shapes showing in the moving water, under the weeping willows and the bridge arches and James and John could hardly wait to wet a line.
First though we stopped off on a series of small lakes and ponds nearby as James wanted to try a spot of Summer lure fishing for the resident big Pike and John wanted to show me another perfect Crabtree swim that he knows holds some very big old wary Carp.
We could see these leviathans moving in and out of sight and there were a couple of really big Carp in there. After a lot of perseverance and patience, we got them tentatively taking pieces of bread off the surface. JB really wanted to catch one of these wily old Carp in the Crabtree way with a chunk of bread on the pin. The rod wasn’t at all old school though as we were using one of the new Pallatrax Kingfisher rods in 2 3/4 lbs.
Its a misconception that Mr Crabtree or his creator Bernard Venables was old fashioned or didn’t embrace new methods. Bernard was one of the first modern and true innovators of this sport of angling and was also an intrepid traveller in search of monster fish around the globe. Because Mr Crabtree was originally written in the 40’s it’s often thought that his teachings and techniques are outdated and have no place in today’s fishing. However Mr Crabtree was using the newest and most up-to-date tackle, equipment and techniques around at the time. Bernard Venables was a master innovator and a great natural angler and through Mr Crabtree, he taught generations of anglers how to fish and inspired millions of people to go fishing through his writings and drawings.
His techniques and teachings are still very much relevant today and, even if our kit and tackle may have been improved with materials used, the ideas around watercraft, keeping things simple, understanding your quarry etc are still fundamental. And it’s why JB resolutely, in this episode particularly, wanted to use bread flake and crust, on the pin, free lined or touch legered as much as possible.
So, John and I, accompanied by the crew (its not easy being really stealthy when you have a full production crew in the swim) built up the Carp’s confidence in taking the free offerings of bread. Then, with everything all set up and all of us full of anticipation, JB struck and …missed our target fish.
As you will see from the sequence, John is totally gutted and I am going into counselling mode talking him through it. As I have said previously John puts himself under a lot of pressure when we are filming these shows obviously because he wants to do a good job, but also because we are always up against time. When he misses what he thinks is his only or last chance of a particular fish or opportunity he really does take it to heart.
We are also building narratives for these episodes and need to develop our story lines. So if we then don’t catch the fish or the shadows we are chasing, then it has an impact on what we are trying to produce.
So not only am I directing him and the crew, I am also being his counsellor and motivator as you can see in this part of the episode.
We decided to move off this swim after the missed take so as to give it a rest before revisiting later on. To get something in the can and to restore a bit of faith, we decided to see if we could tempt one of the smaller Carp in the little lake next door. After another miss (pressure really on now JB!) John finally strikes into a beautiful looking and hard fighting Ghostie of just over 12lbs that provides us with a lovely action sequence. And yes caught on bread flake free lined on the pin.
We returned to our big old Carp swim next to the pontoon but the Carp had been spooked and whilst they warily hit and took the free offerings they were way too cute to take the hook bait.
So we moved off the ponds with a view to returning the following afternoon.
First though was what turned out to be a real red letter Chub morning and one of my favourite sequences of the series. Firstly the setting was perfect and very Crabtree. It is an old weir pool on the Wensum with a beautiful bridge, weeping willows and it was teeming with the dark shapes of chub.
On top of this we get to see a real bond between John and James as they shared in a fabulous few hours catching chub on a variety of techniques and methods, all quite simple and very, very effective. The basic set up was again the centrepin with either free lined bread flake or float fished breadflake and loose fed maggots. We used the new Lone Angler 13ft float rods which are in a beautiful traditional dark green colour and cork handles. Beautiful rods to look at and to fish with.
The fishing was unbelievable with five Chub over 5 lb’s a big 4 pounder and a small Dace
In order :
James – a 4 and a quarter pound Chub for starters
JB – a small Dace
James – the first of the 5 pounders at 5.4lb
James a float caught Chub at bang on 5lb’s
James again on the float with this chub going 5.2 lb
James with a four plus pound Chub
James again with another Chub at 5.2 lb
Then finally John gets in on the action by wading out into the flow and catching the 5th five pounder of the morning.
This sequence provided some standout moments with the highlight being John saying he thinks his fish might just go 5lb but that he doesn’t really mind. James then saying its 4.15 and not quite five and John saying “Oh come on I think it goes 5lb!”. A good fun moment that had the crew smiling and good banter between our two presenters.
It was also great to see John often seeing and anticipating the bites before they even registered on the line or with the float. This was really watching, chasing and catching shadows and showed John as the great angler and guide that he is.
Finally it was back to the old pond to see if we could cap off a great episode with a flourish. The excitement and anticipation is, I hope, evident when you watch this part of the show. John and I really did revert back to a pair of kids as you can hear from our nonsensical mutterings. We again spent a very long time building up the swim and had several heart stopping moments with the big Carp looking as though they were going to finally take the bait and slip up.
Then a few things happened as they do when making angling shows. First we decided to take a much-needed break from filming. During the summer we are filming from 3 am until dark often on days on end so it gets very tiring for everyone. And we don’t use small cameras and kit so its not only tiring but very physical filming hours on end.
So the crew went for a break and we took off our mic’s and had a well earned cuppa. But then John decided to sneak back to the swim…..I followed with (fortunately as it transpired) cameraman Jack and then all hell broke loose. John cast out another chunk of bread flake and in moments a carp emerged from nowhere and clopped up the hook bait and the water erupted as he sped off out into the lake. Whilst we had discussed how we might land a big angry Carp in the confines of this swim with its obvious snags and difficult access, we hadn’t in our excitement fully prepared for what might happen. The not-so-sturdy looking pontoon appeared our best option but as we started sinking and with nothing to hold onto it didn’t seem such a good idea once stranded on it. But there was a big fish on the end of the line and all other thoughts went out of the window.
It was great action and great fun to be involved in. We weren’t mic’d up and with only one camera on hand, it is all a bit Bourne Identity with the shaky cam but although not intentional it does, I think add to the action and shows the raw excitement we all feel as anglers, when we are into a big fish we have been chasing and bring to catch for a long time.
Eventually, bruised, battered and scratched (John really did hurt his hip) we got the net under a beautiful old dark Carp that we weighed in at 32 and a half pounds. A great way to round off the episode and as we were joined by James, his dad Rob, Graham, Roger and Steve we had our Crabtree team together sharing in a great Crabtree moment. This series really felt like a team effort with everyone mucking in and sharing in the ups and downs.
it wasn’t always easy but great friendships are forged on these shoots and a great bond is formed by cast and crew.
A final note on the 32 and a half pound weight. We didn’t have our Reuben Heaton scales to hand and so weighed the Carp on an old pair of Avon scales. On later inspection the Avons were way out and whilst John didn’t care a jot and it makes no difference to the enjoyment of the catch, I believe the fish was a high 30 possibly 38 or so pounds. I have caught, held and weighed many big Carp over my own angling life and it certainly felt like a big thirty. Nonetheless it was a fantastic way to round of our Casting Shadows Ep.
Thanks for watching and look out for the next Ep which is a really nice Episode dedicated to the Trout. A different approach but a show that really is lovely to watch and with 3 kids taking part in the action we get to see some magical angling moments on a stunning piece of Crabtree river…..