More behind-the-scenes insights from Director Lester…

The thought process about locating ourselves entirely on Godalming Angling Society’s Johnson’s lake for the Casting for Gold episode was simply that I couldn’t think of anywhere else that we could in the short time frame filming allows catch specimen Crucians in abundance as well as lots of pristine Tench and even the odd big Carp. All in one beautiful lake and in one session!

The venue not only fitted the bill in regard to the prolific fishing but it also could come straight from the pages of Mr Crabtree with its lily pads, ancient oaks, weeping willows and abundant wildlife.

We arrived during a great spell of Summer weather which was ideal for the obligatory sunrises and sunsets that are a signature of the Crabtree shows. With these shows we are not just looking to appeal to the hardcore angler, we hope that what we are making is a series of programmes that has enough about them to attract an audience of people that have a passing interest in the sport, or might want to give it a go and get involved. As anglers you all know that there is so much more to it than sitting on a bank watching a float or camping in a bivvy. It is the beautiful countryside and waters that we get to be in and be part of and its all of the aspects of camaraderie, friendships made and of the shared experiences along the way.

For us at Crabtree, its also about reinvigorating that magic we all had as kids when we went fishing on our bikes with our mates or with a dad, uncle, grandad. There are so many things in the way these days with safety issues health and safety etc as well as the other distractions available to kids and so we try to make something that shines a positive light on what to me is a great pass time, hobby and sport. As good mate Scott Maslen says later in the series – fishing should be made compulsory in schools for all of the good things it can do and I think he’s right, its such a good thing to give a try, it’s a great thing that families can enjoy and its a sport that for me always brought me and my dad together. It is still a bond that i share with my uncle, cousins and mates.

It is this magic and ethos that prompted Sky Sports to want series 2 and one we grasped for the wider audience reach Sky have. Crabtree is very different from other angling shows on Sky Sports and offers a different perspective. Don’t get me wrong, I think all of the angling shows that positively promote fishing are great and I want to see many more of them. It’s just that Crabtree has its own unique style and we hope that we can enthuse not only serious anglers but a new generation of fishermen, women and children. The shows are also being picked up by broadcasters around the World which means that this very British and traditional programming has a global appeal.

Having got the film trucks and winnebegos parked up, and the exceptional Nash Bivvy village pitched up, thanks Kevin and Alan for the most comfortable of bed chairs and sleep systems for the crew and team, Graham and Rob for putting it all up and to Petromax for the amazing camping gear and lanterns – again look out for these in the shows as they are the best kit we have ever had the pleasure of using – it was time to have a walk around the lake with JB, Steve Thorpe my chief cameraman and Mike Holcombe of Godalming Angling Society to see where we were going to locate ourselves and to get a feeling for the place.

I had visited it on several occasions before and because Mike is my uncle we had great local knowledge and a heads up on where to go and how to fish. JB had never been there before and whilst a truly excellent angler, I know that he is more comfortable fishing waters he’s familiar with when we are filming these shows. That is understandable because we are under massive pressures in time, money and resource in filming these programmes and their success ultimately is about catching some fish so he feels that pressure. I felt very good about the venue, it not only looked stunning but the catch reports were very positive and some very good Crucians and Tench had been caught. Mike and his bailiff team had picked out an area that gave us very good swims for action but also were ideal for setting up the cameras, sound and crew.

Filming a fishing session brings a load of additional challenges above an d beyond the pressure I have mentioned. The addition of 10-12 extra people and all the production kit in and around John and James makes it all the more tricky when trying to be stealthy and quiet, especially when after shy fish under the rod tips. its something we noticed during filming both series in that when the crew are taking a break or we have stopped filming altogether, the fish switch on or that elusive big Carp decides to take the bait on the last cast. Look out for one really exciting Carp on crust action sequence in the Casting for Shadows episode where JB has one last attempt at a real old cagey big Mirror just after the main crew and sound have gone back to base camp – there is just John, me and Jack Perks our underwater camera specialist oh and a pontoon that sinks….great action and lots of wobbly cam (eat your heart out Bourne Identity) and proof that patience, persistence and stealth works.

JB set up on the trusty centre pin, fishing a float by the pads using a traditional approach while James went with two rods, on the Delkims, Shimano bait runners set up on the new Lonely Angler rods made by Harrison, we had a set made up for this series to cover all of the different approaches and they are beautifully made and handle really nicely. I know Trefor West uses them for his Barbel fishing in the stepped up versions. James fished with the Pallatrax stones on safety clips and hair rigged Enterprise imitation maggots.

John loves the pin and i have seen him catch all species big and small on rivers and still waters fishing this way. It is having a real renaissance with a lot more people trying the centrepin and realising how nice it is to use with and to play fish on. We like to juxtapose the traditional and modern styles but it isn’t award and fast rule in the shows. If James wanted to fish the same way then of course he would do so which is again another aspect of angling with friends, which is to share knowledge and techniques. And if one style, method or bait is proving successful, then of course you ring the changes.

There is already a catch report on the site so I won’t go into a fish by fish report. Rather I will give my stand out moments from this episode which was one of my favourites to shoot and I think looks great as a finished show.

First up we had great opportunities to capture the beautiful conditions and our crew of Steve, Jack and Roger Banks did a superb job as always in both the pictures and sound. These guys apart from Jack a bit, don’t fish and have been making TV for decades. They are some of the best at what they do and i know that I am always going to get the shot I want perfectly. We got some beautiful sunrises, sunsets, stunning scenery and atmospheric shots which is all testament to their skills and experience.

Next it has to be James PB Crucian Carp, his first ever and a stunning fish of a lifetime at 3lbs and 4oz. Alan Stagg of Enterprise Tackle, one of the top rods on Johnson’s with a great track record in catching the lakes big Tench and Crucians had joined us and had just passed on some tips and to show James the rigs that he uses. Alan explained to James that he was using a small method feeder and on the hook he is using Enterprise fake corn ad imitation pellets. James took it on board, tweaked his rigs and pretty much straight away caught his Crucian. Great angling and a big thank you to Alan.

Another great bit of action in the show and another good bit of angling from James with expert back up from JB and assistance from Alan was James taking two good Carp off the surface using old school and modern Nash controllers and Enterprise imitation dog biscuits. Really excellent opportunist sight fishing, really good action and a real bonus all captured by the cameras. Note James does like to wander off in search of fish so we have to keep an eye and ear on him so that he doesn’t go and catch a monster off camera….

It was really nice that Alan Stagg and Alan Blair joined us and fished alongside John and James. Both are very good anglers and both are proper all rounders too. They get the Crabtree ethos and are very supportive of bringing new people and youngsters into the sport always happy to give up there time to help and share in their knowledge and methods. Alan Blair also blew away his own PB Crucian with a specimen of alb 10ozs so this was truly a trip to remember for him.

And finally we caught a really lovely moment on camera when Alan Blair’s niece Danielle joined him for a few hours. She is a new addition to the Crabtree fan club and after catching another fin perfect Tench on the float ably assisted by James, John and Alan she ran off to see her dad who was watching off camera – it’s how we end the episode with her getting a hug from her own Mr Crabtree.

We hope that you like Casting for Gold as much as we enjoyed making it and a big thank you to all of the people that help us make these shows happen.