cast-and-crewIn this series, Executive Producer and Director, Lester Holcombe, describes his personal take on each epsiode, touching on the trials and tribulations as well as some of the technical and organisational processes that go into putting this show together:

A mature gravel pit that holds big shoals of big Bream and Tench. The Tench is a firm favourite of many anglers and is a real fish of the summer. A much overlooked fish though is the Bream and I am as guilty as many of viewing them as a nuisance especially when Carp fishing. John was insistent that we went after both for this Ep for several reasons…

We are following Crabtree. Its creator Bernard Venables called the Bream ‘stately’ and it was one of his and Mr C’s ‘fish of the summer’ – John has a real soft spot for them and argues that they are fantastic sport, especially these days where they have attained weights he could only dream of when he was a kid. As a shoal fish, you also know that if you contact a shoal, get them feeding and keep them interested, you can catch bagfuls…And they are an ideal species for Dawn ’til Dusk.

As we have said many times before, shooting an angling series isn’t like making a sports programme, a documentary or a scripted drama. We write our scripts and storyboards, we plan our shoot and location, John and James know what we are looking to achieve, but the fish (and the weather) don’t read scripts….

We did catch during Dawn ’til Dusk and, looking back, had some decent sport, but the action was nowhere near what we anticipated at those times from our experience of the water and the amount of activity the night before and at first light. The action really switched on mid morning when the crew were hoping for a well earned spot of breakfast and a break (they had already done what could be considered a full days shoot under normal film conditions). The sun was high and it was very hot, John and I were thinking that the action had dried up but then the fish really got feeding and it was then Delkims going off everywhere and constant action.

John and the behind the scenes crew of Graham, Lambo and Rob had pre baited our chosen swims using a combination of Pallatrax and Lone Angler groundbaits, method mixes, pellets as well as the fantastic Pallatrax natural ranges that really fizzed it all up. These two top bait brands have worked closely with us on series two and we have been really impressed with their baits for all types of fish and conditions. Simon Pomeroy is a master of all things bait and has spent years creating and developing his range of baits for both Pallatrax and Lone Angler. We have field tested some new baits with them this summer as well as some more of their established baits and without a doubt have had better results because of them. We at Crabtree are big fans of both of these companies baits and if we say we caught on them in the shows, we did. Nothing is cheated and we never use anything in our programmes that we haven’t show or discussed.

Trefor West works closely with Mike O’Neill at Lone Angler and they have put together a killer range of bait and tackle (more of that later) that have had stunning success across all species. Pom is a real slave to detail and quality and nothing arrives bankside or into the shops without his seal of approval. I have fished with him and he attended filming several times and I can assure you, he and all of his field testers only use the baits he makes, not because they have to, but because it catches lots of fish and lots of big fish too.

On top of this John piled in a load of maggots to the mix which all help to keep the fish in the swim and rooting around. The plan was to then fish using short rigs, using Pallatrax Stonze attached to their and Enterprise Tackle’s safety lead clips, small sharp hooks with hair rigged Enterprise maggot and corn. The plastic baits are a big favourite of his and all of our fishing and made a huge difference to our catch rates in this and the other episodes. There are so many advantages to using imitation hook baits and Chris Hornsby of Enterprise is the guru and originator of imitation baits – often copied but seldom bettered in this art. Having originally had a plastic mould company, being very creative and innovative and being an angler to boot, he had the perfect recipe and has built a brilliant niche business that supplies products I, John and our team couldn’t be without in our own fishing.

Within a couple of hours we had huge amounts of Tench and Bream rolling over the baited areas which was an incredible sight just as darkness was coming in. Unfortunately whilst this had everyone full of anticipation and excitement, we didn’t have the gear out and weren’t filming until very early the next morning when James was set to arrive.

The fish were fizzing, bubbling and rolling on arrival and so all looked set for action from the off. However another thing that is worth noting about filming an angling series is that while we preach stealth and being quiet near the waters edge, its not so easy with a full production team and crew in tow. We don’t cheat these shows and we don’t camp out for weeks on end waiting for the fish to finally come along. We fish and film in real time and we put John under the conditions of a normal day or session on the bank. This makes it genuine, is in keeping with John and Mr Crabtree’s style of fishing but it does put the pressure on.

And so while everything looked good for bagfuls of fish it didn’t go strictly to plan. The shoals stayed in the swim and they were all over the bait and we did catch a few early on but the expected big hit at Dawn eluded us. This didn’t cause panic but it did give us a bit of thinking to do, so John and I had a bit of a walk and a think about what we wanted to do. John is a great angler and to my mind the best angler in front of the camera i have seen – he also mostly looks cool and calm on screen, however he is actually a real worrier if he and James aren’t catching which is all to do with his professionalism and need to make a great programme but also because he is an angler and has that inner kid in him when fishing (you will see it quite a lot in this series) which makes him want to effect changes or move swims. We knew though that the fish were in the swim in droves and that they were munching on the bait we had laid out so moving was not an option. Doing something different was though. Crabtree and all good anglers tweak and adapt their fishing and its a valuable thing to remember to ring the changes, never more so when after Tench and Bream. This isn’t a case of getting bored or having itchy feet, it more to do with thinking and modifying ones approach to the angling situation.

We knew the fish were out there and had their heads down feeding. We knew the baiting carpet was working and we knew we had the approach generally right. So it was a need of fine tuning the end set up. Oh and piling in a load more bait……!!

John decided to put on a piece of good old yellow Enterprise plastic corn tipped with their plastic maggots which added buoyancy, another visual stimulation and also another food item that was in the baiting mix. Fishing this way and for Bream and Tench, something I personally haven’t done much of for many years made me recall fishing with my dad when I was a kid – Bob loved his Bream fishing for much the same reasons as JB, he really enjoyed locating the big shoals of the rivers Welland and Gt Ouse, estate lakes and many gravel pits we fished together, holding them and catching them in big numbers.

He was all about catching fish and not just one big one and he worked tirelessly during a session to get things right, keep the action going and making those fine adjustments to tackle and bait that kept him one step of the fish and other fishermen. I fish for Carp mostly when I get the chance although my angling education was across all areas of the sport and it made me realise how much we can all learn from each other, whether we ‘specialise’ in one area or fish for everything. We also should remember that angling is a broad church and we all share the same passions for angling. But we are all often prejudice to how other anglers approach this sport and thats not how it should be. We learn so much more by sharing and whatever way you like to fish we can all take aspects from other disciplines and we would catch more.

So with a bit of fine tuning of the end tackle, attaching the corn and maggots and putting out a load more ground bait we sat back in hope….we didn’t have to wait long and suddenly the Delkims were going off and the hangars flying all over place. It was Bream after Bream and Tench after Tench with James breaking his PB’s pretty much every time he landed a Bream. It was all action and a bit of a mad scramble which is equally a challenge when filming as we like to set up each trophy shot and have a chat to camera and then film the weighing and release under controlled conditions, however with two and sometimes three rods going off we just had to let it roll. We were field testing several new rods for Lone Angler and Pallatrax in this series, the blanks are Harrison and they are both beautiful and handle beautifully. We used them extensively for all types of fishing in the shows and John, I and our team all really rated them.

That mad spell was in the middle of the day and wasn’t part of the script but it was a real red letter spell and kicked off James angling adventure perfectly. It was a great learning curve for him, he learned so much in a short time about this style of fishing, he, John and the crew really bonded as all shared in the action and excitement and we had more than enough in the can. It didn’t end there though as we were to get more action into Dusk (phew_) and an absolute soaking from a freak summer storm. We al took cover apart from John, James (he would actually stay by his rods forever so keen is he) hardy crew Steve, Jack and Rog who filmed through all conditions and were rewarded with another Bream for us to end the show with.

Good mate of Crabtree Mark Kitson of Sovereign Superbaits also dropped in to catch up with James and John and got a soaking too. Mark is a lure fishing expert who supplies lures, tackle and rigs to some of the biggest names in predator angling around the World. I had told him James would be doing some summer lure fishing so he popped down to location to impart some tips and also a truckload of brand new kit and lures that he gave to James – all his Christmases wee coming at once.

This was a great episode to film and it really set things up for our next episode on our summer road trip in Casting For Gold….