Without the people affiliated to Caught by the River such as Jeff Barrett, John Andrews, Will Burns and many many more, I’m sure The Tuesday Swim would not had found the depth nor the talented people that I have collaborated with over the last few years. CBTR has always held its integrity, a soft approach that people are drawn to – be it online, at a festival, or through books, music and film. CBTR supports and promotes like minded artists, there is no defining CBTR creative, it’s simply a place where their imaginations sit side by side.
Last autumn I visited the North Kent Marshes for the first time, an invite from musician Adam Chetwood. He spoke of wildies that were spread throughout the fleets. A journey began that has taken a year, lost landscapes, broken houses, a hidden moat and the feral carp. But it has been a tough year, in six months I had lost both parents – this landscape now holds a special place for me, a breathing space during some sad times. I hope the film translates the sense of openness, and of wilderness that lie just 35 miles from London.
The film will be released on the Fallons Angler YouTube on Friday 17th September at 5.00pm
My wife Lucy has created a limited edition A2 poster which can be purchased here https://fallonsangler.net/product/wildie-film-poster-limited-edition-print-by-lucy-merriman/
I’m not one to share my personal life online unless it is specifically threaded around fishing and related matters. But in the current issue of Fallon’s Angler which came out in June 2021, I wrote about the passing of my father. We never fished together, he hung up his rods back in the fifties after spending time in Hove fishing for black bream in his boat The Vulcher. It’s a tender piece about a time that I often think about, a period when pleasures were simple, my father would tinker on his boat, light driftwood fires and fish, way before I came along!
Please support Fallon’s Angler and order issue 22 or better still take a subscription http://www.fallonsangler.net/shop.
One final thing, if anyone can help me catch a black bream I would be very interested in hearing from you.
So long dad.
Ian Fallowfield-Cooper – 1st Nov 1930 to 30th March 2021
Strange days indeed, as lockdown lifted myself and Garrett Fallon of Fallon’s Angler Magazine headed down to see Mark Walsingham the owner of Ashmead Fishery nestled somewhere in the Somerset Levels. It was my first time out of London in months and it was indeed strange. We met up with some old faces on the bank and moved around the lake hoping to snare a huge carp. Looking back I don’t think we had our hearts fully immersed in the fishing but we were certainly entranced by the time spent amongst the overgrown islands and hidden bays, the fishing was incidental but the location was magnificent. Once I returned to London and started to edit the film most of the footage was left on the virtual cutting room floor, we thought about calling this film ‘Timed Slowed – A Film about Ashmead‘, in a way this would have made sense but we left it simply named ‘Ashmead.‘
We will be returning soon for issue 20 of Fallon’s Angler, this time we are looking to film the Dorset Stour in Autumn, if the doors stay open long enough, time will tell.
One year on and who would have thought I’d be writing these words? Week six of lockdown, the weather has finally broken and we retreat back indoors. As a family we are lucky, we have a garden and the local marshes are close to our house in East London. For our daily interpretation of exercise I run to break the cabin fever or walk with my daughter using a pair of binoculars to seek out birds and other flora or fauna. Often I get pangs of guilt as others are not so fortunate, key workers, single parents, while we sit it out. At the start of the pandemic I decided I was going to offer my services to deliver food, medicines and other essentials but then it appeared I also have fallen victim to the covid 19 virus, although not confirmed my lungs even now are running at reduced capacity, a timely reminder that this whole ordeal is far from over.
This time last year I was in Ireland on the shores of Lough Derg with self isolated recluse – Del Harding, in truth he is not a recluse, although wary of people he loves the company of others and during our brief three day visit Del was very keen to share his stories once we had gained Dels trust. Our daily routine began in the woods with a fire to make tea, by late morning Del would rise and join us, drink coffee and share his life through memories, time had no business here, he talked and I filmed. I managed to get the shots before the sun fell so low that the camera could no longer record a clear image. As night closed in, Del would light a candle and talk some more, ghost stories, tales of pike, monsters from the deep, and re-living heart stopping moments of the lives of other anglers who once fished Lough Derg.
Photo: Romy Rae
Del lives on his own terms, he has the luxury of space, space for himself and away from others, Del’s routine before lockdown involved a daily trip to the local village to buy a sandwich, a coffee and perhaps replenish his tobacco pouch, I know these little trips were important to Del. Three months after we left Ireland Del was involved in an accident when a friend managed to fell a tree, unbeknown to Del who was standing too close, the tree came crashing down without warning, missing him by an inch, caught his arm and broke it in two. After several days in hospital Del returned to his wood, thankfully his daughter lives a twenty minute drive away and through his hospital care, family and neighbours Del recovered throughout the rest of 2019 but he was restricted to his own land, no more independent trips to the shops were made in 2019.
During the winter of 2019/2020 Del started to write to me on a more regular basis and I began to write back. I cheated though, my reliance on the computer is habitual, letters were typed and mistakes edited. Del on the other hand would capture thoughts, and talk about the woods and the Lough, then systematically write it all down on the page, Del composed page after page, no words crossed out, just beautifully written letters. One letter which arrived in November explained he has moved into one of the cob houses where he could have an open fire burning at all times, November, christ!
As the pandemic established itself Del wrote on the topic in his own pragmatic, often blunt manner, dismissing the coronavirus as a ‘storm in a tea cup’ but soon retracting this thought and reestablishing the situation as a ‘hurricane in a swimming pool,’ soon after he mirrored the updated situation with a Sci-Fi book he read in the 1960’s, this time the outcome was more sobering, but like many of us he swallowed the current bitter pill with the hope of a new season, the force of nature is strong, Del would write about the rebirth in his woods and reemergence of wildlife out on the lough.
Every few weeks a new letter arrived, I left it un-opened, got the home-schooling and other chores out of the way and then settled on the sofa in the kitchen with a coffee and loose myself in Del’s words away from the internet, the TV, and transport myself to that fire pit next to Lough Derg, words flowing like the small stream that crosses his land.
In a time when we need to be resourceful, thoughtful towards our neighbours, the Lea marshes are proving to be an immensely important place for the people of East London. Right now we need space, air, and nature as an antidote to what is going on with the pandemic. In layman terms the marshes are perfect, we don’t need music festivals, car parks, bigger ice rinks, we simply need the space with a little amount of unobtrusive management to support the local community.
I shot this film over the last few years with a mix of hand-held cameras as I spent time on the marshes, fishing and walking.
Towards the end of last year myself and Kev Parr had to produce a film for issue 18 of Fallon’s Angler. The two previous films we had worked on (one about winter fishing at Aldermaston on the Kennet, the other catching tench on the Sussex Levels) showed that Kev could clearly deliver both informative and engaged narration. So on this occasion I suggested he once again narrated over the film after I had completed the edit. “Keep it poetic” I said, but aside from that it was left to his own devices. A few days later Kev emailed me an mp3 file, I clicked play on the laptop, sat back and listened. Kev had recreated the day in words, words that would have been far from my own reach, subtle, sensitive and certainly brought back the feeling that I had that day on the River Test. So here is the result – a day on the river catching dace, roach and a lovely big perch, caught from the gloaming.
This year has seen my involvement in the making of two films, the first Mr Green’s Rod was shot in Sussex with one of Britains most recognised and enigmatic anglers – Chris Yates, the second a much lesser known angler, in fact he pretty much lives as a recluse tucked away on the shores of Lough Derg in Ireland – his name Del Harding. In hindsight I see many parallels between the two men, both are writers, anglers, men of the old ways, both lifestyles are closely connected to the land and the rhythms of nature. The way they approach angling is also on an equal footing, it’s simple, they respond to the conditions, the light, wind direction, air pressure and temperature, if the conditions are favourable they pick up a rod. Time is a restrictive measure that appears to elude these two, it’s a quality that I really admire, to loose time is to gain freedom.
I have been criticised for promoting this way of life in the film about Del, ‘living off grid is irresponsible and we should not promote it!’ I suggest it is the freedom that Del represents that makes these rather small minded individuals feel uncomfortable, Del’s world is the only world he knows, he doesn’t do it to prove a point, it is purely the only way of life he is familiar with, it is an alternative way to live and for that reason I feel it is important to celebrate it. As we work harder on these films I feel the narrative grows stronger even if they are not to everyones taste, we don’t just want to do fishing films. Spending time with Del was a journey that took many years to conclude (I have written about the journey to Lough Derg in Issue 17 of Fallon’s Angler) and when I finally met Del the experience was purifying and reassuring, Del lived up to my expectations as a man who made a path outside the mainstream and he has stuck to it.
Moving forward we come closer to home and look at a film that focuses on the iconic roach, a film that will be more about fishing but still exploring the anglers relationship and how they read the landscape and their quarry. We hope to get this out before Christmas 2019. Further down the line we look at some new characters, ones that I feel duty bound to record. Fallon’s Angler and the films are growing as is our audience, keep tuning in as we delve deeper. You can subscribe for free to the Fallon’s Angler YouTube channel here.
On June the 16th 2018 Fallon’s Angler returned with Chris Yates to the Sussex Levels to celebrate the start of the coarse season. I shot the film from dawn until dusk, as Chris tells the tale of Mr Green’s rod – a story that has taken fifty-nine years to be told.
The Sussex landscape evokes fond memories for Chris as he recalls an era of club match men, coach parties, large bream, and a particular young girl who he saw fishing almost six decades ago.
This film highlights what a day can bring when immersed in thought, the landscape and fishing, it is as Izaak Walton famously once wrote ‘the contemplatives man’s recreation.’
Back in the depths of last winter I ventured up to Oxford with Garrett, the editor of Fallon’s Angler. He had discovered a lake that had been left un-touched for over twenty years, hidden from the gaze of anglers amongst the rolling hills of an Oxfordshire estate. We shall return in the new season to see it’s summer colours.