At the beginning of May this year I spent two days in the company of poet Paul Henry to film the Monmouthshire and Brecon canal above Crickhowell in Powy where he wrote The Glass Aisle. The Glass Aisle is a long form poem and collection of songs written with Brian Briggs of Stornoway. The canal is rich with a industrial and social past, the workhouse, the kilns, and the canal is the stage for the Glass Aisle, haunted by voices that echo throughout this diverse landscape including the character John Moonlight, angler, Crickhowell. This film is a mesmerising journey, seeking ghosts from those who once lived and worked along the tow path. The Glass Aisle is available here
I have never placed a TV program up on the Tuesday Swim but with Mackenzie Crook’s masterful comedy in it’s final series I feel the task of messenger urging you all to watch is duty bound. Series three has been inspired by the song ‘Magpie’ performed by the Unthanks adding a new depth and spirit to the narrative. The dectectorists of Danebury; a conglomerate of archaeologists, treasure hunters, romantics and anoraks strive on, challenged by modern life but driven by the mysticism of the past, tragic, funny, and spiritual, will Andy and Lance uncover the magpie’s tale or shall they leave it lost and buried. Watch here.
Encouraging young anglers or indeed any angler to fish the rivers and canals must be a good thing. So with the new Canal and River Trust all singing from the same hymn sheet we can sigh a sense of relief as one body represents all who enjoy this network of water.
Looking at the new website http://canalrivertrust.org.uk/, there are plenty of videos and lovely images including Brian Blessed opening lock gates in mid laughter only in the manner Mr Blessed knows, from first impressions its looks ok if not a little cheesy. The fishing section shows you a list of commercial still waters in your area…. hang on Canal and Rivers Trust, surely the whole point is to promote, canals and rivers? Already the message is getting a little cloudy.
It seems the website is another example of .org.uk, gloss with very little content. For example this is what it states about fishing the canals and rivers of Britain, ‘Fishing rights to many stretches of our canal network belong to local fisheries or angling clubs. You can find their contact details using our ‘find a fishery’ search.’ Fine if a little vague but when I did finally find my local stretch of canal it states ‘click on the website for more details,’ well it is actually an email address but close, oh and an email address that doesn’t work!
We now get onto the Wanderers scheme where with just one season ticket you can fish selected stretches of canal throughout the UK for the cost of £20 per year. This sounds like a good idea, so I contacted the Canal and rivers trust and a reply from John came, with the good news that the Lea Navigation was to be included into this Wanderers scheme from April 1st. My details where passed onto another person who would tell me where I could obtain the Wanderers permit. A day later an email arrived from another John using a private email address (not the trust) saying that the Wanderers scheme was not to include the Lea Navigation. I replied asking who would know who does run the Lower Lea stretch and the reply was ‘As far as I know it is a club called Rural A.C., unfortunately I do not have contact details.’ A search for ‘rural AC’ came up with nothing.
So without this post sounding like an episode of BBC Watchdog, please sort your act out Canals and River Trust. I shall be fishing the Lea Navigation without a permit this season, my money is waiting, I’ve tried to support your cause and now after numerous emails and web searching I have given up. It’s a real disappointment that this is how our sport is run, when it could easily be done so well especially with many anglers looking for quieter waters to fish.
Here’s a song for the two Johns at the Canal & Rivers Trust…
David Bowie seems to have crept out of the limelight for good. Three events that probably contributed to this were, becoming a father for the second time, the events of 9/11 on his doorstep (witnessed by his wife Iman from their apartment) and finally having a heart attack in 2004. Bowie is now reputed to be drug and alcohol free, and has even kicked the life long love of cigarettes. He can now be spotted in Manhattan perusing the book shops on occasion, Bowie has finally closed the door on fame and his public life, in fact he has been reported to have changed his name back to Jones.
His Manhattan apartment has been designed to reflect an old English style country house with large fire places, high ceilings and wood panelling, one hopes that in his library of many books lies a stuffed 2lb roach, cased with the inscription “2lb Roach caught on the Hampshire Avon by Captain Freecloud January 8th 1932.” Somehow I feel Mr Jones is not a piscator but I will raise a glass tonight in their honour. To Captain Freecloud and a true original in New York.
Happy Birthday Mr Jones…
Well blow me down with a feather, thank you Neil for the prompt. Seems like Mr Jones has been lost in a Manhattan book shop and Bowie is back!
I spent the summer of 1983 trying to learn to fish…properly, mainly on my own and mainly for chub, my apprenticeship for gudgeon had passed. There was a favourite deep run on the Sussex Ouse just a few hundred yards from the Ardingly road which I named chub corner and this was where most of my success came from. I spent a lot of time there with my Walkman listening to one song in particular on a loop just like teenagers do! Afterwards I would lie on the river bank and take in the summer sun, even then I knew these were cherished times.
On my return to school that september one of my science classes was shared with a guy called Mark who always brought a copy of Anglers Mail in on a Wednesday and due to the old style science lab benches (the ones with the gas taps that you could simply switch on at anytime and gas out the whole class) we could secretly read each copy on our laps, undetected by our teacher.
At that time Anglers Mail were running a series of extracts from Pete Mohans’ ‘Cypry the Carp’. We were transfixed each week as the story unfolded of Andy and Cypry the Carp but what also captured my attention was the ‘make your own tackle’ features that were so popular back in those days and in september pike tackle came into the spotlight. Spoons made from, well… spoons! Toby style bars made from spoon and fork handles and slider floats made from broom handles carefully carved out. Pike fishing seemed another world away and new precautions needed to be taken in the pursuit, wire traces, pike gags and forceps all needed consideration.
With talk of pike in the back of the science lab, my friend Mark told me tales of large pike caught in the Horstead Keynes lakes and he had witnessed a few captures as he lived right next to one of the lakes with his mother and brother in a small cottage. Horstead Keynes was only about four miles away but these lakes sounded out-of-bounds to me, still my fascination with large pike was growing.
At that time I was a member of Haywards Heath and District Angling Society and another story was relayed to me about more monster pike encounters and this time it was on a water I could fish in Slaugham, a HHDAS water. A large pike was hooked by two lads fishing dead baits, it had them all over the lake and finally it shot under the platform where the two young intrepid piscators were standing. Hesitantly one of them hand-lined the pike from under the platform not realising how close his hand was to the wire trace until the shock of seeing such a large toothed mouth caused the pike to be dropped, resulting in the line parting. A return visit had to be organised and this time I was going to be properly prepared.
It was a saturday morning, crisp and bright, I had already purchased a PDQ wire snap tackle trace, bound multi-stranded wire with red cotton whipping over the twisted knots. The trace carefully coiled in a tracing paper bag, I could only afford one trace so it had to last. Also I had purchased a Vortex sliding pike float (carving a broom handle was a lot harder than made out in the Anglers Mail article) along with various swivels beads and swan shot. The rod was my trusty old Marco fibreglass carp rod with extra whipping over the joint where a split had started to show, the reel was a Mitchell 300s.
Standing outside the fishmongers by the roundabout in Haywards Heath I purchased a few joeys and some sprats which were a cheaper option. I was now a hunter using fish to catch bigger fish, maggots were for boys…I set off in trepidation!
The journey to Slaugham lake was a good forty minutes bike ride so I set off, now prepared like ‘proper’ fishermen do, off to do battle with rod and landing net tied to the crossbar and a faint whiff of sea fish following behind. On arrival the lake was calm, the trees bare and the air cold. My choice of swim was one of the platforms that protruded from the large reed bed that surrounded a good forty percent of the whole lake, the rest of the lake was un-fishable as the banks were covered in fallen trees that even the most cunning of stalkers could not penetrate. Once on the wooden platform I tackled up, carefully tying on my wire trace and setting the sliding float so that it ‘cocked’ nicely in the flat calm water. I couldn’t remember from my Observer Book of Coarse Fishing whether the dead bait was to settle on the bottom or dangle in the mid-water? A few adjustments over the morning covered both options but the float never moved. By the afternoon I had covered a large corner of the lake and then remembered the illustrations in one of my books back home of a pike snapping at roach near some reeds, so I cast as close as I would dare, fearing that I could loose the wire trace and that would then be curtains for the day.
After only moments the float bobbed, then slowly towed away, just a foot or two but then stopped. Mixed emotions of excitement, fear and disappointment all came at once but I reeled in, kept calm and replaced the now tired looking joey with a fresh tail and re-cast. Again the float carried off and this time I struck, instantly there was a swirl that broke the stillness of the day and I was in a true tussle, like nothing I had experienced before. After a short while the pike was under control and I netted a pike of around six pounds. My next thought was how to un-hook the pike, I had forceps and a ‘humane’ gag but this was an operation all new to me. So straddling the fish I managed to get the gag in place and thankfully with shaking hands, managed to get the trebles out. I leant down and returned the pike using the landing net, I then stood up on the platform and thought, that was a ‘proper’ fish, was I a proper fisherman? Well time would tell but I certainly cycled home feeling a foot taller!
Trevor Moss & Hannah Lou were pointed out to me a little while back by John Andrews of Arcadia. There were grave concerns that John was such a big fan of these two that rumours of stalking were going around the music industry. Well it seems that after the injunction everything has calmed down and to celebrate this fine new song (Big Water), Trevor & Hannah have submerged Arcadia into their video or is it Ivor Cutler?
Last night was another great gathering from the Caught by the River collective at the Rough Trade eastern branch. Bill Drummond read an extract from the ‘On Nature’ book, the audience drawn in by the tale of his obsession with a particular fruit, the damson! After reading the first passage, Bill put the book down and continued the tale about his personal journey to Damascus, in a unique and animated manner.
Afterwards the crowd retired to Mason & Taylor for cask condition, bottled ale. Dark ale and some darkened tunes courtesy of Mr Richard Norris and the CBTR crew…