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/
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.
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.
Travelling with my camera for Fallon’s Angler has been a real adventure, often a challenge and always an education. Every trip was met with its rewards, this year I will bring two new stories that I’m very keen to share plus a few more that have yet to be un-covered.
Last May I flew over to British Columbia to meet Garrett from Fallon’s Angler. After a conversation with his father over twenty years ago he made a promise to himself to fish the Fraser river for sturgeon. Sadly his father never made it but now the challenge was on and the chance to catch a fish the size of a man was a potential reality. My film captures that journey through the Canadian wilderness and eventually connecting to something quite extraordinary.
The more places I visit and the more I fish, I find myself transfixed in a state, a place imagined from the past, people passing through as their lives ebb and flow, then fade as they dissolve into the soil. When I stand with my video camera this sense is enduring as I piece together a narrative. I relish the past, with it I see the present and look into the future, it is apparent my films have taken on this tone over the last year. These films are not sentimental nor nostalgic, The Glass Aisle was an engagement into a poets world. Paul Henry unlocked the souls from the past through the landscape of the Brecon and Monmouthshire canal, the experience was a total immersion, five months on and the Glass Aisle haunts me every day.
I have shot two more films this summer, one was shot in Canada with Garrett from Fallon’s Angler, this is not finished but once again I was surprised on what we discovered in British Columbia, kindred spirits? I still not sure but we witnessed a connection with the flora and fauna at the end of our trip when I caught a sturgeon and landed it on a first nation reservation. There we met a lady who connected us with her spirit world, a world apart from the macho hunting and fishing scene that seems prevalent in modern Canada. The passion of angling had once again blessed us with another soulful experience.
Back in the UK we shot a short film – Solent Hounds – fishing for smoothounds in the Solent. Escaping from London one afternoon just at the start of the hot summer, we fished for several hours with anglers Adam and Ollie. We stayed until dark, what came from the shoreline through our marriage of words and images was once again echoed from the past through the landscape. I thought we were simply shark fishing, instead Garrett and myself found more. There are many angling films out there showing how and where, but I hope these Fallon’s Angler film offer something else? As anglers we have the privilege to stay put, to step away from time, to focus on a spot, transfixed in a meditative state, personally I dream, I honour and remember those lost souls that once walked and now lay as dust beneath my feet, while remembering that I too will one day join them.
Watch Solent Hounds here…