Caught in a spell.


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An email arrived from Dexter Petley last Monday, the email began ‘hope the new moon is still working for you. It’s the only time I bother now, especially on these big lakes.  I blank for 28 days every month, then get three runs at once on new moons.’

I have not kept an eye on the moon phases for a while, normally they are in my psyche, a glance to the heavens re-align my monthly cycle but recently I’ve been distracted, the hot weather doesn’t help although I love the current heatwave, early mornings are fine, still and cool, but as the temperature rises I loose focus, days are drawn out, they slow and I meander:

A few days after Dexter’s email there was a new moon, an opportune moment to cast a line on my local River Lea for an hour or two before the sun takes too high, I wanted to see if the carp were once again under a spell? On two occasions (once with Dexter) the carp responded freely under such conditions, almost instantly, somehow the moon made carp fishing easy, as if that was possible? It was 9.15am when I arrived by the river, I watched a favourite spot for a while, although I sat in the shade I could feel the heat, this was a summer to remember and I wanted a new moon carp to grace my net just like the previous year and the year before that. Normally I can see cruising carp as they move from deeper, cooler water into the shallows, I was hoping they had their tails high in the water levitated by moonbeams as they sifted through the silt. After thirty minutes, nothing, no carp stirred,  the spell had  not been cast on these river monsters, I didn’t wet a line. As the heat intensified I decided to take a wander, perhaps they were holding out further down river. The path by the Lea was dabbled in shade and light, the heat was still building, only the river flow and the high branches showed any signs of movement, everything else was still, caught in the spell of high summer, alas the carp were nowhere to be seen.

The Glass Aisle by Paul Henry – a film.


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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


CBTR book review – The Pull of the River by Matt Gaw


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The Pull of the River begins with the completion of Matt Gaw’s canoe by his travelling companion, James. It is named ‘Pipe’, a nod to Roger Deakin and his recording Cigarette on the Waveney, a journey by canoe. It is the Waveney where Matt and James begin their year-long adventure. The narrative is rich as they meander through each chapter, using historical references, folklore and first-hand observations to form a bountiful account of each river.

The canoe is like no other means of transport: it is silent, unobtrusive, and it offers the passenger time and space to observe and contemplate. Matt Gaw understands this. His canoe drifts silently into a scene, it passes through, the song of the paddle is slight, and the contemplative world is easily reached.

Roger Deakin’s voice echoes throughout the book, especially during the eastern adventures; his words drift in at opportune moments, offering snippets of poetry and advice. Gaw writes on Cigarette on the Waveney:

I listened again and again, soaking up his words, as well as the moments where he lets the river talk. Some of the most evocative parts of the recording are simply the sound of water under the canoe, chuckling drip of dipped paddles as Deakin eased himself into a hidden, more contemplative world.

The Pull of the River is a journey into the soul. The power of the water is a constant flex on the spirit – be it a storm brewing off the shore of Loch Ness or a riffle on the River Lark, there is fear and there is calm. On the final leg of the Stour, marooned on a salt marsh due to a strong tide, the pair are fearful. The only escape route will take them across mudflats, their other option being to return to the turbulent water of the estuary. They regain their composure and take the later option, and not only survive, but start to flourish in this watery world.

In the chapter ‘Alone on the Water’ Matt Gaw observes the re-wilding of the river Otter. This time he paddles solo, and the experience is wholly different. He seeks  out the newly introduced beaver, and one evening is rewarded with a sighting.

Little by little, the author is synchronised with the river and the world around it. The river and the canoeist through osmosis are kindred.

Before the final chapter, where Gaw tackles the wilds of Scotland and Loch Ness, he takes a contemplative trip to his childhood river the Colne. It’s a telling tale – a river his father knew well – but The Pull of the River does not dwell on looking back. At heart, it is a book which encourages its readers to live in the present: to contemplate, to explore, to be lost, to lose control and to regain it again.


The Pull of the River is out now and available here, priced £14.99.

Nick Fallowfield-Cooper is a photographer, picture editor for Fallon’s Angler, and keen canoeist.


Chub bag – end of season.


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nick the messenger bag millican

On Wednesday my bag referred to  as my ‘chub’ bag was finally laid to rest for a few months. It offers everything that I like about my angling, it’s lightweight, compact,  keeps me mobile and it can only fit the bare essentials, my angling  is lean, my approach is simple. On my last trip  of the season I took to the River Wandle (for the very first time) with friends Garrett and Tony. The technique was thus;- rolling a worm down some fast runs with aid of two swan shot and a no 1 next to the hook to keep the bait down. The result? Well Garrett sums up the trip perfectly in his own words here.


A brutal reality – Little Shit film.


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On four of the hottest days in 2016, director and writer Richard Gorodecky took a film crew into some of the hardest estates in our capital and shot his story; Little Shit. A short film, about the harsh reality of living in the margins, Paul (Badger Skelton) plays a role that is both sensitive and fuelled with anger, Paul finds solace in nature, a natural sanctuary, hidden along the canal paths and brown sites of London.

If I learnt one thing over those four days, directing is a balance, in one hand you have a vision, and in the other you have the guiding arm to take your actors there, as tender as the film is, the relationship between actor and director was a touching side that I didn’t expect. Yesterday Little Shit won best short film at the London Short Film Festival 2018. Watch the trailer here…


Detectorists – series three


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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.

The Suffolk Stour by canoe


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This year I have fished probably less than ever before but I have managed to achieve one thing, I built a canoe. Drifting on water would be a new found perspective that had an appeal and the urge to construct something was prevalent. The process of building the canoe and why I ended up doing it is written up in issue 11 of Fallon’s Angler along with a rather good cover but I will refrain from saying anymore while I gently blush!

After a few short trips on the Lea in the summer myself and a friend Greg decided to make one last trip of the year, to paddle along the Suffolk Stour in the autumn, (personally my favourite time of year).  I knew very little about the county or the river despite making many visits to Portman Road over the years as a life long supporter of Ipswich Town. For both of us this would be a voyage of unknowns and an opportunity to load up the canoe and try it out before I plan a longer trip next spring.

We set off a day after southern England was hit by the aftermath of hurricane Ophelia which whipped up the Sahara sands, a Ray Bradbury’esk atmosphere  cloaked the land in an orange haze as we set off from Bures on the Essex/Suffolk border. Our journey was to be around thirteen miles with a stop off overnight on a small campsite that nestled next to the river. We packed light but made sure we had good provisions; wine, whiskey and food, our campsite had a farm shop and 28 days old steak was offered up to our open fire in the evening cooked on my old steel pan, we were alone, we were the last campers of the season. The night was mild but by sunrise light rain started to fall which slowly became heavier throughout the morning. Over the two days we had the Stour to ourselves aside from the occasional dog walker and one lone angler who sat motionless in the early morning drizzle of our second day. He sat still, an elderly man who’s posture resembled that of a  heron transfixed on the water, mutual respect was exchanged in a silent nod as he waited for us to drift past so he could once again be alone with his thoughts as we headed on towards Stratford-St- Mary.

The last tench of summer – a film


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It was an absolute pleasure to spend time with Kevin Parr while he fished and talked about the landscape of Wallers Haven in Sussex. Kevin spent the day building up his swim confident in his choice which resulted in a wonderful tench. This film celebrates the camaraderie between friends, the banter, the early mornings, the landscape and the fishing. It coincides with the launch of Fallon’s Angler issue 11 which goes to press today. Sadly we delivered this one a little late but issue twelve is already under way and we aim to be back on track bringing issue twelve in the new year.

Shooting off grid – solar and portable power.


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Finding good editorial stories for Fallon’s Angler has taken us away from the usual beaten paths and ultimately to more remote places, last year we walked into Dartmoor staying over night and this year we camped in Snowdonia finding quieter places and catching wild brown trout. The down side is we have to carry everything, camping gear, food, cameras, tripods and fishing kit. Being away from power can be deliberating for the photographer, weight is always carefully monitored so carrying camera batteries has to be restricted; I carry eight LP-E6 for my two Canon 5D cameras, but these can be spent in under two days, so I decided to try out the Goal Zero Sherpa 100 power bank and Nomad 20  solar panel, they weigh 877 grams and 1132 grams respectively, so I decided to take a closer look and see how they could solve my off grid shooting problems.


Connecting of the Sherpa 100: The Sherpa 100 has two USB output ports, a 12v output and laptop output with various adaptors to fit most brands such as Asus, Dell, HP, IBM, Lenovo, Panasonic, Sony and Toshiba, but there is no adaptor to take a Mac PowerBook (the choice for the majority of photographers). There is a work around by screwing an inverter but I will come to this later.  The Sherpa 100 comes with a 12v cigarette car output adaptors, one to connect the Sherpa 100 to any 12v cigarette lighter device. There is another useful 12v adaptor cable that allows the Sherpa 100 to be charged from any vehicle but this has to be purchased separately for £9.99. All of the male and female sockets are colour coded and neatly light up when connected; therefore no mistakes can be made when making a connection and you can see devices are charging in the dark. The single input-charging socket accommodates the 240v charger (supplied), the 12v car adaptor (sold separately) and any Goal Zero Nomad Solar Panel (sold separately)

Charging the Sherpa 100: Direct from the mains the Sherpa 100 took just over 3 hours to fully charge. To charge from a 12v vehicle adaptor it took a little over four hours. I charged the Sherpa using the Nomad 20 on a sunny autumn day in London, the sun was weak so the charge was slower but despite this I managed to achieve a 20% charge in around two to three hours, anyone who knows what an October day in London can be like will understand that the sun is far from it’s potential full strength.

Using the Nomad 20 solar panel: You can use the Nomad solar panel to charge the Sherpa 100 or plug the solar panel direct into a device via the female USB connector, obviously the panel does not store energy, that is the job of the Sherpa 100 but this is a neat solution to topping up devices. All of the cables and connectors pack into a built in mesh pouch at the rear of the solar panel keeping everything safe and tidy, the pouch will also accommodate the Sherpa 100, handy if you want to suspend the panel out of the way and leave it to charge.

I charged my IPhone 5 direct from the Nomad 20 again the sun was weak, the panel charged 30% of my phone in two hours. Mini karabiners are supplied to allow you to clip the panel on to a rucksack while in transit, and there is the option of daisy chaining the solar panels for added power. The trifold design measures 210mm x 330mm when closed and 630mm x 330mm when the three solar panels are unfolded.

Charging via the USB port: Canon – With the Sherpa 100 fully charged I found I could simultaneously charge two Canon batteries (LP-E6) via the USB port in two hours forty five minutes taking the Sherpa down to 80% charge, continuing to charge two more canon batteries it took two hours and thirty minutes with the 60% charge remaining. The variant was probably due to the condition of the LP-E6 batteries. Based on this I could potentially get ten LP-E6 batteries charged from the Sherpa 100 this could extend my shooting time to 2-3 days.

Go-Pro: The time for simultaneously charging two GoPro batteries was slight less at two hours.

iPhone: I charged by IPhone 5 six times with 50% remaining so in theory I could get ten charges from the Sherpa 100.

Using the Inverter: You screw this into the side of the Sherpa which offers you a two pin mains plug in option, purchase a standard UK three pin to two pin adaptor and you are once again in business offering more charging options, the inverter does add more bulk but only weighs an additional 184 grams. As I mentioned earlier there  is a lack of direct connection to a Mac PowerBook (not Goal Zero’s fault, the Mac connections are licensed!) so an inverter is required (additional purchase required). My MacBook Pro 15” only received a 79% charge before the Sherpa ran out of juice after one hour and twenty-five minutes, the issue here I believe is the energy used to power the cooling motor inside the inverter but perhaps someone more electrically qualified may be able to throw some light onto this? I would conclude the Sherpa 100 with the inverter is not ideal for charging Mac books and perhaps you should look at some of the larger models like the Goal Zero Yeti.

Conclusion: At 2kg for both the Sherpa 100 and Nomad 20 this option is not too heavy nor bulky, the panel clips neatly onto the back of my LowePro ProTactic 350 back pack and can be folded out when trekking to gain some extra power. I must confess I haven’t had the opportunity to fully test the potential of the Nomad 20 panel but weather pending I will in the future. Saying this, even in the autumn sun of England I could top up both the Sherpa 100 and top up my IPhone directly. I would consider two solar panels and daisy chain them, they could easily be laid out on my kit bags while canoeing during the day or at base camp.

The Sherpa measures only 133mm x 150mm x 40mm making it easy to pack in a rucksack or dry bag. I would recommend buying the 12v car adaptor so that charging could take place while driving. Charging via the USB port seems to be the most efficient way to use the Sherpa 100 rather than using the inverter. There are loads of Goal Zero accessories to go with this set up including led lighting, lanterns, re-chargeable batteries and more, check for the full range and prices.

For the serious outdoor photographer who requires extra power, the Sherpa 100 at only 877grams gives the photographer freedom to roam, and with the Nomad 20 and some sunshine your power is potentially endless. The build is rugged but remember it is not waterproof, so I would recommend buying a small dry sack for photographers staying out in the elements. Taking more power with me has simply taken some anxiety out of shooting off grid, the power bank will certainly be on our future photography trips whether we hike, canoe, or set up a base camp,  shooting off grid has become more appealing.