Don’t worry fashionistas of Hackney Wick and Dalston, the eighties mullet has yet to return, (for now) you may stick to your acid tones and cool electro beats but only the brave will dress the mullet once more.
My mullet were lurking in the tidal stretch of the Lea by the sanctuary of two discarded water tanks not found on a whim but more likely a regular journey, summer after summer, sifting through the silt for a easy feed? Notably hard to catch, these stubborn thick lipped variety were positively zip lipped when it came to my free offerings. Do I have the patience to try and fool one of these or shall I stick to the carp? I’m unsure but to witness these mullet as I have done now for the last few days has been a privilege.
A short film written and narrated by Garrett Fallon of Fallon’s Angler, with music by Trevor Moss and Hannah Lou. A touching story about memory and the return to a place after a forty year absence, a place full of childhood dreams. This is not Garrett’s native Ireland but North Wales, and the Snowdonian lakes of Cregennan. Using his fathers rod and reel, Garrett searches for the wild brown trout.
Last summer I spent the day with author and angler, Dexter Petley, searching out river Lea carp. After many emails sent back and forth from his base camp in Normandy, Dexter finally made it to London while promoting his new book – Love, Madness, Fishing after a thirty year absence. It turned out to be a memorable day (Dexter writes about it in Fallons Angler issue 9) success came in the shape of a large Lea common. I was happy that it was Dexter that caught the near twenty, he only had one chance while I could return anytime, I felt it was the only outcome. What stood out that day was Dexter’s boyish excitement and confidence in catching a carp, gifted by the fact we had a new moon, perhaps his whispy grey hair and talk of moon phases captured me, spellbound in some form of carp wizardry? It was a great day, the new moon cast its spell and I became a moon child.
Almost one year on and the river season has commenced, I have been keeping a close eye on the river but the carp have disappeared, perhaps the dry spring sent the carp to deeper more oxygenated waters? On opening day I met with friends Garrett and Tony for a traditional 16th and despite many bream feeding on our groundbait our carp baits only spooked the twitchy bream, the carp were merely ghosts.
So last Saturday we entered a new lunar phase, I woke feeling half-hearted about getting up but the celestial pull took me to the river at a respectable 8.00 am, if the carp were enchanted then hopefully they were still under a spell. I arrived at a usual spot and looked into the river, below were three large carp, boisterous in their swagger as they pushed their way around the swim searching for food, it was the first carp I had seen in a while, their tails in the air, the moon had switched them on, they danced on moonbeams. River carping is not easy but sometimes it all drops into place, it did last year with Dexter and today it looked hopeful. I lowered a bait just one foot from the bank, I felt the line and watched the rod tip, thirty seconds passed and then wham, like a sledgehammer hitting the rod, the tip pulled down as the carp headed downstream, for five knee trembling minutes I fought the carp and finally landed a common, probably just under the twenty pound mark, just like Dexter’s common from last year. The wizardry of carp fishing strikes again!
A short film about specimen angler Bob Hornegold who has spent a lifetime fishing the Lea system, a river close to me, a complicated river that has been changed by man for thousands of years. Today the river still shines with some remarkable fishing available just fifteen miles from central London.
Art and the art of angling, I consider this to be a partnership that sits comfortably side by side, just like the landscape and the angler. Here is a new film where I find John Richardson a life-long angler and artist in his West Norfolk studio carving and then printing on his Victorian press, while the Fenland landscape dominates throughout.
It goes like this…got woken up; “daddy can I go and see nana?” “yes, go on then” I mumble. I go downstairs, boil kettle, find cup, clatter, spoon, rattle coffee packet, pour…flick through newspaper, celebrities, celebrities, celebrities, war, fear, sport; put paper down, slurp. Find car keys, phone, charger lead, bait, rod and bag. Car door clunks, press ‘engine on’, radio 4 starts up, Saturday morning live, more people banter on, “I’m this, I did that,” more views, more pop culture. Satnav kicks in, “turn left”, “go straight ahead”, light flashes, diesel low, refuel, more bleeps, find wallet, enter kiosk, banging house FM, choose shite sandwich, more bleeps, pay, go. Satnav pillow talk kicks in again, M42, turn off, road narrows, see church in distance, my bearings found, satnav off, radio off, window down, turn corner, river flows, coloured but fining down, pull up, switch off engine, open door, step out, calm, peace, just me, no one, stillness, an antidote…perhaps this is why I go fishing?
Last summer I went small river chubing on the River Mease and wrote about it here, it was hot, the stingers were high but the chub were obliging. Six months on, and spring still a few weeks away I have returned, I wanted to see the river in it winter dress, and hopefully seek out a greedy winter chub.
The trees were magnificent, bare open branches silhouetted on a battleship sky, on the horizon – a hint of blue, the water is coloured but not chocolate, days before the river had flooded the fields but now the river was once again contained. After trotting a float for a while I set up my 10′ avon with a quiver and walked the river dropping a swimfeeder into some deep holes. I am still unfamiliar with the river Mease but eventually after an hour a chub came to the net.
Producing films about angling is a challenge. One, there is always the task of catching fish for the camera, but there is a more complex challenge. How does one represent angling and create an engaging narrative when the act of fishing in realtime is generally a slow one? As a format film is not the ideal way to represent angling unless the editing and narrative has a pace that holds an audience. Literature on the other hand has always led the way when it comes to capturing the nuances in angling, the reader reads, imagines and considers the prose, the pace it set by the reader, literature is more personal and intimate unlike film. Film is an end interpretation created generally by a collective of people, the result is often diluted.
In my opinion, angling film makers fall into a few traps, the all-action – lets make fishing exciting and the slo-mo style with elevating music, the later can be visually stunning but leaves the viewer slightly detached, engagement surely is the answer? The writer must be the key to the film. This year I made three film on angling, far from perfect on many levels, some fundamental mistakes were made on all, but looking to the future I am working with Fallons Angler and those I can trust who write well, (I really think writing is the key) I hope to put together some short films in 2017 that will captivate both the angler and non-angler.
The last year has been an interesting one, I’ve taken off into the field with the aim to shoot video and stills for various projects, one re-accuring challenge is with Fallon’s Angler, it has been…well challenging. The beauty of modern technology is that everything is relatively compact and lightweight although some camera systems have now got smaller, glass is glass and it can still weigh a fair amount, the task of packing it down so that I can move freely on foot and keep in step with roving anglers is an art in itself. In the summer Fallon’s Angler set off by foot onto Dartmoor, I had to carry fishing gear, camera equipment, food, water, bedding and my house. I’m not one to weigh everything down to the last gramme but I made sure I took only the absolute essentials, my only luxury was a hip flask of Laphroig, the hip flask was given to me by my father, and if you knew him you would understand that this was to be the professional drinkers 10 oz version! Unusually the hip flask returned from Dartmoor with almost half of it’s content untouched.
Image courtesy of Bruno Vincent
On the Dartmoor trip I took a Fuji X Pro 1 mirrorless system with just two lenses a 16-55mm and a 55-200mm, I love this camera but it falls down when it comes to shooting video, the trip was a stills only shoot and the Canon had to stay at home. Below are a few shots that didn’t make the final edit and covered to black and white, the article for issue 7 included a mix of colour and black and white.
My next challenge was to put together a compact system that can shoot good quality video and audio as a one-man band. The problem with shooting video is you need a few lens options, microphones, field recorders, monopods, tripods with pan heads, the list can go on and as the list increases so does the weight, my nemesis was whether to pack a rod amongst my camera gear?
For those observant types, actually its fairly obvious the image above has the additional baggage of a fishing bag, rod and reel, below is the actual gear that I would take on the field to shoot video once packed up and ready to go, no fishing gear
Last weekend we set off again for Fallons issue 8, our destination has an eastern direction, what we uncovered was a mystery just like fishing itself, we didn’t know the outcome until it was done, but we met some interesting individuals and seen some places that have formed the story, my job was to get it on film both with stills and on video, the tale of two rivers is unfolding as I sit here and view the edits.
Having no car to drive for the first half of this year focused my attention on my local river – the Lower Lea, potential swims were scrutinise more closely than ever before. The trips planned were to be frequent and short, tackle was set up and ready to go, a bicycle permanently rested in the basement, attached to the cross bar – a modified 42″ landing net, a three piece 10′ Allcocks spinning rod strong enough for hard fighting carp and a very long bank stick – in fact its a storm pole off a bivvy door, although I must confess I’m not too sure what the original purpose of it is, I’m guessing it is a method to sure up the door on a bivvy when a tornado hits? Anyhow I saw it in a tackle shop a few years back and thought it perfect for holding a rod high on the river bank, it has proven very useful when barbel fishing. A shoulder bag contains a reel, camera, polaroids, and an old bait box with all the accessories that a modern angler needs to trap a carp. Finally an old green bucket holds a mixture of baits and doubles as my seat.
Before the season began I kept a close eye on the river and by mid May I could see signs of carp, I also came across one or two other anglers discretely looking with intent, on occasions a few words were exchanged but generally we all kept to the unwritten code of ‘keep quiet and carry on.’ You can find carp quite easily from Broxbourne (and probably beyond) down into Hackney and through central London and out the other side, all you need is a warm sunny day, a bicycle and a some polaroids, I will guarantee you will find carp within a few hours of riding, whether they are feeding though is another question.
My time on the river since June 16th has probably totalled to about 7-8 hours, each trip amounts to only a couple of hours but it suits my freelance routine, I can drop my daughter off at school and pop down to the Lea or nip out during lunch time. So far I have not managed to get on the river early morning or at dusk, something I want to remedy in August. The Lower Lea also holds a large head of good sized bream, the ‘silvers’ have all but vanished but I had heard that 5000 dace have been introduced by the EA to the lower Lea catchment in the close season, lets hope that they thrive.
To date I had a couple of carp at the start of the season, notably a linear on the 16th June, and a few days later a common, both fish were around 7-8 pounds, these fish are very long and strong fighters, but these were the smallest of the carp that I have seen. I have observed a few fish well into their twenties and one or two that could be in their thirties, I had some heart-stopping moments with the polaroids when these larger carp were feeding hard on my bait, frustratingly these moments were cherished under the cloak of the closed season.
August will soon arrive and after a short holiday I will attempt to get back on the river to continue my quest to catch one of the larger fish, but I must confess after cycling down to the river over the last week I have not seen a fish, my theory is that after a heatwave they move into faster flowing and deeper water where oxygen levels are higher, making observations next to impossible. But I have a cunning plan…