A 30-minute programme about barbel fishing on the River Kennet, produced by Scottish film-maker Ricky Walker, should make interesting viewing. They have one day of shooting left – and haven't caught a fish yet.
Normally, I would have a none-too quiet chuckle about such misfortune. Regrettably, I persuaded them to film on the Kennet in the first place, and Ricky has big, unsavoury friends with Glaswegian accents.
It's the final programme in a series of 10 being produced by Ricky, and starring Chris Sandford. Chris is an actor. He has string of credits to his name, but unfortunately the only one he is remembered for is Walter Potts, the singing window-cleaner in Coronation Street.
This isn't one of those series where some plummy-voiced Londoner who doesn't know which end to hold a rod makes a fool of himself by asking dumb questions. Chris is a keen fisher. He has a symbiotic relationship with the fish that live in the river Rother that runs through his Sussex mill house (and every winter, floods it). He feeds them, and catches them.
Anyway, we were chatting a few months ago, and Chris mentioned the barbel film, adding that they had recruited Nigel Botherway to be the resident expert. Nigel, a fellow journalist, is what the angling world calls a Big Fish Man. He has caught 500lb sturgeon from Oregon, 150lb catfish from Kazakhstan, 80lb carp from Thailand, 90lb mahseer from India. He is a big, powerful man, but even he can't stretch his arms out wide enough to show you how big his catches are. Who better to catch a mighty barbel?
So I had what seemed like a good idea at the time. "Why don't you tie your trip up with the Angling Writers' Association day out on the Wasing Estate stretch of the Kennet? The fishery is full of huge barbel, and you can get a bit of extra footage by chatting to some of the writers." Chris liked the idea, so off we trooped this week.
The Kennet is a lovely river, and the Wasing Estate is what a fishery should be like. No mowed banks, concrete car-parks and permanent pegs. Sure, there are head-high nettles, but there are also kingfishers and a mass of wild flowers. The film crew was full of anticipation. Unwisely. Barbel are big, tough and not easy to catch.
Halfway through the day, I strolled along to watch the cameras whirr. The crew looked very glum. Not a fish. Those with less lofty ambitions, like myself, were having a grand time with chub, roach, dace and even trout. To make matters worse, as the afternoon wore on, we lesser lights caught quite a few barbel. My friend Andy captured a seven-pounder, and told the film team excitedly about the great day he had enjoyed. They had caught nothing.
As I write, they are on the river again. It's today or nothing. Ricky may already have made calls to the men who think stockings make attractive headgear. Time to visit those long-lost relatives in the Australian outback...Reuse content