Gone Fishing: The Consultant’s View

John Bailey

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Feature Writer
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SERIES 4, EPISODE 2 – BURGHLEY BREAM

Well, of course, bream were the species advertised, but they were a complete no-show, to Bob’s relief. But first, let’s talk about estate lakes, the waters where I grew up on, both in Cheshire, but more especially in Norfolk from the late Fifties. Holkham. Blickling. Felbrigg. Gunton. Bayfield. Letheringsett. Wolterton. Barningham. Melton Constable. And that’s barely the half of them! They were constructed in the main between 1750 and 1800, with a good number of date variations and, in the case of Blickling and especially Holkham, involved excavations over a decade and the labour of thousands of men. Burghley is, of course, built on the same scale and is equally huge at 20-plus acres. Moreover, Burghley appears to have survived with fish populations rather more intact than most of the Norfolk lakes mentioned. Some Norfolk waters were diminished by pollutions, but most had their small fish stocks annihilated by cormorants and their large fish decimated by otters. The crash of these lakes between, say, 1995 and 2020, has been devastating. Shallow waters offer little protection from predators and Burghley has been lucky to survive, to a degree intact.

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Can there be a more wonderful place to fish?

All estate lakes, in my experience are (or were) monumentally beautiful. The 18th century must have been a good time to be alive… if you were an angler, rich, and escaped the plethora of diseases that we took for granted ’till mid-last century. Burghley, as the film showed, remains a paradise on earth, thanks to centuries of careful care and stewardship. Before moving on, can I say that nowhere have we been received with more generosity than at Burghley? It was the warmth of those who live and work there that made the episode even more special than the park and those stunning tench.

Let’s consider those tench? They are special. They are exceptionally (I’d actually say uniquely) deep for their length. In fact, some I unhooked reminded me more of leather carp than tench, such was their bulk. I am not confusing build and bone structure with spawn, by the way. There was evidence of this in some fish, but it was minimal. Why was this? Genetics? Possibly, though I don’t know about these things in a scientific way. I’d guess that these fish were stocked many decades ago and left to develop in their own way, with little disturbance. In addition, the lake is supremely rich with seemingly superb water quality. It heaved with daphnia, even in the early part of the spring… something that made me worry about the fishing.

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Stephen watches the action!

In fact, picking up on that last point, I arrived at the lake on Saturday and, along with the brilliant gardener there, Stephen (who was a rock throughout) I began to bait two swims. I baited all day Sunday too, and then all day Monday, whilst we were filming the general views and drone shots. After two and a half days of piling bait in, I never saw a bubble or a fish roll. Stephen and I could have been throwing bait around the park as far as any fish were concerned. It was therefore a colossal relief when the first tench appeared after only 20 or 30 minutes of fishing.

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A word on the fishing. The prebait consisted of Vitalin, corn and boilies. During the filming we basically used two feeder rods and two float rods, all set up with boilies on the hook. The Boys prefer float fishing, and happily this tack proved by far the most successful. We fished Andrew Field’s wind beaters at twenty yards (less in the case of Bob’s blue rod) and bites were unmissable. Once again, using barely any shot on the line and a hair-rigged boilie as an anchor proved to be a top approach.

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The pike? Paul loves his fly fishing, and it did appear the lake has a healthy population of jacks, hence the boat sequence… which to everyone’s amazement Bob handled with aplomb. However, there was a back story to this. On Monday, when reeling in a Spomb, I was followed by an otter that turned out at my feet to be an immense, almost coal-black pike. I have seen some BIG pike in my time, and this was right up there. It appeared once more, when it followed in an eight pound tench and drifted around the area for ten minutes after, just exuding menace. No surprise really. There is no angling pressure and I’m sure a tench every month or so allows a good pike to grow enormous.

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On a last, more sombre note, the Boys talked about parents and losing them. This struck a chord with me, as so many of their more serious topics do. My parents died when I was in my twenties, and though I thought about them every day then, their memory burns far brighter today, not that far short of half a century later. Perhaps as you yourself age, in an inexplicable way, their influence grows? That is history for you. At Burghley, it did not necessarily seem that the past really is a foreign country.
 

iainmortimer

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Apr 5, 2014
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Location
West Sussex
Was it just the scenery of the Lake District or the demonstration of genuine friendship that made tonight’s episode the best yet? For me I think it was a combination of the two. This episode in many ways captured the escapism of fishing as well as the amazing views that we often experience when out and about which had prompted my memory to pull up a few of my own. It also made me reflect on my own friendships and experiences over the years with both a degree of joy and sense of loss for the type of freedom that Bob explained. This series really is building on the last and the series just keeps getting better and better at capturing the essence of what we do. If that continues I hope the mad duo continue the series until Bob is in his bin which hopefully won’t be for a few decades yet.
 

John Bailey

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Feature Writer
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Messages
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SERIES 4, EPISODE 3 – THE LAKE DISTRICT

Can I thank “iainmortimer” for his lovely comments on the episode last night? (September 12th) My only problem with the charming things he has to say is that they rather undermine my own carefully prepared observations! I will start by saying I watched the programme with my late twenty year old stepson, who has never been fishing in his life, and when he wasn’t staring at his phone, he pronounced it kinda cool, dead funny and sort of serious, all at the same time.

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Fishing the trout lake

Yes, I do think that the whole worth of the programme has matured since those first episodes four (!) years ago. There’s more assurance about it, and whilst the humour (for me) has got better, B and P have more confidence when it comes to revealing matters close to them. Sometimes you learn to expand into roles, and at the same time I think the viewers themselves have learned what the series are all about too. There was barely anything caught last night, yet the episode was a cracker, and that has been the wished-for result from the start. Last night showed them at their most human, and it’s because they are so human that so many have taken them to their heart. (I think!)

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Toby above the lake

What my stepson does not realise yet is that as you get a fair bit older, you look back to your early years with something more than nostalgia. When Bob met up with old mate Cags (or whatever), and reminisced about the old school gates and Porky Mortimer as the young Bobby Moore, these weren’t throwaway memories. Bob I felt was talking about those halcyon years that defined him and his life to come. Because Bob is a sunny sort of guy, he looked back on his teenage experiences as carefree, a time when “you don’t remember the rain, the grief, the occasional arrest”. Paul mentioned George Orwell and Coming Up For Air, wherein his feelings on going back like this are nothing but gloom… perhaps this highlights the difference between Paul and Bob to a tee!

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There are times when really you can let the programme do the talking and I’ll shut up. My last comment is that both venues were stunning, and that Eric was one of the three most exceptional local guides I think the many programmes have been graced with. The weather was FAR worse than the film actually portrayed, and at times the temperatures shrank to a miserable three degrees. It was barely possible to fish, never mind catch anything. His trundling worm technique is not completely revolutionary, but he has perfected it into something very special indeed, and I would have loved both boys to have caught whoppers for Eric’s sake. Sometimes these exceptional guides put their reputations on the line, and the televised result does their skills no justices at all. Thank you to B and P, the G/F team, and you lot for watching and saying such nice things. It’s the best gig of my life!

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Day one really was icy, cold and wet…
Day two perked up a lot
!
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Ally, the patient camera man!
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Lakeland Paradise
 

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