Wednesday, 27 April 2016
Sometimes, even as a fictional military general, freshwater fishing simply isn't exciting enough. A real man needs that unmistakable tang of the sea. There is something about the coast that stirs the blood, you see. The manliness of sailors. Fish and chips sold at less than four quid. Women with nautical tattoos. Petty criminals who are still friendly. Cafes where a nostalgic general can be surrounded by elderly white people drinking tea. The bright flashing lights of low quality gambling establishments. Huge amounts of fudge, all of it British. Pubs where it is not so much acceptable as compulsory to swear, drink poor quality spirits and engage in arm wrestling and tales of "the good old days". And yes, fishing. Not namby pamby small stream fly fishing, but sea fishing, with waves, gales and seaweed. British seaweed. For all these reasons and more, I love the life of the salty dog.
I could easily have been a great naval commander rather than a conventional general, come to think of it. But sadly my great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandfather was dishonorably discharged in the days of the Spanish Armada after his part in a depraved episode involving a shipment of opium, the Earl of Wessex's daughter and a live haddock.
But I digress. I tell you, these days I can hardly tell you what happened last week, let alone the days of the Spanish Armada. But my shrapnel wounds are so severe these days I'm rarely sober. Somewhere in the middle of a bottle of rum, however, I suddenly remembered childhood holidays in Lyme Regis, where I would go fishing with my Uncle Robbie. Or at least that is what he told my aunt.
Back in those days the seas were crawling with huge fish. Twenty pound bass were common and a top of the range beachcaster cost 5p, while you'd even find the odd marlin off the south coast. That was before the English channel was plundered by the French, the Spanish, the Dutch and, worst of all, the Cornish.
Nevertheless, I was curious to return to the Dorset coast for some sea fishing. Partly to see if anything was left and partly because I wanted to pick up my new Fifty Plus Ultimate Big Fish Warrior Mark 4 Twat Scales, which weigh fish up to half a metric ton. They will speak the weight to you and even read out your PB list so that you can bore the shit out of passers by to the nearest gram, which is another nice feature. The only drawback is the use of Kilograms, because I much prefer the comfort of dated and confusing imperial measures. Anyone who disagrees is unpatriotic and should stop reading immediately.
Again, I digress. I returned with a heavy beachcaster just in case, although I doubted I'd catch a sprat sixty odd years after the last time I had cast here. On that occasion I caught a fifty pound tope and was beaten up by my uncle, who had caught nothing and got jealous. I decided to be realistic and just see what was about this time, by rigging up with a two-foot-long king ragworm and casting it out to a reef two hundred yards away.
Within seconds I had a bite and reeled in a fish that was ugly as it was disappointing. Global warming has created an influx of dirty, inferior and invasive species from other countries. I believe this fish was a Patagonian Sludge Goby. Either way, I was disgusted with it, in spite of its near 40lb bulk. Quite inedible too, I'm afraid. I shot it twice in the head, before ordering the local coastguard to tow the body to France.
Regardless, I baited up again and this time cast nearer to the shore, by a large rocky outcrop. Again, I only had to wait mere seconds for a bite, which didn't so much shiver the rod tip as nearly pull the rod into the sea. This time I had a real battle on my hands, especially as I was only using 100lb line. In the two hours or so it took to beat the fish, a small crowd had assembled outside the amusement arcades, momentarily distracted from their love of gambling to watch the epic battle unfolding. By the time I hauled the monster to shore, my muscles ached and my uniform was drenched in sweat.
It was an enormous wrasse, but was it a British Navy record? Unfortunately not. At only eighty-nine pounds and seven ounces, it was almost a pound an a half short of the specimen caught by Rear Admiral David McKenzie in 1896. The crowd were impressed but, naturally, I was disgusted. I had the fish destroyed, before going to Spar to buy a bottle of sherry.
A rum do, I'm afraid chaps. But alas, sometimes all that lies between eternal glory and a night in a carpark is eighteen ounces. Sometimes I think the good old days are never likely to return, frankly. The Empire is gone. Discipline is fading. Soon there will be nothing left for it but to bypass the dented tins of lager and out-of-date spirits at Spar altogether and walk directly into the sea. That will show Johnny Foreigner.
Should you wish to hear of some of my more glorious bygone days, however, you may enjoy the new edition of Fallon's Angler (issue 6). Within its glorious pages you can read about my fishing adventures in Cold War Berlin. It was a most strange and exciting time, I must tell you, doing battle with not only the communists but genetically modified experimental fish created by Soviet scientists. And meeting fishface himself, Prince Charles (below), just round the corner from Checkpoint Charlie. I urge you to buy it. In fact if you do not buy it now you are almost technically stealing since you are gaining entertainment from my writings without paying a penny. I would quite happily shoot you for this myself, if this were a public library and I caught you doing it. Britain didn't rule half the world by allowing people to read everything for free, damn it.
Saturday, 26 September 2015
Some folks are obsessed with celebrity. Personally I find many of these people to be rather oily shits. But when I was offered an exceptionally large amount of money to take movie star Tom Cruise fishing on the Thames, I simply had to agree.
So there we were on the banks of the Thames, where I decided to take Tom to the club house. Which was no fun at all because Cruise, who looks even smaller in real life I have to say, is one of those despicable lightweights who hardly drink. And not having seen any of his films other than Top Gun and Mission Impossible 5 (which was rubbish), we didn't have an awful lot to talk about.
I also noticed that the five foot something oik was wearing a navy jacket, so I put it to him bluntly:
"I bet you never flew a plane in your life young man?"
Cruise was clearly offended by this, claiming that Top Gun was more of a documentary than a movie, such were his skills at flying jet fighters.
"I rather doubt that," I said. "How many Russians have you shot down? Eh?"
I expected his fishing skills to be even shoddier as we walked along the Thames, looking for fish. These waters hold enormous dace, the like of which would dwarf the tiny frame of Hollywood midget Tom Cruise. His minders kept a close eye on us as I assembled long trotting tackle. The best dace are almost always caught on the longest trots, I find, often at a distance of over four hundred metres. With fine line, a good centre pin and military binoculars however, it is possible to trot at distances up to two and a half miles, and I once caught a Dorset trout while sitting in Hampshire.
Cruise, as to be expected, was rather a rank amateur. And because of his tiny size, I also feared he might be fair game to otters. But after botching several opportunities, the stick float dipped, the rod heaved and the tiny fellow was almost dragged in.
At forty-three pounds his excellent dace was quite unworthy of a man of Cruise's diminutive stature and angling talents. But the cheque for twenty-thousand pounds would keep me in port and opium for another week and help to pay off some of my gambling debts.
Tom himself was slightly more amicable after his catch and agreed to a drink back at the club. The ale flowed and Cruise told us of his fishing exploits, most of which sounded like complete lies- and let's face it, any fish must look massive when you're his size. And being a tiny Hollywood lightweight, he became quite ill after just a couple of pints. At one point he nearly choked on his cigar, so I had to offer him some support. Bloody actors, what?
As for my own sport, I have been invited by angling Quarterly Fallon's Angler to write about my exploits in the Himalayas, fishing for vast jungle chub. Quite an adventure I can tell you.
Wednesday, 15 July 2015
Britain’s historic canals are a fine piece of work. Dug to keep the French out and generally keep the people in their place, grafting coal, immigrants and gunpowder around the country on barges, they are something of a British institution.
Not that today’s canals have quite the same nostalgia. These days they are mostly populated by boatloads of pensioners, stag parties and regrettable sloan types who quaff tins of Stella and accidentally smash the paint off hired narrowboats. It brings a quiver of animal fury to my usually stiff upper lip, every time I visit my half brother Ken, on the Kennet and Avon Canal, aboard his shabby boat, the Half Nelson.
In spite of the threat of the British public on a Saturday, I nevertheless decided to go fishing. I began by assembling a short but sturdy pole, and a delicate rig (40lb line, size 10/0 hook). Having no time to waste on small fish, I baited the hook with enough bread to give a man constipation for a week, like this:
Now, I’m well aware you might have seen fools such as Bob Nudd fishing pathetically tiny baits for miniscule roach on canals, but if you want quality you have to think big. There are some huge fish on almost every British canal, if you are only brave enough to think like a military general.
For some time though, those pissed students driving boats and aimless, elderly dog walkers played havoc with my best laid plans. A group of Oxbridge tossers smashed into the far bank feature I had been targeting, before a Dalmatian ate my sandwiches.
I was just about to reach for my service revolver when the float dipped and there was a mighty surge. Something was thrashing violently in the canal’s central track. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I pulled out this titanic rudd of over forty pounds:
But the better surprise was yet to come. Among the detritus on the canal, I had noticed various dead things. Not just the detritus of nearby Bath, but a drowned rabbit. A perfect bait for any giant scavengers, or so I thought.
The afternoon was painfully slow, as more sloans, Essex stag parties and assorted human detritus floated down the canal. Even with my legendary stiff upper lip, I was almost driven to one of my outbursts. And then, just as it couldn't get more annoying, my war wound started to play up. A bottle of port took the edge of this, but I still found myself biteless, and wondering if the dead bunny would ever produce a run.
At around 4pm the float suddenly sloped away. I struck, and there was such a tidal wave of force, every boat within half a mile rocked. One of the boats slowed down for a look.
"Oi mate, what have you hooked? Is it a carp? I fish for them, and nothing else ever because basically I'm a bit of a twat."
"I am a military general, not your mate," I replied. "Please desist and go away. I have sunk far bigger vessels than yours, you young scullion."
The fight was dogged rather than spectacular, and I soon drew an enormous Tommy Ruffe into the net. A superb fish at thirty-seven pounds, three ounces, eight drams and six point 5 mili-drams, I was naturally delighted, and broke into my first wry smile for five years. Another British record- and further proof that I am an amazing big fish angler, better than all of you in fact:
Thursday, 2 July 2015
After the horror of my last adventure on a commercial fishery, I decided to head back into the wilderness this week, where a man is free to shoot animals, burn meat and climb hills without being disturbed. You might see a few sun-burned pensioners, cretinous foreigners and boy scouts up here too, but Dartmoor truly belongs to our military elite and the rather sadistic training exercises I tend to set. You see, I usually come up here for the distinct pleasure of watching young recruits sweat and burn while running it twenty miles across the moor with a standard issue rifle and rucksack. But actually, these days I prefer a spot of trout fishing.
Damn it all to hell, you can stuff your manicured commercial carp holes, give me real fishing any day of the week. Give me rocks, bogs and bracken. Give me my hip flask, a fly rod, a dated Ordnance Survey map and an unlicensed firearm.
The terrain can be one of the biggest challenges, but personally I enjoy dangerous quagmires and barbed wire. They remind me of my childhood, and I have passed many happy hours in the bogs of Dartmoor. I met my wife in one, in fact, the night I was arrested near the Two Bridges Hotel, in 1973.
So anyway, where was I? Ah yes, bogs. Well, I climbed free but was absolutely bloody soaking by the time I got to the river. Grasping my rifle in one hand and my tackle in the other, I waded up to my conkers, into the River Dart.
Smart arsed angling writers and fishing guides often describe these places as "paradise" or the trout as "jewels". But they are not. These are primeval killing grounds and the trout of Dartmoor are amongst the most vicious and verminous in the world. They hide under rocks, before springing out to maim, kill and inconvenience.
After catching around seventy pathetic little trout and drinking a pint of whisky to steady my nerves, I came to a giant pool that I could never remember seeing before. I tied on the biggest dry fly in the box and aimed it into the rocky mouth. Shit the barracks, what a trout it was that seized the fly!
The fish fought titanically, but a shot to the head with my service revolver silenced the giant. I admired its beautiful golden sides and colony of black spots, before kicking it in the face just to make sure it was dead. A new world record trout at eighty-one pounds, I couldn't decide whether to eat or mount it, so I did both.
Friday, 19 June 2015
At ease, Soldiers. I hope you have been behaving yourselves and catching some fish. Things have been quiet down at military command. Too quiet. It can be a dull life as a fictional military leader. No new wars for ages, and my highly trained men are reduced to rescuing immigrants and attending marches. I have been increasingly reaching into my desk for port and opium to numb the boredom. To be honest, no bugger really noticed the other day when I went AWOL for some fishing.
A foolish friend of had invited me invited me to fish one of these so called “commercial” fisheries for ages, a place owned by Wayne Templeton, an aging Brummie. I had heard about these places in one of the angling rags, and remember being appalled at the battered looking common carp and even more common matchmen with their beer guts and crooked teeth. Ridiculous quantities of fish and golf course smooth banks. A little portaloo, so that Fred and Barry’s wives can take a piss while he reels in another carp. Even as a military hardman, I believe angling demands a little more romance than that.
However, I was assured that Chavvington Carp Fishery was different. In fact I was told that not only were weights up to 1000lbs commonplace, but there were genuine world record crucian carp to be had.
I immediately reached for my long pole. Now I know some of you will be farting about with 13 metres of overpriced Italian carbon, but I seldom ever use less than 24 metres of pole, because I can. Some of my US Army connections have crafted a pole using banned space alloys that weighs only 45 grams at this length.
Wayne duly handed me a long list of rules and also told me that he charged pole fishermen by the metre, so my day ticket would have cost £48, had I not threatened him. The rules were damned confusing to be honest. Even as a man with a fetish for iron discipline and order, I found the following a little bizarre:
1. No vintage tackle or pipe smoking.
2. No Cornishmen
3. No nuclear weapons
4. No sweetcorn allowed on a Tuesday
5. Barbless hooks only
I had planned to use sweetcorn, but it was a Tuesday, so this wasn’t allowed. Instead, I opted for pellets. I like these because I can then use a standard issue rifle to feed the swim with devastating accuracy.
What carnage these commercial fisheries are. I had a bite, very first put in and a measly carp. I fed even more industrial sized pellets, until the water was heaving with them. I fished on, but after about 100lbs of them, I began to lose my temper.
The crucians weren’t getting a look in, so I started to open fire on the carp, if only to thin out the numbers a little. Of course, I checked the fishery rules first and it said absolutely nothing about the use of firearms.
As the carp took a heavy toll, I waited for the damage to clear and baited my hook again. The next bite was different, a cagy affair. I reckon it must have moved less than a millimeter when I struck with utter fury.
Wayne came over as I was playing it. It made deep, powerful runs.
“It’s a crucian” he said. “Look, just like a bar of gold.”
“That’s a bloody poor mans cliché Wayne,” I threatened. “Get me a bigger landing net or you’ll regret it.”
For a moment, as it surfaced, it looked like the sun had fallen out of the sky and into the pond. It was a blaze of gold, not a ruddy bar of it.
My excitement was quickly dimmed. After counting the fin rays and DNA testing several scales I came to a sickening conclusion. This was no record crucian, but a colossal, inbred whale of a goldfish. Seventy-eight pounds, and a world record, to be exact. I hurled my pole into the lake in disgust, punched Wayne in the face a few times, before heading back to the barracks to take out my frustration on the troops.
Wednesday, 27 May 2015
Welcome, soldiers. I am the General and this is my blog. You might have read some other fishing blogs, but this one is going to be different. This one is going to be HUGE. It’s going to be louder than war and even more fun, if similarly unethical. So listen up, and listen good.
I’m here to tell you that catching big fish is not the most important thing in angling. Catching absolutely shitting enormous, record-breaking fish is the most important thing in angling. Nothing else matters and if you don’t catch huge fish on a regular basis, you are a failure. Because fishing is not meant to be fun. This is man vs nature. Land dwellers vs water-based super vermin. This is not your mates Steve, Kev and Dave farting about on a Sunday afternoon, THIS IS WAR.
In this blog I will be blowing your mind. I’m talking about bigger fish than you have ever caught in your sorry life. Fish that you cannot dream of, let alone catch. You might want to run and hide like a girl when you see my monsters. Hell, even the baits I use are enormous compared with yours, like these worms I found today:
This is my first tip in fact: you want big fish? Use big baits. Stop using those pathetically small boilies and worms and bait up like a man. My worms come from a compost heap near Hinkley Point, where they have absorbed huge amounts of atomic radiation and grown to the size of snakes. You can't buy this shit from your local tackle shop soldier, you have to dig it. Go on, get your hands dirty.
I simply knew these worms would be just right for a world record roach. Forget those puny two and three pounders that show-offs like Hugh Fearnley-Bowler and Darren Stagg catch in the weekly chip papers, I'm talking HUGE fish. Roach that COULD CHEW YOUR ARMS OFF. Roach that are so enormous I HAVE TO USE CAPITAL LETTERS TO EVEN BEGIN TO DESCRIBE THEM.
Expectations were high as I made my way to my secret venue. I will never tell you where this is, even if you torture me, so please don't ask. It is classified information, period. In fact, if you were even thinking about asking me where it is, stop reading this blog right now and never come back ever again.
The session began disappointingly. I had tackled up a single five pound test curve rod (three rod set ups are for girls, cheats and communists) with a big pit reel and 20lb line and cast a half pound worm two hundred yards out into the lake. If you can't cast this far, this is precisely why you never catch world record fish.
Anyway, I was initially plagued by nuisance fish. The first couple of roach were mere three pounders. I threw one in a hedge, before beating the other to death with my bare hands for use as pike bait. But on the very next cast, I had a savage bite. The fish went AWOL and it was some thirty-seven minutes before I finally got it under control and sunk the net:
At 37lbs 9oz, it wasn't a bad fish. But I'm sure there are bigger samples out there. If you keep following this blog and my Facebook page you might even learn how to catch your own record breaker.
Sadly, not all anglers understand my military obsession with absolute monsters. They are either jealous or unhinged, but if you would like to waste your time with tiny fish there is a special award this year for the "Best Micro Catch" by the organisers of flyforcoarse.com -You could win a tiny trophy and other prizes, if you really do suffer from such a lack of aspiration.
In the meantime, get fishing soldiers! You'll never catch anything as big as me, but you can try.