|Chris and Pete battle an Avon barbel|
Chris has kindly given us his take on the series “A Passion for Angling” and the response from various folk. [Please excuse the poor quality of the images, lifted from the book of the series].
T W E N T Y Y E A R S O N
In 1993, when ‘A Passion for Angling’ was first broadcast, I never imagined that, twenty years later, I would be stopped in a London street by a group of teenagers who wanted to enthuse about the series. They’d obviously not been around for the original showing, but they’d watched the repeats on Discovery and then again, ‘loads of times,’ on video or DVD. ‘That moment,’ said one of them, ‘when you kinda morphed into the scarecrow at Redmire. And those amazing carp. And all those unbelievable waters. Brilliant!’
|this idea did fool the Redmire carp|
It was a very merry meeting, yet not, I suppose, all that surprising. Over the years, I’ve found that whenever they get a chance to see the programme, this kind of reaction from today’s generation is not uncommon, though it doesn’t usually result in such enthusiastic buttonholing on a city street.
While there have, of course, also been a few adverse comments made about the project, some of which I agree with, the majority of viewers, including TV critics, have been fulsome in their praise; and it’s this wonderfully positive response, not just from anglers, young and old, but from people with no interest in fishing, that has, for me, made the whole experience of ‘Passion’ worthwhile. There were times during the actual filming when I felt that we – Hugh, Bob and I – must have been completely daft to have undertaken such an absurd task, especially when the weather turned against us and all the fish disappeared on the first day of a week’s shoot.
|one of the four 24lb carp we caught at Redmire|
But then, if we were lucky – and we were quite often very lucky – Izaak came to our aid; the wind dropped, the sun smiled and a whopping fish picked up a bait. And then I’d fire up the Kelly kettle and, once again, (poor fools!) we were sure the final scene would be wrapped by teatime. It was, therefore, quite a joyous moment when, after four years, the last cast was made to Hugh’s satisfaction, the last fish was landed and we could thankfully go home. We were quite pleased with the finished, edited product, but of course we could not possibly foretell how it would be received by a wider audience.
The first programme, ‘Childhood Dreams’, was broadcast almost exactly two decades ago as I write this, and it garnered just under a million viewers, which seemed a huge number to me, but that figure rose fourfold by the final episode, putting the programme into the BBC’s top ten.
Suddenly, all the difficulties, all the highs and lows that resulted from us trying to convey the magic of angling on camera seemed worth the graft. It wasn’t, though, just the high viewing figures that delighted us, it was also the countless appreciative letters that we began to receive then and which, two decades later, are still, amazingly, being sent. And then there are the occasions when someone on the riverbank, or even in the street, recognises one of us as a Passion participant and just has to share their enthusiasm for the series with us.
‘Which was your own favourite part of the programme?’ asked one of the youngsters I chatted to in London last May.
There were plenty of bright moments to consider, but probably the most memorable was when a twenty pound carp snatched my surface bait during our very first week of filming, at Redmire Pool, in June 1979.
‘And the worst?’
|big barbel took over from carp as Chris's passion|
I’m not sure whether I suffered more having to wait endlessly for the River Spey to rise just an inch so that a salmon might show (the fish never appeared), or when I lost a monster barbel on the Hampshire Avon (luckily, not on camera!]
There were five teenagers in the group and I asked them if they had any reservations about the series. Because they were all mad tench fishers they were sorry their favourite species only featured in one programme, but apart from that they loved everything about it.
Personally, I’ve always felt that the overall look of the series is rather too much the image of the perfect rural idyll. We should, perhaps, have included a few more days of rain and riotous weather, and encountered some of the more mundane problems, like insensitive dog walkers and canoeists, that would have made it closer to the average angler’s experience. This could have been done humorously, avoiding any note of sourness on our behalf, but though we did sometimes discuss such things when we were in the planning stage it seemed unnecessary then to include them. It has, though, delighted us that most people seemed to have appreciated A Passion of Angling just the way it is.
|right time, right place - a perfect sunset on the Kennet|