Tuesday, 22 November 2016



the iconic series first shown on BBC2 in 1993 to audiences of over six million
‘A Passion for Angling’ and ‘Catching the Impossible’ are still capturing big audiences, for they describe the magic of being by the waterside with a rod and line like no others.

'Catching the Impossible's' Martin Bowler with 44lb4oz common caught on a float
I’m bound to say that because I filmed and produced them, along with funding their production but because so many folk write complimentary letters constantly assuring us that they are the best fishing films that have ever been made, who are we to argue!

Bob James, Hugh Miles and Chris Yates with two of Bob's memorable catch of ten two pounders
We started filming ‘Passion’ on June 16th 1989 so it is remarkable that the adventures of Chris Yates and Bob James are still appealing to anglers … and non-anglers after all this time. Both series took more than four years to complete, not just because we wanted to capture the very essence of what it means to be by river or lake but because I had to do my ‘day job’ in order to be able to afford the luxury of being so particular about filming everything in the most perfect light.
you can't beat sunrise on a misty summers day

filming mountain lions in the Patagonian Andes
For those new to our Websites and Blog, my day job is making wildlife films for a living and this enables me to fund fishing films. I could only do so as and when I had time in between expeditions to far off lands chasing exciting critters, so that is why the six hour long film series we made for BBC 2 ‘A Passion for Angling’ took over four years to complete. ‘Catching the Impossible’ with Martin Bowler and it’s nine one hour films for Ch4 took almost as long, partly because we were trying to catch ‘impossible’ sized fish. Martin did just that of course and most anglers now reckon that some of our targets would indeed be impossible.

I've been doing it for a long time but not often enough in the African sunshine
So far as my day job is concerned, I won’t ever admit to having ‘retired’ but my body is so wrecked from staggering around in the mountains in pursuit of elusive big cats that I no longer have the joints to do so. Both hips have already been replaced and my shoulders are in line for becoming part of this moronic man, or should that read …

During our filming we certainly took infinite care to represent angling in a way that we felt did justice to the magic of the sport. In fact, Bob and Chris used to accuse me of being a perfectionist, Martin Bowler of ‘Impossible’ too but in Martin’s case that would be calling the kettle black. He was so professional in his approach to the challenges of catching giant fish that he almost put David Attenborough to shame, even if that would be impossible. Whatever we think, I hope that a couple of stories will help you to understand the trouble that we took to make both series as inspiring as possible.

the opening scene of 'A Passion for Angling' - Chris on the famous dam wall at Redmire
We felt that the ‘Passion’ films had to include the famous record carp water, Redmire. In fact, my initial  plan was to only make one film but our time at that magical pool was so idyllic and so successful that I convinced Bob and Chris that we ought to make a series of six films. After a further four years of hard graft, they were both wishing that they hadn’t agreed!

Chris and his catches at the legendary Redmire were famous because they culminated in his record 51lb6oz carp, a fish that followed the even more famous capture of Richard Walker’s 44lb monster. 
Richard Walker with his historic 44lb record carp

the scarecrow assembled in the Redmire shallows
So with so many happy memories of his time there, Chris was keen to return, not so that he could catch yet more big carp but so that he could finally try out his eccentric idea of a fishing scarecrow!

Chris had harboured this crazy idea for years but had been ‘dissuaded’ by the various syndicates to try it. I was much more liberal and jumped at the idea. The plan was to place a manikin in the shallows in the area where he had caught his record fish. It would be dressed in Chris’s coat and hat and be holding a rod. Once installed, we baited the spot for several days and the carp became habituated to this silent, stationary ‘angler’ and ended up feeding within a couple of feet … a lesson there for our modern day impatient and noisy angling.

waiting for the carp to arrive
At what we considered to be the most opportune moment, Chris replaced the manikin and stood stock still, [probably because he was stuck in the knee-deep mud]. He didn’t have to wait long before several carp approached him for a feed and I’ll always remember the magic moment when what appeared to be the manikin actually moved. It was Chris swinging his bait gently into the path of a feeding carp and he promptly missed the bite!

Unperturbed, the carp were quick to return and Chris didn’t miss the next time, battling a spirited common towards Bob who was waiting in the nearby reeds with a landing net. Chris was understandably pleased to prove that his madcap scheme would work and that we had another magical sequence in the can. In fact it was one of many, for Bob and Chris each caught two twenty pound plus carp, all using different methods, including Bob’s hooked from a tree and having to join the beautiful leather carp called Raspberry by jumping out of the branches into the water and deep mud.

the jump, illustrated by Rodger McPhail
We also filmed a gudgeon match ‘to the death’, the pair reluctantly punting out into the hallowed waters through the mist as the sun was rising. Chris doesn’t do early mornings so it was a struggle, even if we did capture the most evocative summer sequence in the whole series.

I still love that sequence, even after twenty five years, for those misty images accompanied by Jennie Muskett’s perfect music and Bernard’s dulcet tones of narration capture the very essence of the magic of angling.
If you wish to purchase the DVD of the six film series of 50min films, then please visit www.passionforangling.info

You can also purchase Chris Yates' film on escapist carp fishing 'Caught in Time'. It's a perfect hours viewing with the maestro doing what he does best. 

If you buy the 'Passion' DVD you can have a free 'Catching the Impossible' book - just the £4 postage to pay. 

Sue sending out the 'Passion' DVD's and 'Catching' books
Our website includes  instructions on what to do to get Sue up and running with your order. She sends them out almost every day but please don’t leave ordering until a few days before Christmas as she will be busy cooking up a storm for the festivities and I hope to be out fishing.

‘Catching the Impossible’ is a different kettle of fish, intentionally of course as I felt it ridiculous to try to emulate or even repeat the success of ‘Passion’.

This is a series that follows the adventures of Martin Bowler as he attempts to catch some of the biggest fish in Britain, the targets for the many species being of a size that might attract the impossible tag. Of course, nothing is ‘impossible’ and I hoped that Martin would prove this to be true! He is accompanied by narrator and ace angler Bernard Cribbins … when Bernard had the time to spare from his hectic schedule, especially when filming Dr.Who  … and as they say, “didn’t they do well’!

Bernard with his beautiful 22lb snapper - it grew on to be over thirty pounds and was named Bernard!
Martin caught so many big fish that it’s difficult to believe but I was there with the camera to record the truth and we all know the camera never lies don’t we! Among our targets was a forty pound carp on the float, a fifteen pound barbel, a seven pound chub, a one pound dace, a ten pound tench, a thirty pound pike and a perch of over four pounds.

Martin with his awesome 32lb 6oz monster from an estate lake
I mention the perch last as Martin had already caught twenty-three perch of that size and we thought it would be easy to achieve. Wrong! The challenge nearly broke our resolve but in the end we didn’t just hit the target, Martin actually caught a perch of five pounds four ounces. The Angling Times informed us that it was the biggest perch ever caught from a river, [not any more], but at the time we were blown away by it’s size – and we still are!

what a fish! Martin with his 5lb 4oz Gt.Ouse perch
A three-pound roach was also on the list and at the time was far from impossible. After all, even I had caught four of that size so Martin raised the stakes and decided that the challenge should be a three-pound roach … but from a river. Now this was impossible, for after the squadrons of killer cormorants had invaded our rivers, even two-pound roach are very rare.

We reckoned we would need help to even come close to the target so called up friends Terry Lampard and Tim Norman for back-up. We tried lots of places on both the Hampshire Avon and Dorset Stour and caught some good roach but nothing even close to the target.

Then on a day of overcast skies, little wind and slightly coloured rivers, Terry and Tim tried the Stour while Martin and I tried the Avon. I was in one of my favourite swims and caught a 2/5 roach almost immediately, along with several others, then Martin called from downstream and said he had started to catch too. The roach were evidently ‘on’ and this was confirmed when Tim called to say they had already caught a two pounder and suggested we should get over to the Stour pronto as Terry was feeling lucky!

We arrived in the nick of time as Tim had just hooked a good roach that was lost to a pike. He had to re-tackle so it was Terry’s turn to trot the hot swim. I filmed a few tempting trots with bread flake when the float buried and a large roach rolled on the end of Terry’s line. It was a good fish which became bigger by the minute and when Tim finally netted it we all realised it was huge. At three pound five ounces it equalled the biggest roach that Terry had ever caught and in truth it was probably the only three pound roach still alive in the Stour.

Terry with his 'lucky' 3lb 5oz Dorset Stour roach
There was much celebration all round and expletives from Tim about how lucky Terry was. If my memory serves me right, the words included jam and bar steward. What a fish and what an angler.

dear 'Lamps' sure was an ace angler - here with one of his many seven pound plus chub
Sadly, as many followers of our sport will know, we lost Terry after a short illness a while back, just as he was completing his second book, ‘Last Casts’. His lifelong friend Tim Norman has supervised the completion of the book which describes some more of his exploits in search of a great variety of fish and if it’s anything like as good as his first book, ‘First Casts’ it will be a splendid read. This was one of the best angling books I’ve ever read, so if you want to share Terry’s adventures you can order the book from the following website :

If you want to share Martin and Bernard’s adventures with my camera in their faces when filming ‘Catching the Impossible’ then please visit: http://www.martinbowler.co.uk/shop  

our big and colourful book of the series with it's three set DVD's
The series comprises nine one hour films in sets of three on three DVD’s so you don’t have to buy them all at once! They are full of great fishing and some folk even prefer the series to ‘Passion’ but we’ll leave you to be the judge of that. There’s a splendid book describing our adventures too, full of pictures [400+] along with film clips and beautiful illustrations by the celebrated artist Rodger McPhail so you don’t even have to read it.

However you choose to spend your time, Sue and I hope that you have a happy and enjoyable Christmas and if out fishing, please catch one for me.
when our garden is coated in winter magic I'm certainly not going fishing, even if the countryside does look beautiful

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