March 27, 2014

Jeremy Idiot Wade

TV's crap isn't it. We've never had so many channels and so little to watch, if it wasn't for cartoons and Internet porn I don't know how we'd spend our evenings. Be honest, what is there worth watching on the box? Celebrity this, cooking that, no talent karaoke, poorly acted soaps, the list goes on and on. Its TV made by idiots for idiots.

Which brings me nicely to Jeremy Idiot Wade. I put my hands up, I was an idiot to have watched it, a mistake I shan't make again but I haven't watched any of his tosh for quite a while now but, with the dearth of anything to watch of late, when I saw it listed I pressed record on the planner. Oh how I wish I hadn't. 

Come on then, name a dangerous fish....... yes, a shark is pretty dangerous but they've been swimming around since before the dinosaur so we should all be aware of their potential. Piranha will make a mess of your outer layer should you pop into their home territory and bleed but again, I'm pretty sure we are all familiar with the risk. The first human to meet an electric eel was in for a shock (pun painfully intended), and when TV animal botherers mess about with stingrays it can only end badly but other than that there are very few fish that pose a threat unless some clumsy angler gets it wrong. So, with all of the genuine risks dealt with and a host of innocent fish slandered by this jumped up, self made 'danger hunter', what has come in for his hyperbole this week? The Sea Lamprey. The bloody Sea Lamprey!

I have never seen the like, wide eyed Jeremy interviewing a 'survivor' who'd had a lamprey latch on to him. "It was fast and aggressive", said the man who oddly had no scars to show. Me, I'd love a lamprey scar to show off, how cool would that be, almost unique and if one does ever latch on to you here's a tip, hold it behind the head and gently pull it off, its a lamprey not a badger. Incidentally most fish can swim faster than a human and I think that 'aggressive' is perhaps an inappropriate word for what is a parasite rather than a predator. The alleged incident occurred on a lake in the States where, due to its geography, the lamprey numbers have grown to an imbalance and their numbers are vast. How have the authorities dealt with this situation? They have created traps so that returning lamprey are caught and dispatched. This slaughter passed without further comment from J I W.

Being hands on Jeremy had to get up close and personal with a live specimen. This is "Jeremy Wade fisherman, biologist"...... and idiot who makes lots of money by demonising fish. He entered the man made trap or as he put it 'descended into the concrete cave full of serpentine. slimy vampires' - give me strength, and we were given close ups of his curled lips and scrunched face as he oohed, urghed and blahhed at the sight and feel of the 'snakelike' bodies. Err, hang on, didn't J I W once cover his trousers with meat so that he could encourage large numbers of eels to surround him in a New Zealand river? Not too shy of the slimy or the serpentine then, nor when he fished for Snakeheads which really are quite serpentine. Do you suppose he was just doing this for effect?

Mrs B constantly reminds me that such programs are 'just entertainment' and maybe that is all it is but, what if somebody made a series of programs about how 'dangerous' our birds are and how they should be reviled? He'd be attacked in the streets by middle England who love their feathered friends. Well I happen to like fish and the Sea Lamprey is a special visitor to my local river where the males work together to excavate a 'nest' up to six feet wide and a foot or more deep into which the female joins them to continue the race, a race that is inexorably in decline. Once they have mated they are carried exhausted downstream to their inevitable death. They are docile and beautiful and no harm to man beast or fish whilst out of the sea but according to J I W they should be greeted by large groups of villagers carrying burning torches, pitchforks and clubs who would dispatch each and every one of them less they be attacked in their beds.

Jeremy Wade has become a mouth piece in the fishing world, he is famous across the world for this tosh and had brought the reputations of our fish into disrepute to a degree where the unquestioning public who believe everything on the telly is real will be too frightened to walk beside a trickle of water in case they are dragged into the depths by a gang of angry roach. A fish as ancient and unique as the lamprey deserves much, much more than being reviled for a few shillings by an idiot.

Ooh scary - not!

March 16, 2014

End Of Season Round Up

About ten years ago I set myself a little end of season challenge to get a photograph of a barbel next to a clump of daffodils. I have somewhere a picture of a chub and primroses but my end of season barbelling has found the two items on my subject list hard to join. I can find flowers and many more this year than last when Spring was so reluctant to arrive, the barbel however, have been getting more and more difficult as the years progress. The quest continues.

In fact any fish has been my challenge this year. I had a couple of days when short afternoon to dusk sessions brought nothing, not even the merest tremble on the rod. Talking to Tim, who'd been fishing all week, my blanks coincided with days when he was fishless even though he had caught on the days either side. Was it my misfortune or had my cursed bad luck affected the entire river?

I tried again and settled into a spot that has brought me a few chub in the past. I trickled cheese paste and a few broken boilies along a crease then wrapped a veneer of paste around a small boilie and sat back to wait for any hint that a fish may be present. I even fished with a bobbin for added sensitivity, my improvised paste bite indicator wouldn't quite sit still so I leaned a dead stalk across it and everything sat just so - now all I needed was a fish.

The bite came when my resolve had weakened and I was chatting on the phone. The bobbin shook, then lifted smoothly toward the butt ring. I grabbed the rod and lifted, there was no snatch in my movement and no feeling of weight as the rod raised, just a bit of a pull then nothing. I wound in a broken line above the hooklink, it was like striking against a razor blade. I was crest fallen.

I set up again and concentrated hard as dusk approached, it just had to happen again.

The bobbin twitched then shook as did the rod tip. I lifted the rod, removed the bobbin and held the line..... it tightened in against my fingers and I struck. In the gloom I could see my Floatcaster bending against a force as yet unseen and I felt a satisfactory as a fish headed for some tree roots. It the came toward me steadily but the silver flash I picked up in the moonlight was deep, was this a big old chub? Then it started to lift in the water and came in way too easily, I laughed out loud (perhaps slightly manic) as I netted a bloody bream. It smell instantly took me to those cold nights by the lake when my sleep is disturbed not by fat carp but by slimy bream. I went home, thankful to have avoided a total blank but still unfulfilled.

I had plans to fish the last two days with Neil and, as the river was dropping down to almost summer level and the days were very bright, I bought a load of maggots.

The 13th was spent drowning those maggots in a swim that I really did have high hopes for. It let me down as neither of us had so much as a nibbled maggot. Mind you, it wasn't the longest or best I've fished. I felt tired and ached so at three-ish I had a strong coffee and a pain killer to 'keep me going'. I then sat back in my chair and slept soundly for a hour. On waking I felt awful and went home.

The last day was upon us and we set off for another afternoon session on a booked beat to allow us our choice of swims and some peace and quiet from the screaming hoards of female groupies that follow me everywhere. I'd even baited the swims for a few days but I have to say that I was still lacking in confidence whereas Neil was ten times worse having had a similar run of results to mine.

On my first retrieve I found a salmon parr attached to my hook. Not exactly a red letter capture but I called down to Neil that 'I had avoided the blank', which brought a series of guttural responses wafting back upstream. After that nothing much happened bar a couple of interesting and quite large insects landing on me (must look them up).  We had a quick conference call and debated the possibility of a move and if so, where the hell to? I said I'd have a coffee and a think.

With my drink still too hot to consume I noticed Neil wandering toward me with all of his kit, he'd made the decision for us. We chatted whilst my drink cooled when I was aware of a sound, a summer sound that I'd almost forgotten existed, it was my baitrunner! I connected with the fish that ran and ran down the current and pulled well above it's weight. Eventually it slipped over the net and was duly unhooked, photographed and returned. At only five pounds or so it was nothing special but, as the photo shows, the relief was palpable. Unusually the fish had evidently received an injury on it's tail at some stage and, as it healed, it seems to be growing part of a new tale lobe.

Neil joined me and we fished together as hard as possible but, as the cold wind git stronger and the light failed, it was telling us that it was time to forget the river and to think about those big carp in the lake. We humped the gear back to the car and drove off without so much as a last look. Its been a very poor season for me and I still haven't got that bloody picture.

The fly is a Dinocras cephalotes. A female stonefly and one of the bigger members of the 34 stoneflies to inhabit the UK.

March 08, 2014

Customer Services

As a lad growing up in the sixties I was an avid Beano reader which may not come as too much of a surprise. But my brother read something called 2000AD which arrived with his Look and Learn - he went to Grammar School whilst I languished in a Secondary Modern. '2000AD', the very thought of seeing a new century filled me with excitement and the thought that one day I may be there to see the future in all its glory. Of course the future portrayed in the comic was Judge Dredd orientated and involved men in hugging body suits with peculiar helmets.

The future was always dangled as the 'great tomorrow' as a post war world learned to cope with the challenges of rebuilding a society and infrastructure and along with it my parents generation eventually came to discover a thing called 'disposable income', something that was sadly lacking for a long while in our household. But there was always tomorrow demonstrated by Tomorrow's World, one of my favourite BBC programmes for years as Raymond Baxter and later the alluring Judith Hann, described what was just around the corner for us. Of course, back in those days whilst watching a black and white picture, the thought of witnessing a rocket launch, micro wave or laser beam was about as likely as having your own private telephone in your pocket - implausible.

Those were the days of steam railways where station staff were courteous and helpful, where food was served in paper bags and tasted good especially when cooked by mum, where we played for hours on end often miles from home but always turned up at tea time where there was never any worry about not having seen you for over five minutes. It was a time when even criminals had a code of practice.

But the past is just that, its gone forever. We are left with the present and the future and the future cannot be predicted. No man, with the notable exception of Leonardo de Vinci, has ever foreseen the future and what man has for itself just around the corner. This is possibly best demonstrated by the advent of the computer, the greatest minds in science, literature, TV and Film all failed to predict the keyboard, just watch an old Star Trek where they pilot a highly complex space vessel with a few toggle switches. No, we do not predict well and when each new discovery becomes the norm we are constantly surprised when it all goes awry, which is why Internet crime has caught so many of us out.

Yes, I've been 'hacked' again. only this time its not just an Email issue, if only. It my own stupid fault, a momentary lapse, an email apparently from my new bank after I'd spent an abnormally long time online, having to re-log in on a couple of occasions. It seemed quite reasonable to receive a message about abnormal account activity and I made the fatal slip of clicking on the link within the message. Dear reader never, NEVER click on a link in an email from a bank.

I am usually Mr Suspicious about my emails and the like but due to feeling stressed and hassled I had made the slip and that was that. The next day I had no phone signal so took my phone to the shop as my neighbour, also on Vodafone, had one so it wasn't an aerial issue. Whilst in town I found my bank card had been blocked and slowly the picture came into view. Some charmless bastard had contacted Vodafone and re- simmed my phone whilst reporting a fault on my landline and diverting my calls to their mobile. They then accessed my bank and removed a five figure sum of cash which, when the bank sent out a text and email querying it, they obviously responded without my knowledge and I was missing a few pounds short of ten grand!

I write this to hopefully keep you all on your toes because although the bank have put the money back into my account, I have lost three days of my life trying to get back to where I was at the start of the week. The problem comes when I rang BT Internet, my service provider. Its like running blindfold through a maze with a tar pit around each corner. First you have to negotiate a 'robot' switchboard that won't understand your spoken request and when you mention, "Hacked, Fraud, Help!" it sends you to a prerecorded message about forwarding the offending email to, then hangs up.

Eventually I got through to India's finest. Now please believe me when I say I am not racist, I'm not - I hate nearly everybody so colour is not an issue. If I am being dealt with by someone who appears competent I don't care if they are green with gold hair, they'll do for me but when I tell someone why I want to gain access to my account which has been hacked and blocked and that they've taken an enormous amount of cash from my bank I don't want someone to tell me that they don't believe it as its hard enough to take one pound from your back never mind ten thousand. Did he think I was making it up? We then went through a lengthy security questioning which included "What is your BT account number?" I told him that I could not tell him as it is on my online details and that I cannot gain access to that account because somebody has hacked into it and changed the details. Obviously he didn't have that reply on his script and his head exploded. No, it didn't really. It was worse. We eventually got through the log in and he then said " So, good afternoon, what can I do for you today?" That was when my head exploded.

I was moved from pillar to post, I had added a secure password to my account along the way and was later asked by someone to divulge it in full. I refused, I was told that I only ever had to give a couple of random digits from it and had to be put through the the supervisor who fortunately had an IQ big enough to comprehend my situation, he passed me back to the muppet. On and on and on, two bloody hours to regain access to my account.

If any of you are considering signing up to BT Internet let me just say that whilst I have been their customer I have enjoyed good coverage with a decent modem but and it is a huge BUT, their customer support is appalling, the worst I have ever encountered. Their operatives are either undertrained or just purely moronic and I suggest, no implore you to leave them well alone because that jibbering wreck pulling lumps of hair out and screaming at a dead telephone - that could be you.

Rant over, next time I promise to talk about fishing.