Cancer is something that will affect us all in some way in our lifetime so having the opportunity to be part of 2 separate events in the same week at both ends of the country was something I wasn’t going to miss out on!
The first week in October started with one of the highlights of my fishing career after I was announced as an ambassador
for the Angling Trust, which is a huge honour as they are a representing body for all anglers around the country. Their aim is to get more people into fishing along with securing the future of angling and fish stocks so the kids of today can experience what we have done. As an angling nation we need to come together and become one and help fight for the future of fishing.
The first charity event couldn’t have been any closer, literally it was on my doorstep and my local stretches of the north and south tyne where we would welcome anglers from all over Europe to fish our local water and experience the phenomenal fishing we have whilst raising money for some amazing charities, including The Pink Linda Fund which was set up for a Cancer Treatment centre in Thurso that provides aftercare and family support to those affected and touched by cancer and also a project called “The Next Generation”, which is a charity that provides fishing tuition and equipment to 2 X centres for children: The Grove centre in Tweedmouth, Northumberland, for children with significant physical and mental impairments, and Wilton Centre in Hawick for children requiring significant support to ensure they have the ability to thrive and grow both personally and socially due to various issues they have encountered in their lives. The Eoin Fairgrieve of LOOP and Spey Cast Media organised this great cause and is beginning to grow the project to compliment the already successful charity called Tweedstart, aimed and securing the “next generation” to become part of our fishing community.
The 3rd charity selected by Mr Philip Straker to benefit from this event was the Great North Air Ambulance and the money raised will be a great bonus to this excellent self funding service that has saved the lives of many people. Philip had a huge part to play in this 2 day event as he kindly donated 4 stretches from www.wardenfishing.co.uk, so it was only right that he was to choose a third charity.
The first day started with all anglers and guides meeting at the Boatside Inn where groups would be separated to fish different beats, but due to prior arrangements to film with BBC for Country File (which funnily enough is about our amazing river and the life cycle of the atlantic salmon, airing end of October) I would miss the excitement and introductions with everyone and also the first 2 fish caught! One was by my buddy Ed Ford, a great trout angler and fly tyer who fishing with a double handed salmon rod for the first time caught the first fish of the day, a 4lb Sea Trout, which was a fantastic achievement and something I’m sure he will never forget. The next fish caught just after Ed was by my good friend Jim Wennmark all the way from Sweden who landed his first Tyne salmon, a fish around 8/9lb which after a dogged fight was finally netted, photoed and released.
As I fish the warden stretches and know them like the back of my hand I would be guiding the guests over the 2 days, which to my joy included Emma Jackson and Jo Stephenson from my Big Fish adventure last year. I’ve always harped on to them how good this river is and now it was time to show them. Along with Emma and Jo on the first day I’d also have the pleasure of guiding two legends Erik Nielsen and Bjarne Laursen from Denmark, who were fantastic fun and came close on 2 occasions getting both snapped by 2 separate fish on rocks, which would turn out to be the only action we would see all day but we could all agree we had a great laugh and enjoyed every second!
It was day 2 and the pressure was really on to get into some fish due to the bad luck the day before, again I had 2 great salmon anglers in the form of Emma again and world famous DJ and music producer Nick Warren, who had already caught the joint biggest fish of the event the day before an absolute spanking 15.2lb bar of silver which he returned. The day started with the bad luck from the day before as Nick hooked a huge fish, possibly 18-20lb, which hammered his tube fly and took off across the river using its sheer weight to sit in the current then decided to head back to sea, unfortunately with his fly as the leader gave way due to the power of the fish! (No not again!). It was up to Emma to save the day, which she did in style 15 minutes later as she hooked a lively grilse which decided to throw itself around the pool trying every trick in the book to throw the hook, but this time the luck was on our side as I managed to slip the net safely under the fish. This was met with screams of joy as we had eventually done it and Emma had her first fly caught Tyne salmon, which fell to a size 14 cascade. As always a few quick pictures and the silver beauty was returned. The rest of the day didn’t produce any more fish for us but the others fishing managed to take our over all total of 15 salmon and sea trout which were all caught on the fly, but the most important figure was the money raised which totalled over £1600. None of this would have been possible if it wasn’t for the hard work and organising from Ali Hutchens and Les Routledge.
The second charity event wasn’t quite on my door step, well to be precise it was around 350 miles and all the way down in Southampton to the famous Avington trout fishery, but that’s me I’d travel to the ends of the earth to go fishing. The event was in aid of The Princess Alexandra Hospital Charitable Trust – Breast Trials Unit who’s work and trials not only benefit the local community but people worldwide. It was an early start to get to the fishery to help Dave Holley and his wife Sian who are part of the organisation set things up as they were the brains behind the event. One thing I was really looking forward to was fishing with some new faces and seeing them catching their first fish, which is always a special moment, but also fishing with my old buddies (not as in age…!) Hywel Morgan, Keith Arthur and Peter Cockwill for the first time, which is something I thought I’d never get the chance to do. It started with me and Hywel scanning lake one for any possible takers and within seconds we spotted a big rainbow about 12lb which we both raced to cast for, and it was the Welsh wonder who hooked up instantly but unfortunately for him it was only the tree behind him – I’d love to be professional and say I didn’t laugh but I couldn’t help it, so with Hywel stuck in the tree I managed to sneak a cast in and hooked a fish which came out the blue and gave me a great scrap. Then just as it approached the net, the hook pulled and I felt like I just had a helping of instant karma for laughing minutes before!
The morning produced some great sport as a lot of the fish hadn’t seen a fly or angler yet and those who managed to find spots out the way faired best, but as always it wasn’t just about catching fish it was about enjoying the day and a lot of help and advice were given to the guys who had never fished before, which was great to see. It was lunchtime and one of my favourite times of the day, as if you know me I never stop eating, so walking into lunch and seeing a buffet fit for a king was like heaven and something I’d never experienced at a fishery before. At lunch Dave and Sian held an auction, with lots including fishing on the river Itchen to a holiday to the Bahamas, from which all winning bids would go to the charity.
Recharged after a late lunch we had a couple of hours left on the lake and I was determined to add to my 3 previously caught fish, all about 4-5lb, which had fell to a mixture of olive and amber blood worms but by now the fish seemed to be bored and sick of everything that was chucked at them. The last resort was to strip a lure as fast as possible to switch their natural aggression back on and it worked as I quickly picked up a fish and lost another one, then as before it just seemed to die as it sometimes does but we carried on having a great laugh until it was time to stop for the presentation of the days prizes. This started with the biggest fish of the day that went to Harry Bristow who managed 2 double figure fish with the biggest being 13lb. Next was the most anticipated award that was for cast of the day, which was just for fun and was presented to Hywel for his first tree bound cast, which he was over the moon with as you can see below!
Overall the day was a huge success, everybody enjoyed it and 34 fish were caught in total with over £4000 raised for for the charity. What’s more, the day is set to become a yearly event and I’m already really looking forward to next year.