Friday 26 April 2013

Gagging for It...

A few days ago I was offered a place in a syndicate controlling a nice water 'somewhere' in Warwickshire. This morning I declined the offer, respectfully acknowledging the glaring fact that I wasn't a suitable candidate. The reason was one of publicity, or rather the fact that I'd have to exercise a total lack of the same in order to retain my investment in terms of cash outlay, once in.

I would have lost that ticket the first trip out because this publicity ban is not only to do with sending off unvetted pictures and blatant reports to the weeklies but includes the novel clause 'NO BLOGGING' whatsoever, even if it were an account so heavily disguised that no one on God's earth could have fathomed where on God's earth I'd fished.

Of course if I'd agreed to exercise such constraint (and I choose that word over 'restraint' because one's a leash, the other a straightjacket) then any account from anywhere else requiring some level of ambiguity simply to protect, say, a favoured swim, would have to had to have been made so transparently idiotic that it was nigh impossible to believe that I'd not fished where I said I had, but so opaquely concrete in its veracity that the syndicate would truly believe I hadn't fished THERE instead and disguised the fact by transplanting fact and figure from one fishery to another.

In effect, the more secretive I had to be for my own purposes, the more scrutiny I'd be subject to under theirs...

This stricture would have worked out to be no mere publicity ban in my case, but a gag silencing my entire fishing efforts, because all less than forthright accounts would then come under the spotlight of suspicion where I'd be in danger of flouting one fishery's rule no matter where I actually fished and without requiring evidence that I didn't. I'd have been forced to be so outrageously explicit in all my accounts that I might as well draw a map, stick an x right on the very spot where fish were caught and publish that, just to avoid coming under fire.

You might imagine this country full of specimen anglers running here there and everywhere in pursuit of the largest fish of all that swim, but, the truth is that they comprise the very smallest section of British angling and number only in their hundreds, not the tens of thousands.

There aren't many who would care to bother 'guesting' the place unless it contained verified fish of truly extraordinary size because died-in-the-wool specimen anglers are not just determined where big fish are concerned, but incredibly lazy souls who do not get out of bed to hunt down ghosts and phantoms, myths, legends and fabulous rumours, but only in order to pursue hard fact. Not concerned with proving that big fish exist in a given place, but only with getting wind of the proof gained through the efforts or mistakes of others that they actually do, they're not the pioneering spirits they once were ...

Put it like this. If I were to catch a silver bream from the canal weighing a pound and a half this coming spring, they won't be occupying my swims, but if I catch one over two-pounds and report it fully — and I fearlessly and frankly would — then I'll be ecstatic having achieved that fish through years of toil and trouble, but after publication also expecting an influx who come not only impressed by my passing an arbitrarily significant weight threshold that has no other meaning than desirability to them — though rather different meanings to me — but because my accounts are trusted they'll know it's absolutely and incontrovertibly truly there to be caught without them having to work to earn it. And there's the rub...  

... Idler's Quest gets read.

Publishing the unvarnished truth is what makes this blog, any blog, tick... it is why it's successful, why they're all so successful... and exactly the reason why they're devoured so avidly. 

Varnish it, paint it over, or deal in ridiculous and unwarranted obfuscation, then I know from long experience they ain't worth a light to anyone. Who cares that I caught a big barbel? Who bothers I managed a huge roach? Who gives a damn about that clonking great chub from a secret stretch of river? Without the why and the wherefore of the catch well-reported and explained in sufficient detail, such trophies are baubles fit only for self-admiration but are of no use whatsoever, in any conceivable way, to anybody else. 

The syndicate are more than aware of that fact, in point of fact they indirectly demanded I pull a recent news post on pain of possible expulsion of someone already a member, something I agreed to only because there was no alternative for him, and grudgingly then, and that's why they're so cautious about what having their fishery read or even speculated about might mean to them, because they really haven't a clue what it could...

But I do have a clue. I know my stuff and through experience know exactly what it would mean down to the dotted 'i' and crossed 't's' in little.

Nowadays, if there's not very good reason to spend time on one water that 'might' hold what they want, then most anglers in almost every case choose to spend time on another where it 'certainly' does, and I haven't heard of anything hailing from theirs that would create so much as a back eddy of idle speculation in anyone's stream of consciousness, thus far...

Far better can be got elsewhere, on a day ticket, or even for free!

I won't miss the syndicate — never was much of a joiner. I'm really very happy not to be venturing upon such water in such a ship of folly with such treacherous undercurrents swirling about beneath me. 

Believe me, there's nothing so remarkable on offer there that I'm gagging for it...


  1. I admire your stance Jeff , Hatts of to you old bean .....

    Rather the shepherd that the sheep .....

    Baz Peck

  2. Wise words Jeff. The game angling fraternity is somewhat similar....but also different in that there does seem to be more willingness to pioneer - to fish in weird and inaccessible places, just to see what's in there. That said, known big fish spots do draw other anglers in and for that reason I'm always a bit careful over what I say when it involves fishing another club's water as a guest say, especially when the fishing is private with no day tickets.

    I suppose the extreme example is that of specialist carp fishing in lakes where the bigger fish are named and the precise number of 30s, 40s etc is known to all and sundry. Now to me, that's just not cricket....where's the mystery and excitement in that eh?

    I concur with your stance - right decision!

    1. What's interesting about the pioneering aspect is that those who know what you are up to tend to steer clear and if they come along it's by invitation, don't you think? I like that aspect of fishing, that friends will exercise such a level of self restraint. It's those who have no interest who would feel perfectly at ease just dropping onto the water to get what they can while it lasts. Luckily, I've found that they come too late and go away empty handed, fishing being rather too seasonal in its productivity!

  3. Jeff, I want to reply but don't quite know how. I have applied to join a syndicate that now controls a lake I used to fish occasionally as a boy, known to hold the ultimate prize...big roach, but you are correct, what if I should be fortunate enough to catch one of them? I think I'll see it through and deal with it should I a/. get in and b/. catch one. I can most certainly see the points you make and congratulate you on your integrity

    1. If that recent hybrid had been a true roach, George, would you have been inundated with visitors? I think the Oxford Canal might have received a bashing but even I haven't a clue where you caught it! A lake is a different matter entirely of course, but lakes that do contain big roach don't stay secret for very long no matter what anyone does to cover the fact up. Take a publicity ban to its logical extreme then you wouldn't know the lake had them in it to fish for, but you do, therefore so do many others, ergo, publicity bans cannot and do not work!

  4. An interesting read Jeff and I can understand where you are coming from. There are many waters round my neck of the woods (still and running) some of which come with publicity bans and some do not contain fish to monster proportions, however I can appreciate their wish to privacy and keeping things quiet. Is a blog still worth reading if a person does not give each and every crumb of information away? I believe it is.

    There are plenty of anglers willing to ask where, when and what venue, right down to which swim and in reality some people don't always care for much else, so at times I feel a balance does have to be reached on how much information is made freely available.

    Being that I also do vlogs, does make me more selective when choosing waters to fish, Would I join a venue with a publicity ban? If it was particulalry alluring and tranquil, then yes certainly.

    1. Well, I think it matters what level of publicity ban a publicity ban sets as its standard Mark. I can understand and practise the need to keep good fishing quiet so that the place isn't overrun with trouble, but when the ban is sets at level zero, where's there an end to it? Does that mean you mustn't tell friends who tell friends who tell friends? Because that is what happens whenever anyone catches anything worthwhile, the news outs, as it will, and within no time at all everyone knows.

      This happened the other year at a local pit. The bailiff casually mentioned to me that the previous day in the same swim a fella had had a ten-pound tench. I told no-one, and certainly made no mention of it on the blog reporting that session, but within weeks the place was full of serious specimen anglers determinedly after it! The word gets out whatever anyone tries to do about smothering the news at birth. That's just people, so any publicity ban seems worthless in any case.

      However, my beef with this particular ban is that it explicitly say's NO BLOGGING. That means that nothing must be written publicly that is anything to do with any session there and no reference can be made back to any session in the future. That's a proper can of worms!

  5. Difficult one there Jeff. As we all tend to fish several waters regularly and others irregularly, is it so much trouble to leave one out of a blog if requested? A couple of years ago I caught a PB perch on a club lake and was going to mention it to fellow bloggers but not make a big song and dance (except to me of course!). After a few days I was contacted by the club and asked to send a picture of the fish so they could include it in their newsletter. Over the next year I had quite a few anglers telling me that someone had caught a big perch on this lake and they were after it. To me, that's taking the non-disclosure/disclosure to the limit.
    I agree that there will always be chatter amongst anglers and on the net and in a way that's part of the mystique. Is what you're hearing correct or purposely distorted to hide the true facts?
    I’m not disagreeing with your stance, after all you have every right to do so, just wondering if there’s a compromise on this one? Or would you see it as the thin end of the wedge?
    I’ll disclose my interests. I’ve applied for a ticket on this water and if successful will have to decide whether to completely keep schtum or mention it only as “a water in Warwickshire”. But then there’s a risk that people will second guess me and put 2 and 2 together and come up with 4.
    That’s assuming that I catch anything worth reporting!

    1. Well I enjoy the game of guessing where a fish was caught every bit as much as the next man. It's fun!

      Most bloggers, including myself, hardly ever mention the location of where they currently fish whether they catch big fish or not just in case they eventually do, when putting a lid on it would be impossible! Pictures give the game away of course, but even they are delivered to keep people guessing. However, those who already know the water well will recognise even individual bushes in an otherwise anonymous background and will be able to tell just what swim you fished. There's no fooling a local!

      Pictures are that much of a giveaway, in fact I know exactly where a near double-figure 'urban zander' was caught on the Coventry Canal just because the nightime shot, which had no background to speak of and which no one without intimate knowledge of the canal would ever recognise was recognised by me because it contains on the left hand side, a bank of long grass. There is only one bank of long grass in six miles of urban towpath therefore I know exactly where it was caught! Down to the yard...

      But that doesn't tell me where I'll catch that fish, only that the canal has such fish to catch in it, because it'll have moved elsewhere...

      I understand the need to be selective, I've suffered because of small details given away from time to time, but hey, it's only fishing! By the time swims are swamped with anglers, the best of the fishing, which is always very seasonal I find and doesn't last very long, is over and I'm pursuing something else. I don't own it.

    2. Jeff,

      My views have changed recently.I have always been of the opinion that no publicity is good publicity.For wholly selfish reasons when I was a slave to Barbel for a number of years.

      Now?Well like you say it is after all only fishing.Not life and death,sure a large degree of discretion is still my mantra.But seeing how a couple of clubs of mine are suffering due to a decline in members,perhaps a degree of publicity is not a bad thing?

      I've seen anglers come and go these last ten years or so,after the "Whacker" that was caught last week.But when they understand it's no cake walk,things soon return to normal.Plenty of space for those who do not mind a walk.And I like you,do an awful lot of our angling by public transport,so some degree of walking involved.

      It's a toughie.More anglers or no angling club!

      Thoughtful blog:-)

    3. That's right, Monty, they do give up and move on when it transpires they do have to actually work at it. That's why I have no fear about sharing my canal exploits — no one gets fish easy there no matter how much I give away, so they come and have a go, find it just as difficult as I said it would be, and go away again never to return. It happened last year when I was catching twenty pound bags of bream from a certain spot. What I failed on purpose to mention was just how certain that certain spot was — it was no larger than a dining table and outside of it you couldn't buy a bite.

      And clubs do need to publicise to stay alive and kicking or lose waters they cannot sustain through lack of cash on the bank. A club local to me has just that problem and very nearly gave up one of its best stretches of river this season but kept it on only through a merger. The only people who actually fish it regularly are bloggers we all know. It offers great fishing, the best dace fishing in the midlands by far I'd say, but the word got out about that through sharing and may just keep it going onto the future if the club makes the fact plain.

  6. Elitist fishing
    A new term perhaps ?
    I wouldn't lose any sleep over it Jeff,i've experienced much the same in some match fishing circles.People hiding there baits and rigs,and deliberately giving bum info to gain some sort of advantage over the opposition.I've always been happy to share information,because at the end of the day you can tell somebody where,when and how,but fishing being fishing that won't guarantee they catch what you did.
    I'll be in touch mate,Norm

    1. You may say that Norm, many would disagree. I think we had this conversation before, didn't we? And we agreed then!

      Be in touch, because I think the roach meet cometh...

      George is doing rather too well to be left alone to his own devices without spilling the beans yet about this theory of his...

  7. Having just read your long and protracted diatribe regarding this matter I think there needs to be some clarification of facts here, some of which you are aware and some which you are not.Firstly you were not at any time offered a place on this particular syndicate to 'turn down' you were only put forward by the mentioned member in your article. The said member whose photographs were removed from this site was not at any time threatened with expulsion from the syndicate just asked to respect the no publicity of the fishery, in fact he has been in contact to renew his membership and he has been informed that he can invite a Non Blogging colleague into the syndicate. Why No Publicity you may ask,simple it is a condition of the fishery owner who has granted the syndicate the lease on the fishery, flaunt it and you lose it!!
    As you enjoy detailing your exploits on your blog conversely there are people who prefer to go about their chosen sport without feeling the need extol their prowess and successes to all and sundry. There has to be a respect for both.
    As you say you wont miss it - so everyones happy then!!

  8. "...he can invite a Non Blogging colleague into the syndicate."

    My whole point in a nutshell.

  9. Well put Geoff. Blogging is a fact of life in angling now, I believe syndicates are free to set whatever rules they like and admit only those who 'fit' into the syndicate ethos - but we are of course free to not apply, not join, and point and laugh (welcome to free speech).

    It's not unusual for the landowner to ask for specific conditions though.

    Having said that, I've yet to come across a carp syndicate I'd join, invited or no. Meh. Must fish only here, must use this, mustn't use that, control freakery dressed up as fish care. I am fortunate to be in a small syndicate on ponds which have no carp and we don't need any sort of ban as the "membership" is carefully vetted and has a very low turnover. There's about 6 rules, one of which is driven by the agreement with the landowner.

    Keep Blogging.

    1. Yes it is a fact that blogs are not going away and do provide a lot of information to a lot of people. That's a knife edge balancing act where secrecy is concerned when writing accounts, but give nothing away and there's nothing to read, give too much away and it's too much information! I think bloggers have perfected the art of that by now and can be trusted.

      There's no way to keep a secret locally, though, let me say. Whatever I publish will be pinpointed in no time by those who know the waters well and I'll know that same about theirs. That does mean that a good local perch water, for instance, will be occupied by the local gang but the gang isn't so large that it matters much, in fact it turns out to be a chance to meet up and chat.

  10. Well Jeff, I continue to read your blog for one reason...because I find it interesting, and I like the style with which it is written. I certainly do not read it, nor any other blog, to look for waters where I might just catch "Big Freda", nor any other of the many named fish we have these days. This is in itself a concept I just do not understand. Being of more advanced years than I once was, I was around when there really were just a few hundred specimen hunters about. And some of those were "in name only", having somewhat over-enthusiastically labelled themselves as such. Back then, one of the most important aspects of big fish angling was to find your own water, because we all "knew" that the best fish were probably unfished for. And THAT, in a nutshell, was it: we had the mystery, the mystery of not knowing what fish a water might contain, the excitement of trying to find out for yourself. I just do not hold with the idea of knowing the name sex, size, and personal habits of every damn fish in a lake, and only then, and on that data, making a decision to fish it or not. I hate knowing that someone else caught my fish three weeks ago, and that it was three ounces bigger (or smaller) than when I caught it.
    I do maintain my own no publicity rules: but they are for me, and for me alone. I do not give clues as to where I catch my fish and often tell no-one other than the wife about some of the fish I have caught. But they are rules I have made for myself. I do PREFER that others also keep quiet, but it is THEIR choice whether they do so, and hence by extension, YOUR choice what you put in your blog. And it is also good that you choose not to be hog-tied by anyone else.
    Many things have changed irrevocably in angling over the last 30 or 40 years, and in some cases not for the better. Much of angling can no longer be considered as an art. It has become a mechanistic, scientific, well prescribed activity instead, and so can be experienced straight out of the box. Another product of the playstation generation, instant angling gratification, without too much of the hard work. These large areas of the angling scene have become de-skilled, as they have also become commercialized. So many now believe that the size of the fish you are holding is an indication of how skilled an angler you are. B******s!
    There is so much more to be had from angling. I like blogs that demonstrate some of that "added value" in their writings: yours is one such, keep it up.

    1. Your views coincide exactly with my own, JayZS. I too believe that it's not secrecy that's the problem, but the fact that many anglers are so hell bent on pursuing easy fishing gained through the hard work of others that secrecy becomes more and more necessary to those who do go out on a limb and pioneer their own patches. Personally, I'm only interested if a water might contain what I hope based on my own observations and experience but if it transpires it doesn't after all, usually there's something else unaccounted for that makes it worthwhile. Knowing everything possible is such a yawn — it has this fish and that fish and they run to this size and you can catch them should you spend long enough trying with this certain approach and that certain bait. Where's the art in that? Where's the mystery?

      As for size. I like to catch big fish as much as the next man, but it's all relative to the context they're found in, so I want to break my carp PB this year and finally bank a twenty, only it has to be from the canal or somewhere just as testing and unknown. I could go to many places where twenties are known to live but when they were stocked in at that size I just can't bring myself to bother. I don't want the certainly that I'm going to do it — I want to have to work at believing it possible!

  11. Keep up the good work Jeff I thoroughly enjoy reading your long and protracted diatribes.