STEADY WILSON!

Back in 1988, Angling Times was given ex­clu­sive and un­prece­dented ac­cess to a day’s film­ing for John Wilson’s ‘Go Fish­ing’ pro­gramme. Here, in full, is Kevin Wil­mot’s fea­ture from a mem­o­rable day on the River Teme

Angling Times (UK) - - THIS WEEK -

JOHN Wilson, for once, was at a loss for words. There he sat, play­ing his first bar­bel of the morn­ing, when along came a pike af­ter an easy meal.

“Must have been 20lb-plus!” said TV’s ‘Mr Angling’ af­ter the pike had de­cided to en­gulf the bar­bel be­fore plough­ing into a snag. “Did you get it on film?”

Sadly, this par­tic­u­lar episode won’t end up on screen. The cam­eras, painstak­ingly set up on the banks of the River Teme, were on John and the spot where he would have net­ted the bar­bel.

“They didn’t stand a chance. It’s just one of those things that hap­pens. I only wish I’d brought my pik­ing tackle,” he said.

The pike was never go­ing to be landed. Prob­lem was, nei­ther was the bar­bel. And on a day when the Teme was not show­ing its best face, John needed ev­ery­thing he could get.

For­tu­nately, a five-pounder later in the day added to the ‘six’ the day be­fore will, John as­sured me, make a fine end to the third Go Fish­ing se­ries.

“It could have been a lot worse, let’s put it that way,” said the ami­able tackle dealer from Nor­wich, who has be­come a house­hold name in less than four years.

Pro­ducer Peter Ake­hurst agreed. “The set­ting here at Lin­dridge is one of the nicest we have ever filmed and the re­sults should be su­perb,” he said.

One of the hottest Septem­ber days I can re­mem­ber un­doubt­edly helped too. But did it do any­thing for the fish­ing?

“That’s al­ways a prob­lem,” said John. So many things have to be taken into con­sid­er­a­tion apart from the fish­ing.

“The weather’s bril­liant, but the glar­ing sun on shal­low wa­ter is one rea­son the bar­bel aren’t re­ally feed­ing.

“And there are bet­ter swims than this one on the stretch here. But this one is good for the cam­eras as it’s pretty.”

John was get­ting into full flow. “Oh, don’t get me wrong. That’s what the pro­gramme is all about. If I spent the whole pro­gramme sit­ting in one spot catch­ing fish af­ter fish, be­lieve me it would be a turn-off.

“That’s why we spend a full three days film­ing for 26 min­utes of air time. I’ve got to fish sev­eral dif­fer­ent swims to get bet­ter vi­su­als. I’ll also spend some time wan­der­ing the banks.”

In­deed, when I had ar­rived ear­lier I’d found John walk­ing through a hop field back­ing on to the river. A bit strange for an angling pro­gramme, I en­quired.

“Now that’s where you’re wrong,” he re­sponded. “Okay, so it’s frus­trat­ing hav­ing to change swims when you’re catch­ing fish, and it might seem in­con­gru­ous to have me ex­am­in­ing the flow­ers. But that’s all part of the pro­gramme’s at­trac­tion.

“There’s far more to con­sider than just the fish­ing, although ob­vi­ously that’s im­por­tant. But we have to ap­peal to more than the com­mit­ted an­gler.

“Non-an­glers like my ap­proach. I’m told they like my en­thu­si­asm and the fact that I care for the fish I catch. They like to see me creep­ing up to a swim, bait­ing up, cast­ing out, and play­ing a fish to the net. It’s all down to wa­ter­craft, and non-an­glers can ap­pre­ci­ate this just as much as an­glers.”

All this makes John ‘the man who saved angling’. For the fact is that more and more peo­ple are get­ting out on to the banks of their lo­cal rivers and lakes, and tackle com­pa­nies are re­port­ing their best sea­son for years. The word is, it’s all thanks to one Mr Wilson.

“‘The man who saved angling?” said John. “I don’t know about that. What I do know is that ‘Go Fish­ing’ has of­fered me a com­pletely new chal­lenge in another medium af­ter 20 years of writ­ing about fish­ing.

“For­tu­nately, it seems peo­ple like my ap­proach. Call it old­fash­ioned if you like, but I be­lieve the old tra­di­tional meth­ods of­fer much bet­ter tele­vi­sion than one man cast­ing 3oz of lead 100 yards into a lake with two rods, hun­dreds of boilies, mon­key climbers…

“Meth­ods like stret-peg­ging, touch-leg­ering and sink-and-draw pik­ing are all skills I have learned

in a life­time’s fish­ing, and these are what I try and get into the pro­gramme.”

The pub­lic like it, of that there’s no doubt… even if the River Teme’s bar­bel didn’t.

Not that Peter Ake­hurst was wor­ried. “This has got to be the best set­ting we’ve ever had for a pro­gramme. And this weather is per­fect.

“John hasn’t caught many fish, but re­mem­ber that three days’ film­ing will be con­densed into less than half-an-hour. He’s a nat­u­ral. As soon as I saw him back in 1984 I knew I’d got my man and he hasn’t let me down,” he said.

As if to prove his point, Peter asked John for a few words on the state of the river and the de­bris fall­ing over a small weir op­po­site.

John paused for a mo­ment, counted to five, cam­eras and sound on, and then spoke as if from a script… right off the top of his head.

“That’s the sort of thing that makes a good pro­gramme,” said the pro­ducer.

“And there’s no­body bet­ter than John Wilson at do­ing it.”

The cam­eras roll for Wilson and his bar­bel.

How the day was re­ported back in 1988.

Cam­era­man Ron Tufnell ac­com­pa­nied John on many of the ‘Go Fish­ing’ shoots.

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