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
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.