At this time of year instead of fishing I like to watch telly. Salmon fishing telly. That means quite a lot of Paul Young via his huge archive of (is it three or four) series of Hooked On Fishing.
I know I’m not alone among anglers in liking Paul’s style, the philosophical way in which he deals with the sport’s ups and downs, and the fact “the boy can fish”. Paul even knows how to fish a floating Devon properly, something I’ve only ever tried once, briefly on the Tay with Newtyle gillie Martin Ritchie. We caught nothing on that although the next time Martin boated me down the pool I had a springer snatch at my Fying C near the boat. It was, to quote Paul Young, an occasion when “the hook-hold … well, didn’t hold.” (Delivered with a shrug of the shoulders) followed by an exasperated “Annoying though” with furrowed brow and a likeable down to earth honesty.
What I tend to do is to stack a few of Paul Young’s programmes – the Russia ones, Litza, Kharlovka etc, Norway ones (esp a brilliant one of catching a grilse on the Lakselva or Laks?, unmissable for the sound of the reel as the fish takes yards of line in fast water out of nowhere) and the one where he catches a 20-pounder on fly on the Spey to a background of stirring pipe music up on the old Sky Plus. There it sits alongside family fayre such as Coronation Street, Arnie and Barney’s Bedtime Story – oh yes – and Charlie and Lola not to mention Top 20 trance numbers from MTV Dance. Actually that’s the problem, we regularly run out of space and I start having to make inroads into my stacked OTHER fishing stuff like Fishing Adventurer (Cyril Chauquet – quite qood actually esp. the Nunavik, northern Canada Arctic char one and the one where he loses a succession of huge marlin on circle hooks off Baja California before finally boating one, in classic fishing TV style, on a subsequent trip). Also River Monsters and Extreme Fishing. Whatever you think about the Geordie’s ******g delivery – I’m in favour – he has undeniably good big fish action through his world tour plus awesome highs – good post-big-fish bonding with African guides etc – and lows – deadpan face to camera close to tears – what is it with these emotional actors?
Of course the Passion For Angling one about the salmon with that stunningly atmospheric closing sequence where Chris Yates hooks a clonking fresh autumn fish on worm then finally loses it on his Mr Crabtree tackle is sensational. He follows it down via a stairway of peat-coloured pools on what I’ve been told is a Spey tributary (does anyone know otherwise? Please comment). Every so often the fish flashes a powerful silver flank – it looks about 15lb. Well, Chris and fish part ways but what follows makes up for this loss as with end-of-season camaraderie they head back to the moorland stone bothy in darkness and light up the fire and Tilly lamp as the autumn rain batters the door.
It is here that Hugh Miles’ brilliant camera work is at its very best as he takes the final scene as an interior shot lit only by the real fire and a flickering light. A blackened kettle boils in the embers and water sparkles off the surface of a waxed coatsleeve. A British winter looms and the salmon thrash over redds in the waterfall pool below.
Finally, Paul Young is hosting a week’s fishing on the Varzuga this year – follow the Roxtons link (right) for further info on this (I’m not sure if there are spaces left or not). I heard Paul talk at last year’s Tweed Angling Fair. The TV series was, said Paul, the result of one of those pub conversations. Sadly I didn’t grab the chance to talk to him, maybe another time.