John Bailey: Let us celebrate Norfolk

John Bailey cannot wait for the first episode of Mr Crabtree Goes Fishing to air on January 24. John Bailey cannot wait for the first episode of Mr Crabtree Goes Fishing to air on January 24.

by John Bailey
Thursday, January 17, 2013
1:57 PM

We’ve been working so hard on the filming of Mr. Crabtree Goes Fishing for a year now that I’d almost forgotten there was actually a TV series at the end of the rainbow.

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At last we have a date for the first episode on January 24 at 9pm. It’s on Freeview via the digital channel Quest. This means that most people in Britain can watch it at home – I think! I’m about as sharp technologically as the bluntest hook in the wallet but even I have managed to find Quest on channel 38 of my TV. I’ve even seen the trailer...blimey, the whole thing is actually happening.

There are many things I believe in about the entire Mr. Crabtree message. Obviously, I’ve talked about the thrill of mentoring children, getting them back into fishing, getting them into the countryside, helping them understand what the environment is all about. This, to me, is real stuff. Escapist fishing is all well and good but it’s the icing on the cake. The real meat of our fishing is done here, at home, making our fisheries better and not dreaming about some weird catfish on a far distant continent.

Notice I’m stressing at home. I adore Norfolk and its waters. I regard myself as Norfolk through and through. It’s true, my parents didn’t retire down here till I was seven or eight and even though I played football for Blakeney for over 30 years there are still plenty of people about who would regard me as an incomer! Well, balderdash to that, Norfolk is in my soul, my spirit and the marrow of my bones.

I’d obviously love as many Norfolk anglers as possible to watch the series. I’ll be quite honest; it’s absolutely vital for us to get viewing figures as high as possible. We want more series and to be able to take more ‘Peters’ out and give them the time of their lives. But I’d also like it if the general East Anglian public watched.

It would reinforce to them just how magnificent our countryside and our waterways really are. Not many of us, apart from anglers, get up at dawn on a warm summer’s morning. Perhaps the images that we’ve captured will inspire more to do so. I like to think that Mr. Crabtree Goes Fishing, and the book that I’ve written alongside it – Fishing in the Footsteps of Mr. Crabtree are a real celebration of the wonderful area in which we live.

Hopefully, because the series is being shown nationwide, it’s going to help with tourism. A lot of the filming took place in the Wensum Valley, centred around the lakes at Kingfisher. Whilst many these waters are privileged and secluded, they are open to holidaymakers who stay at the apartments. This means that children and their angling parents can actually fish the very swims that they’ve seen tackled in the series. Even if would-be anglers don’t come to the Kingfisher Lakes, there are plenty of other gobsmacking waters on display. Hopefully, the whole series will paint Norfolk out to be what it is. A paradise for fishing in the modern age.

Think how many places there are in East Anglia where it is possible to spend a day, rod in hand, and not hear even the slightest drone of traffic noise. That’s so rare in modern Britain today.

Think about the quality and the quantity of our fish here. Believe me, the anglers from the Midlands, Greater Manchester and even throughout the south often can’t believe the choices that we have. Think, too, about our wildlife, the profusion of birds that we’ve seen and filmed through the series. I find it fascinating to walk along our riverbanks, to look at the muds and just see how many animals and birds have passed along during the previous 24 hours.

Mr. Crabtree Goes Fishing is, in its own way, a reality programme, I suppose. The point I’d like to make though is that there is nothing phoney about this. Unlike so many of these reality programmes these days, we haven’t set anything up for cheap thrills. Everything is genuine. Everything you’ll see was filmed as it happened. Sometimes my young ‘Peters’ are disconsolate, cast down by the loss of a fish. At other times, they’re euphoric, punching the air with pure, unalloyed, unaffected excitement. If you want to see something that is reality but which is absolutely honest, then this is the series for you.

There’s one last thing I’d love the series to achieve. That would be to explain to non-fishers why angling is such an amazing sport. You fisher folk reading this won’t need the point emphasised but to the unconverted, it’s vital to point out that fishing is the most direct and engaging way to bring children into the countryside and to teach them how to appreciate it. Angling is active and it’s challenging and to do well at it, you’ve got to understand the waters and the ways in which fish use them.

Does this sound pious? I suppose it does and I’m sorry about that! I think, from what I’ve seen, the programmes also contain a lot of fun. It’s not the kids that get things wrong nearly as much as me. There are plenty of jokes at my expense, I can tell you.

We all fall over, we all lose things, we all mess up on a regular basis. That’s how fishing should be shown because that’s how it is in real life. Don’t we all get those days when from the very outset everything goes wrong one hideous minute after another? You kick over your maggots. The hook gets caught in the elbow of your jacket. First cast and your float is in the alder tree opposite. First strike and you bump the biggest fish of the day and watch it roll away free. Land a good ‘un and your landing net pole snaps...this actually happens in the tench programme and the crack, to this day, sends shivers down my spine. We got the fish, though, and Sam’s little face was like a massive sunbeam.

But that’s it now. The production team and I have all done the best we can. Now it’s for you, hopefully, to watch and make your own judgements. Believe me when I say that all we’ve tried to do is show fishing as the fun and fantastic sport it is.

The Crabtree team and I are at the Carp Show at the Norwich Show Ground on Saturday, January 19. I’ll be there signing books and hopefully chatting about Crabtree, Norfolk fishing and whatever you’d like the subject to be. Please come along. It’s always great to see old friends again and make new ones.

As a special bonus, we are having a pre-screening at the Kingfisher Apartments on the evening of Saturday, January 19, too.

For two VIP tickets to see the programme before anyone else and attend this event, submit your request to info@mrcrabtreegoesfishing.com. In a single sentence, simply say why you’d like to come along. We’ll select a winner at random and you’ll be notified by phone in time for the event, so don’t forget to include your full name and number.

If I don’t see you at the show ground, then perhaps you’ll see me with my party hat on.

www.mrcrabtreegoesfishing.com

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