John Bailey: Pray to the weather gods

John Bailey with a super chub caught last spring.

John Bailey with a super chub caught last spring. - Credit: Archant

Let's pray that March is kinder to us than the rest of this blessed winter has been. If it is, perhaps some of us will be able to sneak a couple of hours after work on one of the rivers before the March 14 cut-off date. I know these few days are amongst my very favourites in the entire angling calendar. And for good reason.

It's great to be by the water's edge as spring begins to edge her way in. You feel a kindness in the air that you don't in January or February. There's a tint of green in the willows and you will notice the bird song much more vibrant and much later in the day. So, weather gods, please be kind to us at long, long last.

And of course, it's on March evenings that we really do stand the chance of the most colossal fish. It's no secret that roach are coming back here and there and if you're going to get your longed for river two pounder, now is probably your best possible time. Chub, too, are going to be at their very best and very biggest. It's well known, I'm still hankering after my 'seven' and just perhaps I might nab it within the next few days.

And if we really see things milding up, how about one of the legendary, massive, Wensum barbel? Like the chub, these are the days when you just might possibly land a fish of your dreams.

We all know the common consensus is that most of the big fish have been ottered but I'm not so sure. I harbour suspicions that there are still leviathan fish here and there, possibly loners, possibly in groups of just two or three fish perhaps that could really set the angling world a-rocking.

To be crouched down there in the reeds as the sun sinks and the March dusk creeps in is a wonderful place to be.

I suppose most of us will be quiver-tipping, perhaps with an isotope fitted as the light really begins to drain out of the sky.

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Perhaps we'll be alerted by a flick on the rod tip, then a lunge, then the throb of a serious fish boring away from us, our hope dependent on that gossamer line connecting us. Good luck if you're out there, rod hooped.

For this reason and that, I've had a fair bit to do these last few days with one or two members of real Norfolk angling dynasties.

There's a great thing with a county like Norfolk. People have been settled here for generations and built up their own East Angling reputations. Think of Jim and Edward Vincent in the early and mid years of the last century. You've got piking greats there all right. And how about the Gibbons family, the Westgates, the Harrolds and, more recently, the Harpers?

I've known Steve for many years now and it's been my privilege to fish with him out in India where he has had monsters.

Mind you, he hasn't done too badly here in East Anglia either and he must take great pride in the exploits of his son Oliver. Perhaps they'll go on to create a family name as famous as any in the area's angling history. It's good to know that possible legends are being created even today. Another frequent topic in my life these last few days has been book publishing and, this, too, reminds me of Steve and the fine range of books he's now bringing out. (Harper Fine Press) Steve is a good writer, a very talented artist and a great designer. He also knows what makes a really cracking fishing book so, all in all, it's a pretty unbeatable combination of talents. I'm happy that the future of angling books lies these days with companies like Steve's.

If we go back even just ten years or so, the really big publishing houses were still well into fishing books. I worked for several of the biggies because I both wanted to write and because I needed to financially!

But I'll be honest. A lot of the books that were published by the big companies between 1980 and 2005, were often commercial affairs. I did put my own soul into some of mine but, to be honest, some of the A – Z how-tos I have to admit were not inspirational.

Now the big boys have largely withdrawn from angling books, the field is much more open to smaller concerns like Steve's. The Medlar Press is another perfect example of a company producing magnificent tomes. The result is that we are getting a far wider variety of angling books these days. Anglers who possibly just have one book in them now have a platform and the results are often startlingly good.

These books might not sell in vast quantities but the point is that they have vast qualities.

Donkey's years back, Steve and I were both involved with a publishing company called Creel. In those days, design was more laborious, print more expensive and to market the books, you really had to go through intermediaries and you wouldn't believe the percentage of the cover price that was whittled away by the time Steve and I saw a cent.

Today, producing a book is cheaper and quicker and, with the internet, you have a whole new field of promotion available to you for a fraction of the cost of conventional advertising.

The result is that on my book shelf now, I've got books specializing on crucian carp, dace and even gudgeon! This variety is only possible because of companies like Steve's and in angling, as in everything, variety really is the spice of life.

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