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I am often accused of worrying too much about how many fish I catch and achieving the targets that I set myself, than just getting out there and enjoying my fishing. Well believe me nobody enjoys their fishing more than me and targets just spur me on and motivate me to achieve more of my angling ambitions not less. Some anglers thrive on the banter and competition of the match circuit others the golden silence of an early morning session, either way who are we to say what another person does is right or wrong. In fishing like life far too many people spend time worrying what others are doing or saying rather than keeping their own house in order. This to my mind is the downside of the internet forum, too many people use them as a way to throw cheap insults at others, and it is just so easy to snipe whilst hiding behind your keyboard.

What I will say is over the years I have fished with some great mates as well as some great anglers and each and every one of them in their own way enjoyed their fishing and contributed to my enjoyment along the way.

Back in 1984 when I had my ever Barbel on hand that day was a mate I have fished with on many occasions Barry Starling. Barry is one of those anglers who never shouts about his catches, he just gets out there and enjoys his fishing. A non driver, Barry is always glad to be offered the chance to fish, never bothered where we might be going just glad to be out and about. Barry is ever keen to learn new tricks and tactics and will always listen to any pearls of wisdom others may offer. In 1997 when I had my first double figure Barbel who was there again to take the pictures yep you guessed it Barry.

Every year during late July and early August myself, Barry and our better halves take a trip to the Severn valley. During the day, we visit various places around the area, but almost every evening will see us somewhere on the Severn after a Barbel or two before bed. Barry with his pipe in his mouth, emitting clouds of smoke as some aromatic concoction takes hold, will be happy to sit it out with a big bait in wait for the Barbel that will eventually fall to his well-presented bait.

Over the years, Barry has landed several hundred Barbel from the Severn, this summer again seeing us making our annual trip. Not long after our arrival in the Severn valley we were soon in our favourite pegs and catching Barbel. As always during the trip Barry had his fair share of Barbel, topped by a superb new PB of 8lb 9oz, caught on a well-presented pellet fished over a bed of groundbait.

I will never forget the day we were on Barton Broad in pursuit of Bream, at the time we had joint shares in a lovely little dinghy and most Saturday mornings were spent on Barton. On this particular day we had baited as usual and were enjoying the normal banter when I struck into my first Bream of the day. As always on these occasions Barry recast his float that little bit closer to my swim and we carried on fishing. A few minutes later I was in again, and again Barry cast that little bit closer. This went on to the point that I had landed around 8 Bream with Barry unable to get a bite, we reeled in checked depths etc but to be honest our rigs were identical even shot spacing hook size etc were matched. We would cast out floats no more than a foot apart but could he get a bite, before the shoal finally moved I had managed 12 with Barry failing to pick up a single fish. At the time he was gutted as anybody would have been in his situation, but he had done nothing wrong just one of them things that happen in fishing but at least we can laugh about it now.

Something else Barry excels at is the ability to convert what his eyes see onto a piece of paper with the aid of watercolour paints, he has over the years produced some truly superb water colour pictures of various landscapes we have visited particularly some of the Broadland scenes we have witnessed in our pursuit of the Bream shoals. I must admit I admire anybody who has that ability to draw and paint, I just wish I could do the same, even a matchstick man looks out of proportion when I draw it.

I was the given the chance a few years ago by Norfolk Match legend Tommy Boulton to join a syndicate he runs on a local Gravel pit. The first couple of seasons I fished for Bream and during this time became quite friendly with the Bailiff Richard wells, his knowledge of the lakes soon had me regularly landing 100lb bags of slabs. The time he saved me looking for gravel bars and features by parting with his knowledge of the lakes he had built up over the years had to be repaid. Over the many cups of tea we had, we talked fishing as you do and I suggested he had a go for Barbel and repaid my debt with as much help and advice as I could. Over the years since our first meeting we have spent many hours together, fishing for many species of fish and Richard has been on hand to help land and photograph many specimen fish for me.

Richard is better known to all of us as Ginger and along with Tom Sayer and myself make up the Famous Team Barbel. Ginger another one who has never learnt to drive is always glad to be offered the chance to fish. Living within 200 yards of the Wensum and within walking distance of around 20 different gravel pits, Ginger has an enviable knowledge of the local area and has seen so many changes over the years. It was only right that his first Barbel came from the Wensum and it was no surprise with his pedigree that it was a double. After that Ginger was hooked and in all honesty all other fishing has taken a back seat as the Barbel bug has bitten him well and truly.

Ginger has joined me on many trips in the last few years; we have fished all around the country mostly in pursuit of Barbel. He has managed over the years to keep me awake with his snoring, boy can he snore. I always try to set up at least 50 Yards away from him in an attempt not to be woken by his snoring during the night, but even then, on a bad night I have still heard him. On a Team Barbel trip to the Trent last season the snoring reached a point where both Tommy and I were being disturbed by the constant roar, we just had to do something. We crept round to Ginger in his shelter and preceded to video him at his noisiest, we filmed for around 5 minutes he never stirred once. On our arrival home I edited the film into a nice 2 minute video of the worst bits and e mailed it to Ginger, believe me I cannot print the reply here.

What I will say about Ginger is without doubt he has taken some cracking pictures of fish for me over the years as well as many of the cracking pictures that I use in my articles. Always a keen photographer back in the days when SLR was the way, believe me he took some dragging into the digital age. He was with me when I broke my Barbel PB 3 times in as many weeks last season, the pictures as always were top quality.

I was gutted this year when after returning from a 3 day Trent trip with a bad migraine I went to bed and slept through an important phone call from Ginger. I woke early the next morning and as always checked my phone to find a couple of missed calls and Message from Ginger to ask where the hell I was, he had just landed a 17lb 9oz Barbel and badly needed some photos and I had slept through the bloody lot. A phone call to Ginger soon had me in the picture, he had at last deservedly smashed his PB out of site, with nobody able to get out to take pictures for him and witness the fish he had managed a couple of self takes but I could tell he was gutted nobody could be there for him. Well believe me Richard not half as gutted as I was for missing it mate, after all what you have done for me I let you down mate, something I will never ever forgive myself for.

As fate would have it I would be with Ginger and witness just how awesome that fish really was. During a mild spell in October I had managed a couple of Barbel from the Wensum and was fishing again for the third night running and as Ginger had the night off he would join me with the required camera and flask. The evening started off bad with the river carrying an unexpected extra foot of rubbish filled water, it was tough going but with some encouragement from Ginger I stuck it out and conditions slowly improved. Suddenly without any warning my rod was torn from the rest and with no need to strike I was soon playing what was certainly a big Barbel. Several heart stopping minutes later Ginger slid the net under one monster of a Barbel. He immediately recognised it as the 17 he had landed himself just 3 weeks previous. I know for sure being together and witnessing just how awesome a 17lb Barbel is went some way to putting right my missing his big occasion them few weeks before hand. We shared together the joy as with photographs taken we returned the fish safely back to the river and with real feeling we, shoke hands and congratulated each other on our shared success.

For many years I have helped out in the local tackle shop doing everything from serving in the shop to scrubbing the maggot room floor. During that time I have met some great anglers and well known characters from the world of angling. For many young anglers it was their dream to work in a fishing tackle shop. When I met one particular lad one day, a very shy young man named Tom who was the latest recruit for the Saturday task of cleaning and sorting around 50 gallons of stinking maggots. I gave him no chance of lasting more than a couple of weeks before the constant practical joking would reduce him to tears and he would leave. How wrong I was after leaving school he even worked full time for a few months before starting college.

At the time I was match fishing most weekends and Tom was developing into quite a useful angler, one of the benefits of working in tackle shop is being able to mix with the best anglers and without doubt anybody who is prepared to learn will do and very quickly. Often travelling to matches around the country I would have a spare place in the car and Tom would accompany me either to fish or walk the bank. Back in them days although I loved my match fishing I was becoming more and more interested in the specimen scene and visited the Severn to fish for Barbel as often as I could. An invite to Tom and his father to join me on one of my Severn trips was gratefully accepted.

With Tom briefed and set up in one of my favourite pegs it wasn’t long before he had landed his first ever Barbel, like many others before and since Tom didn’t take long to get the Barbel bug, as previously stated he is the third member of the Famous Team Barbel gang.

Tom was with me when I landed my 1000th Barbel from the Severn a few seasons ago we shared the experience together and as always with true mates he was as pleased about it as I was. A few days later playing pitch and putt I hit a hole in one, like two bloody crazy kids we ran round the course whooping and shouting much to the amusement of others.

Toms downside is you have never seen a more fussy person when it comes to food, as skinny as a bean pole, he picks over everything searching for any tiny morsels that might just be a bit of fat or gristle. He can dissect an egg and eat only the yoke without ever getting even a tiny particle of the white. I can honestly say I have never ever seen him empty a plate he will always find something to leave.

Sometimes Tom will have his off weeks like we all do I suppose, work gets too much or something or other needs sorting, and on one such occasion Ginger and I had hardly heard from him for several weeks so we put a plan in operation to try to spur him back to life. Knowing that he had to work on a Saturday morning I sent him a text to say we were off to the Hampshire Avon the next morning would he like to come. The text reply read, unable to come, will be at work, you lucky sods, and keep in touch. Around nine next morning the first text from Tom read, where are you? and how are you getting on? Ginger replied with a factious venue as we were sitting by a gravel pit in deepest Norfolk with no intention of going to the Avon. Around 11 o’clock, we agreed it was time for the first pretend Barbel to be caught, a nice double for me, quickly followed by another double to Ginger. Tom had taken the bait, he phoned us not long after and I even hooked and landed another Barbel whilst he was on the phone or so he thought.

It was early afternoon when he rang again to tell us he had his map book and was on his way, where exactly were we? In addition, what was the best route to take? Believe me he took some persuading we were at the lake stalking Carp. I am sure to this day; he still did not believe us until he actually set eyes on us at the lake.

I suppose all of us anglers who have a son would like him also to become an angler and join us on our trips to share both the highs and lows along the way. I certainly know my greatest angling hero was my own father, without that first introduction to fishing and his encouragement along the way I am positive I would not be the angler I am today. Disappointingly my own son has no interest what so ever in fishing having had the odd go its just not him. Well to be honest I have been lucky in that in the ten odd years I have known Tommy he has taken on the roll of my adopted son, fishing partner and great mate. We have laughed together, yep cried together and just been there when the chips are down. I could go on but I do not want to embarrass him but one thing is for sure I know the feeling is mutual, a great mate if ever there was one.

So that’s just my reflections on some of my mates, yes I have many more and I am grateful to each and everyone of them for allowing me to share just apart of my life with them and me apart of their life. Even having great mates I still sometimes get the urge to just go fishing on my own, just to be alone switch off the phone and take it all in, my thoughts are my own. I care not as I take in the atmosphere and reflect how lucky I am to be an angler and witness nature and life at its best. We live today in a mad world everything has to be done yesterday, everybody demands more, and profits comes before anything else, and let’s face it we are only a number in todays crazy world.

I count myself lucky I have a great family, some true friends who I can rely on should I need to. I work hard and like to play hard never one to do anything half-heartedly. If I could pass on two thoughts before I go it would be to enjoy life while you can, as today might be your last chance. In addition, do you know the Chinese believe that every day spent fishing is a day added to the end of your life, with that thought I am off fishing!!!!!

Words by Adrian Kiddell

Pictures by Adrian Kiddell, Richard Wells and Tom Sayer

Watercolour by Barry Starling

A bad day 
is better 
than a 
day at work