Wednesday 30 June 2021


Inspired by Matt Knott's recent blog post, I treated myself to an extended lunch break this afternoon and walked to Culverhole Point. Culverhole is accessed by walking east along the beach from the mouth of the River Axe. It takes about half an hour and is shingle all the way. However, now that I'm used to the West Bex and Cogden shingle, the Axmouth stuff is easy-peasy. Big pebbles, nicely compacted. Beginner's shingle! There is also a tiny bit of boulder hopping involved, which is why I know that the last time I was out there was 2012. That was the year I started wearing varifocal specs, and looking down at where I was putting my feet felt dead weird. I ended up taking the darned things off, fearing a mis-step and broken ankle if I didn't. Being a varifocal veteran now, no such issues today.

Anyway, although I've been out to Culverhole (and beyond) a few times in the past, it's mainly been speculative birdy efforts, not plants or bugs. So, how did it go? I'll answer that question with a heap of photos...

Two Common Sandpipers were on the Culvehole rocks.

I knew from Matt's blog that there was a new orchid here for me. Somewhere. Amazingly it was one of the first I saw...

Marsh Fragrant Orchid. And wow! Definitely a lovely fragrance.

This was the only one I saw, so I guess probably the same as Matt's

However, this was just the tip of the iceberg. The place is absolutely paved with orchids. Most numerous by far were Marsh Helleborines, hundreds of them, many still in bud. Then Marsh Orchids, some Common Spotted and a handful of Bee Orchids. Mind you, as a botanical ignoramus I probably missed loads of interesting stuff, but here are a few shots to illustrate the wealth on offer...

The white jobs in the foreground are all Marsh Helleborines, with mainly (all?) Marsh Orchids on the left

Marsh Helleborine flowers are just lovely

Another orchid-rich scenic shot

Marsh Helleborines

Er...and again

Not quite sure what this pale number is. Initially I thought Marsh Orchid, but look... had spotty/stripey leaves. Beyond my pay grade unfortunately.

A dark Marsh Orchid I assume.

Not an orchid, though I did actually know what it is: Common Centaury. Nice

Still Common Centaury

One of a small handful of Bee Orchids, all close together.

Marsh Helleborine City

Probably you're getting the impression that I was totally blown away by the flowery abundance. If so, bang on. But there were other attractions too. Multi-legged ones...

First up was a Clouded Yellow which I spotted by Axmouth Harbour. Unfortunately it was on the undercliff and didn't stop for photos. Out at Culverhole I saw my first Marbled White of the year, but that went straight past too. Better behaved was this...

I haven't seen a Wood White in ages, and spent quite a while with this one.

A female, it appeared to be laying eggs on spindly fronds of what I think was Bird's Foot Trefoil, though I failed to get any pics of that.

As I sat watching it, this beautiful, dainty little Wood White spent a few minutes fluttering just a foot or two from my knee, as if I wasn't there. The flight action of Wood White is the closest thing I've seen to those CGI butterflies you see in movies. But it genuinely does make those huge, exaggerated wingbeats while travelling absolutely nowhere at all. Wonderful things.

Other creepy-crawlies...

This creature perched on my grubby, knackered thumb, and begged to be posted on Twitter in one of those 'please tell me what this is' type tweets. Apparently it is a Snipe Fly, specifically Chrysopilus asiliformis. And going by the plump body, a female. Cool.

Chrysopilus asiliformis. I think the P900 does a pretty good job of macro stuff.

Probably the rarest thing I saw today was actually scuttling along the ground. I noticed what looked like a beetle dart beneath the cover of an overhanging leaf. As I leaned over to get a better look it hurried across an open patch and I could see it was a Tiger Beetle, but it looked a less vivid green than I've seen before. Aware of the possibility, I wondered if it might be the rare Cliff Tiger Beetle. Lo and behold, it was!

Cliff Tiger Beetle. A bit of a rarity. It was a right skulker, rushing from one bit of cover to the next, and this is the better of only two photos I managed.

I was fortunate to see a regular Green Tiger Beetle a bit later on, so here it is for comparison...

Green Tiger Beetle. I'd have been pleased enough just to see this species, so am well chuffed to have made it a two-tiger afternoon.

There were a few dragons and damsels too. A male Broad-bodied Chaser that avoided the camera, several Large Red Damselflies that I didn't bother with, and a few of these...

Keeled Skimmer. At least, I hope so.

Keeled Skimmer again.

My knowledge of Odonata is skimpy, to say the least, but has all been learned since I first moved to Seaton. Before that I knew nothing. Nothing. By the time I'm 125 years old I should be quite the expert.


Heron on the rocks

Grey Seal. Any seal is quite scarce along the coast here, but Grey is the most regular.

It was a hot, mainly sunny afternoon. The sort of weather that attracts folk to the beach in order to go brown and crispy. Just in case anyone is inspired by this post - or Matt's, or both - to take the shingly plunge and head out to Culverhole, I ought to mention that the beach is popular with naturists. An affable bunch though. Expect a cheery greeting and friendly wave...

Sunday 27 June 2021

Reading & Writing

There is something very powerful about the written word. Truly, its ability to inform, motivate, stir emotions, and do deeper, more profound things, simply through the thoughtful arrangement of language on a page, is almost magical. At its best, good writing can transport you from sofa to other-world, where the narrative plays out before your mind's very eyes. And because we are in the month of June, with the relentless early-morning alarm calls of April and May no longer a sleep-sapping fact of birding life, I've been looking out for some decent reading matter. Some books for bedtime.

Recently I re-read Beguiled by Birds, DIM Wallace's opus on British birdwatching. Published in 2004, it is still a thought-provoking, relevant read. I do find Ian Wallace's writing style quite a challenge though. A good challenge. I'm quite happy to be stretched a bit by tricky sentence construction and a demanding vocabulary. Finishing it has whetted my appetite for some more nice prose.

Like this lot...

I used to have a paperback copy of Mark Cocker's Tales of a Tribe, but think it must have fallen foul of a ruthless stocktake at some stage. I like hardbacks anyway, and a second-hand copy was pretty cheap. So that, and Dave Goulson's The Garden Jungle are lined up for future attention.

Mrs Pankhurt's Purple Feather by Tessa Boase dates from 2018, but has just been published in paperback under the new title Etta Lemon: The Woman Who Saved the Birds. Etta Lemon was a founder of the RSPB, and its principal driving force in the early days. Until very recently I had no idea that the charity was instituted by women determined to stamp out 'murderous millinery', the hideous Victorian fashion for feathered hats which cost the lives of millions and millions of birds, pushing several species to the brink of extinction. A fashion which fuelled a monstrous industry. I'm about a third of the way through, and what a mind-boggling world it reveals. Fascinating, and really well written.

Fallon's Angler is a quarterly magazine, and a recent experimental dip into angling writing. Advert free, it bears absolutely no resemblance to your average specialist mag. Roughly 100 pages of varied and original content, notably without a single instructional sentence. It arrived yesterday morning, and I'd consumed every word by lights-out. There is even a cryptic crossword on the last page, which will get some attention tonight I think. I couldn't help noticing that many of the contributors are of my generation, and perhaps that's why it struck a chord. From gentle humour to a poignant look at a father and son's relationship, it covered a lot of ground. Superb.

Fellow blogger Stewart Sexton recently emailed a few pages of a now-defunct angling publication called Waterlog, and the content of Fallon's Angler appears to have a similar vibe. It must be difficult to make any non-digital publication pay its way these days, let alone one with no adverts, but it is a shame that birding doesn't have something in this vein. However, maybe there's an alternative...

On Twitter I currently 'follow' some 377 other tweeters, the vast majority birders or bird-related accounts. It's the only social media platform that holds any interest for me, and one big attraction is that some of those I follow do quite frequently post links to interesting reading matter. In a few cases, like me, they promote their own blogs. Or they might link to someone else's writing. Either way, I've enjoyed many an excellent read by this means. One or two have been refreshingly controversial and stimulating. It would be great if my favourites were assembled into some kind of anthology, but in the meantime I'll just enjoy what pops up on my Twitter timeline.

And of course, reading good stuff is a constant source of encouragement to try and write some good stuff. I can't promise 'controversial and stimulating' but I can promise shamelessly promotional tweets on Twitter.

Friday 25 June 2021

All in a Day's Work

Most of the time, work is just work and has few redeeming features. But once in a while it provides me with genuinely excellent moments. Like today.

For 14 years now, one of my customers has left the small back lawn uncut all summer. I would imagine the property was built perhaps 40-50 years ago, probably on what was once grazing land, or something like that. Anyway, after five years the first orchids appeared - two Southern Marsh Orchids. Since then they've popped up every year, with a peak of approximately 30, though this year there are only 12. However, also this year, the first two Common Spotted Orchids! When I phoned to book today's visit I checked it would be okay to take some photos...

Look at those lovely purple blobs! Top left (below the statue) are a Southern Marsh and Common Spotted Orchid side by side.

Southern Marsh Orchid

Common Spotted Orchid. The spotted leaves are visible in the grass.

Common Spotted close-up. What a flower to have in your garden!

Well, messing about with these gorgeous plants made me a bit late for lunch. But I'm not complaining. Because three seconds after I'd finished munching, Tim Wright put a message on the local WhatsApp group: Cuckoo at Seaton Marshes. I was just a couple of minutes away, and the Cuckoo kindly waited for me...

The Cuckoo was a bit distant, and perched in a shady spot, preening. Beggars can't be choosers though.

A sexy bit of undertail

I have seen very few Cuckoos locally. I think this is only my fourth in 18 years. And I've heard two others. So, a bit special.

In other news, yesterday evening I had a walk at Cogden and photographed three different umbellifers. And at the moment, that's as far as it's got.

But I also found myself scanning fields for orchids, like a birder would do for birds. In one meadow that has no public access I found this lot...

Spot the monster Bee Orchids. That one on the left!!

And the lurking Pyramidal...

Mega-range orchid spotting. Three creamy coloured Greater Butterfly Orchids, roughly a third of the way up the photo.

Orchids everywhere it seems, beckoning like sirens to the rocky shore of botanical doom. However, before temptation overwhelms me I am confident that juvenile Yellow-legged Gulls will come galloping over the horizon in the nick of time. And I shall be saved.

Tuesday 22 June 2021

Eyes Down

It's a few weeks since I last visited West Bexington, and the first thing that hit me this afternoon was how much everything has grown. Lush greenery everywhere, and stacks of flowers. Some of the meadows looked absolutely fantastic...

Looks amazing enough from head height, but...

...even better at ground level

Heaving with insects, including my first Meadow Browns and Large Skippers of the year, and a striking fly which my new 'Brock' field guide helped me to identify as Noon Fly...

Noon Fly (Mesembrina meridiana)

Large Skipper

By the time I reached this meadow I had already enjoyed a nice surprise. Scanning from a gateway in the vain hope of a bird or two, I was distracted by a distant but familar flower spike, a Bee Orchid. Looking around I spied a few more. Nice. I don't recall seeing Bee Orchids at West Bex before, but then I've never looked. So that's what I ended up doing this afternoon. Looking for orchids. And flipping heck! They're everywhere!

One of several Bee Orchids I discovered in the meadow pictured in the first two photos.

This Pyramidal Orchid was in the same meadow.

Heading over into East Bexington territory is like entering a different world. Acres and acres of intensively farmed arable. Walking down to the sea, the contrast is striking. Very, very few insects, and basically nothing at all in the crops...

East Bexington farmland

There are maize fields too, similarly lifeless. In the months to come, these fields will hopefully prove attractive to various birds, but for the moment they feel pretty dead. However, there is a bit more to East Bexington than this. Between the beach and the crops lies a broad uncultivated strip of land maybe 30-odd metres across. Apart from an occasional autumn stomp about to see if I can kick up any interesting birds, I've never paid it much attention. So imagine my surprise when I spotted this from the roadside...

Oof! Look at that Bee Orchid. Literally knee high!

Suddenly I was paying attention. The more I looked, the more I saw. In one spot I counted almost 80 Bee Orchid spikes, then a few more here, a few more there...

I got quite good at spotting them. At least 9 Bee Orchid spikes in this photo

Although I didn't count them all, for certain I saw more than a hundred Bee Orchids at East Bex, plus 5 Pyramidal Orchids. I wonder what else is lurking there, invisible to a botanical dunce like me.

Not all the local orchids need searching for. At West Bex there's a patch of Pyramidals that almost takes your eye out. Right next to a path, they are impossible to miss...

A lovely, pale pink Pyramidal Orchid...

...and a couple of regular-coloured whoppers.

I was simply amazed how many orchids I spotted today, in loads of places I'd never noticed them before. I can see the attraction of botanising, and for once regretted my ignorance. In fact I am almost tempted to do something about it. Trouble is, I know it won't be long before birds are all-consuming again, and whatever I might have learned, plant-wise, will soon slip from my memory. Mind you, I could start with something modest, like umbellifers perhaps? I found myself looking at all the white-flowered things that were presumably Wild Carrot or Cow Parsley or Giant Hogweed or whatever, and noticing different leaf shapes and so forth. And that some were really diminutive, and quite obviously not the same as those ones over there...

How hard can it be?

Umbellifers. My summer challenge?

Obviously I didn't see any birds. Too busy looking down.

Okay. One bird.

Sunday 20 June 2021

The British Record Tench that Never Was

I was about 12 years old when I first met Ric Francis, the younger brother of a school classmate. We clicked immediately, and down through the years spent a lot of time together in shared interests. Birding and running featured, but in the early days it was fishing. Lots and lots of fishing. We shared an almost obsessive passion for coarse angling, and I have many happy memories from that era. However, by June 1981 I was married, with a mortgage, and birding had begun to dominate my outdoors time. Ric, meanwhile, was fishing as hard as ever, and looking forward to a solid season on the Tring Reservoirs complex as a member of the new syndicate. The omens were immensely good. Within hours of the new season commencing on 16th June, Tony Chester landed a new British record Tench of 10lb 1¼oz from Wilstone. The 16th was a Wednesday, and our tale begins the following Sunday evening.

To put events in context, when I started fishing in the 1960s the Tench record was 9lb 1oz, a fish caught in 1963. The notion that anyone could ever catch one bigger than 10lb would have seemed preposterous. Yet in 1975 that is what happened, and at a stroke the record increased by an astonishing 1lb and 2 drams. Tony Chester's fish was only the second double-figure Tench ever caught, and just 2 drams, ie, one eighth of an ounce, heavier.

And thus the scene is set. The following events began exactly 40 years ago today. In Ric's own words, and never previously published. A painful but salutary lesson in human fallibility...


"Admit it. You were not fishing for Bream when you had that twelve pounder!"

Such were the very first words spoken to me by the late great Lester Strudwick. He was right of course. Quite correct. Not sure that I knew how to catch anything back then. I was simply casting out a worm in the hope that a fish might take it. Let’s face it. Catching something is one thing, knowing why that something was caught is another. Me? I was just there. No plan, no expectations. Just going along with a suggestion from John Hugill that in the light of the recent record Tench coming out of Wilstone Reservoir, it could be worth a go. Which was why I found myself there on Sunday, 20th June 1981. Get casting!

Well, not yet awhile. At Tring back then, no fishing was allowed on a Sunday. I assume management thought it appropriate that instead of a day off enjoying ourselves fishing, we would be going to church instead. Somewhat ironic considering the owners of the estate were rumoured to have done a deal with the 'other side' a century or three earlier. However, money talks and members of the syndicate had some leeway on hours, so our 'no fishing' slot was 07:30-22:30. And, despite there being no one around to enforce them, we all adhered to these hours.

Sunday evening then. There were several players involved, none of whom had been present for the opening act where a 10lb 1¼oz then British record-breaking Tench was beached. As we were now only five days into the season (which back then opened on June 16th) this might sound surprising were it not for the revelation (to me at least) that to secure the most favoured swims on the bank, several participants had arrived the best part of a week before the season had even started! As Jim Gibbinson famously put it, "The mind boggles!"

Looking back, there are two amusing aspects of that fanaticism that I recall. First, the enormous pressure to catch before any casual 'Johnny come sensible' who simply rocked up on opening day! One year, exactly that happened, an angler settling in on the end of the bivvy encampment, casting out and promptly catching a nine pounder! Took him about 90 minutes. Called home for relatives to come out for a look. Pictures taken and off home for breakfast. Have it! Yeah!

Secondly, Google Earth indicates that the spot which the hoards were fighting to secure was in reality further along the bank than they thought! Such are the benefits of an aeriel view. As things turned out, it was that spot which I ended up in, the evening I arrived. Not immediately mind. I’d sat down in one place only for John H to mention there were a lot of fish topping further along. So I moved. To a spot  on the bank I would now call position A. If I went and fished Wilstone today, I’d fish right there.

The reason it was such a good spot was the 'Gravel Pit'. Wilstone had historically been dug out in stages to provide top-up water for the Grand Union Canal and for other reasons, but one feature of these excavations was a deep hole set among shallows at the north-west end. A channel led from this hole towards the fishable bank, approaching it at an angle. By placing themselves in a particular position an angler could access both the channel and the shallows. All depths and features covered. Ideal. Anyway, that's exactly where I found myself. By accident. The bit I don’t get is that the early arrivers all talked about the channel - they all knew it was there - but were fishing in the wrong place for it! Me, I didn’t even check the channel out. Meant nothing to me at all.

Where the deed was done...ish (with thanks to Google satellite view)


We must have been an obedient bunch back then. Despite there being no one about (in the shape of Bernie Double, the Tring bailiff) to keep an eye on proceedings, the starting-time rules weren't even bent, let alone ignored. As a result, none of us cast out until 10:30 pm. It was like a lesser version of midnight on opening day. There was nothing special about my set up, just open-ended feeders with liquidized bread. Sweetcorn bait on one rod, lobworm on the other.

Looking back, I can see there was no real thinking or analysis about my methods. It was generally as simple as I could muster. All the tackle tweaks, upgrades, ringing the changes and constant reassessments were, and for me still are, too much like hard work. If I thought something would work, I'd do it, but like I found when fishing for Pike with lures, I might try every lure in my possession and still blank. Nil bites, nil everything. It doesn’t give you any information to work with. And nil bites or action was the usual pattern. If I found a method that worked, I stuck with it.

Well, something worked that night. Fifteen minutes after casting out, the sweetcorn rod came to life. The indicator sailed up, to the accompanying beeps of the Optonic, and the resultant strike met with a resultant nothing! Damn! I kind of thought the sweetcorn might have masked the hook point. Of course, nowadays we would hair-rig the stuff, but that was for the future. So, to bolster my confidence I replaced the corn with another lobworm, at the same time convincing myself the bite I missed was simply a 'liner'.

I didn’t have to wait long to test the liner theory. The indicator sailed up and the strike was met with a slow, heavy resistance. Tench? A solid thud followed by some more heavy dragging made me think it might be a Bream. Yes, I was sure it was. Soon enough the bronze flanks of a slab were being lit up by torches held by the various helpers to this capture. And on to the bank it came. It was clear to me that the fish was into double figures but I  thought nothing more of it. Out with the weigh bag, scales zeroed, and…the shock of my life as the needle tracked around past 12lb. This called for some steady hands and an "All agreed are we?" 12lb 9½ oz! Which I understood to be the biggest Bream ever caught from Wilstone. The British record was 13lb 8oz and this fish might have been fourth or fifth biggest on the all-time list. Which was nice.

I bagged the fish up, intending to get a picture when it got light, before settling back for what I hoped would be a night of Bream action. No chance. That fish was the sum total of the night's efforts. I don't recall even another bite. I guess I was lucky then. Fluke capture? Probably. Time and place.

Early morning, 21st June 1981. The Wilstone Bream - 12lb 9½oz


6:00am. And the Bream was back where it belonged. I'd got the pictures as soon as it was light enough, so no need to keep it a moment longer. Shows how my attitude to such things has changed. These days it's odds on the fish would have been put back the moment it was caught, but getting pictures of fish seemed to matter then. A view that was to have consequences in the very near future.

The morning conditions by now were clear and bright. Hardly a breeze either. The odd Tench was getting caught by others, but nothing massive, and to be fair my own efforts were hardly sound. I'd already messed up as it was. Leaving the rods in, I'd nipped off down to the car for some item only to discover on my return that I'd had a bite. I must have retrieved a hundred yards of line before the end rig appeared with that one. Typical!

At 6:30am I was away again. Good, solid bite, the line tightening up to the fish before I'd even grabbed the rod. No need to strike; this one was going for it, taking line against the clutch from the get-go. But something felt odd about the fight. The fish hit the surface about thirty yards out, and with a strange rotating motion continued to take line at will. I mean, I was leaning on it all right but simply had no control over proceedings. I guess it had gone about fifty yards before it stopped.

Now encased in a weed bed, I set to dragging it back. But something wasn't right about the way it was fighting. It was broadside on. So, either the line had got looped around a pectoral fin or it was hooked there. Either way, it was a protracted slog getting the fish in. Once on the bank, my suspicions that it was foul-hooked were confirmed; the hook was located in a pectoral fin. It wasn’t the first fish to be hooked in that position either. That could have been a function of the distended pre-spawning bellies these fish possessed. Who knows? What I did know was John Hugill saying, "I wouldn't weigh that if I were you." I really should have listened.

A foul-hooked fish is not deemed to have been caught by 'fair angling' and doesn't count. Full stop. But I was really curious to see how much it weighed. I guessed maybe eight pounds. However, an initial rough weighing had it at 10lb 6oz! It was a fact, but nothing else. I called out, "Hey guys, it’s a double! Tell you what. I’ll bag it up, we'll get a few pictures and then let it go." And that was all there was to it. Simply getting a picture of a curiosity. And then fate stepped in. In the form of one Bernie Double.

Now Bernie was the long-time resident bailiff at Tring, and one of his duties was to sell tickets. I guess I was somewhat naïve regards what lengths he would go to in order to sell those tickets, but there you go. Whatever the dos and don'ts of the situation, he was keen on publicity for the fishery, so when one of the guys let him know I'd caught a couple he wasted no time in tracking along to see what was what.

Clearly I hadn't got the Bream any more, but the Tench was still in play. I told him what my intentions were, but Bernie had other ideas. He mentioned that an Angling Times photographer was nearby and that I should hang on to the fish until he could get there. He also wanted a look at the fish, and to weigh it for himself. Exactly 10lb 4oz.

The photographer arrived.

21st June 1981. The Wilstone Tench. At 10lb 4oz only the third ever double-figure Tench caught, and 2¾oz heavier than Tony Chester's new British record, landed only a few days earlier and yet to appear in the angling press.


Before I knew it, this pair were talking in terms of a new British record. But it wasn't. It had been foul-hooked and therefore didn't count. They were persistent though, making out that it would be a disappointment if the capture wasn't rewarded in some way. I felt they were suggesting I was somehow letting them down. But really they were just thinking of themselves.

It was difficult to know what to do under the pressure. Asking advice from the others met with either no answer at all or, "It’s up to you." So, on one side I had proactive operators and on the other side, apathy.

In the end I yielded to the pressure and made the mistake of going along with the fraud. This was a Monday, and I planned to wait until the Angling Times was published on the Wednesday to see what emerged. Only then would I decide how to proceed. I didn't feel good, but rather a bit cornered. My own fault of course. I was down the rabbit hole. Would I get out?

From Monday until Wednesday I fished along in a cloud of guilt. I never let on to a number of people who were no doubt puzzled at my lack of joy in relation to this event. I felt terrible. For some people, lying, cheating and basic dishonesty are just them. They don't care. It's what they do. Not me. Integrity meant a lot to me, but there were gatherings on the bank discussing just that. As in, my apparent lack of it.

No prizes for guessing the topic of conversation


Wednesday arrived and so did the Angling Times. I’d remained at Tring, but on seeing the news felt I'd be better off elsewhere. It didn't look good. There I was on the front cover with the whole pack of lies. I went home. Once there, I revealed all. Gerry Savage, coordinator of the National Benzole 'Angler of the Month' award, phoned to say I'd won that month’s prize. I told him the score and said I couldn't accept. He said he'd phone back. He did. I was still the winner! Seems the judges regarded the situation worthy of an award despite the foul-hooking issue. I mean, they thought the Bream was worth something, along with my honesty. It was still a mess, but at least I could breathe again.

Having nothing else to do, I went back to Tring. In the meantime, all hell had been let loose between the angling publications. Anglers Mail v Angling Times. To be fair, they were either about controversy or sensationalism, and here they got both. Other publications got involved, but despite all that I was never contacted again about the subject by anyone. Maybe they thought I'd been upset enough. Whatever the reasons, I was able to carry on fishing much as before, but it was never quite the same again.

That Tench is still the biggest I’ve ever seen. My pb is actually 8lb 8oz. However, there's a chance that I'll soon have access to a gravel pit where double-figure Tench appear to be almost common. If I can avoid the Carp there's a good chance I can land a fish bigger than 10lb 4oz. I'll settle for that, as well as the lack of headlines.

Ric Francis...June 2021 


A few days after the above, I drove over to Startops Reservoir - also on the Tring complex - with another fishing friend to visit Ric and commiserate. Both Roy and I were fully aware of the whole story, and in the Startops car park we posed with the latest issue of Angling Times prominently displayed, hamming it up for Ric's camera with appropriately sceptical expressions. We all turned it into a bit of a joke, but being young I had little idea of what Ric had actually been through...

'Tench record tumbles TWICE!' yells the Angling Times. Except it hadn't.