Steve Pope Barbel Fishing

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June Update

Family Time

I’ve found myself spending quite a bit of time in St. Albans lending a hand to my daughter and her husband by looking after their daughter, my lovely little grandaughter.

Little Eva is nearly two and is really forward when it comes to talking, we’re not far off having a proper conversation!

When she says, ‘ Grandad do this’, it’s an instant command and like all grandads I pretty much react in an instant!

Heaven knows what it will be like in a years time, she already has me around her little finger.

As I am now officially an OAP, time spent with Eva is a time to be treasured and I treasure every second.

Here’s a few pics, she is adorable!




I’m not one of those who is there waiting to cast a line at midnight plus one on the fifteenth, firstly I’m of a view that on the venues I fish its a waste of time because the barbel are just not there! Spawning in general is late this year and on many rivers the fish are not that concerned with feeding, they are still preoccupied with other business!

Also as June 16th is my birthday and I’m on the river an awful lot during the summer and autumn its a good idea to spend time with my better half – certainly makes for an easier life comes October!

So it’s the end of the month for me with trips to the Wye, Teme and Kennet all sorted. I’ll keep you up to date on here how things go.

On the guiding front I’m very happy with the amount of bookings I have but I would say that October has quite a few days available and if you fancy a day on the Kennet this is often the best time for a bigger fish. Contact me if you fancy it!

Here’s wishing you all the very best for the coming season, lots of barbel and lots of fun, enjoy!!


The Barbel Show Weekend from a Personal Perspective


The weekend of June 6th and 7th is in effect the culmination of a great deal of work that goes on for quite a few months in the lead up to the actual event, indeed in some ways you have to go back twelve, even twenty four months to get a clear picture.

Top quality hotels that can cater for this type of occasion are very well booked up for the time of year we are always looking for, weddings being the main reason. We have come unstuck in the past and now find ourselves having to commit two years in advance, which means paying out a substantial deposit so there is an element of risk. To be honest there always is and that is why I get so hot under the collar when ill-informed people criticise something that entails much hard work and gives a huge number of people a great deal of pleasure. I won’t dwell on that but needed to get it off my chest right at the start!

We’ve been putting these shows on for twenty years now, that in itself is a superb achievement and although we have a pretty good template in place together with a very long checklist there is always that niggling doubt at the back of your mind that no one will buy a ticket, we will get let down by some of the trade stands, a speakers cancels at the last minute – it’s all part of the fun of being involved with something like the Barbel Society and so far it’s always come good on the day!

Without a dedicated show organiser and team in place (something that will be sorted very soon) this year it’s been a real team effort. Martin, one half of the ‘terrible twins’ had completed a great job in making sure the bulk of the trade stands were booked, Pete and myself had sorted the speakers and everyone else on the committee together with the regional organisers all played their part, especially on the day itself.

I was especially pleased when Garrett Fallon, the owner of Fallons Angler, accepted our invitation to be the Master of Ceremonies. I knew he was the right man for the job and so it proved to be.

But let’s go back to the couple of days prior to the show, having spent a good deal of time on the phone to Pete making sure everything was in place I set off to visit my daughter who lives in St. Albans and to catch up once more with my little granddaughter – just about my favourite distraction from fishing and guaranteed to put a smile on my face and put me in the right frame of mind!

Saturday morning, a six o’clock alarm and I’m off on the road to Phil Buckingham’s house, we had previously agreed to travel up to Kenilworth together.

Driving through Ongar, Fyfield, The Roding’s etc. brought the memories flooding back – a big chunk of my life was spent in this neck of the woods and it was nice to be reminded just how picturesque this part of Essex actually is. If like me, you remember the Lovejoy TV series with affection, you’ll know exactly what I mean – don’t be fooled by TOWIE!

With everything loaded into Phil’s rather nice car we set off on the two hour journey to The Chesford Grange Hotel.

Familiar faces were already there as we walked through the door into reception to check in.

I’m a big tennis fan and was extremely pleased to arrive just in time to catch the resumption of the Murray / Djokovic match, I suppose it was fortunate in some ways that Novak decided to move up a gear otherwise the AGM may well have been delayed!!

At 1-30pm I opened the meeting – by 2-45pm the meeting was over. After saying my bit I quickly handed over to Pete Reading who then presented most of the reports. Dave Brown allowed Pete a moment to catch his breath as he gave details of the membership situation and was pleased to announce that numbers and fishery permit sales were up on the same time last year and I can also confirm that the trend is continuing. There weren’t too many people in the room, there never is. Some may have other ideas but I’ve always taken the view that the vast majority are just not that interested in the administrative politics involved in running any organisation of this nature. They want to be entertained and go fishing and I don’t blame them. It’s been that way since we started, can’t see it changing and why should it? If people are happy they stay and give their support, if they lose interest they leave and if they are not happy but want to stay then they are more than welcome to attend the meeting – it isn’t that complicated!

After a brief chat with our new treasurer I decided to return to my room where I took the opportunity to unwind for a couple of hours before looking forward to an evening dinner shared with good friends and colleagues.

And it was an excellent dinner, the food was superb and the company even better. Peter Wheat and his charming wife Bunty sat opposite and then Garrett arrived and the conversation certainly flowed. Garrett you see is from Irish descent and has more than a fair share of wit and charm!

A couple of quick drinks in the bar and then it was time to get some sleep as an early start was required the next day. The time when I would stay up till 3am is long gone, I need my sleep!

Pete had already set the benchmark as he said he was going to be up and in the trade hall at 6am because that’s when the hotel would be open to allow the trade stands to set up – I said, ‘well done mate, superb commitment and I’ll be down a little after that!’

To be fair I didn’t oversleep and Pete wasn’t rushed off his feet, there were one or two early birds including the Lone Angler team who had arrived resplendent in their new polo shirts recognising the 20th BS anniversary – a very nice touch.


I went through the double doors into the conference hall and was more than pleased to see Martin, our sound and vision supremo, already there and working away putting up the stage and screen and getting all the technical stuff ready. I have to say that Martin has been on-board pretty much since the start, the start being that the point when we decided relying on dodgy projectors and small screens just didn’t cut it anymore!

Having his professional set up takes away all the worry and we would be lost without him.

Then it was back to the restaurant for a light breakfast that would see me through the day.

Back in the hall for a practice run through and a chat with Garrett and Peter Wheat and then it was almost time to get the show on the road.




The hall started to fill, but at 9-45am many were still on the road and I suppose there must have been 100 or so in the audience as Peter Wheat gave his opening address.

Ten minutes later and Garrett is introducing me and it’s my turn to get up and face the audience!

I have to say that public speaking does not faze me at all; in fact I quite enjoy it. In saying that the ten minutes or so before its time to speak is always the worst for me, my head starts racing, doubts creep in and I wonder if the words will come out in the order I am hoping for!

But the second I actually speak it’s as though something else takes over and I become empowered and it becomes a pleasure rather than my worst nightmare!




I had forty minutes to cover twenty years and that was never going to be easy but my motivation for speaking at the show was to acknowledge and thank all those who have played a part these past two decades, especially those who are no longer with us.

If you are interested I have put the pictures and some of my notes for the talk into a feature which can be found in the articles section on my website.

I managed to keep to my time slot and as I finished I introduced my good friend and colleague Howard Cooke to the stage.


If my talk was all about looking back, Howards was looking to the future. His fifteen minute slot explained the thinking behind the project we have labelled 2020 Vision which will hopefully pave the way for the next two decades.

Rob Swindells was next up at 11 am and he gave a very interesting account of how he approaches his barbel fishing and I’m sure with the new season just around the corner he whetted the appetite for everyone in the room.


There was one more speaker before the lunch break – John Baker, the man who is generally regarded as the absolute master when it comes to modern baits.

Unfortunately for me I had to miss his talk because Ben from Angler’s Mail had arrived and I had agreed to chat to him about the piece he was going to write for the paper.

The Barbel Society has always had an excellent relationship with the Angling Press and both papers were keen to promote the Society in its twentieth year.

Angling Times had just put out a superb centre spread covering the history and so the Mail was looking for a slightly different angle. I had mentioned to Ben that perhaps he might like to focus on the future and with that in mind I would introduce him to the younger guys on the committee who are very much part of that.

So back in the trade area, which was a bit quieter because John’s talk had obviously triggered a good deal of interest, I introduced Ben to Howard, Bobby and Simon.

I left them to it because along with others on the team these guys have their fingers on the pulse, I’ll look forward to reading the story!

As the lunch break approached the conference hall started to empty. I managed to speak to John who was still in his ‘speaker mode’ and I gathered that high oil pellets are not his thing! I wished then I hadn’t missed his presentation because it covered a very topical subject.

During the break the trade hall appeared to be very busy with a number of the stands receiving a lot of attention. That was good to see because it makes the job for next year so much easier.

After some serious negotiation with Claire on the Lone Angler stand I managed to obtain the rod that I was after for our top raffle prize. I was hugely impressed with Claire, she would be welcome on the BS committee at any time and all I would say then is heaven help those who like having a pop!

Ten minutes to two and big Des takes me to one side and says he’s noticed all the ladies and youngsters in the hall, do I think they might be offended?

Now if you’ve seen Des give a talk you’ll know what he was alluding to.

We checked with those who had already taken their seats and everyone was cool, they are all used to watching Live at the Apollo and Des, apart from being a vastly knowledgeable angler, can also pass as a stand-up comedian – the best speaker in my book on the fishing circuit.


As always Des had the room in stitches, he spoke in depth about the journey his fishing on the Severn had taken and he had a few serious points to make as well, he did a brilliant job.

After a short break Dave Harrell took the stage to give the last presentation. I was looking forward to this one as well because I aim to do a lot more float fishing this year and it’s fair to say that Dave is the master of that particular discipline on running water. But once again events conspired against me and I was needed in the other room. From the feedback I received once again Dave had enthralled his audience covering a number of topics in his forty five minute slot.


Garrett immediately followed Dave by introducing the Barbel Society President Peter Wheat for the second time, the last item of the day before the raffle is always the award presentation and Peter over the years has made this moment his own.

This year had added interest because two new awards had been introduced, the Dave Mason Cup for the ‘best’ barbel of the season and The Fred Crouch award given to the person who has made a significant contribution during the year.

Dave had added an extra twist to the proceedings; he had chosen a runner up as well – eight year old Natasha Supple. Pure genius because Natasha captivated every single person in the room as she stood on the stage shaking hands with Dave and Peter and posing for her pictures, a genuine star!


The winner though was Chris Mutton for a special Warwickshire Avon fish.


The superb new award in memory of the much loved and missed Fred Crouch went to James Van Gowler but as James had booked a holiday without checking the show date he was unable to attend and so Simon collected it up on his behalf. James had emailed me some weeks ago when he realised the dates clashed and was prepared to cancel his holiday, I said don’t be daft and enjoy your break – there’s another show next year.

Two down, one to go, time for the Gordon Scott award. This is presented each year to the person who has given outstanding long service to the Society. Peter Wheat in his wonderful unique style manages to weave a story full of hidden depths and philosophy before revealing just who the winner is. This time the recipient was Paul Fisk and it was a very popular choice.


I had a surprise in store.

Just as Peter was about to step down from the stage I asked him to wait for a few minutes. It was time for the Barbel Society to honour Peter, we have been so used to seeing him present an award and he was lost for words as I turned the tables and said some nice words about this truly wonderful man and presented him with a leather bound copy of Barbel Tales – the number one copy for a number one man! I swear he had a tear in his eye as I shook his hand.




And then it was time for the raffle and Pete, in his shirt of many fishes, managed to get through it in quite possibly a record time – a consummate performance in how to conduct a raffle!




The gods were certainly smiling on Paul because he had a winning ticket and walked away with the Lone Angler rod that I had worked so hard to obtain – well done Paul and many thanks to Lone Angler and all the other people who donated a prize.!

And that was it, 5-30pm, bang on time and the twentieth anniversary show was over.

It always amazes me how quickly everything gets packed away and the hotel is back to its normal state, after checking out- should have done it hours before, Phil and myself having said so many goodbyes were back on the road heading home.

A time to reflect as we found ourselves caught up in the traffic you would expect on a sunny June evening.

During the course of the day I spoke to dozens of people and there was not one voice of dissention, everyone expressed how much they were enjoying the Show and how special it was to be celebrating twenty years.

I spoke to Dave Street – a guy from way back in the Barbel Catchers who I hadn’t seen for many years, Ray Kent – another from the BCC and a founder member, Dave Steuart and John Found – superb Society stalwarts, a number of guys who have been on my Wye trips and who are looking forward to joining me this year, Dr Andy Pledger – a man we are working with on a number of research projects, Westy, Tony Miles, Phil Smith, guys who have been with us since the start and from the old A.B.E. days, and many, many more good friends who were there to enjoy the day. Lots of friendly faces and voices.

There were well over two hundred people who came through the entrance door, add them to those who were helping or manning the stands and three hundred at the Show is not far away from the total. I consider that to be a great turn out but the key point for me is to the best of my knowledge everyone had a good day, if they didn’t then they never told me – and I was pretty easy to find!

Back home and lots of very pleasant emails in my inbox when I checked my computer, all complimentary – makes the effort put in by so many all worthwhile.

Next major event in our calendar is the Midland Fundraiser and I’ll tell you more about that next time but if you are interested and you may well be if the Severn catchment is your area then check out the Barbel Society website, there’s plenty of information on there.

The new season is just underway, my very best wishes to everyone who is out on the river.



Best Mates!

Last weekend I found myself back in Hertfordshire attending the wedding of Richard and Natalie. Richard is the son of my great friend Steve, who I have known from the age of eleven.

Had a lovely time made even better because my middle daughter was over from Dubai with her partner so it was a proper family get together!













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