Steve Pope Barbel Fishing

Catch more barbel!




“ I am Legend.”

 No don’t be daft, not me, those three words make up the title of film starring that well known American actor, Will Smith.

He acquired this mantle by saving humanity no less, but whether he has actually reached legendary status himself is a matter of debate, accepting that he is a major talent I would still suggest not. Unfortunately in this day and age the word legend is more likely to be bandied about at will if you know what I mean.

As Andy Warhol very astutely once said, “ In the future everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes.” He wasn’t wrong, and we could all be excused for thinking he was talking about fishing when he delivered that famous line! 

But in piscatorial terms, just who is a legend and how does one achieve what is I suppose the ultimate accolade, the one that brings with it angling immortality? How then to become a legend, one that lasts a lifetime and beyond, not just a lunchtime, how to justify the journalistic hyperbole?

Is it a subjective term? Not really, the criteria is all there, but as I hinted because the title is over used it’s meaning to many is therefore unfortunately diminished.

So, I’m redressing that balance right now and I’ll start by listing my essential precepts required to reach the vaulted heights.

Firstly, it is vital to appreciate that you can be famous without ever becoming a legend however, if you have acquired legendary status you will undoubtedly be famous.

Likewise in the twenty first century world we live in today it isn’t difficult to acquire what we all know as celebrity, but does that make a legend, I don’t think so.

The question then becomes, can today’s stars actually attain legendary status?

 I fear not, and it could well be a step too far because legend also requires an element of unattainable mystique and it has to be earned, nowadays it’s all too often a story of here today, gone tomorrow.

With communication being what it is now and everybody knowing every last detail of people’s lives, it may well be the case that we may not witness true legends ever again. But let’s try.

To get there it helps to be universally liked………….that’s why some will never attain the honour. It isn’t absolutely essential I agree and it isn’t as important as having personality and that special charisma.

In some instances it helps to be associated with a legendary event, that one moment in time that turns you into a hero!

Cookie in the Ashes series just won is a good modern day example, far too early to be calling him a legend though but his time will come.

Universal legends transcend more than their chosen field, they actually make a real connection in the consciousness of us all.

Dying helps but is not to be recommended especially if you aspire to be a living legend!

Iconic, great, expert, well-respected, veteran, elder statesman, senior, all terms used regularly but for me none of them enough by themselves to create a legend. You need something more.

If you have to think hard for names, then they are not legends. Legends jump out and grab you immediately and they are not great in number.

It’s so much more than celebrity, being influential or having fame. It has its roots in something not quite real, mythical even, and that’s why it’s as good as it gets.

Leave your mark, be at the forefront of events, make things happen, be in at the beginning, inspire, teach and be innovative. It’s a big ask, but there are those who make the grade.

You cannot bestow yourself; it really is the most difficult title to attain in any walk of life.

And finally, there’s the one that gets me off the hook, that indefinable almost magical quality that you either have or you don’t have, something that really sets you apart and defines larger than life and is quite possibly the key or perhaps I should say the X factor.

The reason I say that is because in my book there are very few true legends, even fewer living legends and that magic ingredient is the reason why.

So lets have a look at some of those who have met the criteria in their chosen fields, and so sit up there along side the Gods, before we move on to the legendary figures in the fishing world.

The English have a fair number of old kings, queens and other historical figures and there’s always Robin Hood, the bloke in green tights who used to run around near the river Trent chasing Maid Marion!

At least that’s better than the poor old Swiss whose only legendary hero shot the apple off his son’s head with his arrow, and then had to wait until an overture was named after him, thus creating his immortality.

You’ll know the tune if you ever watched the Lone Ranger, Hi Ho Silver!

And that brings me on to legends of the American wild west, Davy Crockett, Jesse James, Billy the Kid, Wyatt Earp; names that probably don’t mean much to youngsters of today but many is the time as a seven year old I donned the appropriate garb and saved the Alamo in my own little world before I discovered fishing, probably the reason why I’m always in Realtree these days!

And just for my Aussie mates, especially the ones who often find their heads stuck in a bucket, there’s always Ned Kelly!

“Strewth Steve, just don’t mention ol’rubber lips Jagger.”

“Have to,” says I, “Mick and Keef are proper rock ‘n roll legends.” 

Of course we have more legends of music, entertainment, stage and screen and for me that means the likes of Elvis, Dylan, The Boss and Steve McQueen. Probably lots more in this category but those are my choices, the ones who have left an indelible mark on me.

Getting ever closer to angling now, next we have the sporting legends.

I’m writing this not long after Andy Murray crashed out of yet another Grand Slam final and the thought crossed my mind that if he wins at Wimbledon, would he be accorded legendary status?  Bearing in mind his standing with a great many English is not much higher than fellow Scot William (Every man dies – not every man really lives) Wallace!

I digress but I suppose indirectly that does bring me nicely on to football!

Soccer legends, everyone will have an opinion on this, Pele, Bobby Moore and Bobby Charlton, Besty, for sure but not too many from today’s age of the prima donna!

There really is only one proper sporting legend from my lifetime, without any doubt whatsoever that man is Muhammad Ali; I don’t expect too much argument from anyone with that choice.

And so on to fishing and as I’m a barbel angler first and foremost these are names that can be associated with that particular branch of our sport.

Looking way back, reflecting on the past, names such as J.W. Martin, The Trent Otter and F.W.K.Wallis immediately spring to mind, the latter etched in the subconscious of anyone who has laboured to emulate his famous cast.

Having a swim named after you on the most well known barbel fishery in the land, The Royalty, certainly brings immortality and so for me Jack Harrigan is accorded legendary status.

The three fathers of modern day specimen hunting, Dick Walker, Fred J. Taylor and Peter Stone are certainly legends and to those three I would also add Bernard Venables because Mr. Crabtree is responsible for a whole generation taking up this most noble of sporting past times.

I was fortunate enough to get to know Stoney in the later years of his life, he is one of my all time fishing heroes and he did not disappoint. Truly larger than life; not in stature but in presence, and his name will live on as long as fishermen cast a line.

In pure barbel fishing terms Mr. Barbel, the one and only Fred Crouch is a living legend. He is my best friend and I’m proud to say has been my mentor for many years; I just love the man!

I’ve spent hours on the riverbank with Fred, hours in the car driving from one end of the country to the other – with tears streaming down my cheeks as he told the same old jokes over and over. And I’ve spent many hours by his side as we’ve given talks and presentations from the Yorkshire Dales to the Welsh valleys.

When you reach a position in your chosen field to be able to write your autobiography you know you have made an impact. The name of Fred Crouch will live long amongst barbelers that’s for sure.

Peter Wheat is another barbel legend, his seminal work  The Fighting Barbel has forever secured his rightful place, and you ought to know that in Fred and Pete we have the President and Vice President of the Barbel Society. You couldn’t wish for a better endorsement than that.

That archetypal weaver of dreams Chris Yates is another, as well as angling prowess, his eccentricity married to a magical style of writing has ensured his immortality.

John Wilson, although his inane giggling has always driven me bonkers, Bob Church, Dave Steuart and Terry Lampard are three more names whose standing amongst the angling fraternity means they too warrant legendary standing.

Bringing us bang up to date is someone who has been in the news recently and this someone is as far as I’m concerned another angler who has acquired legendary status, his name? Des Taylor.

Big Des, the Grizzly Adams from the Black Country who actually is larger than life, has hung up his pen after twenty years and no longer fills the pages of Angling Times.

I’m a big fan of Des, over the years we have disagreed on a number of topics not least of which is the question of the close season on rivers. We still disagree on that one!

 But Des is not only big in build he really is big in character, he was always able to publicly admit when he got it wrong which he did with the stillwater barbel issue.

I’ve fished with Des a few times and I can tell you he is one of the funniest guys out there, I’m sure he would have been a legend if he had decided to become a stand up comic! A man who has paid all his dues, a man who deserves his place with the immortals.

The younger fishing celebrities will just have to wait and see whether history accords them this hugely significant honour. For those already there, the special aura that surrounds a legend matures as the years roll by, much in the same way our fishing evolves.

So if you want to become the next barbel legend, catch some fish, write about how you do it, talk about it, find yourself a legend to mentor you until he reaches the end of his own fishing career, find an arch enemy and engage in a struggle of mythical proportions and engender a sense of awe.

You have to believe in yourself on a different level if you want to be a legend in your lifetime.

You can’t be afraid of being in the public eye; there aren’t too many shy or retiring legends out there.

You don’t get there by being ordinary; you do it by it by being extra ordinary!

………………………As for me, I’m just going fishing!

But just before I do, don’t forget to join me next month when I’ll be telling you all about the Barbel Show being held on June 5th. Everyone is welcome and you will be able to meet the who’s who in the barbel scene and catch up with some of the legends I’ve already mentioned.

I’ll also be getting ready for the new season and I’ll be letting you know exactly how I go about that and what my hopes and aspirations are for the summer months. Plus I’ll be running through that most important of subjects, barbel welfare. See you soon.


The Pope’s Tips


With thoughts of summer fishing not too far away now is the time to get on the hemp if you want to catch plenty of barbel!

 No matter what others may say hemp is the number one attractor and I wouldn’t dream of setting out on a barbel session without a bucket of the magic seeds.

Buy it in bulk and buy the jars.

 Best way to prepare it is using a Baby Burco, if you can find one on ebay. Then you bag it up in strong polythene bags and put it in the freezer……….the bait freezer, all anglers should have one!

Store the uncooked hemp in plastic dustbins, the big wheelies are best, you don’t want the mice finding it because believe me it attracts them as well!

If you don’t own a Burco then use one of the large cool boxes.

 Half fill it with hemp, pour cold water over and allow to soak for 24 hours. You’ll notice then that many seeds have split already. Drain off the water and then top up with boiling water. 8 hours later its job done and don’t forget to keep the juice.

 Empty it into 2 litre squash bottles and freeze it, it is great for putting your casters in and also for mixing ground bait………….don’t make the mistake of trying to drink it!

Lay a good sized carpet on the big rivers so the barbel find the service station as they move up the flowing motorway, use a big dropper for this.

On the smaller rivers keep the swim topped up to encourage the fish to root around in your swim.

As I say don’t go fishing for barbel without it!



Leave a Reply

For more information regarding guiding, articles, talks and presentations, shows and anything barbel fishing related contact me at: StevePopeBarbelFishing Facebook