Extreme Fishing – is it a good look ?


Did Putin really catch this pike or is he trying to appear as a macho 'extreme Fisher'  ?
Did Putin really catch this pike or is he trying to appear as a macho ‘extreme Fisher’ ?

Judging by the comments on the Angling Trust Facebook page and elsewhere the recent Guardian article on rights and wrongs of ‘Extreme Fishing’ have triggered quite a debate. The trigger for the article by the papers Environment correspondent Patrick Barkham was the publication by the Kremlin of yet another macho looking picture of Russia’s president Putin, this time with him holding a rather dead looking 46lb pike. You can read the full piece here..


Quite apart from the fact that nobody seemed to believe that Putin had actually caught the creature and that he clearly hasn’t got a clue on how to hold a fish, the story asked if the increasingly popularity of programmes featuring angling adventurers travelling to far flung locations to catch over-sized fish was actually damaging the image of angling in the eyes of the non-fishing public. There seemed to be a marked divergence of views over the worth or otherwise of the offerings from Jeremy Wade and Robson Green. Apart from, that is, John Bailey who branded them both as  ‘a bit bollocks’ !

Chris Yates felt that the way people travel the world targeting huge fish “misses the point entirely”. Chris, one of the stars of A Passion for Angling, which celebrates its 20th anniversary next month and took four years to make, and is still considered the best-ever television programme about fishing, thinks part of the problem with extreme fishing shows is the nature of modern television.

He said:

“They are tearing apart whatever the beauty of the subject is and showing one populist image. No one in their right mind would make a TV film about fishing. I was insane to agree to do it. Fishing doesn’t translate into TV, unless you can somehow convey the sense of tranquility and mystery, as  Hugh Miles managed to do. There’s this mystery about why you are doing it and there’s this unknown world happening below the surface of the water, and your line is connecting you to it.”

And here’s what our boss at AT, Mark Lloyd had to say:

“These programmes can have an important role inspiring people to go fishing and they are filmed to attract young people and are also apparently very popular with women, who have traditionally fished less than men. It’s great that fishing, one of the nation’s favourite pastimes, is getting some airtime on mainstream television.  However, they do not reflect the vast majority of fishing that goes on in this country.  Most people go fishing to relax, often fishing with good friends for the sheer joy of a shared experience in beautiful places.  In the past, Robson Green has used techniques, such as shooting fish with a bow and arrows, that are abhorrent to most anglers, for whom the welfare of the fish is paramount.  Most fish in this country are returned carefully to the water unharmed so that they can go on to spawn and maintain a healthy population.  Perhaps it’s time for a less extreme, but more realistic, portrayal of our wonderful pursuit, which is all too often ignored by broadcasters and the media.”

Not everyone was critical though, here’s what one reader thought:

“These shows that have come out in the last few years have not only let most people fulfil their dreams by vicariously living through the hosts, but they have also given the general public an idea about what goes on under the water. Shows like River Monsters are not just about getting the big fish, it also spreads the message about loss of habitat and overfishing that plagues today’s remaining river monsters. I was inspired to take up angling myself and have traveled to remote places in South America and seen for myself if these creatures really do exist….they do. It’s also made me more aware of the problems that our freshwater fish face in our overcrowded world.”

Tuna fishing in Oz can be extreme but this cracking Longtail went safely back to fight another day
Tuna fishing in Oz can be extreme but this cracking Longtail went safely back to fight another day
Extreme fish handling by Robson Green - I guess we should be grateful he didn't shoot it with a bow and arrow !
Extreme fish handling by Robson Green – I guess we should be grateful he didn’t shoot it with a bow and arrow !

For myself, well I’ve done my share of ‘extreme fishing’ in recent years so I’m reluctant to criticise others. What I can say however, is that my marlin, mahseer, sailfish, kingfish and giant trevally all went safely back to fight another day. The memories of those monsters will last me for the rest of my life and in the time left to me I plan to catch a few more whilst I’ve still got the strength to land them on sensible tackle.

So what do you think – how ‘extreme’ can fishing get ?

3 thoughts on “Extreme Fishing – is it a good look ?

  1. martin – first many thanks for all the excellent work you have done for many years.
    personally, I feel that most of the angling programs seen on TV from ‘exotic locations’ and for extreme fish has very little to do with the sort of fishing that most of us in the UK do. I find most of these programs to be of little interest. Chris yates and Bob in Passion for Angling caught the mood and that is unlikely to be surpassed – the more recent “catching The Impossible” fell someway short – Martin Bowler is without doubt an extremely proficient angler – that does not make him a great communicator such as John WIlson and the attempts at banter between Martin and Bernard Cribbens was, in my view, an embarrassment . And don’t get me started on John Bailey and his seemingly endless promotion of his guiding service and Hardy rods. All excellent I am sure but I find it all a bit repetitive -am I alone in thinking that the “footsteps of Crabtree” TV programs was rather poor and, for me, lacked interest… I would much rather have watched yet another repeat of an early John Wilson or Passion for Angling… or even have just gone fishing…

    The Angling press has fallen into a succession of how to articles aimed at catching obscenely large and unnatural carp / barbel etc or about catching a hundred pounds of fish from some overstocked carp puddle on some unnatural bait…. Again, no balance in what they present…. and increasingly more boring content. We all depend on tackle suppliers at local tackle shops but the internet is increasingly the source of equipment for many – has there been any considered article on the effects of this trend? It is, I believe, a greater threat to the future of fishing than a few otters or cormorants….

    I think Angling in general needs to decide what its issues are and then quietly to pursue those objectives in a coherent strategy. Shoot all cormorants etc is only going to further alienate the RSPB and other vested interest groups. We need to adopt a more considered approach based around a holistic treatment of the environment – yes reintroduce otters but lets also reintroduce controls on numbers – all creatures have to have a top predator preying on them – that’s us for otters (and no, no idea what our top predator is which is perhaps why human population is growing out of all control…. I think we can look to the shooting world for a more constructive approach in alliance with other interest groups such as the RSPB et al. We will catch more flys with honey than with vinegar!
    I am wary generally of the urge to reintroduce animals to the wild – wild pigs / boar must be a concern to many – reintroduction of wolves could be next I believe – Bears next? No, the answer must be to establish and maintain a balance – the success of the Alligator re-establishment program in the USA where now a considerable hunting business is supported. Balance in the environment must be our watchword – most people do not consider fish as they don’t really see them – something to better promote the underwater ecology and its relationship to land animals ought to be our ambition perhaps? Guardians of the water ecology perhaps? Fighting for fishing – the name perhaps conveys the wrong message to other non-angling groups…..

    So many people with doubtless good intent (though I suspect the commercial ambitions of some) – but uncoordinated and so often vitriolic in content. let’s hope the otters eat crayfish!!

    John Cooper

  2. bit of a rant I guess – and I didn’t answer the exam question… Do I object to extreme fishing shows – no, as long as the fish caught are either treated with care or humanely dispatched – I believe Jeremy Wade, John Wilson et al represent the highest standards here; Robson Green would seem to occupy the other end of the spectrum – but I didn’t watch many of his programs as I thought they were generally far more obsessed with the presenter than with the fishing or the environment / context in which it took place.
    John Cooper

  3. The nonstop fishing and storytelling can be exhausting even from the comfort of an angler heating
    and air armchair, and some cranefly larva have all been showing up on the Mirage Pro Anglers.
    The expense associated too is mediocre; regarding boats and
    some like to fish or which rods to take out on any given day.

    More than 300 years ago, so the rod remained rigged.

    If you fish with live anngler heating and air bait such as worms or minnows.
    I managed a few little scorpion fish too.

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