This week Angling Times reveals details of the 2010 Angling Awards. But what about the stories that escaped under the radar? Here are my alternative choices
The most obvious story of the year
Winner: The demise of the Willis Worms £50k match.
Despite assurances that a ‘secret millionaire’ was backing the scheme, the match disappeared amid a puff of smoke when anglers refused to stump up the £50 entry fee. Nothing - not even a Bond movie on Christmas Day - was more predictable.
The Gerald Ratner Award for the biggest marketing gaffe
Winner: THE Angling Trust.
When you’re short on ideas and members, and the country is in the depths of the worst recession for 50 years, it’s fair to say the best way to encourage more people to join your organisation isn’t by raising the fees by 25 per cent.
Yet that’s exactly what the Angling Trust did this year. Brilliant, eh?
Look-a-like of the year
When I made mention that Zyg Gregorek, owner of Anglers Paradise, looked like X-Factor’s Wagner, I didn’t anticipate how many people would agree. But agree they did. So much so I’ve heard Zyg plans to get up at his famous New Year Party and impersonate the Brazilian former lion-tamer with a Beatles melody.
The irony is, he’ll probably do a better job.
Storm in a tea cup
I always suspected bird-watchers were a strange bunch, but little did I know how vindictive they could be too. After writing about the bizarre mentality of individuals who traipse across the country to sit in a damp hide hoping to catch a fleeting glimpse of a ferruginous duck or paddyfield warbler, I became Public Enemy No 1 in the world of twitching. Forums called for my head on a plate, while letter writers wanted me publically flogged ¬ while dressed as a lesser spotted warbler. Okay, I made that last bit up, but you get the idea.
Daftest quotes of 2010
Winner: Carp anglers.
This award goes to any of the carpers who mourned the death of Heather or Two Tone in a manner more in keeping with a human-being than a carp. Fellas, how can I put this - THEY WERE JUST FISH! To describe their demise as tragic/painful/crushing/life-ending, while having spent months and years trying to stick a hook in them, is a cast-iron exercise in hypocrisy.
Ridiculous research of the year
Winner: RSPB claims cormorants don’t harm fish stocks.
The RSPB is a massive body that has millions of members, millions of pounds and a whole lot of influence. In many ways, it’s everything the Angling Trust should be and isn’t.
But that doesn’t stop it spouting tripe from time to time - and this was a prime example. Sadly, it was also further evidence of how organisations like the RSPB can con the public with spurious ‘research’ more entrenched in fiction than fact.
Most under-rated fish
Joint winners: Stephen Pounder’s ferox trout and Stewart Allum’s salmon.
I have picked joint winners for this one. Pounder’s 26lb 8oz ferox trout from Loch Awe was a shining light in a sea of specimen-fishing predictability, while Allum’s fly-caught 30lb-plus salmon from the Hampshire Avon was, as Matt Hayes said at the time, one of the achievements of the decade.
Most over-rated fish
Winner: Anything caught from Rainbow Lake in France.
Granted, the fish in this expensive-to-visit French lake are big, but the methods required to catch them are so far removed from normal angling they are meaningless to all but the handful who fish it.
Winner: Barry Austin
This one was easy. The image of Barry Austin, the 55-stone giant who eats enough food in one day to feed a small African country for a year, still makes me laugh. But not as much as Barry’s claim that he’d taken up fishing ‘to get more exercise.’ And he wasn’t even being ironic.
The Walter Mitty Award for the story containing the least amount of truth
Winner: Burbot spotted!
Some stories you can take with a pinch of salt. Others, however, have more than a faint whiff of bullsh*t about them - and these three reeked.
First was the ‘piranha’ in Radnor Park ¬ a ‘man-eater’ that turned into a fruit-eating pacu.
Then there was the ‘sighting’ of a panther on a lake in Kent - again, evidence was as scarce as the hair on Bob Nudd’s head.
But the winner has to be the ‘burbot’ spotted in Cumbria’s River Eden.
Despite this fish having been extinct in the UK for decades, and despite scientists ruling out its return, one angler presented what he believed was indisputable proof of a burbot’s existence. Sadly, the photo he took was of a twig.
Most dedicated angler
Winner: Mr Finnemore.
Owen Finnemore, the Oxford angler who travelled by bike, train, then bike again, to this year’s Pike Champs in Cambs, wins by a mile. Quite why anyone would want to matchfish for pike is beyond me, but having made that decision, to then choose a bike as a vehicle to get there defies all logic.
But this story has another, even more bizarre, twist. Despite all that effort, Owen dispensed with proven methods like deadbaiting to flyfish instead. He ended up with a solitary 1lb jack. Anglers mad? Clearly.
Winner: Bob Nudd DVD sends patients to sleep.
In May a doctor in Glasgow launched a scheme allowing patients to watch a film of their choice during surgery. By keeping them distracted and not having a general anaesthetic - they apparently enjoyed a speedier recovery.
The No 1 choice among men? Bob Nudd’s Guide to Pole Fishing.
It wasn’t just a funny story, it was also reassuring to know that I’m not the only one who suffers from instant narcolepsy the moment I’m exposed to a technical angling video.