What an incredible three days at the CLA Game Fair up at Blenheim Palace - the sheer numbers of people wandering around was staggering, indeed I heard rumours of close to 100,000 on Saturday. To see this number of people at a countryside show really does make you feel good about the future, for however hard our successive governments try to stamp all over the rural way of life, it is still very much alive, and kicking very hard indeed.
Nick Hart and I had a blast doing our demonstrations each day, even when the sound went down on the first one and we had no choice but to shout ourselves hoarse just to be heard by the grandstand !! The response from people was fantastic, and my thanks of course to the hundreds of audience members who sat through the half hour demos, and a special thanks to our volunteers who came up and worked with us.
I spent most of my time in and around the Fisherman's Village, and it was great to meet so many different people who kindly came up to me and said they enjoyed the TV programmes of mine - firstly it staggers me that people are still prepared to sit through them (my thanks), and secondly, the fact that half hour shows of me wittering on in a high state of excitement does not drive people completely demented has to be some kind of bonus.
What really made my three days was the number of kids and female viewers who came up to me - anybody who knows me knows how embarrassed I get at being "recognised" by the people who watch the shows, but on the other hand I am so honoured that people enjoy what we do. The fact that so many female anglers and kids told me they loved the programmes left me brimming with pride that our little shows can give off such a good vibe to such different audiences.
I did get a chance to see some other parts of the Game Fair, and as always is was utter class - so many things to see and buy, and such a good feeling about the whole show. Great weather (seriously cooking on Saturday), loads to do, but not enough time. I am already looking forward to next year.
For people like me who work in the sport fishing industry, the Game Fair is also a good chance to see lots of different people and talk shop. A lot of fun is had when the crowds clear out in the early evening and the people working there can wind down a bit. There were some sore heads on the Saturday and Sunday mornings................
The Bass Lures guys were doing a roaring trade with their demonstration tank and their Slug-Go and Lucky Craft lures - well done for coming along to what too many people wrongly perceive as a being game fishing only thing. We all went out for supper on Saturday night (thanks guys, I owe you), and they were in a slight state of shock at how well it had all been going. I am so glad a company like this had the guts to come along and prove that something really different could work so well at the Game Fair. I was unsure how they would do, but their success at the show has made me sit up and take even more notice of this explosion in bass fishing interest currently going on.
You would not believe the number of people who wanted to talk about bass fishing, from the sea, fly and coarse fishing worlds, in equal numbers it seemed - there is an increasingly loud revolution going on, and the companies at the forefront of modern bass fishing in the UK really deserve a great degree of respect. I did a forum on Saturday morning with John Bailey and John Wilson, on the subject of UK saltwater fly fishing, and of course the main topic was the bass - where, how, why etc., and we had a packed audience. It seems that everybody wants to be a part of it.
My friends at Aardvark McLeod and The Latin American Fishing Company had stands next to each other, and they were all saying how well it was going, with fantastic interest from all kinds of punters in fishing around the world. Selling this kind of overseas fishing takes great dedication and passion, all done with a great degree of approachability, and these two companies have exactly what it takes. If you want access to the best fishing this world has to offer, come and talk to these two companies - I work with people I like and trust, and who offer the kind of attitude I go about my work with.
The Hardy Greys stand was smothered with interested punters seemingly every minute of every day, and the retailer stands were reporting a roaring trade going on. So where was the credit crunch this weekend ? We had a fantastic barbecue at the Hardy stand on the Friday night (huge thanks and credit to Steve and Lucy, you both deserve medals !!), and the guys were all buzzing at the amount of interest in their huge range of fishing gear.
Anyway, I got back home to Plymouth yesterday, and now it is eyes down in my office to get a load of photos processed and fishing features done for various magazines. I am really pleased to be here for a while now and spend some time with my family - I might even sneak out for some plugging later this week as well !!
A couple of friends, Rob Yorke and Mark Bryce, have been nailing some good rays recently off the shore, including blondes to over 16lbs, small eyeds to nearly 12lbs, and some spotteds to over 6lbs - nice fishing guys, but then they seriously know their stuff. Great to hear that the fishing is switching on so well around here.