Pecky's Progress | Darrell Peck
It's that time again. Another 2,000 words are required and I've not really been fishing. My honeymoon took over most of the last month, and rather than actually fishing I’ve been stomping around Universal Studios, just dreaming of big carp. Autumn is my time to knuckle down, and I'm certainly looking forward to the coming weeks. As always, I am reaching for the stars and trying to bite off more than I can actually chew, but this time I’ve decided to hold off on talking about it for now. Rest assured though, I'll be revealing what I’ve been up to next time around. For now, I’ve asked Mr Broad for a subject, and he suggested that some of you might be interested to read a little about the Monster Carp Project.
For as long as I have been involved with Korda, they have been the most active tackle company in bringing carp fishing to the masses. The previous Thinking Tackle show has aired on Sky Sports for nearly 10 years and had/has a huge following, so to many it was quite a surprise when they heard it was finishing. As is the way with Danny Fairbrass and Ali Hamidi, they longed to bring carp fishing to more anglers, which ultimately meant Freeview channels. As a kid, I can vividly remember A Passion For Angling, as well as Go Fishing with John Wilson, and at times I thought it was a shame that the youngsters of today were missing out on this type of thing. The thing is, times have changed, and these shows didn't survive because nowadays the shows have to be good viewing for the whole family (not because they weren't good enough), which is where Monster Carp aims to be.
For someone like me, whose profile is his trade, there is no better work then representing the companies you are associated with on television. Initially, it was very difficult to be comfortable in front of the camera because it's not something that comes naturally to me; I am an angler first, before being a presenter. There were no lessons, no practice sessions, it's always just been point and shoot. Obviously, I look back on some of my early appearances and compare myself to seasoned pros like Dan and Ali, and I cringe at how nervous I look. With the passage of time it becomes a fair bit easier, and I no longer look like a rabbit caught in the headlights.
In a way, the Thinking Tackle and Masterclass shoots are formats which I was repeating and becoming accustomed to, but Monster Carp was set to be a whole new thing. The aim of the show was to be along the lines of Top Gear – three guys travelling the world having fun while chasing their passion, and showing angling in a positive light. Obviously, anything new takes time to adjust, and to be honest, no matter how many times someone explains something to me, I have to see it for myself to truly know what they mean, so this was always going to be tough for me.
It started when Dan scheduled in a trip to an Austrian mountain lake that was certainly picturesque. He said we needed to scope it out due to the huge financial investment of sending a film crew of the size needed for mainstream television, because if we blanked, the financial fallout could be catastrophic. To be honest, he need not have worried. The lake we fished was easy enough, but with that sort of money on the line, I couldn't blame him for being nervous. We dropped in a couple of likely-looking swims either side of a huge set of pads, with carp on the scene. As soon as it got dark, the buzzers went into meltdown, the carp descended on our baits with merry abandon, and within a couple of hours Danny had landed the biggest fish in the lake. As mad as it sounds, this was a television nightmare. We'd gone to have a recce, not blow it out of the water. It was literally crazy fishing – 35° day and night and they were mopping up our Banoffee shelf lifes like fat kids on cake. Sleep deprivation and heat exhaustion were rife in camp, but I think the session certainly put Dan’s mind at rest. I couldn't tell you how many we caught but it was loads, and the biggest fish I had was 39lb.
When we returned with the big crew, and the main man behind the concept, Mr Hamidi, things seemed to get pretty serious very quickly. As I mentioned, the format was totally different to what I was used to. We normally go fishing and film lots of short technical clips which are spliced together. This, however, was off-the-scale labour intensive. We literally had the cameras rolling 24/7 and fished very little. Everything we did had to be captured and recaptured – driving, eating, talking, laughing, you name it. It sounds like nothing, but to give you an example, I was being filmed driving for a recce to the hydro dam we fished, which meant driving along the same section of a route half a dozen times, being filmed from all the various angles. It makes everything look good with the finished product, but it takes a bloody age.
Ali had the vision in his mind of how the show needed to be to meet the criteria, and Danny and I were more along the lines of wondering when we actually got to fish for monster carp! After the initial stresses of travelling and filming, we finally got down to some fishing, and as you might expect, with Danny and I having prior knowledge of the lake, we scooped the best pegs and opened a can of whoop-ass on the unfortunate Mr Hamidi.
Dan prides himself on being a rig technician, and is always playing about, searching for new edges and increased efficiency of his rig mechanics. The problem with tinkering though, is that sometimes things can go wrong, and on camera this certainly isn't Dan’s idea of fun. I can't remember exactly how many, but Dan lost a few big fish. They might not have been carp because the lake was said to hold some weird big sword-nosed catfish-type creatures! I couldn't tell you what they were, but whatever Dan was hooking, they were big, and despite this being not ideal for him, according to the camera crew it was great television. With Dan having already caught the biggest fish in the lake, and having heard rumours that the fish could very possibly make another appearance, I fished very hard in the swim from which he had caught it. I was literally bashing it within an inch of its life through the hours of darkness, so much so that after a couple of days I took pity on Jack the cameraman, and hooked them up in the butt rings come 4.00 a.m. I could see how drained we all were with so little sleep, the searing heat, and mild dehydration.
Ali's head was never fully in the lake that we fished in Austria. From the start he was pushing for us to head to the hydro dam, which had mythical uncaught monsters. Having not done much river fishing, I was certainly a little uneasy about moving, leaving behind almost certain action, but that's exactly why Ali wanted to go. He knew that the uncertainty would make for good TV, and keep the not-so-hardened anglers among us entertained. Again, Danny and I took what looked like the better swim, and doubled up in a big open section with vast weedbeds. We prepped this particular area before heading to the lake, just in case, and it certainly looked like it could hold carp. From the get-go we were again catching steadily, and the smaller stock fish were the mainstay, but with the chance of rumoured 50-60lb originals, we thought something special might turn up. Again, not great for Dan, but good for the TV. The biggest carp he caught from the river escaped from the retention sling. He'd not zipped it up properly because we planned to take the pictures almost immediately, and as the drone circled overhead, it was seen leaping free.
The next shoot I was involved in was the Japan episode, and it was certainly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I nearly missed. If you read my diary regularly, you'll remember that my passport was destroyed in a van fire at the end of my marathon Orient session. Luckily, its replacement arrived just in the nick of time and I was able to make the shoot. Again, the filming could be described as intense, but having already been to Austria, I was a little more prepared this time around. We prebaited a swim on a stretch of river which flowed through the city, with high-rise buildings as far as the eye could see. Urban Banx has got nothing on this! The next day, we arrived armed with one rod each, flicked them out into very shallow water, and waited for the tide to come in. Sure enough, the action came with the increase in depth, and we all managed a couple of small commons apiece.
From there we travelled to the legendary Lake Kawaguchi, which sits at the bottom of Mount Fuji. What a backdrop! Initially, Ali and I fished a very nice swim where the locals told us they have had great results. We picked our spots, spodded it to death, and waited for them to start climbing up the rods. Well that's not what happened. The Dove From Above was to our left, saw a fish further to his left, reacted to it, and started having them. Ali and I assumed we were off the pack, and moved further left of Tom. What happened next will make you laugh. There we were, film crew and all, apparently top anglers. The locals seemed to think we hadn't fished the swim correctly, jumped in behind us, and were catching before we'd even cast out in the new swim! Local knowledge – priceless.
Luckily, as soon as we put the gear down in our new swim, a fish launched itself out at 80 yards, which eased the minor embarrassment we'd just been served. Ali flipped me for the right side, which was where it had shown, and I won the toss! From there it was game on. Single white Banoffee Wafters were dispatched to the zone, and a few 20mm freebies from the Eazi-Stik had the buzzers blasting off in no time. Again, no monsters were caught, but by the end I sensed we'd created something really cool. It was fun, and entertaining TV for the whole family. The highlight for me was certainly evading the locust eating challenge whilst blindfolded, when out of nowhere my buzzer absolutely tore off at exactly the right moment to save me.
Unfortunately, I think they will be my only appearances on Monster Carp, as I haven't been asked back for season two. Ali told me that ITV wanted the same three guys each week, and I hadn't made the cut. As much as I am disappointed not to be involved any more, I’ve nothing but good things to say about the soon-to-be-aired season two. What I do know is that the lads really have caught some monsters this time around, and I look forward to seeing this series whilst not cringing at how uncomfortable I am in front of camera!