There are many legendary stories about angling –many about the one that got away. But one of the biggest legends surrounds a small boy and his doting father, a long-ago time of ravishing rivers, sublime swims, dry flies that always landed like thistledown – and fish that rarely, if ever, got away.
That legend is the tale of Mr Crabtree and his son Peter, who stepped out of the pages of the Daily Mirror over 50 years ago and strode into immortality in the book Mr Crabtree Goes Fishing. Written and illustrated by Bernard Venables, one of the greatest anglers and authors, Mr Crabtree Goes Fishing sold more than two million copies, taught a generation how to fish, and still brings a lump to the throat of anglers today.
Now the legend has new life. A group of fishing friends, Crabtree-fanatics all, has produced a homage to the great man. A new book, Fishing In the Footsteps Of Mr Crabtree, has just been published which, together with a beautifully filmed series of six television programmes, brings the Crabtree values of skilful fishing, respect for the quarry and deep love of the natural world to a new generation of ‘Peters’ – and, recognising changing times – to ‘Petronellas’ as well.
Written by lifelong angler, guide, author and TV presenter John Bailey, and ravishingly illustrated by fishing artist Robert Olsen, Fishing In The Footsteps Of Mr Crabtree marries the modern world’s new angling methods and materials while keeping a respectful foot in the past – as it says, ‘combining a shared sense of reverence and respect with a desire to convey the basics of our wonderful sport to a new generation, always with a doff of our proverbial cap to the great man himself.’
And it is not just values that are shared. The team behind the book have vowed to share any profits with Eileen Venables, Bernard’s widow – it is an open secret that Bernard, as a jobbing journalist on the Daily Mirror, saw scant reward for his original masterpiece.
With a moving forward by Bernard’s daughter, Hannah, and contributions by angling royalty such as Chris Yates and Hugh Miles, the new book (and television series) follows the mentoring method of Mr Crabtree as John Bailey – minus only Mr Crabtree’s pipe – patiently introduces a new young ‘Peter’ to a magical watery world and the skills needed to succeed.
From roach to tench, golden rudd to mighty barbel, old skills (centre pins, watercraft) are married to new materials (carbon fibre rather than split cane) and the new values of catch and release – no pike or salmon are gaffed in this new world.
It is a journey of discovery between father and child that will resonate with every angler. As John Bailey says: “Fishing in the Footsteps of Mr Crabtree is about getting children doing things, real things. It’s about returning the relationships between adults and children to a more productive time. “
These are the messages that resonate through every square inch of the book Fishing in the Footsteps of Mr. Crabtree written by John Bailey, with comic strips and illustrations by Rob Olsen, both the normal and limited edition copies of the book have been exceptionally well received, testament to the care and attention lavished on every detail.
The same is true of the TV series premiering on Quest on January 24th at 9pm. John Bailey presents ‘Mr. Crabtree Goes Fishing’, a show packed full of positive messages about getting kids involved in the sport, in getting outdoors, the importance of role models and mentors, of teaching and respect of the environment. But above all it is a great series of fishing journeys in beautiful countryside catching fish and having fun. Angling has so much to offer at so many different levels and Mr. Crabtree is the essence of fishing and what it should be all about.
The Crabtree ethos reaches far beyond fishing, because at its heart it’s about the most essential of human traits. Through the teachings of Mr. Crabtree it’s possible to convey respect, discipline, tenacity, enthusiasm, confidence and more. The show highlights the importance of role models, mentoring and guidance in forming young minds, and does it in a way that empowers and involves children, letting them make their own mistakes in scenarios designed to boost confidence.
Viewers will see John fishing with a different ‘Peter’ in each episode, normal children selected for their love of angling. Executive Producer Lester Holcombe says: “Our screens are full of reality TV programmes these days, shows that insult the British public and expect them to believe that the scenarios presented are unscripted and real when in fact they are anything but.
“Mr. Crabtree Goes Fishing is genuinely unscripted; what viewers see is completely authentic. The series is filled with joyous moments that couldn’t possibly have been contrived and is all the better for it.