Ever wondered what you don’t see in the final edit of Alan Blair’s Urban Banx and Euro Banx adventures? Cameraman Oli shares some stories from the duo’s epic travels...
Missing in action
When one of the GoPro cameras disappeared in Rome during EB3, I was really worried we had lost some vital footage. There are always technical issues and casualties with electronic equipment when you are operating outdoors in moisture and extreme heat, but actually losing a camera was a new one. Sadly, the camera and card never turned up, and it’s still a mystery where they went. Fortunately, although some footage of the day’s events was lost, it wasn’t the end of the world in terms of telling the story.
Of course, there are always human failures. My curse is forgetting to turn on the microphone, like when Alan caught his big mirror from the park lake in Lyon. It was a hectic situation, and manning two video cameras, taking stills, being ghillie and trying to keep an eye on expensive equipment in a crowd with a fish on the bank proved too much – that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it! Luckily for me, it was brilliantly edited by Carl to cover my failure and ultimately it didn’t matter, but as you’d expect, I was kicking myself when I watched the footage back and none of the dialogue was usable.
Bridges are always good spots to fish under, offering shelter and often deeper water, but the downside is the riverbed beneath every bridge is usually strewn with dumped obstacles and snags, from traffic cones to fridges. What we weren’t expecting when filming Urban Banx 3 on a small Essex river was to uncover a shotgun as the tide dropped. Covered in mud and rust, it had obviously been there for some time, probably thrown off the bridge at high tide when it would have gone splash. You have to wonder what its story was – someone definitely didn’t want it found.
Swim for victory
What we didn’t show on UB7 were the lengths Alan went to in successfully landing his Bristol docks carp in the brace he shared with Jordan Dicks. In the middle of the night he stripped off and swam out with the rod and net after the fish kited round a large floating platform, around which a number of boats were moored. Having climbed on to the back of one of the houseboats, he managed to free his line from the maze of rudders and rigging and slip the net under a mid-twenty common. That fish would surely have been lost had he not been prepared to go to those extreme lengths. However, we also have to be responsible in what we show and that would have had to have a serious “Do not try this yourself!” warning.
It doesn’t always work out, however, as you saw in UB9 when it was Carl’s turn to show the public his pants and swim out to free a fish. Sadly, it was already gone by the time he got out to the snag.
Just occasionally you bump into someone who really takes exception to you fishing. These have in the past tended to be ladies of a certain age with one thing in common: they love birds more than life itself. In Bristol Alan had a heated discussion with one such lady, but even when you speak the same language, it often seems that communication is difficult with these passionate ‘Swanistas’. During the filming of EB2 in the centre of Prague, though, we were accosted by the Czech version. She was very irate about us fishing there and kept shouting unintelligibly while attempting to photograph our faces and phoning the police. That was our cue to leave post-haste, but having already caught two and filmed what we were after, we weren’t too inconvenienced.
Finding your way across Europe is so much easier than the days before satellite navigation, but it isn’t always plain sailing. Remember that satnavs need regular updating to keep up with new roads, and of course, it’s always better to check they actually cover the country you are travelling in. That nearly caught us out as we set off from Austria to Prague during Euro Banx 2, at which point we discovered Alan’s old TomTom didn’t actually recognise the country. Luckily I had one which did have full European mapping – problem averted.
To buy a paper map and do it the old-fashioned way not only would have been a lot more stressful, but also would have meant no sleep for the navigator and, with the schedules we keep, sleeping on route is a really important part of being able to keep going.
Not updating the satnav did catch us out this year on our way to Bologna when we got stuck on a brand new road that didn’t exist according to the little black box. It cost us well over an hour and meant we arrived at the lake on dark and had to fish blind. If you’re planning an adventure, make sure you regularly update your maps!
On public venues where signage is less widespread, it’s not always easy to know where you can actually fish. We try to stay within the rules, but it’s inevitable that sometimes we fall foul, as Alan did at the park lake at Bristol and at the marina on the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal.
If there is no signage that says no fishing and you have made a reasonable attempt to find it, then we would suggest it’s fair game to wet a line. Whenever it has transpired that fishing is not actually permitted, the worst that’s happened to us is being asked to move on, something we do politely and quickly.
Alan is famous for showing that a Sawn-Off and a Bread Bomb will do the job most of the time, but you need to research the places you are heading to so you are tackled up accordingly if it’s more complicated than chucking bread at them! There is nothing worse than turning up somewhere thousands of miles from home only to find you haven’t got what you need. It might be not having strong enough terminal tackle, not having a boat, or as you saw in Euro Banx 1, not having big enough leads to hold bottom in the fast flow of a river – schoolboy error!
On our most recent EB3 trip across the Continent, the van was filled to the brim with bait, leads of all sizes, inflatable boats, batteries, outboards, Scopes of all test curves, barbel rods, stalking rods, heavy-duty carp rods, catfish kit, lure and fly gear, a case of clothes and footwear each, shelters, an arsenal of bankstick and pod options, and even a fishing scooter.
Trouble after midnight
Mostly, European travel is much more civilised and less stressful than driving in the UK, but on the way back from Lake Bled, we had a gun pointed at us by a Slovenian border guard, which was a bit alarming.
In Austria and Slovenia you are required to purchase a Vignette, which is a ticket to use the motorway system. It’s cheap enough, just a few euros, and we purchased one for each country on our way to Austria. What we didn’t take into account was we would be slightly longer than a week, and when we were pulled over for a routine check at the Slovenian border, neither of us could understand why the surly gun-waving guard insisted it was not valid. Our lack of language skills meant we were confused for quite some time, but eventually we twigged that it was just gone midnight and our Vignette had expired a few minutes earlier. After well over an hour of police scrutiny of every driving document, we were eventually allowed to cross the border, but not without paying a 300 euro fine for our out-of-date Vignette – ouch!
For the most part the urban environments we fish and film in are perfectly safe. However, as dusk fell over the Tiber near the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, it became obvious it wasn’t the sort of place we would be comfortable spending the night.
It was clear from the amount of human crap present there were a lot of people living under the bridge and in the bamboo thickets that lined the River, and as darkness fell, they returned in their hordes from their day grafting across the city. With thousands of pounds worth of expensive camera equipment and fishing tackle, we decided not to chance actually sleeping there and found somewhere a little quieter. It was a shame, as despite being snaggy, there were clearly lots of carp to be caught at that spot. As we packed away they tempted us to stay by leaping like salmon, but getting all our kit nicked wasn’t in the plan for EB3!