Four Seasons on the Avon

Reviewed by John on 29/01/2009

'It may only take a single glance for even the most casual observer to become captivated by the swirling beauty of the Hampshire Avon. And certainly over the ages, many people, not least the anglers and natural historians, have admitted that it was love at first sight.' - taken from the cover of the film.

This Christmas gone, I was very pleased to find this film under the tree. It wasn't a total surprise I'll admit. I had sort of already mentioned it as a present idea, but still it's nice to see it was noted. After years of seeming drought, we anglers seem to have been blessed with a flurry of well made films of late. Within the last 12 months, there's been the 'Lost World of Mr Hardy', the first parts of Hugh Mile's 'Catching the Impossbile' and now this film, 'Four Seasons on the Avon'.

'Four Seasons on the Avon' is a new film from well known centrepin maker Paul Witcher. A lovingly made portrait of his favourite river, The Hampshire Avon through all seasons. Ever since Bernard Venables immortalised the river in Mr Crabtree, generations of anglers from near and far, have held it dear. Paul Witcher's beautiful new film shows just why, for many, the Hampshire Avon is a coarse fishing mecca. This is not the first well made film about the Avon of course, there has already been Hugh Mile's superb film 'Tom's River', but this film again does a splendid job of capturing it's the beauty and charm.

Set against a stirring, and very fitting, Elgar soundtrack, the film starts with a brief bio of the river from it's source, which includes the Kennet & Avon canal, right down to sea at Christchurch. The film then moves on to cover current day, salmon fishing on the Avon, comparing today's difficult times with yesteryear. We are told that salmon running the river have sadly been in decline since the 1980's, yet it was encouraging to see the film not get stuck down dwelling on the negatives in this respect. The film showing that salmon still run the Avon, and they can still offer the angler sport.

From the salmon, the film moves onto the upper reaches of the river, giving the trout his due. Duffer's fortnight is shown in all its' glory, the hazy air awash with mayflies. Watching this over the cold Christmas break, it sure was great  to see images of those lovely early summer evenings by a river. Likewise there's plenty of atmospheric, moody dawn and dusk shots through out the film.

In a twist that will delight the all rounder, but perhaps not the total purist, the film jumps from tiny dries and floatant to screaming Optonics and purring baitrunners, as river keeper John Slader is shown fishing for some splendid Avon river carp. After all, the film is also about showing how diverse the Avon is as a fishery, and what superb specimens it contains. It's nice to see that all of the fish shown are in superb condition and a credit to the river.

Of course for a film on the Hampshire Avon, you'd expect it's most famous residents to make an appearance and come autumn they do, those Avon barbel. Here another Avon stalwart, local artist, John Searle is shown putting what looks like an early James Avocet to good use in a classic Avon barbel swim, all streaming weed and gravel runs. I won't give any more detail as I wouldn't want to spoil it by giving too much away, just get a copy and see for yourself.

As the temperature drops and winter sets in, we see Peter Baker catching chub and dace from what looks like the Longford Estate ( it looks like they are fishing below the same bridge that Tom Williamson hauls up that salmon from under in 'Tom's River'. Don't quote me on that though, maybe someone else knows for sure?). Perhaps an Avon film wouldn't be complete without a big roach, and happily there is one, a fish of a lifetime in fact. It's worth saying that, whilst there's plenty of specimen fish on show, it's pleasing to see they are always part of the story,  never as over indulgent trophy shots or fish p0rn.

My copy got it's first play on Christmas day, and my keen bird watching in-laws also enjoyed the film. It's not difficult to see why. There is plenty of footage of the river's bird and wild life, of a quality that wouldn't be out of place on a big budget Attenborough series. So besides the fish and expected aquatic wildlife, there's also woodpeckers, owls and so on. Just like a 'Passion for Angling' did back in the nineties, this film casts angling in the light it deserves, the light that is so often missing in today's angling media...Robson Green anyone?

There is none of the modern, explorative underwater footage seen in recent angling films, such as the 'Barbel Days and Ways..', Korda's carp series or 'Catching the Impossible', here but the film is certianly none the poorer for it. Sometimes it's nice to maintain a little mystery, the waters surface the dividing line between angler and quarry.

As you would expect for a film telling the story of the Avon, we get to see many of the famous stretches, from the upper chalkstream reaches, to Longford, Somerley and of course 'The Royalty'. This really is the story of the whole river, mostly from the anglers point of view but entwined with so much of the natural setting that it will appeal further.

Followers of Paul Witcher's reel making, and other centrepin lovers, will not be disappointed, there are centrepins at almost every turn. But this is no product placement film (Paul Witcher currently doesn't make reels anyway!), it's a beautiful and intimate angling tale. With a good mix of cane and carbon, this is a film for all styles of anglers. The only negative thing I could possible say about this film is that it's 60 minute length leaves you wanting more. It would be great to see the film get picked up via terrestrial TV as it really does deserve a wider audience.

Copies of the film are available from Paul Witcher Productions at the following url,

Verdict: A lovely film, well shot and finished to a high standard, highly recommended.


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