Close encounters of the angling kind

THERE can be few anglers who fish regularly at dusk or dawn or through the night and  can truthfully say they have never seen anything bafflingly strange in the way of heavenly objects.

However, to go so far as to say they have actually seen a UFO, or flying saucer in common parlance, is not  so likely – but raise the subject in the company of fishermen and you are bound to get some response.

I have a pal called Jim McNulty who fishes a lake not far from Monmouth who tells me – and I can only believe him, because I haven’t yet caught him out telling whoppers – that he saw not one but two vast triangular objects, plastered with coloured lights, flying swiftly but silently between him and the distant lights of the town not long ago – 2009 as a matter of fact.

Not only did the tale have a ring of truth about it, but Jim also fished out some cuttings from a local paper showing sketches of UFOs that had been seen that night by somebody in the town of Monmouth itself. They too looked like two huge lighted flying wedges. That was a bit creepy.

I’ve seen my share of lights in the sky which are fairly explicable: aircraft and meteors, mainly, but I was lucky one clear dawn to witness the break-up of an aging Russian satellite,  also reported in the press, that filled the sky with bright flares travelling from horizon to horizon in a matter of seconds. It was really spectacular, like being in an intergalactic war.

And like Jim I do have a UFO experience, though it’s from my childhood. But the memory is still quite clear.

Extra-Terrestrial Terror
Three of us, all aged around 10, had cycled from Little Stoke on the outskirts of Bristol to fish in Bitterwell Lake, Westerleigh – seven or eight miles I guess, heading first for Winterbourne  then out through a place called Hambrook. At the time the lake held some smashing crucians to 2lb or more, and also had the distinction of producing the then record eel of 8lb 8oz, which had fallen to a Captain Mitchell (nowadays it’s a pretty good carp water).

We’d had a reasonable day and after tying our rods back on our bike crossbars, we headed home – it has to be said somewhat later than the time we had given our respective parents for our return.

It was fairly dark by the time we cleared Winterbourne, and there was only one long hill up to Stoke Gifford to clear before a good downhill glide home. Bike gears then not being what they are today we had to dismount to push our chargers up the rise…and that was when we saw it.

At first I thought the light in the sky to our left was the moon – it was large enough after all – but when we stopped it was quite clear the object was moving steadily away from Bristol. And it was also clear it was not really shaped like the moon. It was a flat, illuminated disc – saucer-like in fact – and pretty bright. It could not have been more than a mile from us and was about two or three times the height of the surrounding trees. I fancied I heard a low hum, but the others I have spoken to say not – they thought it was silent. All agree with me however that it was more than a little scary, and like me they wonder what might have happened and what we might have seen and done had it been coming our way.

Fortunately it was not, and after a minute or so perhaps – almost as if it sensed the little trio of watchers – it gave a sudden burst of speed and rapidly diminished in size until it was out of sight. Three stunned little boys stood for some time before heading home, more or less in silence all the way.

We told our parents, naturally – I thought it was a good excuse for being later than we should have been. And our parents told the police, who rang the Air Ministry – after all we were on the doorstep of the Bristol Aircraft Company (today British Aerospace). The possibility of the light being Russian spies was raised, also secret aircraft being tested by the plane company. But no, said BAC, there were no aircraft up that night. There was no moon either. The best everyone could come up with was that it might have been a weather balloon catching the last rays of the sun – but I can honestly say it was like nothing I’s seen before. Or since, and I’ve seen some weather balloons at all heights and conditions.

Alfred’s Brief Encounter
These experiences however pale into insignificance beside those of one Alfred Burtoo, a fisherman whose ordeal is still retold from time to time when conversations turn to the extra-terrestrial.

Alfred, in his late seventies, was fishing in the Basingstoke Canal on Hungerford Common one night when he was disturbed by the arrival of two figures in green overalls, both around four feet tall, wearing helmets with smoked visors.  After pausing several seconds they beckoned him to follow them, which he did.

‘I was curious,’ Alfred explained. ‘They showed no sign of hostility and at 78, what had I to lose?’

He was led along to towpath to a large oval object, 40 to 50 feet wide – and upon ascending some steps found himself alone inside an octagonal room.

He waited for a little while and then a voice instructed him to stand under an amber light fixed to the cabin wall.

He was asked his age. Then, after a further pause, the voice bade him depart, stating: ‘You are too old and infirm (sic) for our purpose’.”

I’ve often wondered what I might do if I found myself in similar circumstances, and I marvel at Alfred’s cool. I wonder if he carried on fishing that night?


Journalist Ted Lamb trained with Angling Times (1960-69) and is author of The Penguin Book of Fishing and The Bait Book (David and Charles). He was founding editor of Sea Angler in 1972 and is currently editor of a local free weekly in the Forest of Dean after working (and fishing ) for British and Australian newspapers during his long career.  Fishing titles on Amazon Kindle include Brassribs (the story of a carp), Fishing Magic – all about angling for Boys and Girls, and One Last Cast (verse). Details on or


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Ted Lamb

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