My Greatest Angler

chevin4

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Mmm,that's one way to put it Hugh,he used to do guiding,showing people how to approach barbel on Wessex rivers,one day i'd been baiting a swim on the Somerley estate for several hours(with myself and tackle in the swim),now everyone on that part of the Avon would give every angler a wide berth,at least 15yds and not re-approach the river until well past,anyway,along comes MrHooper with two learners in tow,he obviously wanted to show these guys barbel feeding and walked straight up to the bank(no cover as is normally for the estate)6 yards downstream and threw big handfuls of corn and hemp on top of my swim,spooking everything in a cloud of gravel,he received my wrath and as I was known by several of the local regulars there was a lot of moaning done about it to the club,not by me,as I felt i'd stemmed it at source,apparently he did similar to another angler who responded similar to me,but he gave this angler some mouth,I saw him shortly after this encounter,he looked as though Mike Tyson had ate him,shame....the tales I heard about him from genuine blokes I know(even now)go on and on,selfish and obnoxious are the only two words that fit the bill....
That's sort behaviour is outrageous Alan. He was very much in the limelight from 1986 to 1997. You dont hear about him these days is he yet another who has Crashed and Burnt
 

chevin4

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After my first encounter with Martin Hooper - he threatened to swim across the river but was told in no uncertain terms by a CAC bailiff to shut up - we got on OK. He did have a go at a couple of trespassing canoeists who beat him up and got 2 years in prison for their troubles!

It does seem to me that those singleton, single-minded anglers who pursue fame and fish to the exclusion of all else tend to suffer for it with ill-health from a poor diet/lifestyle, hence John Sidley, Alan Wilson, Ray Webb all dying relatively young.
Some would say thays the price of fame Mark. There are others who didnt make old bones eg Tony Miles Les Arbery Frank Guttfield etc. I think you are right lifestyle and diet is a factor
 

chevin4

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In over fifty years of fishing the only disagreement I have had with another angler is Tony Ward. My friend Chris and i decided to go perch fishing the following Thursday to Wilstone Res this would have been 1995. There was a guy sitting outside his bivvy immediately above the car park steps drinking an early morning cuppa. As I passed him with my gear he told me in no uncertain terms that there is 125acres of reservoir and ge gets pissed off when anglers fish on top of him. I told him i had no intention of fishing on top of him and said there is plenty of room to his left. As I was setting up Chris said bloody hell do you know who that is that's Tony Ward apparently a few days earlier he had had a serious fracas with another angler something to do with swims being stitched up by long stay anglers. Tony continued to watch us and first cast Chris was into a 3lb plus perch we both thought he must be sitting there fuming. About an hour later he came down towards us I though hello it's going to kick off but to be fair he was as nice as pie and had the good grace to congratulate Chris on his great start to the session.
 

xenon

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I think these ultra dedicated types are often suffering from some sort of undiagnosed mental health issue. Offering people out on the bank is, to my mind, proof positive of being somewhat bonkers.
 

John Bailey

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Well chaps, this is STILL going on, I see. I keep saying this is my last word, but all this is too juicy to ignore.... not that I want to get involved in tittle-tattle. I would like to say that putting Frank Guttfield in the same category as Ray Webb, John Sidley, and especially Martin Hooper, is just not on! Frank was intelligent, successful, generous, and combined a top fishing life with demanding jobs and a warm family environment. You could not get further away from Ray Webb if you tried.

I don’t really follow the fishing scene these days. I prefer to fish in my bubble with my wide circle of fishing mates, and now I don’t even read the Mail so the actual news tends to pass me by. In the 70s, 80s, and even 90s, I was entrenched in it and believe me, there were some complete weirdos. Some of whom have been mentioned. There was a subtext that success in life could be subordinated to success in big fish catching... I know because I flirted with the disease in my roach days in the Seventies. Even quite sane men normally became lunatics when big fish were involved, and some of the self-centred stunts that were pulled were appalling.

JS was a charming man in many ways but a bit unhinged. RW was eccentric, but not involved I think with the sick events that happened in Ireland. These were too horrible to be shared, and brought back to the light of scrutiny. MH... I could fill a book with stories of how I had to work with him on his first book. But I won’t. Enough said I think.
 

chevin4

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Wouldn't dream of putting Martin Hooper on the same planet as Frank Guttfield,it would be unfair to the planet!!!
Chalk and Cheese springs to mind Alan. Although I was close to some members of the Herts Chiltern Group I never met Frank although he was well regarded as both a person and angler. Just read Old Man River an interesting read. Sadly another one who was taken too early
 

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I have been following this as it progresses and some interesting thoughts on "greatness"; so will add mine, for what they are worth.
I've never fished with anyone (I have 65 years fishing under my belt) who might fall into the great bracket, though I have fished with some very good anglers in my time, I suppose greatness means leaving a mark that other anglers identify with. Coming from way back that meant anglers who published books or made it into the Angling Times/Mail as contributors or big fish landed and matches won.
For me greatness would have to be an allrounder and not a specialist angler, I include match anglers as allrounders but only those fishing on natural waters running and still water - not modern just overstocked commercials. Innovation counts as well and again match anglers are up there with specialist anglers.
Richard Walker comes across as the great innovator, but he was also at the right time post war, when angling was ripe for innovation and a gigantic step forward. But he also caught some big fish (not just that carp!), I seem to recall species like his perch and dace were heading in the British record direction?
Comparison with modern times is difficult, obviously fish sizes are way different in many species, innovation is coming down to "tweaking" tackle and much done by the trade in order to sell more. I certainly don't forsee any big revelations outside of incorporating electronics in some way - fish finders, drones, bait boats, deeper things and heaven knows what else to come.

So I have little idea how moderen anglers compare, because I never meet them, fish with them or read anything about them - a look on youtube does not tell a great deal! I shall give it to Richard Walker for old times sake, but can put in a few others both match and specimen anglers from that era.
 

John Bailey

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Molehill makes interesting points, and thank you for such a stimulating reply. I particularly like the concept that Richard Walker was the beneficiary of post-war developments that helped him to succeed in the way he did. I think I wrote about this 'Stream of Life' syndrome in my book Great Anglers back in 1990, but I don’t have a copy with me to check! I had just finished my career as an A Level history teacher, and of course this type of argument is rife academically.

For example, Bismarck could not have united Germany in the 1870s without the underlying desire for a nation state prevalent at the time. Equally, Walker benefited from better transport, more free time, and of course tackle advances like the widespread use of mono... could Clarissa been caught on catgut?? But, equally, the right moment also needs the right man to exploit it, and Walker certainly was that man.

Perhaps time is the test of greatness. By that I mean who will be remembered, say, half a century after his death? Walker died 30-odd years ago, but is still held in awe by anglers of a certain age. When you and I and others of our generation are gone, Molehill, will his legend gradually diminish, eventually to nothing more than a footnote? Has the literary aspect of angling got a lot to do with this? Many fifty-plussers can talk about Falkus, Halford, BB, Viscount Grey, and so on, because we read. Could it be that the collapse of books will mean that “greatness” will only last a lifetime? Already, I am finding young anglers either have never heard of John Wilson, or have done so solely through their parents... they certainly won’t be buying copies of Where To Fish In Norfolk and Suffolk as they grow up!

I’m slightly surprised one name has not come up in all these discussions... Peter Drennan. Has anyone done more to make great, serviceable tackle available to the masses? We might take him for granted today, but we certainly did not back in the 70s and 80s.
 

xenon

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Drennan is surely a great business man-nothing wrong with that-a perfectly honourable thing to be. Not sure that qualifies him as a great angler though, as he is not particularly associated with innovation in tackle or great catches (although clearly no slouch either) Looking forward I think the canvas on which to become a great angler is diminishing rapidly as our wild rivers go to hell in a handcart, which leaves the manicured lawns of commercial fisheries, which by their uniform nature hardly allows much expression for even the most gifted angler. Somewhat ironic as I vividly recall a Walker article in the Angling Times which was a visionary fantasy piece describing his notion of the fishery of the future-on site tackle shop, electric golf carts to transport you to your pristine swim full of stocked fish, etc. This was Walkers idea of hell, and for what it's worth is mine too.
 

Peter Jacobs

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Peter Drennan won a competition run by the Angling Times (if memory serves me) to design a "new float"

The Drennan entry was the first fluted body design seen . . . where the flutes give a larger surface area for the river current to push though a swim.

Back in the early 90's together with two friends we started a coarse tackle import and retail business (on the side of our day jobs) We approached Drennan applying to become their stockists and retail outlet for Oslo.

We got a letter in reply declining our request and stating that they already had a "sole stockist" in Sweden . . . . .

I phoned them and got to speak to Drennan himself who, when I explained that Oslo was in Norway, he replied, "yes, and that is part of Sweden isn't it."

We gave up on Drennan and got two very lucrative deals with Milo and Sensas instead.
 

Molehill

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John raises a good point about the written word in angling, something I believe will be (virtually) lost on the vast majority of anglers in a few years time. The Fisherman's Bedside Book (a BB compilation of stories) had more influence on me as a child than anything, I read and reread those stories of great battles and they helped inspire me. I still go back to it.
I suppose youtube and other media formats are the modern equivalent, but they leave little to the imagination, editing may give false impressions of greatness and who will recall clips of anglers 50 years from now?
All food for thought, but I follow john's thinking that in 40 years time will today's angler in his prime recall any greats from the past - or will there simply be angling influencers who come and go with the seasons?
 

chevin4

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For those of you interested AT published a listing of the 50 greatest anglers in a 50 year celebration issue back in 2003.
The criteria for selection was the individuals who have shaped angling history.
The top ten in discending order was as follows.
John Wilson
**** Walker
Bob Nudd
Bernard Venables
Isaac Walton
Matt Hayes
Alan Scotthorne
Fred Wilton
Lefty Kreh
Ivan Mark's

Many notable names did not make the top 50 Mick Brown ET Nige William's (of the pike specialists only Neville Fickling (22) was placed.
Of **** Walkers Acolytes only Peter Stone (21) was ranked. Of the specialist anglers only Alan Wilson (46) Terry Lampard (29) Jack Hilton (26) made the list apart from those in the top ten.
Of the English match men/ women the following made the list Sandra Scottthorne (50)Ian Heaps (47) John Dean (45) Billy Makin (33)
Tom Pickering (39) Kevin Ashurst(35) Billy Lane ( 23) Benny Ashurst(11)
With regard to the Carp Anglers the following made the top 50.
Kevin Nash (31) Rod Hutchinson (28) Kevin Kevin Maddocks (19) Terry Hearn (14).
Other well known Uk anglers on the list were Fred Buller (38) Chris Yates (20) Bob Church (17)
IMO the list is very subjective however,I am sure those who have not seen this before will have your own ideas who should be on the list, and provoke as much thought as I am sure it did back in 2003.
.
 

grayson

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Bedside Book is the most inspiring and enjoyable fishing book I own. I was given a copy in 1962 by my mentor Len Grayson , a 1946 edition printed on thin, flimsy 'wartime economy paper'. I inscribed it with my name , but I was at least the second owner, as it is also signed, in block capitals 'LR Herriott Weston Super Mare' . As a kid in a West Riding mining village , it transported me to a cornucopia of fishing jewels, and I even nicked a quotation from it to use as the title of my first book. Even now , every lake is benchmarked for any resemblance to Swancoote Pool and every summer evening fly fishing has echoes of The Curved Meadow .

It's 'only' an anthology of course, but who better to curate it than the sublime romantic, BB ?

The anglers whose stature will remain undimmed by time are the writers , not the innovators . I bow to nobody in my admiration for Walker, but to a young angler he is irrelevant, or a footnote at best . Match anglers' fame will die with their admirers - and their legacy, just like big fish guys, will ultimately be reduced to a set of statistics . And in 2060 who will care how many bream Ivan Marks once caught in match on the Witham , or will be remotely impressed by Jim Gibbinson's tally of carp ? Or Matt Hayes tv programmes , or John Wilson's trademark chuckle...

But any angler with a soul whose lips don't move when they read will continue to be entranced by a Yates or a Haigh Brown, a Ransome , Farson or a Gierach .
 
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chevin4

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As a young boy starting fishing all if those years ago the two books which really fired my imagination and where read time and time again for inspiration were
Fishing with Mr Crabtree
And come fishing with me Colin Willock

I liked the format of both books as they were not only instructional (vital as I had no one to teach me) but both created the feeling that you could not wait to be fishing again come the weekend.
 

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The key to this thread is actually . . . in the title . . . it says "My" not "The" so has to be wholly subjective to the person penning the post . . . .

I was torn between my choices as the other ones were: "BB" who was a great writer but really not an expert angler, and Jean Desque who to my mind was one of the greatest match anglers ever.

I fished against him at the Scandinavian Maters, two years running, and was in awe of his method of preparation and his single mindedness. Every move he made and every thought he had was of how to catch more fish.

At dinner in the hotel on the on the second day we shared a table and he was complaining that (having caught nearly 100 kilos) that he had caught 4 small salmon parr and those didn't count in the match so had to be returned . . . in his lovely French accented English he said . . " I has four, quatre, of those salmons . . . merde, what a waste of my time . . . ."

Milo Columbo (anther great angler) wound him up about them, all night, but all in good humour. By the end of the night Jean was still a happy man having won his section and pocketed the coin . . .

Over the 4 days Jean won a few of the spot prizes as well as a new pole . . . he donated them all to the lads from Croatia who had struggled to even get to the event, let alone compete . . .

It is as well that this seems to be restricted to British anglers otherwise the likes of Milo Colombo and Roberto Trabucco might also rate mention . . .
 
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whitty

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I haven't seen Ian fish Mike,but I have seen a lot of better than average anglers,to me great ones are those who stop me in my tracks when seeing them,or the ones when you talk to them you often can soon assess a persons level of knowledge,which along with their ability and set ups give great clues,dedication/obsession also makes a difference,in fact I dont know of any angler who is of that level who isn't single minded,just that some/many go to far and still don't achieve great success....
 

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I dont know of any angler who is of that level who isn't single minded,just that some/many go to far and still don't achieve great success....
The singlemindedness of good anglers sometimes points to the fact that they are still trying to achieve (whatever their goal is) I believe the best anglers out there are the ones you go by who are sleeping against the tree or chatting to passers by without a care in the world, maybe even foresaking their fishing time to help others catch. They have got the T-shirt long ago and are probably having a little wry smile at those who are still trying to get one. We're all singelminded when we are trying to catch fish, I reckon if we were videoed (without our knowing) we'd watch it back not realizing our own dedication and application, we'd probably cringe, but when your in the zone it's all just a whole lot of fun, that's how it should always be, I kind of feel sorry for those who have to do it on cue for filming purposes.

Taking this forum for example I would be willing to wager that many of the best anglers on here have between 100-500 posts maybe even less. Also I bet that we know someone who always seems to catch well no matter the weather, no matter what the venue, yet they don't seek fame and never take photos, make youtube vids, write blogs or contribute to forums.
 

whitty

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Not sure about that Rob,the fame side is nothing,an awful lot of anglers avoid that for purely selfish reasons,when people are in the great category,others sing their praises,not taking a picture of a capture,or even noting captures is often down to just a lack of zip,you know,laid back,like a heavy pot smoker,personally I believe some fish deserve a photo,whether many see them is another matter,some take great delight in plastering it over the angling press,then lying about where it was caught,imo you don't make it public then,chasing fame is a sad epitome to your life....
Also,someone sitting up against a tree,being successful doesn't make him a great angler imo,might be a great attitude to have and might be a great person because of that,but a great angler no,I am little more than a man who likes doing things as well as I can,be that work,DIY and fishing,when things work well I catch some fish too,happy days,the only time I felt any sort of ego within fishing was when I was match fishing with Blackhorse,mainly because I was being successful,with the team and for myself,also there is no point competing if you don't think you can't win,nowadays I just get excited over catching fish,if that stops I think I would think about packing it in....
 
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