There have been plenty of angling characters over the years, some who were very good, and maybe there were some who were not so good. So here is a list of some, who in my humble opinion have had their reputations well burnished by the passage of time, and some whose reputations may well have tarnished over the passing years…
Let’s start at the beginning with:
Dame Juliana Berners
English prioress and author of ‘A Treatyse of Fysshynge wyth an Angle’ in 1496. If ever there was proof that there is nothing new in fishing, this book describes many of the methods (no pun intended) still in use today. We anglers should probably raise a glass and doff our caps to this, the first lady of fishing.
Author of ‘Complete Fixed Spool Fishing’ and therefore the saviour of all of us who suffered for not mastering the Wallis Cast (see below) and did have to suffer the smugness of those who could. Enough said.
Fred J Taylor
Another giant whose books I avidly devoured when I was suffering from a tench obsession. Advice gleaned and used to improve my own feeble efforts no end. The only slight unease I felt was in the description of the ‘Taylor Boy’s’ tenching weekends when a boat was staked up, plenty of swimming and mud stirring preparation followed by extensive pre-baiting followed by massive catches. Envious, of course, but it smacked a bit of aquarium fishing to me. And then the one occasion I actually met the great man shaded my opinion of someone whose manner was off-hand even brusque. A behind the hand comment to the organiser of a prize giving he was starring at indicated he really didn’t want to be there one second longer than he had to be.
My opinion of him remained less than favourable until a chance comment from someone questioned my use of the ‘Taylor Boys’ in my otherwise fictional ‘Donald and Damien’ stories. With not a little trepidation, I made a tentative contact with him through his publishers. A request for one of the stories for evaluation was complied with, and I waited for the libel writ to come thudding through the letterbox. But none came, except a note to say that Fred had no problems with what I had written so far, and I could carry on in the same vein.
Gave a post war Britain (and generations after) an introduction as to what to do with their new found leisure time through the Mr.Crabtree cartoons and books.
Was not a full time angler, but the ‘Out of Town’ TV series certainly had enough well made fishing tales in it to make his inclusion into this list a formality.
Prof. Barrie Rickards
Was an inspiration to many pike anglers, myself included. I avidly read all his books and absorbed all the information contained within. The methods, the tackle, the theories, all were gratefully received, so all time, all-conquering hero, without question.
But…The only little fly in the ointment is a tiny passage in one of Barrie’s books where he suggests that when float fishing in choppy waters, one should lob in half a pound of margarine so you can fish in the calm waters caused by the subsequent oil slick. Tut, tut, that sort of anti-eco behaviour would have you flogged publically these days, besides which, we have BP to do all our oil slicks these days
England’s first World Champion angler and author of the ‘Encyclopaedia of Float Fishing’, either of which achievements puts him firmly in this category, let alone both.
A demi-god to pike anglers, full stop. The volumes of literature displaying his total understanding and utter devotion to the king of predators say it all. And his ‘Freshwater Fishes’ tome co-written with Hugh Falkus is probably the definitive work on everything that swims in British waters and should be compulsory reading for all anglers.
Was match fishing’s ‘Cheeky Chappy’ with a friendly word for all and time for anyone. If only more would follow that example. Oh, and he could always catch a netful of fish out of a muddy puddle.
Chris Yates and Bob James
Here for starring in ‘A Passion for Angling’ if nothing else. Classic filming of our sport that really can be enjoyed by non-anglers as well as participants.
Jury’s still out:
Often regarded as the ‘Father of Fishing’ and a name probably known to more non-anglers than actual anglers. And has the ‘Compleat Angler’ really been the angler’s bible over the years? It is perhaps not the greatest angling reference work, and has probably gained a certain rose-tinted perception of its content and dare I say relevance over the years. And can you really take advice from someone who can even get the spelling of his book’s title right?
An absolute angling deity, we lesser mortals should bend the knee and genuflect at the very mention of his name. But given the high calibre of anglers he associated with, was he not more like a team captain, a bit like Bobby Moore and the 1966 World Cup winners.
Maybe he was a conduit for ideas, with a brains trust of the great and good or angling around him at the time. And with his mechanical and engineering background, why did he not harness that talent to produce an outstanding fixed spool reel?
I seem to remember a loose tie up with KP Morritts, but where was the MkIV Carp reel to go with the MKIV rod? Given the clunking, basic, coffee grinders available those days, it seems strange that someone who spent hours poring over mathematical equations to get the right tapers for his rods would then be happy to use something about one step up form a capstan on them.
And on a personal note, I am a little miffed that Barrie Rickards’ biography on Richard Walker seemed to Tippex out any reference to RW’s personal life. Others have hinted at foibles, weaknesses etc, that RW had, but perhaps the halo of sainthood was not allowed to be sullied by the possibility of human frailties.
Nev’s writing took me on from Prof. Barrie’s offerings with regard to methods and tactics for pike fishing, although I have a sneaking suspicion that ‘Pike Fishing in the 80’s’ must have been ghost written, because the few bits of hand-written correspondence I have from him defy understanding. I think Bletchley Park would have a job decoding some parts of those letters. And there was his little spat with Fred Buller over the re-worked ‘Doomsday Book’ Hmmmm…
Matt Hayes and Mick Brown
Seem to be a ‘Marmite’ pairing, neither universal adored or loathed. Their TV programmes are bit ‘blokey’ and ‘jokey’ and may suffer from that, and of course they are successful at what they do. So they have to me marked down for that, it’s the law in this country…
Whilst not all might agree with his views, at least he’s got some and is not ashamed to say so. He might not quite be a ‘Marmite’ man, perhaps Bovril…
Now here is a giant among our angling forefathers. A consummate, record-breaking catcher of phenomenal numbers of huge pike and we still use versions of his snap tackle today. A foregone conclusion that here is someone whose name would be among the first for inclusion in the anglers hall of fame.
Except…It transpires that old Alfred was a true fisherman in that he wasn’t adverse to claim his fish were a bit bigger than they were, the little tinker. If a rival dared to catch a larger fish than our Alf, he would pop out a couple of days later and catch one that was (allegedly) just that little bit bigger.
F K Wallis
Has to be an angling icon, surely. Who amongst us hasn’t secretly, or otherwise, coveted a Wallis Wizard rod? For those who hanker after the split cane era, this name on this rod demands reverence, nay supplication. Wallis is a hero without doubt then.
Well, I’m afraid not. This is the person whose name is synonymous with a type of cast that requires you to grab great armfuls of nylon as you then try to release said strands in a orderly manner so that your float and tackle lands like thistledown at some point well distant from where you are standing. For developing such a cack handed method of casting he deserves a good thrashing. And even more so for foisting those supercilious gits upon us who have ‘mastered’ the Wallis cast and aren’t afraid to tell us.
Probably has done more to popularise angling on TV than any other. His maniacal laughter may not be to everyone’s taste, but his heart’s in the right place. However, that is a cold, black, unfeeling and sadistic heart evidenced by him giving his name to the most fiendish piece of tackle ever offered to an unsuspecting angler. And by that, of course, I mean the ‘John Wilson Six-Shooter combo’ If it were offered for sale in a Pound Shop you would want at least two outfits for a quid and even then you wouldn’t be getting a good deal
Obviously someone who either thinks that a) there aren’t enough small fish in Irish rivers to catch for live bait, or b) he doesn’t think he is skilled enough to catch his own.
Robson Green, Dean Macey and any other ‘celebrity’ anglers
No explanation whatsoever is required as to why they are firmly placed in this section.
Of course, there are many fine and not so fine anglers who have not been categorised and added to the list, but I’ve had my go, so now it’s your turn. And your three starters for ten are:
J R Hartley, Des Taylor and Bob Nudd…