Since The Session started I have received some lovely e-mails so, as I have no real agenda this month, I thought I would answer some questions that arose in those e-mails, recount one of the most extreme fishing trips I have ever experienced and bring you up to speed with my life at this present time.Some of the recurring questions I am asked are how did I end up becoming a sponsored angler, how do you end up going from having a “normal” job to becoming a fisherman for a living and what advice could I give to people wishing to take the same course in life?In many ways I think I became a sponsored angler and ended up fishing for a living due to my obsession with the sport. The more I wanted to fish, the more I went and the more I caught. Even though I write for mainstream angling magazines I am always rigidly honest and my advice would be to try not to take too much notice of whatever anyone is doing or saying. In angling you have to make your own way and do things on your own terms.
At The Five Lakes Show back in March I was lucky enough to chat to my great friend Sir Pete Springate, who was on our stand with Richie McDonald and Rod Hutchinson. It hit me that here I was chatting to three legends of our sport, the likes of which you rarely see anymore. They were, and, still are amazing characters in our sport – not the soulless, pretty boy, same way of fishing, over-privileged anglers that come off a ‘production line.’
Trust me when I say that making a living out of fishing is in everybody’s reach if you really want it but you do have to want it – really want it! The truth is I think we all aspire to live our dreams, I am sure it exists in the corner of each and every one of our minds. The point I am getting at is that the modern production line angler is on a rapid sell by date, but use your strength of character and combine that with a sound knowledge of fishing and the world is your oyster.
Look at my old mate Frank Warwick. He is like a magnet with people; he is honest, to the point and is never afraid to try new things. He is more popular today than he has ever been in his 50 years of Carp fishing. And do you know something? He puts his fellow angler first, something we both strongly agree on. Oh and be it helps in life to be slightly obsessed if you really want to excel.
When I was on it I was on it! No corner of Europe or even the world to some extent was safe from my obsession: I would think nothing of driving as far afield as places like Mequinenza in Spain long before anyone really even knew where the place was and I did much of it all alone. The River Seine, The Mosselle, The Argen, The Lot, The Tarn, The Garonne, The Saone, The Volga Delta even the massive inland seas like St Croix all received all fell victim to my all consuming obsession; let alone the smaller venues like Cassien. I even ventured across to the states back in the day and fished the Hudson in New York and the Potomac in DC. I was kite flying!
It’s also very easy to make the mistake and think you couldn’t afford a fishing lifestyle like that. Trust me a lot of the time I was penniless and had to beg and borrow to get there, I had even been to Spain in a 1000 cc ford Fiesta with a boat on the roof, soaking maize on the way as I could barely afford the bait I needed. Sometimes I had little bait and sometimes I had a shed load, in fact there was this one time me and my old mate Steve Howard, took a trip down to Spain. I pulled a flanker on another of my old mates, the ‘Guvnor’ at Nash Baits, Gary Bayes: I rocked down to his factory with an empty trailer and told him I wanted my bait allocation for the whole season plus some. I loaded 250kg of boilies into the trailer and off me and Steve went.
We drove all day and all night and all the next day carrying our precious cargo. When it was time to take my stint driving Steve thought the steering had gone on the car. He ordered me to pull over; I just gave him that steely look and exclaimed, “I’m shaking with excitement Steve, leave it!”
Once at Mequinenza Steve needed a lie down as he was and still is a bit older than me, so we pulled up at a little spot on the cold bank opposite the bend and as Steve drifted off I took my chance. I ‘smashed’ the lot in on one spot: yeah! Rock and roll 249 kg! When Steve woke up he looked at the open trailer and asked where all the bait had gone, I just grinned and held up a kilo of hook baits, “it’s do it or bust Stevie Boy!” I said. He fell to his knees and started crying and screamed, “You’ve ruined my life! We are here for ten days and we have no bait left!” You see that’s the obsession that takes over.
We were four days in without a single bite and Steve was one step away from chucking himself off the bridge; or me for that matter. Even I was becoming twitchy. Finally, the old alarms started to sing and by God did they sing. They would have put a Welsh choir to shame. My best day was 88 runs on one rod and 40 fish over 30lb and yes that was in one day. I even had fish taking the bait on the drop with an 8oz gripper in 25 feet of water. I am just trying to give you an insight into how extreme my mind had become an insight into how I was feeling. It wasn’t even restricted to Europe or the rest of the World I even spent 300 nights in England chasing an unknown target fish which I caught. Sometimes if you think big it is big!
It seems like I have got to this present day in the blink of an eye. One day I was dreaming about ‘living the dream’ and now I am. I am a co-owner in a bait company called Aqua Dynamix and I have two wonderful consultancy deals with Hardy, Greys, Chub and PB Products.
Prior to this though, a couple of years I was really feeling like I was at a bit of a crossroads. I think a lot of it reflected what was happening nationally, more in ‘mainstream’ life than my hobby. Especially with the collapse of the economy and to some extent the country and the general low self-esteem of the inhabitants of Blighty. Things started suffocating me. I had gotten to the point where I felt I was walking down a grey endless corridor and however much I tried, I couldn’t see a glimpse of light, let alone the fireball I was used to. And even my Euro love affair was over.
One morning I woke up without fuss or drama and I proceeded to the travel agent; I was looking for inspiration to start a new life, somewhere you didn’t need money or possessions to be happy. You see that’s the big thing to me, in the UK we are crippled by relying on things that we don’t really need to make us happy. The best things in life really are free and that’s the beauty of fishing after relatively modest capital investment, it doesn’t cost a lot of money to while away those magical endless days.
On the way there I was day dreaming of white sand and Red Stripe when the reality hit me! England is still the best country in the world, bar none! I mean, even on a fishing front, I had been attacked by Scorpions in North Africa, nearly gored to death in the South of France by a wild Boar and wrestled to the ground on the Hudson by a black Bear, and nearly drove over a cliff in Spain, Jesus! What was I thinking? The biggest shock I had ever had in good old Blighty was when I had just got the rods out on Ambergate and the umpire stopped play on the cricket pitch behind the lake for a light shower, just as I took the first sip of my warm beer. How could he do that to us?
As I basked in the glow of my renewed love affair with our beloved country, I was nearly run off the road by a traveller family! All 83 of them in the front of their Transit put their fingers up at me, and the jet wash off the 40 foot caravan nearly sucked me under. I couldn’t help but smile (through clenched teeth) and admit to myself that, in some way, they had it right. Then, bang! The missing piece in my life fell into place.
I didn’t need to escape to another country, I needed to escape in my own beautiful country and move from river to river, lake to lake, and yes in a caravan! That was that, I planned to live in a caravan, I went out and bought a 37 feet work of art. Which I will tell you more about next time. These days things have really fell into place and I really am living the dream, as I sit writing what’s turning more into a dairy piece by the minute, I am looking over a lake of nearly 200 acres and I can almost reach out and touch it.
Sometimes I know I sound like a bit of an idealist but the truth is that our life, in the grand scheme of things, is over in a heartbeat. There are loads of people out there of all ages with a dream of maybe fishing for a living one day. Please hold onto that dream: like I said earlier, “If you think big, it is big.” For me, that aside, it’s always been more about the journey rather than the destination.
See ya next month