My Greatest Angler

Reg Wyatt

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Apr 28, 2008
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On the chalk streams that I fish by far the best anglers on their respective beats are the river keepers. They know the river better than anyone else, know where the fish are and what best to catch them with and at what time. They spend their entire lives on, and in, the river and are the true experts. In Scotland and any salmon river in the UK it's exactly the same with the ghillies and boatmen who are the knowledge on their own beats. None of these 'celebrity anglers' could hope to know so much as the incumbent river keeper/ghilly nor be able to catch as many fish.
Sure there are one or two exceptions (no names mentioned) but there are ready made experts wherever you fish here.
There's also people on this forum who have fished the remote lochs and reservoirs for many years and they'd be the people I'd listen to.
I've also found that the best river keepers and ghillies can all trout fish/salmon fish with equal ability. Obvious I suppose, it's their livelihood and they spend or observe fish and fishing more than most.

Any keeper/ghilly reading this - I've got your back!

Reg Wyatt
 

Jason 70

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The congested SE
I've not had a mentor or have a favourite angler, not a soul in my family has ever fished or shown an interest in fishing. I had to beg my parents for my first rod and reel bought from Woollies and I started on the canals around Hackney where we lived and I struggled massively, hooks to big, line to thick and shotting patterns what were they? It took an age to catch my first fish, but I stuck at it, even now my parents are still amazed that I continue to fish.

The great "Gibbo" was mentioned in Johns article, I used to love his articles as he pulled no punches. In my late teens to early 20's I was Carp fishing a water that was way too hard for someone with my carp angling skills at the time, Jim happened to be a little further along the bank one day and came round and spent half an hour offering me some advice. He really opened my eyes to a few things, basic things like following the wind, the need to move and not get hung up on two rods but stalk fish etc. A fond memory.
 

JohnH

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Jim Gibbinson has a lower profile in the current angling world than in the '70s and '80s, but he's still with us and still fishing. His recent book "A Glorious Waste of Time" is a fine read.
 

Hardrar

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One of my oldest friends, that I rarely see now, as he’s retired to the North West of Scotland, was the greatest Angler I have known- mainly because he could catch copious volumes of big fish on any day, any method, any branch. He was a prolific match angler both Beach, Boat and Coarse as well as an avid Game Angler.
He used the most rudimentary of gear, certainly no tackle tart, but he had this magic touch. He used to almost go into a trance and seemed to know to strike without any obvious indication. He never had the best of health and suffered badly with diebetes related issues, including eyesight.
We were once trotting for Roach and Rudd in Summer on a local beck- he reeled in to recast and a huge Pike shot out of a Reed bed and grabbed his Porcupine quill float. It’s teeth got caught in the quill and he landed it without much drama on 3 pound Nylon and a fine trotting rod. He lifted the fish up and just said to me where’s the camera when you need one! I weighed it at over 13 pounds on my Salter scale. He just grinned and returned it. He was always calm and cool about everything.
I could write a book about the guy, he once (deliberately) entered a match on the York’s Derwent, lower reaches in the 70s, when it was still tidal- everyone loaded up with maggot, casters, bread, luncheon, sweet corn etc. Not Andy! Live Silver rag, Lug and mussel- he smashed first with a huge net of flounders! Certainly Left the judges scratching their heads as objections.
They changed the rules the next year!
 

ohanzee

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The man who fuelled my interest in reservoir fishing was Tom Ivens, I discovered his book in the mobile library van when I was about 14 years old. Like Dick Walker, he was one of the great popularists of our sport but there were others who did so much to develop what we now take for granted - Cyril Inwood, Arthur Cove and Dick Shrive.

The mobile library van was my window to the world about the same age, I would ever have had believed that one day many years later I would be responding(on a form of communication that hadn't been invented then) to a name I recall from books(I hope for Johns sake they were later ones :))

And on that thought, another sort of similar life changing influence, on a forum about 2005/6 I asked a question.
I had been fly fishing on and off forever but returned as most of us do, when we reach that age where we have the leisure time and freedom to pursue things like fly fishing, I was pretty adept at catching half pound trout and captive rainbows and wanted a pointer to where to catch bigger.

My question was naive, forums in those days took no prisoners, I asked 'where to go to catch big trout', and immediately drew a string of 'there are no silver bullets', 'find your own' and so on, it was a harsh welcome, only one post was encouraging and helpful, and strangely brief, it said something like 'if you want to catch big fish you need to fish were big fish are, try the Durness limestone lochs, good luck...Aye'.

All my summer holidays as a child were spent at the top of the hill overlooking loch Croispol in Durness, my father went fishing in Croispol while my mother took art classes in the former nissan huts, so I went.

I spent three days in Durness and caught 3 trout, the biggest was just under a pound, on the night I left I walked up to the tiny loch Laidon wearing a pair of jeans and trainers because my waders were drying, standing watching a flat calm I saw the biggest wild trout I had ever seen roll right in front of me maybe 60' out, I couldn't reach it then and walked in up to my knees, I was shaking so hard nothing worked, I did manage to cover it by climbing up a fence, it took and I felt it go down with a power I had never felt before then the line went slack, this was a turning point in my life.

The forum post was made by Bruce Sandison, and his book became my guide.
 

John Bailey

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My Greatest Angler

All these posts give me great delight. I’m not too well at the moment, and if you can’t fish much, reading about it is a super substitute!

Greats? I think many of us would agree that our own personal greats are those who actually taught us in the early days of our angling careers. A lot of posts are indicating this, and rightly. Unlike many of you, I did not really have a fishing family, but my heroes were Manchester mill workers like Ron Bennet, whose name I remember with gratitude to this day. Why men like Ron took me under their wing I’ll never know, but they did and in so doing so, completely mapped out the course of my life. What a tragedy that society would now regard such altruism with suspicion.

However, it is still interesting, even instructive, to brood on those who have changed angling from the bottom up in one way or another. Many “names” did not initiate but perhaps they inspired. Of those who did initiate, it seems to me that many operated in groups, and had an angling circle around them that often magnified their impact. Peter Stone has been mentioned as a candidate for the Hall Of Fame, and rightly so (if we can forgive his later-life forays into appalling taxidermy, which I think we can as he was just so nice!). Yet, Peter surely did not operate in a vacuum? He was on the fringes of the Walker Group, knew Peter Drennan well, and I think corresponded with Frank Guttfield. Frank himself was at the centre of angling creativity, and his book In Search Of Big Fish is full of his adventures, along with those of Peter Frost and Jack Hilton.

I know that Walker and the younger Guttfield both had nice things to say about each other, and Frank always told me he had good relations with the Taylor Brothers, Pete Thomas and Maurice Ingham as a result. I met up with Pete Thomas on occasions, and what a great brain he possessed, surely an influence on the more famous Walker?

But talking about Walker reminds us that he was part of a fly-fishing circle of expertise that included visionaries like Fred Buller, Hugh Falkus (whether you liked him or not), Arthur Oglesby, the Hardy Brothers, the Miller family and my old patron, Norfolk’s Jim Deterding. Fred had a lot of time too for Brian Clarke, and his relationship with John Goddard gave us The Trout and The Fly. And surely, Bob Church overlaps with many of these anglers too, or so he told me on a trip to Scotland where I managed to break his salmon rod?

I am sure the same applies wherever we might look. Match men contributing to this thread talk about Clive Smith and Ken Giles, who were at the heart of so much excellence in the 70s and 80s. I fished with Norwich tackle dealer Tommy Boulton for many years, and he was a star of the Essex County team that included “greats” like Dennis Salmon, Bob Cheeseman, Kenny Rolfe, Pete Clapperton, Mick Thill and Jimmy Randall, who like Tom, relocated to Norfolk.

I hope this concept is not too geeky, but it is not rocket science and I suppose fairly obvious. Anglers we revere were a product of their age, and benefited from the influence of their immediate peers. In some cases, instead of just looking at an angler alone, we should consider those who fished alongside them?
 

Mrtrout

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Mar 21, 2008
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22,285
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England.
My Greatest Angler

All these posts give me great delight. I’m not too well at the moment, and if you can’t fish much, reading about it is a super substitute!

Greats? I think many of us would agree that our own personal greats are those who actually taught us in the early days of our angling careers. A lot of posts are indicating this, and rightly. Unlike many of you, I did not really have a fishing family, but my heroes were Manchester mill workers like Ron Bennet, whose name I remember with gratitude to this day. Why men like Ron took me under their wing I’ll never know, but they did and in so doing so, completely mapped out the course of my life. What a tragedy that society would now regard such altruism with suspicion.

However, it is still interesting, even instructive, to brood on those who have changed angling from the bottom up in one way or another. Many “names” did not initiate but perhaps they inspired. Of those who did initiate, it seems to me that many operated in groups, and had an angling circle around them that often magnified their impact. Peter Stone has been mentioned as a candidate for the Hall Of Fame, and rightly so (if we can forgive his later-life forays into appalling taxidermy, which I think we can as he was just so nice!). Yet, Peter surely did not operate in a vacuum? He was on the fringes of the Walker Group, knew Peter Drennan well, and I think corresponded with Frank Guttfield. Frank himself was at the centre of angling creativity, and his book In Search Of Big Fish is full of his adventures, along with those of Peter Frost and Jack Hilton.

I know that Walker and the younger Guttfield both had nice things to say about each other, and Frank always told me he had good relations with the Taylor Brothers, Pete Thomas and Maurice Ingham as a result. I met up with Pete Thomas on occasions, and what a great brain he possessed, surely an influence on the more famous Walker?

But talking about Walker reminds us that he was part of a fly-fishing circle of expertise that included visionaries like Fred Buller, Hugh Falkus (whether you liked him or not), Arthur Oglesby, the Hardy Brothers, the Miller family and my old patron, Norfolk’s Jim Deterding. Fred had a lot of time too for Brian Clarke, and his relationship with John Goddard gave us The Trout and The Fly. And surely, Bob Church overlaps with many of these anglers too, or so he told me on a trip to Scotland where I managed to break his salmon rod?

I am sure the same applies wherever we might look. Match men contributing to this thread talk about Clive Smith and Ken Giles, who were at the heart of so much excellence in the 70s and 80s. I fished with Norwich tackle dealer Tommy Boulton for many years, and he was a star of the Essex County team that included “greats” like Dennis Salmon, Bob Cheeseman, Kenny Rolfe, Pete Clapperton, Mick Thill and Jimmy Randall, who like Tom, relocated to Norfolk.

I hope this concept is not too geeky, but it is not rocket science and I suppose fairly obvious. Anglers we revere were a product of their age, and benefited from the influence of their immediate peers. In some cases, instead of just looking at an angler alone, we should consider those who fished alongside them?

John, are you still doing the guiding for Barbel fishing in Spain in the Granada province, I had a house there for ten years and often saw some very nice big fish in the rivers up there?
Steven.
 

JohnH

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May 18, 2006
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Near Southampton
The whole thread has been great to read. Looping back to John's original post though, what on earth is wrong with being in the right place at the right time ? I thing the most profound piece of fishing advice I have ever been given is quite simple... "Give yourself the best chance". So in my own fishing I am unlikely to be fly fishing from a reservoir bank for trout during the day in a July heatwave; or grayling fishing, whether with fly or bait, when the river is the colour and texture of oxtail soup...
 

sabalos

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Mar 5, 2008
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463
Location
Market Harborough
My Greatest Angler?
Growing up my influences were mainly Richard Walker, our school libary had the Angling Times every week!? He had a logical approach and caught the record Carp. And appeared to fish places a northern lad could only dream of.
Never met Walker but I did meet Pete Thomas a couple of times. I worked in a couple of tackle shops as a youngster.
John Baileys opener cited people he's watched fish and also who you would bet on to catch you a fish....
Mine is Arthur Cove. I have tried to think of anyone who is more versatile and likely get me a fish for my supper but i cannot.
I am lucky enough to have considered him a friend. But have over the years known and fished with a few excellent anglers.
Arthur Cove was more of an allround angler than a lot realise. Excellent match angler early in his career. Also a great Sea angler, some of the Bass he caught made a few peoples jaw drop. And one " Face" attempted to follow him to find his marks! All the way to Wales...
All rounders with a good brain adapt better to angling situations in front of them.
Specialists don't have a good spread of knowledge to draw on and can end up with a kind of tunnel vision.
Pete Thomas did introduce my two greatest anglers to each other at Grafham.
When Walker was starting to get into fly angling. They didn't get on is my take on it,
neither are here to chat to sadly.
I have a few honourable mentions if you can forgive this fanboy.
Educators/ Casting / Fly Dressers ;
John Veniard
Peter Mackenzie Philps
Taff Price (great slide shows and funny)
Peter O Reilly (lovely bloke)
Davy Wotton
Alan Bramley

Coarse Fisherman;
Dennis White
Fred J Taylor
Tom Pickering
Duncan Kay
Trefor West

Fly Anglers;
Frank Cutler
Brian Leadbetter
Reg Righyni

And to all the great anglers I've met, who no one has ever heard of. Keep it up.
 

clag

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Jun 22, 2008
Messages
196
There is a subtle distinction between having a Great Reputation as a Fisherman and being a Great Fisherman. I also think it is difficult to judge who is the Greatest Fisherman unlike other sports because there are so many different fish, methods venues that it is very difficult to come up with an apples and apples comparison. Pretty much all the great golfers played the same championship courses. As equipment has improved so have those courses largely been changed to make them more difficult over time to compensate.

So, by way of example, using a few names for illustration rather than a definitive list, in Trout fishing are the great competition anglers such as Leadbetter, Barr and Croston greater fishermen than Cove, Goddard, Clark or even Giles Catchpole?

Faulkus is the original guru of Night Time Sea Trout fishing with much of his techniques honed on the Cumbrian Esk. Morgan and others write extensively about tactics for Sewin. They are very effective in Wales but as with Faulkus many of the tactics set out don't work very well on the Dee, Spey or other NE Scottish Rivers. The nature of the environment in NE Scotland in terms of air and water temperatures, light & darkness and the rivers themselves is very different to Cumbria and Wales.

Salmon is different again. Many of the best known names simply had time and money to cast at huge runs of salmon. I know today of a number of rods who catch a good number of salmon per season because they fish a lot of the best beats at very good times of year for them. Does that make them Great Fishermen or Good fishermen who have plenty of opportunity? That said, if you took a straw poll of many big 4 Scottish Ghillies and Russian guides, I'd be willing to bet a 'biggly pile of coin' one name would come out consistently as the greatest salmon fisher in modern times they have had on their beat.

Regards

CLaG
 

Laxdale

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Dec 4, 2008
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Western Isles, Scotland
There is a subtle distinction between having a Great Reputation as a Fisherman and being a Great Fisherman. I also think it is difficult to judge who is the Greatest Fisherman unlike other sports because there are so many different fish, methods venues that it is very difficult to come up with an apples and apples comparison. Pretty much all the great golfers played the same championship courses. As equipment has improved so have those courses largely been changed to make them more difficult over time to compensate.

So, by way of example, using a few names for illustration rather than a definitive list, in Trout fishing are the great competition anglers such as Leadbetter, Barr and Croston greater fishermen than Cove, Goddard, Clark or even Giles Catchpole?

Faulkus is the original guru of Night Time Sea Trout fishing with much of his techniques honed on the Cumbrian Esk. Morgan and others write extensively about tactics for Sewin. They are very effective in Wales but as with Faulkus many of the tactics set out don't work very well on the Dee, Spey or other NE Scottish Rivers. The nature of the environment in NE Scotland in terms of air and water temperatures, light & darkness and the rivers themselves is very different to Cumbria and Wales.

Salmon is different again. Many of the best known names simply had time and money to cast at huge runs of salmon. I know today of a number of rods who catch a good number of salmon per season because they fish a lot of the best beats at very good times of year for them. Does that make them Great Fishermen or Good fishermen who have plenty of opportunity? That said, if you took a straw poll of many big 4 Scottish Ghillies and Russian guides, I'd be willing to bet a 'biggly pile of coin' one name would come out consistently as the greatest salmon fisher in modern times they have had on their beat.

Regards

CLaG
What nationality is this supposedly well known greatest salmon angler?
 

John Bailey

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I couldn’t help but notice salmon anglers have been brought into the Greatness debate and indeed, this is a prime example in angling, where money can equate to success. I used to run annual mahseer expeditions to India, and always tried to get salmon anglers to take their double-handers to the river. I always had a yen to see if a Spey-type approach to these extraordinary fish would produce. Sadly, there was a little tinkering with the approach but no real commitment to it, hence no results. But this is not the point of today’s waffle.

One year I had with me a sensationally wealthy guy whose salmon record matched his bank balance. He had a miserable first week, catching nothing. He very nearly packed and left early 'till I explained his lack of success was no reflection on his manhood, and for the first time he was playing on a level field without the enormous advantages money can bring. He settled down, stayed and had a fish or two. Another year I had with me a Glaswegian of more modest means who had spent his salmon career on tough Association water, with Iceland, Norway, the Kola all a distant dream. I can’t remember a day when his deadly spinning tactics did not result in mahseer to 65 pounds.

I know this reminisce is all too predictable and trite, but it does happen to be 100% true. I am not having a go at salmon anglers either. Salmon or gudgeon, there are super anglers and strugglers. It also holds true that money goes a long way in the coarse world. An ex-lawyer friend held an unbelievable string of PBs, including national records, but in large part these were caught in waters far too expensive for the average angler to contemplate.

And of course, in reality the ability to catch fish matters not a hoot. Years ago I guided a client on the Wye where he missed six big takes in a day. He was dismally apologetic, lamenting his lack of barbelling skills. Yes, I agreed, I would have hit all six of those fish and yes, I agreed, my barbel prowess was greater than his. However, I went on, how would I fare in an operating room dealing with a heart transplant, a job my client did for a living? Perhaps a great angler enjoys it, does his best, and does his best for those around him... including the fish.
 

clag

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196
What nationality is this supposedly well known greatest salmon angler?
Ask Cap'n Fishy. I didn't say he is well known, and he is very modest. I'm repeating what the gillies and boatmen say unprompted. For what it is worth, I happen to agree with the gillies and boatmen.

Regards

CLaG
 

rusty

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Jun 18, 2006
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Warwickshire
If I had to choose someone as a partner in a fishing competition it would be Hugh Howells.

Over forty years ago I was fishing the local river and Hugh passed me on his way downstream. About half an hour later he returned looking forlorn. He told me his rod had suffered a catastrofic breakage. I offered him my rod and we fished down the river alternatively catching fish. We have been friends ever since.

One day I had been fishing the local reservoir for several hours without a touch. Hugh arrived in the evening. After a brief chat he asked if he could cast where I had just moved from. With his first cast he took two fish.

I used to suggest he fished for Wales and he always said that he could not afford to. A year or two later I read that he did fish for Wales on Loch Harray, where he missed to coach from the hotel and had to run over the field for the start. Despite that he won the Brown Bowl.

Still today, in his modest way, he will sidle up to me and enquire how the fishing is going.

A great flyfisherman.

Rusty
 

shropshire_lad

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May 31, 2017
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Too far away from the wild places!
Of them all I consider Richard Walker to be a true all round great angler. His first book influenced my carp fishing enormously in the early '60's. He taught us that big fish can be caught by design, something that modern specimen anglers do today. They stand on the shoulders of a giant. He also taught that "observation plus thought equals fish" and that constantly influences everything I do in fishing.
I agree about Richard Walker, a giant.

However, I well remember a feature in Angling Times from the 1970s where they put Richard Walker up against Ivan Marks, the match angler, on the Hampshire Avon from memory. Ivan Marks absolutely hammered Richard Walker o_O
 

Elwyman

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May 18, 2006
Messages
586
Location
North Wales
There is a subtle distinction between having a Great Reputation as a Fisherman and being a Great Fisherman. I also think it is difficult to judge who is the Greatest Fisherman unlike other sports because there are so many different fish, methods venues that it is very difficult to come up with an apples and apples comparison. Pretty much all the great golfers played the same championship courses. As equipment has improved so have those courses largely been changed to make them more difficult over time to compensate.

So, by way of example, using a few names for illustration rather than a definitive list, in Trout fishing are the great competition anglers such as Leadbetter, Barr and Croston greater fishermen than Cove, Goddard, Clark or even Giles Catchpole?

Faulkus is the original guru of Night Time Sea Trout fishing with much of his techniques honed on the Cumbrian Esk. Morgan and others write extensively about tactics for Sewin. They are very effective in Wales but as with Faulkus many of the tactics set out don't work very well on the Dee, Spey or other NE Scottish Rivers. The nature of the environment in NE Scotland in terms of air and water temperatures, light & darkness and the rivers themselves is very different to Cumbria and Wales.

Salmon is different again. Many of the best known names simply had time and money to cast at huge runs of salmon. I know today of a number of rods who catch a good number of salmon per season because they fish a lot of the best beats at very good times of year for them. Does that make them Great Fishermen or Good fishermen who have plenty of opportunity? That said, if you took a straw poll of many big 4 Scottish Ghillies and Russian guides, I'd be willing to bet a 'biggly pile of coin' one name would come out consistently as the greatest salmon fisher in
Falkus's book certainly germinated my lasting interest in sea trout fishing, but Morgan's book is probably more relevant to Wales, where I live.

As regards great salmon fisherman, I suspect Frodin must at or near the top of the list.
 
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