Colin Mitchell, in his Sunday blog for Angler's Mail, looks at some England match fishing stars who have made a big impression on him - notably Steve Gardener (pictured below).
AFTER a few weeks of wall-to-wall World Cup football the names of Messi, Neymar and Suarez are etched onto our brains more than ever.
But in the world of angling there are also certain names that will never leave your head once you have read about them or seen them in action.
There are now scores of great anglers out there in both the specimen hunting and match fishing worlds. But for the sake of this blog I’m going to concentrate on the competition anglers and, more specifically, ones that have over the years changed my outlook on the sport.
Forgive me if a lot of these names appear to be from the past – it’s quite simply that I believe that before the birth of the commercial fishery we had more great all-round anglers. And yes, I am getting old too!
My work on Angler’s Mail and Coarse Angling magazines and for BBC Five Live’s Dirty Tackle meant I was lucky enough to watch, fish alongside and against some amazing anglers.
Awe-struck… I certainly was when I met my hero Kevin Ashurst for the first time. His weekly features in the Mail were revolutionary. Big Kev’s thinking and how the late lamented writers Colin Graham and Colin Dyson translated those thoughts onto the page were first class.
Watching him fish was even more amazing. Forget clean, neat, tidy tackle and everything inch-perfect on modern day gear.
Kevin wasn’t averse to biting off the tops of floats to make them the right length but watch him fish and it’s a different world – even now in his latter years he is still a major force!
He was a natural whereas his former England colleague Bob Nudd was someone who dragged himself up from club level by working hard and practising until he got onto the World Champions podium.
Alan Scotthorne was another natural – still is – who was destined to grab that crown too. Shame he doesn’t give others much of a chance.
Then there’s Steve Gardener. I’d heard about the Dorking star when I moved South years ago. The first thing his friends told me was that he should fish for England and that if he was from the North or midlands he would have been in the team. He was the best!
I shrugged it off at first – but after watching angling’s Stevie G perform on lakes, rivers and canals I had to agree that this guy deserved a chance. I realised they didn’t nickname him God for nothing!
Of course Steve did get that chance and for more than 20 years was a mainstay of the England team before losing his place recently.
He may not have been World Champion but he still has more gold medals from the match than any other angler around. He’s also got a few silver and golds too.
Of course, none of that is a surprise to anyone who has seen his meticulously prepared tackle, or to those who have watched how he feeds and presents his bait.
The guy thinks fish. He’s Ashurst when it comes to skill, Nudd when it comes to being organised and he should have the same collection of individual awards Scotthorne has earned.
Footballers who are taught to say the right things in interviews always say that it doesn’t matter how they do, the team comes first.
Steve didn’t have to say that. His results have proved that points make prizes for the England side as far as he is concerned.
One match that sticks in my mind was when I saw Steve legering for chub on the River Wey. He was like a hawk watching his quivertip and striking at little knocks and dinks that others would have ignored.
He was obviously thinking that if you can hit a certain percentage of those little inquiries for your bait you would have a lot of fish. Of course he did have a lot…
Do you know many anglers who can now fish and win on a regular basis on a vast array of venues like that?
Nudd, Scotthorne, Dick Clegg and others have received various OBEs and MBEs for their services to angling.
It’s now time to honour one of the under-sung heroes of England success on the world angling stage… Steve Gardener, Lord of Dorking!