IT’S time for our must-read Sunday blog. Every Sunday we welcome coarse fishing all-rounder Colin Mitchell.

For many years Colin was a senior Angler’s Mail magazine staff man and he has enjoyed a long, interesting journalism career. He understands match fishing, pleasure fishing, carp fishing – the lot.

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WE all want to catch more and become better anglers. And like most sports and hobbies that improvement usually comes with experience.

But how can you add to that experience quickly? How do you become a better angler in a shorter space of time?

The obvious answer is to get out onto the bank as much as possible casting a line, added to picking up some great tips in a magazine like Angler’s Mail every week and watching some of the more informative TV programmes like Mr Crabtree.

But there is also another path which is worth treading – watch and learn other anglers fishing! It’s something I did from an early age and looking back I am so glad I did.

Luckily, I picked up great advice from some of the best anglers around. But I also discovered that some people are born to be great anglers whilst the rest of us have to work at it!

My roots are up north and one of the first guys I knew I just had to watch on rivers was Dave Thomas, the first-ever Angler’s Mail Matchman of the Year and later World Champion. Sadly Dave is no longer able to fish on a regular basis but believe me he was a genius on running water.

I was once pegged opposite him on the Tees, when it was still tidal, and although I won my section I could see him emptying the river of dace on the opposite bank from an average swim. That was when I just knew it was no good just talking to him – I needed to watch him at close quarters.

I met up with him on the River Nidd and watched as he pulled out dace and roach and then said he was changing his shot pattern to catch a chub that had arrived. He caught the chub but he couldn’t explain exactly how he knew it was there and how he was able to catch it in a manner that looked so easy.

Those guys behind 1981 World Champion Dave Thomas learned loads by watching him – and so did I!

Dave proved to me that day that he had what I will now call “fish sense”. Other legends such as Kevin Ashurst, Ian Heaps and Ivan Marks were similarly blessed with the uncanny ability to know when to catch what species and how to do it. No thinking, they just did it!

Marksy showed me this in Ireland when I was pulling out nice roach every put on the pole, but not one bream. Believe me if there was a bream there it probably wouldn’t have had a chance of reaching the hook bait as there were so many roach! Marksy came along, made some very minor adjustments to my rig told me when to slip on a worm and instantly I got a bream.

A fluke? The change of bait? Neither…I kept a worm on the hook and caught more roach. A bit later the bream master told me to put a worm on again – you guessed, the float buried instantly and I got another bream!

I tried to guess when it was worm time. I counted the time between them. I looked for spells where the roach went quiet (they didn’t) but I simply couldn’t get it right. Marksy did it again, and again, and again… genius!

Likewise I spent a long time going to the Trent to fish matches when the river was in its heyday. I caught but didn’t get close to the locals. Watching the likes of Trentmen Pete Palmer, Roy Toulson and Wayne Swinscoe showed me why I failed. When they loose fed, they really didn’t hold back…two big helpings every trot, one at the start then again before they reeled in. And they all had hands that were much bigger than mine!

I was talking to a mate on the bank the other evening and he said the days of legends like the above are over. The major stars you can now look up to and who can perform on many different venues have dwindled.

Today’s would-be match legends have a long way to go to reach the status of those mentioned and the likes of Tommy Pickering, Alan Scotthorne, Bob Nudd and Steve Gardener. Although Will Raison, Des Shipp and a handful of others are getting pretty close…

However, I believe there are still a host of great anglers on the banks, not just match fishing but in carp circles and even just pleasure anglers. It’s still worth watching – carefully and quietly – what other anglers are going. If nothing else you might even see what they are doing wrong and can then make sure you don’t make the same mistakes.

PLEASE VOTE! Interested in river fishing? Or maybe you only fish lakes? Vote now in the new June 16 poll on this website – see the Polls box on the right-hand side and click the option that suits you.



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