Jan Porter with his PB common – 32lb 1oz
Meet Jan Porter of Shimano, failed rock-star, lifetime member of the Angling Trust and an all-round great guy. Pictured with his UK PB common carp 32lb 1oz – big tail (his words!) caught ‘Mr. Crabtree style’ at Hardwick Lake Linear Fisheries nr Witney on a float in the margins with a worm whilst fishing for Tench on the glorious 16th of June 2012.
Couldn’t be more perfect!
Most anglers would love to be able to call themselves ‘professional’. How did you manage it?
I worked my way up after being a fully skilled engineer at Rolls Royce for 10 years, I owned a tackle shop (Jan’s Tackle) in Hucknall which I built up with my family & staff which helped me to pursue a semi pro career in match angling. I became captain of the Trentman team in 1986/87 and after rebuilding the team we won the Division 1 national and the Angling Times winter league in 1987/88 season an historic double.
Already the magazines had picked up on my ‘Man in Red’ plus wearing a Walkman playing rock music image and my individual success in 1984, I started writing my own articles in 1985 to date and joined Shimano in 1995 – a company that reflects both my angling & engineering aspirations to this date.
I’ve worked on many angling TV shows & had several instructional DVD & Videos which have all been aimed at newcomers to that specific discipline, I currently enjoy a full time ‘pro’ angling status which took almost 30 yrs all told.
Playing in a semi-pro failed rock band for several years also has some bearing on being driven to succeed in angling and I quite like the self appointed tag ‘Failed Rock Star, Born Again Angler’. It clearly demonstrated to me that there was still some thing to fall back upon after the roar of the greasepaint & smell of the crowd dies away, if I’d never had the angling bug as a kid who knows where I would have ended up.
How often do you fish and what do you fish for?
There is a seasonal aspect to my angling – In the summer months I can’t get out to wet a line as much as I’d like to to angling related work commitments. From October until June I like to get out at least three times a week but this is weather dependent and if conditions are atrocious then I’m lucky that I can reconvene my day to another one.
I’m hardly a fine weather angler but fish from open boats much more these days and it’s harder to get away from poor conditions unless you anchor up under a bridge. Species wise Carp & Tench in the Spring, Barbel, Chub & all predators throughout the colder months.
What do you think are the most pressing issues in angling today?
Getting youngsters into angling – there are plenty of extremely good initiatives all over the UK & the world but I feel that we need to get toddlers involved before they become PSP savvy – all too many junior coaching schemes cater for much older kids. Understandably, but it’s more down to grandparents which isn’t anything new – my grandad’s brother, my Uncle Wilf, used to take me & my mate when I was a nipper. It’s a tried, tested & trusted blueprint and it works 100% – I call it the Gen X concept.
Pollution & predation by invasive creatures, namely cormorants, is always a huge concern for all anglers. Poaching is another worry, I’ve seen first hand the ravages by poachers on the Warwickshire Avon, it’s unacceptable and something tangible to combat this threat in return without having to even ask.
I’ve been a life member of the ACA now the Angling Trust for 25 years, I’d urge everyone to join
Give us some PB stats – what are you most proud of and why?
A 29lb 15oz common river carp Warwickshire Avon about 10 years ago, I saw the fish cruising in a back water in the closed season and told my mate Stu Dexter that I would come back when the season started and catch it. It was a cocky flippant remark said in jest more than anything meaningful. Deep down I’d have loved to catch it but to my amazement the first night I targeted carp on that swim I caught her. I’d already warned my old boss at Shimano Craig Brew to be on call for an early morning shoot and had bought a new Canon camera lens which set me back £300. So I guess I had a premonition. It was a full moon and the old dead tree added to the atmosphere. I found out later that the spot is known as ‘Dead Mans Ait’ after a massacre during the battle of Evesham on the 1200’s, many warriors were slain as they were routed up the river to this dead end.
Generally I’m not in the habit of naming fish but I called her DMA (Deema) after the spot she was captured & released unharmed. The tree has long since gone but the fish was caught a few weeks back a long way downstream and has put on a couple of pounds which made me a very happy to learn Deema was okay and still growing.
What are your earliest fishing memories? Who taught you?
My late father Terry a keen and great angler, he was my earliest mentor and angling buddy as a kid at weekends and holidays. Once we were fishing on the River Trent near Cocker Dyke in Nottingham & unbeknown to me he hooked a perch on my line when I went for a call of nature, he called me back sharpish saying a big barge was coming up the river
I thought it was odd as there was no barge in sight or sound and I’d could have sworn I’d wound my float in too, anyway I returned to my peg and the rod tip was bucking about like crazy, I picked it up to be confronted by a thrashing of my biggest ever fish, I couldn’t believe how hard a 6oz perch fought. I was sooooooo excited and wouldn’t stop talking about, I still do, it was a beast!.
It set me on an angling adventure that continues to this day. He only let the cat out of the bag thirty years later when my family were sat around a Xmas dinner table, “you don’t think you caught that perch still do you?” commented my dad with a wry smile, I actually never knew. I related that story when I did the eulogy at his funeral, it created quite a stir after which the whole congregation applauded which helped the moment considerably.
How influential has Mr Crabtree been in your angling life?
I used to read the cartoon in the Daily Mirror, I loved it and I always think about my relationship with my dad, although the cartoon it was a bit plummy in some respects for a working class lad like me and Mr Crabtree wore a posh hat & a jacket a tie. Peter looked the same, like he’d just come home from a private school. Even so I loved it and could relate to it, I am a big fan of Bernard Venables’ work in every respect, especially the line drawing artwork he did for the cartoon.
Is there anything in fishing that you haven’t done? What are your ambitions?
Never fished for sharks they terrify me, I’m not into big game angling at all, no upper body strength and rather be in a tug of war team than have my arms ripped out of their sockets. Each to their own. I did catch a 133lb yellow fin tuna once, which is how I learned this ardous style of angling wasn’t and isn’t my calling.
I love catching different species, it doesn’t matter how big they are, if I’ve never caught one it still captivates me, bit of an Eye Spy book thing I suppose.
My ambitions are to enjoy the lifestyle I have derived through angling, learn new techniques and pass them on to other anglers young and old via the internet/video to help them appreciate angling and hopefully catch more fish.
I’m really into boat angling and see this as the next wave of interest for anglers of my age who have experienced lots, I’m hoping to do some pro guiding too down the track or should I say stream. It will be high end clients because the demand isn’t great and my time is precious but I’ve already done corporate work and have a successful format that is actually much more competitive to other corporate initiatives.
I’ve also just been signed up to develop the Rapala website which is really exciting being a half viking (my mum is Norwegian) it strikes a chord with me on many levels, there are plans to visit the factory in Finland and lots of video work which means lots of angling.
I’m lucky and very privileged I know but it’s not been an overnight thing, like many other lines of work getting to the top or enjoying a ‘pro’ status means loads of spadework and behind the scenes stuff which isn’t always about wetting a line.
Do you have any angling heroes? What do you most admire about them?
My dad obviously, Johnny Moult who was like a second dad in terms of being an angling mentor, many of the original Trentman Squad all who were my heroes in one way or another. Shaun Harrison sticks out he’s such a brilliant angler and I was fortunate to nestle under his specimen angling wing in my formative specialist years. There’s too many to list, most are not household names. I just admire anglers who are passionate about what they do and understand angling for what it is a hobby. I’ve learned so much from others and refined it you can’t discount any stray detail that could be relevant to another discipline and it’s juxtaposing this information that gives me a huge buzz.
What lessons would you pass on to today’s young anglers?
Develop your own style based on your mentors, listen loads and ask questions if you don’t understand, make a journal of your angling days and get good at photography. Try to be a wolf and not a sheep, there’s lots of tackle and bait to catch anglers first and foremost but most will also help you to catch fish, avoid the ‘white noise’ of confusion by swapping and changing for the sake of it.
If you work out a winning strategy stick with it, listen to all anglers who make sense and try and avoid getting bogged down with who caught the biggest & the secret squirrels, learning to catch lots of smaller fish on float tactics will make you a much more rounded and better angler in the long run. I still enjoy catching bleak on a 2 metre whip as much as any thing and I’ve had some decent fish over the years since I quit the match circuit in 1992.
Describe your favourite ‘Crabtree moment’…
Loads really, I just found the situations and the venues captured in the cartoons very inspirational, I used to fish the River Leen, a small Trent tributary, near my house with my dad which mirrored many of the Crabtree moments. I loved it when Peter does as he’s instructed and catches a bigger/more fish than Mr Crabtree – secretly it is cool to get the biggest once in a while as long as you don’t beat the angler who’s the ‘taxi’ driver too often.
In the early 90’s I was lucky to be able to script a two year full colour cartoon strip called Jan & Dan which the Angling Times ran, it was a homage to Mr Crabtree although with a more edgy cheeky slant as Dan (Peter) was a bit of a handful from time to time.
Possibly my favourite quote from the series is “The glorious 16th June tomorrow Peter. Lets be up at sunrise to fish the lake for tench!”. It really captures the magic of the 16th and the start of the season which has always been synonymous with Tinca Tinca and so often I watch pinhead tench bubbles prick the water surface next to the lily pads at the Bestwood Duckpond with my dad.
To this day that sight makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up, and it’s why I’ll always be an angler.