An Interview with… Keith Arthur

by Paula on November 19, 2012

Keith Arthur needs no introduction to Britain’s anglers. As host of Sky Sports’ Tight Lines and his own TalkSport radio show ‘Fisherman’s Blues’, he has established himself as a top angling professional and expert on all things ‘fishy’.

He’s also a contributor to our new book Fishing in the Footsteps of Mr. Crabtree and we’re very happy to welcome him to our virtual sofa to found out more about him:

Most anglers would love to be able to call themselves ‘professional’. How did you manage it?  
It’s a long and tedious story. Being nosey, I have always asked lots of questions about fishing and some of the answers stuck, as well as finding a few solutions myself. I left a safe job in furniture retail to manage a succession of tackle shops in the mid1970s, made some fishing videos, now ‘Pound Shop’ DVDs in ’89, then worked as a rep for Daiwa and began my weekly Angling Times column in 1990. From there I made some guest appearances on a cable channel called Wire TV’s live phone-in angling show called Fisherman’s Tales that sort of morphed into Tight Lines on the then newly-formed Sky Sports 2 in August 1995. A management contract with Matchroom Sport in 1997, and a radio show on TalkSPORT in 1999 followed. But am I really a ‘professional angler’? I’m paid to write about, talk about and present angling, occasionally with a rod in hand, so possibly.

How often do you fish and what do you fish for?
Not often enough and anything. Most of my fishing now is carried out with a camera crew but I have two weeks every spring in Key West, Florida with my mates on our Boys’ Trip. I’m possibly best known as a match angler yet I’ve fished 3 matches in the past 18 months. I honestly enjoy every aspect of angling except camping with rods. Although I don’t always float fish, I pack up when it’s so dark I couldn’t see a float if I had one on. From my personal standpoint, I don’t count sleeping on the bank with rods in the water as fishing.

What do you think are the most pressing issues in angling today?
Water quality; the mis-management of rivers; continued introduction of imported fish, mostly cyprinids and legal, that have brought so much disease with them; ‘anglers’ illegally transferring fish such as zander, catfish and barbel into river systems where they don’t belong, then moaning about cormorants and crayfish as invasive, predatory species. Not much really… The MOST worrying thing for me is what would happen to the tackle industry if carp were wiped out like many roach were in the early 1960s, (I bet many anglers don’t know we imported tonnes of roach from Denmark for our rivers); like the perch disease in the late 1960s and even poor little bleak in the lat ’70s. If carp go, we’ve had it!

Give us some PB stats – what are you most proud of and why?
Mmm. Estimated 375lb thresher shark off Long Island New York when I only had 45 minutes to get it to the boat for release for it to count in the Brits v Yanks Shark Cup. I did it in 27 minutes. Winning the John Smiths and Wychavon Championships at Evesham; not many have done that double and winning the Key West Light Tackle Championship 3 years out of 5 with my buddy Roy Marlow. I’m also VERY proud when anyone greets me in the street, or shops, or beach, or airport and almost anywhere else you can think of and thanks me for my programmes, especially when they say it inspired them to fish.

What are your earliest fishing memories?  Who taught you?
Angling isn’t in my family – apart from a Great Grandfather I never met because he died before I was born. I learned with my fellow ‘Baby Boomer’ mates. We just all went fishing and some of them are still in touch and still go. Hampstead Ponds on the 611 trolleybus, Finsbury Park lake and the Lea at Northumberland Park behind the factory my late Father worked in. I wasn’t very old – 6 or 7 maybe. Fishing cost me some time from school too but they have now forgiven me…

How influential has Mr Crabtree been in your angling life?
Well, I still look for ‘camp sheeting’ when I fish for perch. I’m sure that one day I’ll find out what it is. Crabtree inspired all of us in our formative angling years to fish through the seasons for proper fish. And floatfishing too. I will never forget taking a barbel into the scale room – now the Rod Room – on the Royalty Fishery and wondering if they were the same scales where Mr Crabtree weighed his 6lb chub – before killing it and taking it home to put behind glass!

Is there anything in fishing that you haven’t done?  What are your ambitions?
Before I am too old – and that won’t be far away – I would LOVE to catch a proper yellowfin tuna. 150lb would be nice. The trouble is they are rare in the Florida Keys and that’s the only exotic place I regularly fish. Perhaps I could try Mauritius in late April/early May – but that’s Boys’ Trip time. Or the Andaman Islands, even Ascension Island but I think the journey’s a bit of a mare. Who knows, maybe it would be wrong to achieve all our goals;  what would we do when we eventually said ‘Done it now’.

Do you have any angling heroes? What do you most admire about them?
Most of my angling heroes are in the ground – or in the water. Heroes are for young people because they are revered and looked up to. There are anglers today that I envy which isn’t that great really. I envy them the time to do what they do and fish the places they fish. I am still very much a worker but rather pompously I believe that by carrying on what I do, the message of angling is put before an audience that wouldn’t necessarily see or hear it otherwise. So that envy isn’t real.

What lessons would you pass on to today’s young anglers?
Fish to enjoy it. Once it becomes ‘work’, a necessity, an obsession – addiction even – it is very easy to walk away from it and not return. I feel that big-fish angling is now more competitive than match fishing and that is a dreadful shame. ‘Having’ to sit on a lake through all manner of conditions to catch a fish because someone else has already caught it is simply not a reason to go fishing for me. I AVOID catching previously caught fish when I’m fishing for quality fish, I avoid the swims they are caught from. I must be mad but once a fish has been caught, for me it ceases to be wild. Odd aren’t I?

Describe your favourite ‘Crabtree moment’…
I rather like watching him trotting for roach, with a light quill and fine line. How anyone can fish for big roach with feeders, bolt rigs, bite alarms and TWO RODS beggars my belief. Even the Philistines had some redeeming features.

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