We owe a debt of gratitude to Mark Kitson of Sovereign Superbaits for his contribution to Series 2 – here’s a man with an absolutely unsurpassable wealth of knowledge, and his insights were truly valuable when it came to targeting predators during the filming of Series 2. We caught up with him during filming for an in-depth interview…
Q1: Most anglers would love to be able to call themselves ‘professional’. How did you manage it?
I’ve been fishing a long time, since August 1962, and in 1981 I opened my first tackle shop in Wales, on a caravan park next to the sea. It was part of a larger general & grocery shop and I soon had another two shops in two other towns. During this time I bought a lot of specialist tackle from Holland where I met Burus Rozermijer & Dietmar Isiash, two of the world’s best Preadator anglers. I learned a great deal from this pair and, after discussing the needs of the travailing British angler, they both encouraged me to set-up my own guiding service to cater for UK anglers. The rest, as they say, is history. I know most of the Dutch waterways as well, if not better than I know the Thames and I’m on the thames twice a week, more in the summer.
Q2: How often do you fish and what do you fish for?
I fish as often as work allows, but try to make it at least twice a week, unless the rivers are in flood. I do very little lake fishing these days as most are run by clubs with their own way of doing things and “most” seem to be set-up to appease the longstay/carp angler… When every corner of the lake is covered with a long range baited line, usually placed by a little remote controlled boat, there is no room left for lure angling. So I just avoid any possible confrontations by not fishing lakes and sticking to rivers and of course there is always sea fishing! In the sea the possibilities are endless; we have thousands of miles of sea fishing in the UK and it’s all FREE. Dozens of species can be targeted from the shore & the tackle to do so is very inexpensive.
Q3: What do you think are the most pressing issues in angling today?
When I started fishing there were thousands of kids/young people fishing, indeed more than half my class went fishing including the girls. Nowadays this is not so and this is very worrying – you know what Governments are like, “Use it or lose it”, and if the young people of today do not get a chance to go fishing they will miss out on what is probably the greatest passtime on the planet. Not only do you get into the great outdoors, you get to see nature in all its glory. You get the all important exercise we all lack these days and add to that when you go sea fishing you can catch your own dinner – there is nothing better than catching your own dinner! It always tastes better than bought, one because YOU caught it and two because you can’t get it any fresher !
Q4: Give us some PB stats – what are you most proud of and why?
Well forty years ago when just 16 I “possibly” equalled the Mako record of Padstow in Cornwall: We were shark fishing about 2 – 3 miles out looking for Porbeagles when I hooked a 9′ monster which jumped 7-8 times, clean out of the water so clearly wasn’t what we were after. We got it to the boat, the skipper “Guesstimated” the weight at 500lb or more and said we would have to take it back to get it weighed properly, which meant killing it. So I got a couple of grainy photos and we cut the hook with a pair of bolt croppers. The pics were lost in a house fire, the skipper is now dead and so are the two mates that were with me, so it’s now just a fishy story !!!
Before that I got a few certificates from the Angling Times for a 1 1/2lb roach & a 4lb 3oz chub from a little river in Crawley called “Stamford Brook” which goes on to join “The Brook” at Gatwick airport to become the River Mole. I also had a 4oz Gudgen from “The Brook” as it went through Ifield in Crawley & a 17lb 12oz pike from Tilgate lake which was my BP for 26 years.
In more recent times I have caught a 40lb 5oz carp on 5lb line & a match rod, (that got me on the front page of the Freshwater Informer). I have caught a 44lb pike, 25lb Zander, a 6 1/2lb perch, a 20lb Pollock, & just this year a 42lb Jackcravel off the beach in the Gambia, now that was a tussle! It dragged me up and down the beach twice and it was just over a kilometre long. At one point in the fight I had only 3 and a bit turns of braid left on the spool, I thought it was going to New York with all my line and my favourite lure, at which point it finally turned! Fantastic morning and it went back alive and well!
While in Cuba 4 years ago I caught a 7lb 20z Puffer Fish on a fly, that was some fun! Getting hold of the thing was a task and a half, unhooking it was painful and keeping it in a pool while a pair of scales and the camera were located was an experience that will remain with me to my dying day. You can see from the pics I had a bandaged knee, I had an accident with a chainsaw three day before we were due to fly out & getting about was a bit of a problem to say the least, keeping a lively fish armoured with 2 1/2″ spines, in a pool that was being flooded by the tide was painfull at best. Needless to say it went back unharmed.
Q5: What are your earliest fishing memories? Who taught you?
One of my earliest memories was the very first time I went boat fishing with my very first rod and reel. It was in Mevagissey Cornwall, August 1962, I had chosen a 9′ split cane fly rod (it was the longest in the shop) an Intrepid “True Spin” (It was metallic reddy pink, still a cool colour for a reel ) and it all came from Woolworths. My father and I went out on a Mackerel boat, they dragged a big weight and a bit of mackerel skin around just outside the harbour with a dozen or so tourists paying for the privilege. I remember my father shaking hands with the skipper and saying something in his ear. I now of course know he was palming a coin to get the skipper to let me fish with my rod. A Mackerel spinner from my meagre tackle selection was tied on the end and I was allowed to drop it over the back of the boat. As the boat turned (to go slow enough to allow my spinner to work and not bounce across the top) I got my first ever fish!
A Mackerel that weighed 1lb 11oz was big even by today’s standards, and I was hooked as they say. When getting off the boat it seemed to me that everyone was trying to make off with “my fish”, in fact it was being shown to all the other skippers as it was a “biggun”. I was told a dozen or more times that it was an “handsome fish” then this guy gave me some very pretty, soft plastic sandeel’s; he said he made them and pointed to a shed hanging off the side of the cliff way up above the town.
Just under 40 years later I met Stuart Ingram, owner of Redgill and it turns out that the guy that gave me the soft plastic sandeel’s was his dad Alic who invented them, I still have them and they have never been wet, they were a gift and looked too good to chuck in the sea. I did buy some a few years later and used them to great effect. After this I didn’t catch anything till I was ten, 5 years later, when I found if you chucked out a worm on a running ledger rig the perch couldn’t resist – I’ve loved perch ever since.
Q6: How influential has Mr Crabtree been in your angling life?
As a kid I was introduced to the “Mr Crabtree” books by a fishing mate and I put them on my Christmas list in 1965. I must have read them a hundred times if not more, then one day my next door neighbour informed my parents that Bernard Venables was coming to Crawley Collage for some reason and would I like to meet him. This must have been 1969 as it was the start of term and I was eleven, just before my twelfth birthday.
I met him, he was a really nice guy. He was clearly very passionate about fishing and he signed all my books for me. I had lunch at the same table with him and a few professors and lecturers, and at every opportunity the talk turned to fishing so I could be included in conversation. I still use “Crabtree” methods to this day, you can’t beat “keeping it simple” A float, a couple of shot and a hook, with a worm on the end, will always get you a good tench or a nice perch and surprise, surprise even a good carp !
Q7: Is there anything in fishing that you haven’t done? What are your ambitions?
I haven’t fished the Amazon and I’d like to do so before I’m too old to get there. There are a wealth of species that will take a lure down there and I’d love to have a go there before I die.
Q8: Do you have any angling heroes? What do you most admire about them?
I don’t know about angling heroes, but I do have a few people I admire a great deal who have remained nice people as well as becoming famous. One here in your interview list, Jan Porter, a great allrounder and a very nice guy – he always has time for people and especially kids.
Burtus Rozermijer, probably the greatest pike fisherman of all time, his fish list is beyond belief. I once witnessed a conversation some years ago between him and Mick Brown about Zander: Mick said he had caught “1400 & some” Zander & Burtus said “not a bad year” to which Mick replied “No, in my career!” But then Holland is littered with them (Zander that is) and England is not. Mick Brown, another very nice guy with time to talk, encourage and advise both young & old alike.
Dietmar Isiash, lately of Fox Rage fame. A brilliant predator angler, an ex world champion along with his wife Carmen. This guy is a fish catching machine and has invented so much of the modern lure gear you use and take for granted; a more enthusiastic angler I have yet to meet and another one with time for others less skilled than himself.
Matt Hayes, been there, got the tea shirt, made the video, done it all, pretty much. But yet another guy with time for those that could do with a few pointers. At the “Go Fishing Show” some years ago, he and Mick Brown came round to my stand to buy some lures for the next show they were about to do. They had only a few minutes to do so between demonstrations, yet when some guy asked if Matt would have his picture taken with this guy’s boy, he was there in a flash, nice as he could possibly be. I have seen many “so called” TV anglers simply blank kids and walk on by but not Matt.
Jerermy Wade, is a guy I’ve yet to meet and I’m guessing we could talk for a week without coming up for air. He’s done so much, been to so many places I want to go to, caught many species that I’d like to catch. Yet friends that have met him tell me he’s just like the others above and loves “putting back” in to the sport.
We need more people like them in the sport, these guys are all great ambassadors for our sport and we could do with a few more.
Q9: What lessons would you pass on to today’s young anglers?
Above all “Keep it simple”. Simple means carrying less, simple is cheaper when you loose it, simple still works!
If you don’t know, ask advice, most people will help you.
Have patience, learn bankcraft – rather than fishing the opposite bank with a 3oz lead, the fish are also under your bank, and as long as you move quietly you’ll catch them !
Learn to read the fishing conditions, some days it’s just not worth getting your gear out!
Q10: Describe your favourite ‘Crabtree moment’ you’ve had whilst fishing
Early morning Tench fishing, watching the bubbles coming up, then the float slipping away and a nice Tench coming to the net.