I was but a nipper in short trousers when I first heard that Robin Harris MBE had won the world championships for England back in 1969. The great Coventry angler Billy Lane had been our first world champion of course, but that precedes my memory. To this day, like many thousands of other anglers, I look forward with anticipation to reading the world championships results, wondering whether England or perhaps another of the home countries can pull off another victory.
Given our success over the past 30 years, it does sadden me a bit that match angling doesn’t receive more positive coverage in the mainstream media.
With the world championships upon us again in early September, I am going to share my England dream team with you. In fact, two dream teams, one picked for an overseas world championship and the second dream team for a theoretical world championship to be held on a typical English narrow canal.
My first dream Team
The first name to appear on my team sheet would be Steve Gardener. Certainly the best English angler never to have won the world championship, Steve was just so consistent, year in, year out. I was delighted to have been there when Steve won the Division 1 individual crown on the New Junction in 2011.
My second pick would be Alan Scotthorne. Five world championship individual wins and eight team golds speak for themselves. I for one would not bet against Alan winning a 6th title in the next few years.
I would not think of setting sail without Big Kev on board so the great Lancastrian, Kevin Ashurst just has to make my dream team. His victory on the tough Newry Canal in 1982 was the highlight of his wonderful international career in which he represented England on 23 occasions.
Still a relative youngster and who would bet against him doubling his number of England caps, my fourth pick is Dorking’s William Raison. I was lucky to witness Will thrash that great French angler Jean Desque off the next peg in the 1998 world champs fishing for bleak, just superb.
And to the fifth and final member of the dream team, it’s an awfully tough choice between Bob Nudd and Ivan Marks but I would have to go with Ivan, because of his all-round versatility, with Bob on the bench as reserve.
Behind every great team is an equally great manager and without hesitation I would plump for Barnsley great, Dick Clegg, to manage my dream team.
My narrow canal dream team
When I started this article, I somehow imagined picking a narrow canal dream team would be the easier of the two tasks. Having pondered it for a week or two, I was in hindsight somewhat mistaken.
My first pick and the only angler to make both teams is Kevin Ashurst. Son of the equally great Benny, and brought up on his beloved northern canal circuit, it was said that Kevin could catch fish from anywhere. In my experience that was a pretty accurate statement. I drew next to Kevin once on the Shroppie and failed dismally to give him a run for his money.
Sticking with a Lancastrian theme, my second choice is 1974 world champion Ian Heaps from Stockport. Like Kevin, Ian learnt his trade on the northern canal network. These days Ian manages his own stillwater fishery in Pembrokeshire.
I am heading much further south for my third choice, Mark Pollard. In the 1980s and 1990s, Mark was a hard man to beat on the southern Grand Union. One Wednesday afternoon, when I was supposed to be hard at work in the BW office at Watford, I once sat behind Mark for a couple of hours absolutely mesmerised by his squat fishing ability.
North to Cheshire for my fourth pick. Hailing from the Nantwich area and son of maggot breeder and tackle shop owner Harry, Ian Moulton was in particular a superb bloodworm angler and hard to beat on the Midlands Canal circuit, particularly when the fishing got tough in the colder months.
My final choice would be Staffordshire lad, Dave Berrow. At his peak Dave was winning week-in-week-out on the Midlands canal circuit relieving me, amongst numerous others, of our hard earned cash. I have not bumped into Dave for absolutely ages although I am led to believe that he still fishes the occasional match here and there.
And here’s just a few names I have left out. You could easily make a case for having every one of them in the narrow canal dream team. The two Dave’s, Roper and Brogden from Izaak Walton Preston, Mark Addy and Vinny Smith from the successful Highfield team and not forgetting another England international, Bolton’s Alan McAtee. From the London area, the Vincent bothers, Peter Vasey and Derek Young were at the heart of that great Trev’s Browning team. From the West Country, Kim Milsom was an awesome canal angler. The Midlands circuit has produced a host of stars, Ray Mills, Billy Makin, Tony Scott, Alan Wright, Paul Turner, and Mark Downes etc – the list goes on and on.
National fisheries & angling manager
The team undertake a diverse range of work including looking after the Trust's £40 million worth of fish stocks, managing agreements with over 250 different angling clubs and helping more people, especially youngsters, take up angling on the canal. Follow this blog to keep updated with the thoughts and work of the team.See more blogs from The fisheries & angling team