What i’ve learned from the fishing greats

Throughout my fishing life I have been lucky enough to learn from and fish with some of what i think, many people will agree, are the fishing greats. You will undoubtedly have your own list but i thought i would write a series of blogs on those that have influenced my fishing the most. In this article i talk about Fred Buller and Fred J Taylor.

What I learned from Fred Buller

Fred is perhaps best known for his 1971 text book Pike and his 1979 compilation of big pike stories The Domesday Book of Pike. I got to know him when I was writing my own book The Great Anglers in 1989 and, believe me, Fred was great in every sense of the word.

He was our greatest angling researcher and scholar. He had worked in fisheries for years and knew fish intimately. he was great angler too, catching pretty well every UK species on the list. He was generous with his knowledge and his time. He was great company, witty, insightful and possessing a great wine cellar. He came into my life at just the right time after I had just left teaching..he taught me to believe in myself but to try to be modest and always listen to others. he taught me to put the fish first and to worry about baits , flies and approaches secondly. Above all, he showed me that true fishermen are part of a brotherhood and that above all, we should strive to be kind, to help and to understand.


What I learned from Fred J Taylor

You could never call FJT an unsung hero but he was to a degree outshone by his relationship with Richard Walker-a fact he personally resented. Fred was not one of our great 20th century writers but he never set out to be. He wanted to get across the new ways of fishing that he and his “joyous gang” we pioneering. The “Taylor Brothers” were at the heart of most of what was happening from the Fifties onwards and you always read Fred with huge interest.

What did I personally take away from his books and articles? Obviously, FJT and deadbaiting are synonymous. It is hard to believe now we never thought a pike would ever pick up a DEAD fish!! Today, 80% of my pike come on deads and each and every time I give up a silent prayer to Old Fred.

Without doubt, the biggest lesson FJT taught me is the potency of pre baiting for tench. The Taylor Brothers did this big time and it worked in the 60s just as it does now. In fact , all things being equal, as Fred once said to me in person, the more you put in, the more tench you get out.

I don’t want these pieces to become mindless hagiography. I met Fred several times in the 80s when we were writing for one of the artworks that were in vogue at the time. Unlike virtually all of his contemporaries, Fred was always fairly cold towards me. He would talk but I always felt unwillingly and with more than a dash of arrogance.Of course, I could have been seen as one of the young pretenders but I always found it a little hurtful, especially as he had long been in my pantheon of heroes.

So what do i conclude from this? Well the two Fred’s definitely shared a passion for angling and each in their own way were innovators, who thought deeply about fish behaviour, and that is something i have tried to carry through in my fishing approach. 

Who are your fishing heroes?

John Bailey