Saturday, 12 May 2012

Interview With New PAC President, and Pikelines Editor, Dilip Sarkar MBE.

 Dilip diving with pike at Stoney Cove in 2003, whilst training
for an expedition to dive the scuttled German WW1 fleet at Scapa Flow.
Pike Pool: Welcome to The Pool from all Pool-Siders, Dilip. Have you looked in on The Pool? If so, to give you a little tester to start with, tell us what you think of the Pool, and what your favourite article and why?!

DS: Thanks Pool-siders, and for giving me an opportunity to introduce myself. Online publishing offers really exciting and potentially unlimited opportunities - especially as it can be achieved from any home computer. This means that so much more material, of all kinds, will be published in future – which, speaking as an author and publisher who came up the slow and hard way, is a very great thing. I’m all for The Pike Pool, therefore, and a big fan of online publishing generally – so much easier and cheaper! So firstly I’d commend all involved with The Pool for setting up this initiative and especially for providing new writers with a platform - because I’ll always remember how hard that was back in the day.

Back in the day: a seventeen year old Dilip Sarkar
with a Severn double in 1978, a year after joining
the new PAC and when Worcestershire RO.
 The articles I found particularly interesting were your interview with new PAC Events Manager Pete Foster – a fine angler and committed PAC man – and those by our mutual friend Steve Bown. I’ve a great deal of time for Steve – another fine angler and committed PAC member, who has worked tirelessly for the Club for many years; I was absolutely delighted when he bagged his first two double-figure zander from my stretch, especially considering their size, and what can anybody say about that terrific brace, including an 18.04, on 14 March 2012 from elsewhere on the Severn. Steve’s pieces perfectly capture both his passion and the moment – which is what it’s all about.

The Pike Pool: Many Pool Siders are PAC members and the three of us who put The Pool together absolutely love the Club, so tell us a bit about your good-self and association with PAC.

DS: Growing up on the banks of the rivers Severn and Teme here in Worcester, my friends, with whom I still fish today, got into fishing in a big way at an early age. The pike always hugely excited and inspired us. At a time when every pike caught was killed, we were appalled by this and began returning them. This didn’t go down at all well, putting us thirteen year olds in direct conflict with the local match and game anglers. In those days of the early 1970s there were no other pike anglers in this area, so we were really out on a limb.
Dilip’s first twenty: 3 January 1980, 23.04
from a Cotswold trout water.
 When the PAC started in 1977, therefore, it was fantastic for us, because for the first time we were in the orbit of other pikers, on our wavelength, and had access to information via the Club magazine. Remember that back then piking wasn’t much covered in the angling press, there was no internet and there weren’t many books available either. We largely made our own rods, floats, indicators, buzzers and landing-net frames – how things change! In 1978 I succeeded Des Taylor as Worcestershire RO, but as a student without transport and with so few members it was an impossible task, really. I also had a monumental fall-out with one of my young friends over this, because although a PAC member, and still is, he disagreed with us having an active Regional Association, believing this to be detrimental to our own fishing. I strongly disagreed and still do. We have never changed our positions on this issue, in fact. My view, however, is that people will always go piking – but I would prefer them to do so competent in handling pike.
Piking revisited:
12 March 2011 – River Severn, 25.01
 Anyway, by 1980 I’d had enough so passed over to someone else, and the Region folded soon afterwards. By 1985, for a variety of reasons, I had stopped serious piking, although I revisited it in the early nineties for a while, and at which time I re-joined PAC. Due to work and life commitments, though, I was then forced in to carping for convenience sake. Between 1999 – 2005, I was a very serious technical deep shipwreck diver, so didn’t fish seriously again until 2005, getting involved with PAC once more in 2009. So, here I am again!

The Pike Pool: Have you got any plans or priorities for the PAC moving forward, if so please share them with us.

DS: We have many plans! PAC is moving forward – big time. Our new Committee – 12PAC – is inspired with energy, enthusiasm and vision. 12PAC will be engaging widely with members and increasing PAC’s use of the media – including the internet. This package includes Team Pikelines, to produce both a printed and interactive online version of Pikelines, the latter as an additional member benefit, and Team Internet – to completely oversee a professionally led upgrade of PAC’s entire online presence. This will include a whole new website, forum, dedicated operatives for such things as Blogging, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, and video production; Mark Skinner is currently researching a PAC App – so the future is arriving at last! We will be getting PAC’s new ethos and message out there – loud and clear. In short PAC is joining the digital revolution, and as the strapline says on the forthcoming Pikelines, this really is a ‘New Dawn’ – and the blue touch paper about to be lit!

 We have some terrific people on the new Committee – you’ll be hearing much more of them all in future – but I’d particularly like to welcome aboard my partner in crime, General Secretary Alan Dudhill – a massively enthusiastic individual, Pike Angler of the Year 2011, and a passionate former RO; former PAC General Secretary and current President and Editor of the Lure Anglers’ Society, Chris Liebbrandt – who joins us as Advertising Manager and will be of so much help in many ways; Pete Foster taking over as Events Manager; Angling Times correspondent and angling author Dominic Garnett dealing with press and news, and PAC stalwarts Brian Birdsall and John Keeley jointly taking over as Membership Secretary. John Synnuck remains Chair, Colin Goodge Convention Manager, Mark Skinner Products Manager, Giles Hill Treasuer, and Mike Skipper continues to have an input into Team Internet – more of which another time. Alan and I are all for pulling down ivory towers – wherever they persist – and 12PAC will be, you can be assured – a CAN DO set-up!

 Externally we will be building bridges and working in partnership with numerous organisations and agencies to ensure that PAC has a loud voice regarding issues affecting angling. For example we are already supporting the Angling Trust in various ways, especially the ‘Building Bridges’ Project aimed at helping to resolve the poaching and fish theft issue, and I have recently become a Patron and board member of the Predation Action Group. Alan is already planning meetings for us with various PAC members, notably in Scotland and Norfolk, so we’ll be out there. We all need to be working together, presenting the right image – and making progress.

 Colin Goodge does a terrific job of organising the annual Convention, and we’ll certainly be looking at how he can be supported – don’t miss this year’s Convention, by the way, a top line up of speakers and traders marking PAC’s thirty-fifth anniversary (22 September 2012, The Pavillions of Harrogate)!

Angling generally needs to encourage young people, and from what I see PAC is on the ball with this. Eric Edwards has really picked up the gauntlet here, and, having qualified himself as an angling coach is driving things forward. So, this area of operations has to be a priority – because without younger people involved, we have no future – and that isn’t an exaggeration. Eric will be PAC’s Angling Development Officer – it needs one. Hopefully PAC’s new online strategy – which won’t happen overnight, because it takes time to get things right – will also appeal to young people.

Dilip considers a big Severn pike to be 25+, and last season was lucky enough to catch two over that mark, 26.08 and 27.02 (the latter pictured here). With 53 doubles from the Severn that season, including three twenties, the ratio of 17.66 doubles per twenty emphasises how few and far between the bigger pike are on Britain’s longest river

The Pike Pool: Pikelines is a great magazine we all look forward to landing on our door mats every three months. Steve Ormrod was a legend in his time as Editor. Have you any plans and hopes for Pikelines yourselves guys?

DS: I’ll say! We have just increased the magazine by four pages, and intend to go ‘live’ with an interactive version ASAP – as an added bonus to members. Rest assured, though, the printed version of Pikelines will remain available – at least until the world becomes totally consumed by the digital revolution and printed paper disappears from common use. As I said earlier, we now have Team Pikelines to produce the magazine. Alan and I are very keen indeed to use members’ professional experience wherever and whenever possible. On that basis Steve remains aboard as Production and Design Manager, which was actually his intended role; Dominic Garnett will be handling news; Roger Howes proof-reading; Tom Balaam is our roving PAC photographer; Chris Liebbrandt will drive forward advertising; my son, James, will continue co-ordinating Young Pikers (which he was doing before I got involved, I hasten to add), and last but not least, I am now Editor. Obviously Team Pikelines will, in due course, be working very closely with the internet team – definitely the way forward.
     A huge victory of 2012 was successfully campaigning to see Major Booth’s record Wye pike returned to Hereford Museum. Here Dr John Tate, RO for Halesowen, and Dilip shake hands at the Museum - on a day they frequently never thought would come. The fish remains displayed there until June 2012, when it goes to a taxidermist for complete restoration. In 2013 the pike will provide an impressive centre-piece to a unique exhibition concerning the history of angling in the Wye Valley – providing an unprecedented opportunity to promote pike conservation and the PAC in that game dominated area.

  The Pike Pool: All work and no play leads to a very dull pike angler; I am sure you will agree. Tell us firstly what you would like to catch next winter and secondly outside of fishing what you would love to do?

DS: Well that’s a difficult one at the moment, because PAC is taking up so much of my time, and I also have to write for a living, so there there may not be much time for personal fishing for a while. That said, I think that the cornerstone we are now laying is so crucial to PAC moving forward that the investment of time and personal sacrifice is entirely justified – there’s a bigger picture, sometimes, than fish in the back of your own net.

 Last season Dilip fished for the Severn zander from
the bank, until the piking began in earnest – this 12.03
was one of three doubles caught on the afternoon
of 13 September 2011.
That said, last season I concentrated almost exclusively on my local River Severn, fishing for zander until November, and mainly pike thereafter. I fortunately did well with both species, although James trounced me with a very big zander, so I’d still like one of those! One of the reasons I put so much time in locally was because James was doing a predator survey for his fishery management course, requiring us to weigh, measure and photograph every single pike and zander caught. The data collated has been amazing (and will be published in a future issue of Pikelines), we have learned so much about the predator population. I was proposing a campaign on a different river, but the more I think about it a greater contribution would be to repeat this process, which with data collated over two seasons would be even more useful – indeed, after the recent flood, which was significant, we may even be in for one or two surprises; I am very interested to see how much the pike population in particular changes annually. So, I reckon that’s my mind made up! In addition, I’ll also be getting out and about around the Regions, talking, and personally supporting both our local RAs: Worcestershire and Teme Valley.

Outside angling and writing, Dilip,
now aged 50 and who describes
himself as ‘a bit of a silly old fool’,
is playing cricket again for Malvern
Cricket Club, after many years away
from the game.
 Outside of fishing, I still have books to write and am currently working on a very detailed and critical biography of the wartime legless flying ace Douglas Bader – whose story was featured in the 1954 best-seller Reach for the Sky and film of the same name. I was reading for my PhD, researching the Spitfire as the icon of Britain’s popular memory of World War Two, but that’s on hold whilst we lay PAC’s new cornerstone. I was fifty last August and had a bit of a crisis: I decided to start playing club cricket again! So, together with James and my seventeen year-old stepson, George, we’ve been training in the indoor nets since last October – and now await our first game of the season, should it ever stop raining, for Malvern Cricket Club! Basically I suppose I’m one of those inspired people who do everything 200% or not at all – and my late father, a Magistrate, Quaker and tireless charity worker – always brought me up with a strong sense of wanting to make a positive contribution and difference.

The Pike Pool: One last question: you’ve got to choose both a female and male boat partner for a day on Chew Valley Reservoir this coming October. Holly Willoughby or Fern Cotton? / Mick Brown or Neville Fickling / or others…. Please tell!

DS: Well, for the female I could only choose my wife, the angling artist Karen Sarkar! A passionate wildlife enthusiast, Karen became absolutely fascinated by pike after catching a jack a few years ago. It was at that point my life changed, because with Karen and my son, James, being so inspired it was inevitable that as a family our lives would revolve around fishing – as mine did years ago. Karen has become a competent pike angler and has slowly increased her PB to 16.15 (that’s the way to do it!). When she gets a twenty-pounder we’ll have a party, because she really deserves one – not many slightly built females I know are prepared to go out in all weathers, at all times and day and night, season in, season out!

 For a male boat partner, well, I can cheat a bit here. Nev and I communicate by email on a very regular basis, which is always illuminating; Mick Brown was here for lunch, with Chris Liebbrandt, recently, collecting his angling portrait from Karen - we sat and chatted for hours and only then do you realise how little, by comparison, you know! So, for a male boat partner it would have to be my son, James, who I have taken fishing since he was three years old. It really is his absolute passion, to the extent that he is now studying fishery management. James and I are very close, and life hasn’t always been easy for the two of us, but we emerged through those rough times intact and still smiling…

The Pike Pool: Many thanks Dilip for your time to answer our questions. The Pool wish yourself and your fellow committee members all the very best over the next three years and hope you all get out and catch some nice fish along the way too. 

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