Monday, 4 April 2016

Q&A with Dave Horton, by Alan

CCD (CookiesDaughtersDad) AKA Alan
DH (Dave Horton)

CCD, Hi ya Dave, I was thinking of doing a question and answer thing for the pike pool with some of the " notable pike anglers" , and I would like to start with you, some of the questions may involve you supplying the odd photo or two. How do you feel about that?

DH, Fire away old man! ;)

CCD, Kicking things off, How you been since we last nearly met at Rob's talk, was it a dodgy back that's been the pain?

DH, Alan, I am nothing short of astonished at my improvement - the Physio was FANTASTIC and today I had a full gym session at the Fire Stn too in preparation for my functional assessment at HQ next week. A month back I had genuine doubts about ever doing my operational job again but I'm very confident of that now!

CCD,Hope that goes well for you.
I have suffered a bit myself over the years with sciatica, whats been your problem? was it a work related thing or was it simply lifting a big fish without bending your knees?

DH, I had a fall whilst Swift Water Rescue training back in Oct. It resulted in mass soft tissue damage in my lower back /glutes, left me with 2 bulging discs and highlighted a degenerative issue consistent with my manual line of work and being 51. It sounds worse that it is and I've been taught management techniques in order that I may carry on pretty much as before. In short I'm delighted!!!

CCD, That's a real shame for the story as I was hoping it was lifting a big fish! But I'm glad you seam on the mend.
But enough of this career hero fireman s***e, suitably admired I must say, so one last question off fishing if I may, what about the Horton's family, mum, dad, love life kids etc?

DH, My father was an Irishman who left Tipperary town in his teens for the bright lights of England. He and my mother made a family of six as I have an Older brother and sister and I'm half a brace of twins! We were the Casey's (a common name around Tip Town) but became the Horton's when my mother re-married after Dad done a bunk when I was 4 and I gained a half sister too!

My Twin brother became my twin sister (gender re-assignment) many years back so life is, was and always will be varied in my world.
I met the mother of my Children when we were both in out teens and we shared the next 17 years together before she eventually had enough of me. In fairness we had little other the kids in common but you don't realise these things when you're as young as we were perhaps? Between us we created my greatest accomplishment yet in the shape of my three fantastic kids (Amba 30 - Connor 27 and Jake 21) and this coming May Amba is to make me a grandfather for the first time so as far as I'm concerned 2016 is already a GREAT year!
I remarried some years back and have the perfect Wife now in as much as I haven't clapped eyes on her in over six years! That reminds me I must divorce her?
These days I share my life with a Girl (Donna) I was in class with every day throughout senior school but never found the courage to talk to much. She was a pretty lil thing (still is), went out with all the cool dudes (I never have been) and seemingly never noticed me? We re-met 4 years ago and get on like a house on fire!!!!
My world is completed by the fact that the young Lady I dated before Donna decided she'd sooner leave with both of our cars rather than the dog she'd arrived with and in no time at all Lucydog and I became inseparable!

She's a huge commitment and has cost me numerous fish (Dogs are not always permitted) but we love each other implicitly and I wouldn't be without her!

CCD, That is what I call a great answer Dave, thanks, somehow I just knew you were a paddy  I shall be asking a few fishy questions now
CCD, So Dave, what would be your 1st angling memory, who did you go with, where and importantly, did you catch?

 Dave and his Grandad on his 95th Christmas Day

DH, My first Angling memory was of a family day out back in the very early 70's- I suspect we were somewhere around Slough for that's where the majority of my extended family lived at the time - my Grandparents and a couple of Uncles and Aunts were present, my mother wasn't as she was quite poorly by now. Particularly as my Father had long since had it on his toes, it was the men folk that sort of mentored us boys. Again it's not until much later in life that you realise what was going on at the time but I remember it all fondly and with great respect now too. Fishing tackle appeared and so did a little gravel pit and a few hours were spent being educated in the fine art. Grandad was very comfortable with fishing and apparently I was the quietest and most softly trodden of "the twins" so I got to fish with him and see how it was done? 

Grandad helped everyone set up and got them fishing first and then he and I wandered as far away from the others as we could (all of 50 yds on the half acre pit) and planted the gear down beside some trees. For the next 30 minutes I learned more than was ever going to again in any other 30 minutes of my next 30 years of fishing! Whilst my uncles, cousin and brothers were busy catching little Perch and Roach Grandad and I simply crept along the tree line and looked into the water. I didn't always see what made Grandad mumble and muse but occasionally I did and they were HUGE!

Little crusts of bread were scattered amongst the branches of the trees and slowly they'd disappear into magic swirls of water that slurped and sometimes even re-appear too! I remember graphically having it explained to me how if we were stealth like and patient enough that maybe just maybe we could lead one or better still two of the fish (for when there's more than one they compete and make mistakes) "Hansel and gretel" like out from the branches to where we might just might be able to try fish for them "We're just trying to trick them David!" Pleasant banter and mild derision emanated from the area of the Pit that the rest of the family were fishing, at our lack of fish but Grandad smiled wryly and tried to keep me calm. 

Periodically I'd run back and forth to the others telling them of the monsters that lurked beneath the trees but they were more than content catching the little Roach etc and so if I'm honest would I have been! Eventually we began fishing ourselves and shock, gasp, horror all we were catching too were little Perch that seemingly swallowed the hooks and bled and even littler Roach. Every couple of minutes though Grandad would wander off down to the other end of the trees and feed a little more bread in. All too quickly an Auntie appeared and told us that time was almost up and that Nan (the matriarch) was thinking about heading home soon. His hand forced Grandad stood up and declared that it was now or never and promptly bit the line above his float before tying on a really BIG hook! I had to hang back incase I spooked them but off he went to the other end of the trees and within seconds he was waving frantically and calling me over! The whole family seemed to appear just in time to hear Grandads line snap and see the water calm and I got to watch the ever calm head of the family throw the rod down in disgust and start cussing! I was to run the whole event through my head a million times over the next few years and without doubt the Angler in my was born that very day!

CDD, So the young Horton is off and running down the angling path, over the next few years, which way did this path twist and turn regarding species and the places you fished etc and what was your 1st experience with pike?

DH, Throughout my junior School years I flirted with fishing and most of it was carried out in the company of my bestie, a boy by the name of Nigel Palmer. Initially we caught mostly Perch and it was whilst doing that that I learned the value of a livebait! That's a little misleading actually for it was worms that were used to catch the Perch but we soon learned that the more vigorous they were then the thus the more productive. Nigel and I were sent to different senior schools and slowly lost contact but not before we spread our wings a little further and found ourselves at a Dobbs Weir on the River Lea in Herts. Here we were to witness lots of Pike being caught and after watching "The Big Boys" and picking their brains we went away and armed ourselves with heavier line, shop bought snap tackles and some sprats. My first Pike though fell to a Live Gudgeon cadged from a fellow angler on our maiden trip Piking to Dobbs Weir! I was ecstatic and eager to show the world just how clever I was, so we promptly dispatched it with a hefty glass lemonade bottle and I rode the 10 miles home with it strapped to the handle bars of my push bike! Somewhat reminiscent of our EE brothers eh?

Having drifted apart from Nigel completely and having hooked up with other kids I continued to flirt with Fishing and Piking in particular but mostly with spinners and caught quite a few too! BY the time I was in my late teens my best Pike was still very modest in size and though not weighed I'd hazard a guess at 8lbs? When I was about 18 I witnessed a fish of 18lbs (the captor called it 20 but it never was) get caught at Dobbs Weir again and it had such an impact on me that I set about trying to catch such a fish myself and bloody blimey if I didn't catch the exact same specimen on my first trip a week later!

I learned so much from that first very intentional capture and above all I found confidence in my ability to catch Pike - From that day onwards I've never looked back!

CCD, I love that image of you cycling along with a pike strapped to the handle bars  but how attitudes have changed eh!
So I get the impression that from that 18 lber you became inspired to catch more pike and bigger pike and other than catching bait, you all but exclusively fished for them. When your 1st 20 plusser came,am I right in thinking it actually weighed over 30?

DH, Yes and no Alan. The "Yes's". I became inspired to to catch more and BIGGER Pike and yes I almost exclusively fished for them and that remained the case until fairly recent times. My recent flirting with other species has been born out of the fact that I've struck up a friendship with Keith Kracknell (KC) and he's without doubt one of the country's great all rounders and very inspiring to be around! In order to spend a bit more time in his company I've had to forsake a few Piking sessions here and there but have had my eyes opened to the bounty of great alternative fishing I've been missing out on. We both love our Piking and there ain't no way we're sharing runs at that but with everything else we're both pretty laid back and happy to share just about everything. The fact is that when KC and I go fishing together, special things happen. By way of example, our first ever session saw me catch the lake record and my first ever Catfish (courtesy of KC) at 61lbs and our most recent trip out saw him land his PB Perch of 4lbs 11oz, that I was delighted to be able to put him on to! There have been many many other happenings too (Hmmm I think I've just given birth to a future article for the Pool with that as the title?)!
The No was the fact that my First 20 was in fact 20lbs 6oz

but my second one weighed 32lbs 4oz 

and simply illustrated to me that they are far from mythical creatures and certainly no more difficult to catch than say a 20 pounder (both of which require a different mind set to catching Jacks IMHO) but there are of course far far fewer of them about! The capture of that first 30 and it's profound effect on me saw me decide to specifically target fish of that stamp on a frequent basis. That said I learned somewhere along the way that it can be soul destroying and also result in very few fish caught (I had just a dozen or so runs one winter but 4 of them came from 30's) so these days I punctuate my BIG fish fishing with some easy fishing where I'll get runs and thus remain relatively sane?

CCD, Now we can move onto what makes a angler become a "notable one"  like yourself.
Not allowing for ETs two 40s, I believe I am right in saying that you have caught more 30lb pike than any other UK angler, 30 I believe, now forgetting about techniques and baits etc because many reading this will have a good understanding of all that, but as we know that putting enough time on the right waters is the key to angling success. So can you try to explain how you have consistently managed to choose the right waters and how you found the dedication, year in, year out to put the time in. Regarding the right water, what sort of water, ticks all the Hortons boxes?

DH, Firstly, there's no "Not allowing for ET's 40's" or indeed his number of upper 30's too for his stats are phenomenal (I do enjoy reminding him of one negative stat though and that's that he's a decade older than me)! The fact is, you can only catch what is available and for the most part fish of that stamp are generally few and far between.

It's possible there's someone out there caught more than ET and thus obviously myself but they're very good at keeping stum if that's the case?
Thirty pounders though are without doubt realistic targets and throughout the length and breadth of this country fish of that size get caught week in week out! I think I'm living proof that if you're driven enough that a working class lad with all the trappings of family life and a basic career etc can realistically hope to catch fish of that stamp should he wish to? The actual catching BIG Pike is I think relatively easy Alan - finding waters with them is not! Sure we have the obvious ones like Chew but unless you're one of the chosen few or loaded, getting access there is no mean feat? What we're left with then is either finding a water capable of producing one all of your own (I've only managed that once in 30 years) or more likely fishing somewhere that has a little history, recent or otherwise. Chasing specific fish is not everyones cup of tea (it's not my favoured option either) but I've done it and it is achievable. I've caught several fish that had popped up in the Angling press, that I'd been shown in pics or had perhaps even surprisingly turned up in fish surveys etc. I've specifically targeted them and almost without exception I've caught them too if I've made a concerted effort to do so!

I do chuckle sometimes when I hear terms like "circus" or when I see one angler deriding another for fishing a specific place or catching a particular fish and then offering themselves up as some paragon of virtue for fishing, for example, the great Lake's, a mighty lough or loch, the extensive Drains system, perhaps the Broads or even a large river etc for example? Rarely are they first to have done so, so are they not themselves simply following up some bit of information or snippet and jumping on someone elses all beit historic band wagon? The actual fact is that many many of us are actually fishing for the self same very few BIG fish if indeed that's what tickles our fancy?
Whilst I'll not try to refute your assertion "we know that putting enough time on the right waters is the key to angling success". I will offer the suggestion that choosing the right time to do so is far more effective! I've just done a very quick bit of mental arithmetic and can hand on heart tell you that five of the thirty pound fish I've caught have been landed within my first three attempts at catching them! Don't get me wrong I've had long campaigns too, particularly where for one reason or another I can't get at the fish as and when I would want to and my Irish thirty is a case in point in a much as it took in excess of 5 years for me to finally catch it when I specifically fished the water it lived in!

My dedication and inclination to go wavers dramatically and from time to time (for one reason or another) I've had none and thus taken full winters out to regroup as such. Where once I considered this a bad thing, these days I specifically choose to do it in order that I may fish more effectively when the inclination finally rears it's head again. To try keep it all fresh and interesting I set myself little targets - I'm particularly proud of having caught 20's from a dozen different rivers and 30's from the same number of different venues too. A few winters back I set out to catch 20's from all the home nations in one winter (and did it) and this winter I'm hoping still to catch a 20 plusser from my Kayak (MISSION ACCOMPLISHED NOW) !

"Regarding the right water, what sort of water, ticks all the Hortons boxes?"
I enjoy River Piking above all else Alan (and have a right River result this winter too) but I'm genuinely happy fishing anywhere and I do mean anywhere as long as I suspect it holds a thirty pounder. That's not to say I don't fish waters that don't hold them for often I specifically make a point of doing just that for above all else I just love catching Pike!
CCD, Ok I'll let Eddie keep his 40s
The future, I think if you haven't already, as I know you like to keep a little bit back, caught your 30th 30, I'm sure its all but a done deal, even 40 30s looks likely to one day be on the cards but I wonder how much importance you place on fishing for, and catching a 40?
With all the pressure modern angling is under,the ones that make for some of the most repeated threads on the pit, you know, EEs, cormorants and otters etc how optimistic are you for the future of British angling, and in particular specimen angling?

DH, Hahaha I do hold a little back Alan and for good reason. Invariably telling even your closest friends what you've caught and or where can see the fish come under greater pressure.  Some recent events have just reinforced my thoughts on this matter!

I have my own little rule of thumb regarding recaptures in as much as I'm perfectly happy to set out to catch a specific fish by design twice but there are others who will do so repeatedly (and of course there may be some who would not wish to catch a fish even twice) so by NOT sharing captures we are effectively protecting the fish and of course our own future fishing!

I don't think I'm being over ambitious in thinking it likely that I'll at least match ET for numbers of Pike over 30 Pounds one day (if not the 40's or BIG 30's)especially when you consider he has had a decade more at it than I have! If I'm honest though (and I heart on sleeve am at times) I'd really like to catch at least one more than Eddie. There's not much in this world that I'm any good at but Piking is something I can lay that claim to so I don't mind admitting that it would tickle me if one day it were accepted that I'd caught the most 30 pound Pike.

I do still dream of a 40 Pound Pike BUT I'm a realist and recognise that opportunities to catch one are few and far between and it would be difficult to specifically target one? Yes I know there's that gorgeous one in Yorkshire that Wyne Coole has caught twice but fishing for it under the circumstances I'd have had to was not something that appealed to me. I am not under any circumstances knocking anyone who has though either!

I'm fairly optimistic about Piking actually - Chew aside there are still good numbers of 30 pound fish to be found the length (Scotland seems to be up and coming) and breadth (the fens are holding their own) of this country and with so much focus on Chew itself some of them are getting a little overlooked in my opinion? It's a travesty what has happened on the Broads in recent times with Salt incursions and Prymnesium not to mention the Otters but even there there will be opportunities for the man prepared to put in the hours and leg work? That the EE's are an issue is too obvious to ignore and I in no way condone them taking fish for the pot.

Daves favorite, a river thirty
I will however, try to offer a silver lining to that particular cloud by suggesting that generally, in the main, their techniques are most effective with the smaller of our Pike and that the removal of them, whist potentially having dire long term effects, may be part of the reason that some of the waters that the EE's frequent are seemingly producing more BIG Pike at present than they have done for quite some time?
Going off at a tangent here but one positive by product of having caught quite as many BIG Pike as I have is rarely do I feel any pressure to do so again and as such I'm free to play long shot's and explore opportunities that I might not do if I were driven merely by the pursuit of the next one?
Piking and specimen hunting in general is a funny old game but above all else I've come to learn that there really are very few outstanding anglers. Instead what is very obvious to me and has been for decades but somehow eludes some others is that any fisherman is only as good as his fishing! So any Piker who is consistently catching more than average is likely very competent at Piking but has access to above average fishing - simple as!