IFD: Jan Porter is one of the best known faces in fishing. Jan was one of the top UK match anglers for many years, known as the man in red, and he now works for Shimano and rapala as a full time angler. Jan gave up the match fishing to concentrate on specimen angling and when not indulging in his other love of rock music, Jan will be found on bank or boat chasing his next big fish. We are delighted to have some of Jan’s time so now we will get on with the questions…..
What were your earliest memories of fishing?
In a fjord in Norway near Veblungsnes when I was about 6 years old, I caught a small codling and a coalfish on a hand line using silver kroeken style lures, an early vertical angler in the making I guess.
Can you tell us what kind of sessions you done in those early days?
Fished most Sundays with local colliery angling associations using hired coaches of dubious roadworthiness, also fished with my mates and traveled using public transport or cycling to venues as my Dad didn’t have a car at the time. Sometimes my Grandad’s brother, my uncle Wilf, himself a keen but novice angler took me and my mate in his car, to places like Codnor park and still waters. I joined Nottingham Anglers Association who own the Bestwood Duckponds fishery, when I was 14 years old and apart from the club matches. trips to the Trent embankment on the bus. I used to walk there or catch the local bus or it was the pushbike in the summer.
You then became heavily involved in match fishing, how did that begin for you?
Again my competitive angling started at club level, I won the Hucknall and Linby Miners Welfare AC junior trophy three years on the trot which was a huge influence in terms of confidence of course this was club fishing and nothing like the open match circuit which I got involved in much later and after I’d put angling on the back bruner for several years as I concentrated on trying to become a pro musician in a prog rock band.
Once this itch was well and truly scratched and 150 gigs later I realised that I was a failed rock star at best and so hung up my guitar and picked up the rods again after a 5/6 year layoff. I tried the open circuit and I was not only lacking n confidence but well off the pace and it took me some time and lots of effort to build up both aspects of my repertoire to a much higher standard than club angling. I won my first open match in 1979, 10lbs of roach on the waggle at Caythorpe and from then on I never looked back as everything seemed to fall into place.
You are one of the most successful match men of all time in the UK, what does it take to compete at the highest levels of match fishing?
I think I made my mark and without wanting to sound to self effacing there were and are much more successful anglers than I was then and certainly now, however I feel I did make an impact on the circuit when I decided to wear all red at a time when almost all match anglers were into drab colours.
I think I took certain aspects of angling to another level, in particular, waggler, I pioneered long range feeder work on the Trent when even the top rods couldn’t hit anywhere near the far bank on the siders stretches of the river.
Also long pole to hand on the Trent which used to be called Bann Style in Ireland. To compete at the highest level you have to be totally committed to your art, nothing comes in front of it (well it didn’t for me) it’s a selfish outlook I suppose, you have to have a good network of intel, know your venues, master one technique initially and fish to your strengths adding other styles to your portfolio until you master all styles and then can be a complete all rounder.
Be totally confident, be prepared to fish to the fish and not the depth or follow the rest of the pack unless it’s a nailed on winning peg with form for a particular technique.
Think positive and I always used to think where I wanted to draw and eliminated any poor areas or bad pegs from my thought processes. The difference between a good angler and a great angler can simply boil down to being able to consistently draw well and when you do make the most of it, of course having a good resolve and belief in your ability helps to prevent ‘bottling out’.
What prompted the change to give up the match fishing and start carping again and specimen hunting?
I was ostensibly a river angler so when the Trent, Warwickshire Avon, Thames and the fenland rivers went down the dip in the late 80’s/early 90’s due to undocumented pollution at worst and sickening of the fish stocks at best due to increased toxins being legally allowed to get discharged into the rivers. I had a successful tackle shop from ’81 until ’89 when I sold the business, I’d been to a couple of carp society meetings and the techniques, tackle and bait fascinated me. I also realised that carp anglers bought in multiples and therefore spent more per head than general coarse anglers. It was the main reason from a career perspective and in 1992 I reverted back to how I used to fish when I was a younger angler at the Bestwood Duckponds when floating crust or levered luncheon meat were state of the art carp baits at the time. Sub surface suspended crust was a killer it’s a little refined and called the zig rig nowadays which always brings a smile to my face when some anglers think it is a new age technique.
Is it true that you were responsible for real tree camo arriving in the UK?
In the early days of my re invented carp angling I wore the standard issue olive, I’d worn red and the carpers didn’t appreciate it at all, not that it bothered me one bit, I’d already have every thing thrown at me from Captain Scarlet, the Red Baron, Scarlet Pimpernel, Lady in Red and much worse so it was like water off a ducks back but not the right image as I wanted to ‘retire’ the Man in Red so I searched around for an alternative image, it took some while but later down the line I spotted effectivity camouflage from the States, it took some time but I finally got in touch with Realtree’s UK distributor and suggested I become a conduit into the angling industry.
They took me on as a consultant and this fitted perfectly at the time with my other consultancies with Shimano & Fox International, Shimano took the Hardwoods Green HD soft goods licence and I worked up the Tribal concept which was about an urban vibe that was quite radical and unique in the late 90’s, of course nothing lasts and many other companies naturally followed/still are following suit which is flattering to say the least.
Can you give us any advice for the would be specimen hunter?
Not dissimilar to any successful branch of angling and much of the advice is the same as above, location and timing are key elements on harder waters, being patient is a virtue and moving to showing fish is always a better option than fishing a swimming pool, fishing onto dark always pays dividends on rivers and still waters in my opinion and mid week is always better than weekends with less anglers about.
Don’t get bogged down with ‘miracle & magical’ baits, rigs and the latest fad, keep things simple and work out your own style. Too often struggling anglers with little experience switch from bait too bait and venue to venue, swapping tackle like it’s going out of fashion this is what I call the white noise factor, a guaranteed one way ticket to a drain in confidence and poor returns catch wise.
What catch over the years were you most excited about at the time?
Lot’s so a very thought provoking question, I can’t just pick one out so here’s a sample : the perch my dad put on the hook when I was chasing butterflies was pivotal at a tender age and really gave me a massive buzz even though I only found out the truth over thirty years later. Catching 133lb 10oz of roach on the Queen Elizabeth Road in Enniskillen was my biggest ever 5 hour match weight and ironically equal to my biggest ever fish caught a 65kg Yellow Fin Tuna 30 miles off the coast of Capetown, South Africa (a memorable capture but thoroughly overwhelming and draining physically). A brace of 9lb 8oz & 9lb 10oz tench in 2012 is right up there, and of course winning the Division 1 National Team medal three times with Trentman AC was the highlight of my match career and involved three of my best ever ‘bottle’ jobs in very difficult pegs in my section.
If you could relive any session over the years what would it be?
Specimen wise the one that included the two big tench previously mentioned at Linear Fishery nr Witney, that week I had another 20 big tench and also three 30lb carp including a new UK PB common of 32lb 10oz, the sunsets and sunrises during that session were particularly special.
What are your fishing ambitions for the future?
I’m really back into my lure angling which has been with me all my life since that fjord trip in Norway and I’ve built up a formidable collection of lures which I started building around the time I got into carp angling again as I fished for all species but pike and predators always figured very highly. I’ve just bought and old skool yankee bass boat and refurbished the trailer and fitted a 60hp mercury with Lowrance sonar and I’m looking at possibly doing some limited guiding in the corporate sector also spending more time over in Holland with my good friend and European predator superstar Willem Stolk.
It’s been great talking to you Jan and I hope you have a great Christmas and 2015
No problem Paddy and the same to you mate….