Newest member of CC, Alan Blair is one of the most famous faces in carp fishing. His dedication to angling is unparalleled. We put some questions to Al to give us an insight into his passion for the sport and career thus far… ENJOY!
How did you get into carp fishing? Where did it all begin?
“I caught my first carp when I was around ten years old after being taken to a water that contained carp with the dream of catching my first one. Up until then, I had caught all manner of different species but carp was one that I still needed to tick off my list. That first carp was caught from a small farmer’s pond covered in lily pads and it was one hazy day, on a summer’s evening when my float disappeared as my single grain of sweetcorn had been taken… That first carp probably weighed about 6oz, it was a mirror and from that day on I wanted to keep catching them.
Carp fishing in the UK can be broken into different categories. Of course there are carp anglers who sit on big pits for long periods chasing the biggest carp but by the time I was a teenager, the commercial fishery boom had well and truly kicked off all over the country lakes were being created and heavily stocked making carp up to 20lb VERY accessible! It wasn’t until my late teenage years after I’d caught thousands of carp that my want to ‘get about’, have my own adventures, explore waters and spot big black shapes that my true carp angling began, entirely inspired by the legend Terry Hearn. Hunting carp had become an obsession, and by concentrating on floater fishing and stalking I was well on my way to understanding the carp and how easy they could be caught when you found them.”
Kevin Nash is a pioneer of carp fishing, you are much younger – what do you think about the future in tackle or bait? Or is everything done, and all we can do now is repeat and refine?
“I’ve only worked in the industry for a fraction of the time compared to Kevin. There have even been times when I have questioned if it is the right path to follow however it is my life, in fact it’s been my entire life. I simply LOVE to go fishing and enjoy all the things associated with it! I have the best job in the world and I wouldn’t change it for anything.
Part of my role at Nash is product development and for sure Nash tackle can’t ever re-invent the fishing rod, the landing net or the bivvy but no-one will ever re-invent the car, the house or the vacuum cleaner however things do evolve, they can be made better and that word ’innovation’ is one of the biggest things Kevin has instilled in me during my ten years working for the company.
Tackle will continue to improve as new ideas, materials and technologies are brought to carp fishing by forward thinking companies. Waters where anglers fish will improve and develop, carp are getting bigger so the pursuit and hunt still burns and the long and short of it is carp fishing will certainly continue for the remainder of my lifetime and I’m sure my children’s lifetimes. In the UK, most of the other disciplines of angling are declining – for example competition fishing, game fishing, sea fishing but NOT carp fishing – it’s on the increase. For me, the underlying factor why carp fishing continues to grow is because the carp grows the largest. We all know the anglers tale of ‘it was this big…’ and what we all like to do as anglers is tell our fellow anglers or friends that ours was this big and it’s the carp that allows us to do this because of the sheer size it can grow to. Also let’s not forget that unlike other species carp are very much unique, and that individuality in size and scale pattern makes them very desirable.
One of the biggest issues in today’s world of carp fishing is the media. On the one hand it encourages people to believe that can go and catch big carp easily, and helps give them the tools to do that. But equally, it can also give people false hope or expectation. I have given 25 years of my life to angling, and although I catch plenty of course I also have blank sessions.
A carp fisherman offers to take his next-door neighbour fishing – his neighbour has never been fishing before, let alone carp fishing but he sees his neighbour going each weekend. They go to a heavily stocked UK commercial carp fishery using bite alarms, hair rigs and boilies and by the end of the session the carp anglers neighbour has caught a couple of double figure carp and has thoroughly enjoyed his day!
The neighbour decides he wants to go again, begins buying basic carp fishing tackle he needs and starts watching videos on You Tube and buying carp fishing magazines – immediately he wants to catch a bigger one.
He continues to fish these commercial carp waters that are heavily stocked with singles and doubles over the next couple of years, collects a large amount of carp fishing tackle and bait with the desire to continue catching bigger fish with his target now being maybe a 20, 30 or even a 40-pounder.
In years 3 and 4 he starts to search for a water with target fish of this size. Most likely he will join a carp syndicate – somewhere more exclusive with the cost of his yearly membership anything up to £1000.
He fishes this water but it’s a struggle. Many weekends are spent just going through the motions with a blank almost inevitable. By years 4 and 5 he is beginning to have had enough – the money he is spending on expensive bait and tackle isn’t paying off – he is not catching the fish of his dreams. His weekends have disappeared, his wife is moaning he is never there and spending too much money.
He decides to give up carp fishing and takes up a different pastime, selling his very expensive tackle on eBay and saying goodbye to fishing for good.
That is a very crude case study but something I believe is VERY common in the UK – I call them five-year carp anglers. They have been enthused by the media and want to catch monster carp but deep down they don’t have the skill set to do so. I believe if anglers take a different route, starting with grass roots stuff learning how to catch small roach, rudd and perch with a float and pursuing a long apprenticeship then they will always become competent carp angler. If I could have one wish for our fishing it would be people were as lucky as I was with regards to having to put so many of the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle together to understand angling – it simply isn’t a case of buying all the gear, watching the films and fishing somewhere stocked with huge fish – it’s not the answer to make you an angler for life.
Carp fishing is booming – but that bubble could also easily burst. I worry that in only a few generations angling might be forgotten forever or certainly not have the numbers of people participating that do today. In the UK junior rod license sales are down and combining that with my philosophy of the 5-year angler – the future is potentially not looking great longer term.
At Nash that we run summer school holiday fishing sessions for children under 14 – there are no bite alarms or boilies in sight and we run them to show children how amazing fishing is, how to hook a maggot on a size 20, catch their first roach, handle it correctly and watch it swim off appreciating it for what it is. By doing these junior angling sessions we hope we can encourage youngsters into angling along the right path that gives the best chance of enjoying fishing for a lifetime rather than just a few years before moving on to the next instant thrill rather than producing a generation of instant carp anglers wanting to bait boat the latest wonder rig to an island at 200 yards before turning the iPad on and kicking back waiting for a screamer to interrupt them.
It’s not meant to be negative, but longer term we need to plan for the future so our children and grandchildren can share the enjoyment of fishing that so many others have done. I wrote this in Kevin’s foreword in his first book ‘The Demon Eye’ – “carp fishing is what you want it to be. It can be as complex or simple as an angler wishes and you can put as little or as much into it as you desire. Each and every person will take different thoughts and lessons away from it, but each and every one of us have the same drive to go out there and fish”.
There will always be special carp to catch, new and exciting waters to find, the latest method or craze to learn and NEVER should that feeling of elation over a capture disappear.”
Who is your personal carp fishing hero and why?
“John Wilson was the first angler I was completely besotted with, in those days he was the only man in the UK to feature angling on mainstream TV – I have a lot to thank him for, his passion for simply going fishing in all sorts of different environments catching anything that swims has stuck with me. In my later years it was without doubt Terry Hearn – he set trends, and rewrote a lot of carp history– I challenge anyone 10 years either side of the age of 30 not to see the guy as a legend of his own time. Right here right now, the angler I respect the most is without question Kevin Nash – since meeting Kev I have learned so much not only about catching carp but of course about business and even some real poignant life lessons in general.
Kevin has mentored me so incredibly well during the time that I have known him and I have an awful lot to thank him for including being where I am today. Finally, Carl and Alex Smith and Alfie Russell. They are simply gifted, different animals to 99.9% of today’s anglers, in a totally different league. They say the photo album never lies and these lads’ albums would simply blow your mind and they still have most of their lives in front of them. It’s interesting that all three of these lads have fished since they could walk and have without doubt followed the exact apprenticeship I described and their fishing experiences couldn’t be further away from the journey of the five year carp angler.”
What are the biggest current and future issues for British (or European) carp fishing?
“The biggest future issue will be successful recruitment of long term anglers but the immediate issue in the UK is probably predation from otters – boy these creatures can destroy a carp fishery in a matter of days. The damage they can inflict in just a short period of time is tragic – famous carp that have been fished for and caught for decades left half eaten up the bank. Without heavy investment in fencing fisheries there are so many carp at risk. Carp being stolen remains a problem because of their high value, and finally the deadly Koi Herpes Virus can also completely wipe carp out in a fishery. All are manageable problems but we do need a better infrastructure to protect our fisheries and fish.”
What was your most exciting fishing trip?
“It sounds a bit of a cop out but almost all of my sessions are great, however one that really springs to mind was when Kevin and I visited La Gomera in the Canary Islands. We knew it was likely that only two carp anglers had ever fished there and only for a very short time – it was truly untapped, unknown and simply magical!
Situated at the top of a mountain that looked like something out of the film Jurassic Park we went, we conquered, we caught! To catch such incredible fish from such a crazy environment really was up there with the most special adventure I’ve ever been on… So much so that we are currently researching the Canary Islands again to find the next untapped water for our next adventure.”
What do you think about competitive carp fishing? Do you take part in tournaments or matches?
“Competition carp fishing in the UK is relatively small compared to most of the countries in Eastern Europe. It’s an important part of the scene but not something I personally get involved in. I fished lots of competitions when I was younger – typical five hour matches usually using the feeder, float or pole – I love the competitive element however if you want to do it seriously you need to be completely dedicated and I simply haven’t got the time or should I say desire to use every spare moment I have preparing rigs and then every angling opportunity I get either practicing at a venue or fishing a qualifier or a match.
I fish a fraction of the time the good match anglers in the UK do in order to be at the top of their game. To give you an example though – there are a couple of matches you can now enter in the UK where the top prize is £30,000. That’s a lot of money, a life changing amount almost, so maybe one day I will take it a little more seriously but as I say – it would mean doing nothing else other than match fishing again. I’d have to do it the very best I could and at the moment I don’t have the time for it.”
Which style of carp fishing is closest to your heart? Hunting for big fish, trying to catch as many as you can, or one particular fish…
“My type of fishing for any species is based on SEEING, HUNTING and CATCHING by SIGHT! You simply cannot get a better form of angling than that, whether it’s carefully positioning a slug in front of a big chub, wobbling a deadbait across a pike’s view whilst it waits in ambush or finding a huge carp milling around in a weedbed and freelining a lump of bread to it – those moments, when the water erupts are the reason I go fishing!”
Why stalking? Why not waiting over a prebaited spot? Is it only about emotions – or about efficiency too?
“Waiting in a swim ‘session fishing’ is sometimes the only option however as I’ve got older and wiser I’ve realized that I don’t want to spend my time that way, just waiting for something to happen, as often they simply don’t! Instead I am happy to sacrifice catching the biggest carp and instead aim to always enjoy my fishing, getting a bend in the rod and just occasionally find myself catching something equally as big and special if I had baited and fished the same water for weeks, months or even years. I absolutely 100% respect the anglers that are out there targeting particularly difficult pressured fish however for me a nice scaley mirror from a park lake or an old battered river common caught on a quick session when I got my location, rig and baiting bang on make me as happy in my angling as I know I can be.”
Tell us about your personal bests. Which of them are the most important for you and why?
“Very much like my most exciting session – there isn’t one personal best that is my greatest achievement. I have caught big coarse, game and sea fish and all are as special as the next however if we are talking carp fishing then the major milestones (all of which I can remember like yesterday) would be catching my first double, 20, 30, 40 and 50-pounders in the UK.”
What do you personally like about urban fishing? Is it different from fishing on wild lakes or normal commercials?
“Urban Banx is simply an extension of something I have always done since I grew up as a child – I walked or rode my push bike to inner city or town locations and went fishing. Where I grew up it was what you did! The fishing in these ‘urban’ locations can often be exceptional if for no other reason than others often ignore them. Tactics to catch carp in urban venues are no different to when you would fish a large gravel pit or huge river system – at the end of the day they are all carp – it’s a case of find them, assess how they are behaving and what they are likely to feed on, present a suitable rig/presentation and catch them.
There is also the huge excitement and ‘slight fear’ that an Urban venue can bring – it ALWAYS makes for an interesting session! I like chatting with people, I also like listening to others to understand what their lives are all about and there is no greater feeling than catching an amazing carp from the city or a built up urban area and members of the public who mostly have never seen a carp before embrace what you are doing – it’s such a buzz!”
What are your lake observation\watercraft tips?
- ALWAYS invest in the best glasses you can afford and try to have two pairs depending on the light levels – they are the ultimate angling tool!
- When walking around the venue trying to find fish – use stealth and concealment! They can see and hear you. It sounds obvious but the modern carp angler (certainly in the UK anyway) appear to have lost the art of approaching the water with stealth and concealment oblivious to all the carp they have just scared in front of them.
- If you are trying to track carp down then rest well the day before! The only other thing more important than your glasses is your focus, energy and determination.
What is your go anywhere rig?
“If I can see the fish and stalk them then simply a Fang Uni hook tied directly to my mainline. If I can’t see them then definitely the chod rig. Over the last ten years I have caught more fish on the chod than all the other rigs I have used added together – it simply WORKS and importantly it works where most other rigs can’t! I still speak to so many carp anglers who have still not tried it or mastered using it properly – all I can say is more fool you – TRY IT!”
Do you have a favourite bait? What bait colour is the most effective and why?
“My favourite bait without doubt is maggots. Of course if there are a lot of nuisance fish present then it is almost impossible to use them effectively however if you are stalking, a ball of slow sinking maggots just cannot be beaten and if there are only carp in the water then a choddy with a popped up ball of maggots or a simple mag-aligner rig over a bed of wriggling maggots really intensifies feeding and can catch you huge numbers of carp and also some of the biggest too!
If I am using a boilie then certainly over the last three years it has been more often than not the Citruz, especially when I am just on a short session and need to get bites – a Citruz Pop Up on a choddy really does take some beating.
Color is an interesting topic and it certainly plays a part however I think it’s very much about the venue you are fishing and there is no one ultimate colour that can be used everywhere. On some waters the best is something really bright and fluorescent however on others a washed out pale bait will catch you more fish – sometimes zigging with black foam is the ultimate tactic on a water and other times a combination of colours for example a red coloured boilie and a piece of artificial sweetcorn is the answer. The water and even the time of year will influence what the most effective colour to use will be – as anglers we need to quickly work out what the carp’s preference is.”
Nash clothing are famous for their quality. You develop the range. What is the main thing about developing fishing clothing, and how is fishing fashion born?
“A good part of my work at Nash is in product development – I’ve been working alongside Kevin for the last 8 years developing products at Nash. Clothing is just one of the many areas I am heavily involved in if for no other reason I’ve always been a sucker for spending my own money on designer clothing brands so I wanted the Nash range to reflect that. I want to be able to wear our garments with pride knowing that are not only as practical as they can be but also look as good as they can.
As well as clothing, over the years I have been involved with everything from redesigning the luggage range to Siren Alarms, Scope and Dwarf, the Terminal Tackle range, Nashbait – you name it – I’ve had an involvement in it all from initial concept right through to deciding names and sorting out the packaging. It’s a GREAT part of my job that even sees me visiting suppliers including going to the Far East on crazy adventures and it’s so incredibly rewarding when you see a product you have worked so hard on finally making it to the market and consumers loving it.
I think my greatest achievement would be conceiving the idea for the Sleep Systems that for the first couple of years even Kevin wasn’t interested in developing! I kept explaining I believed it would be the future and the rest they say is history – we now sell more Sleep Systems now than we do bedchairs and sleeping bags. I wouldn’t even want to think how many units we’ve sold and what turnover that one idea has generated!”
What are your goals and dreams in carp fishing now?
“If you ask any of my colleagues and friends they will all tell you I am the ultimate dreamer – I have HUGE dreams in life, work and my fishing – it’s what makes me get out of bed in the morning. Sometimes they are ridiculous and unachievable however more often than not you can make them a reality if you truly believe in them and make them happen.
My ultimate dream right now is to educate the American angler that carp fishing is amazing – you can go with family and friends and catch these beautiful carp. That would be awesome, showing an entire nation of anglers that the most amazing fish in their waters isn’t a bass, it’s a carp!”
Big thanks to Alan – big up ya crew m8.
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