Before I begin, let me say this. I undoubtedly, 100 million percent, would not be where I am today without a fair amount of invaluable schooling/training and social media of course.

Right from a very young age in the late 70’s, I was winching in and complaining about 20lb plus Pollack and Cod on my dad’s joint partnership commercial fishing boat acquired in retirement after leaving the navy. The boat was, and still is, predominantly a small netter but the memories and experiences stay with me to this day. Later, in 1993 (now in my early twenties), I went back to the same boat, still skippered by my dad’s ex partner, who was much like a family member, for a crazy season full on fishing with ray and sole nets, long lines and rod and line methods deployed. 

The amount of seamanship (taking the boat out on my own with crew on occasion) and angling skills gained were staggering and definitely saved my life on one occasion! I could at this point claim to know everything, but I would be completely deluded if I said as much.

The shore angling started when I was old enough to drive, which was some years before the season spent on the commercial fishing boat. I was very keen at the start but with little success, a story many a new angler will be familiar with and one even the best of anglers should relate to from their formative years.

Paul Gordon, or 'Bassman' has benefited from fishing alongside some fantastic anglers over the years

I can’t remember exactly when, but some time in the mid 90’s I was fortunate enough to hook up with Martin Larkin and Mark Ash, who between them pretty much showed me the ways of the grey ghost! These mullet were targeted both in Plymouth and Hopes Nose, Torquay, back in the days of the sewage pipe outlets, which really were the holy grail of U.K. mullet fishing. These were the sites and smells that shaped us a young anglers!

The introduction and knowledge passed on was invaluable and continues to serve me to this day. I would also add, I am a rebellious thinking angler and right through the schooling process I would question the why’s and wherefores, trying my own experiments on many an occasion, though often to my detriment messing up! I’d have kicked myself if I had not tried these ideas though and the rare success, often just tweaking what I had picked up from Martin and Mark ensured it was not all about being handed everything on a plate. Our successes, after all, are made all the sweeter by our failures. 

One of Paul's more recent mullet captures follows years of learning the craft alongside Martin Larkin

I also, through Mr Larkin, tagged along on a few interesting open coast sessions with Henry Gilbey, targeting huss following rope climbs around the beautiful south Hams coastline. This was another introduction to heavy fishing, although the walks/yomps were a little extreme for the returns, but once more valuable knowledge was gained in vast quantities regarding tactics, methods, tides and conditions. This was all money in the fishing knowledge bank and Henry’s enthusiasm was second to none. I loved Henry’s enthusiasm for everything he did.

 It was very infectious and got the heart and head racing, as many of his thought provoking social media posts still do for so many these days. There’s no doubting him as a pioneer and inspiration to the new YouTubers today, including myself. We would end up walking for miles and we were catching a double figure huss! Nothing else would be accepted. A positive mental attitude became another important factor in my fishing armoury, one I remain entirely convinced leads to success to this day. 

A blue fish abroad for Paul

I discovered bass fishing in the early 90’s with Les Emery, who was like a second dad to me. He was an exceptional angler and we spent the next decade chasing silver mainly on worm baits in estuaries and on clean beaches, so 90% of our catch where schoolies ranging from 1/2lb to 3lb with the odd 4, 5 and 6 pounder thrown in. I had more than a few near doubles on worm over the decade but, I knew there was more to life than lug and rag and moved away from the scene, finding it to be the same old routine every week whatever the weather. 

Studious note taking over this period had bought me some key findings. For instance, when it comes to winter estuary fishing, it’s a waste of time below 5 degrees celsius for bass and I was only doing well on mild periods with a water temperature of 9-11 degrees celsius. It was at this point I started returning my fish on camera.

Les Emery is to thank for first getting Paul into bass

I was given the nickname Bassman by Les, not for good reasons I may add, as after a pretty bad car accident in 1997 I was off work with various spinal issues for a long 4 years  and my only escape were to be a few fleeting hours on the beach when conditions proved right and I could borrow mums car. All the time I was experimenting and tweaking things, learning the difference between a fixed paternoster bite and a running ledger pick up. Another thing I learnt, was that artificial light at night when bassing is your enemy and downfall, regardless of however many say it hasn’t spooked bass for them. Surf is, as many will not be surprised to hear, your best friend, whilst wet and windy weather is a whopping great invitation! 

All these things shape you as an angler and, this was the time that self made fishing videos were first starting to hit the scene. Seeing what was out there fishing video wise, it was pretty poor and actually quite dull, just 20 minutes of blah blah no action. Even the TV stuff was a bit hit and miss but perhaps a bit more informative at least, just not very inspiring or enthusiastic. Apart from Mr Gilbey of course! 

This inspired me to start making my own videos, where a bit more passion and life would be what I wanted to bring to them, but that’s another story.

Moving forward in time, my rekindling of a long term fishing relationship with Martin Larkin has undoubtedly gone full circle over the last 5 years on a number of species targeted. The mindset is beyond what you may of thought you knew about Martin. The multitude of factors involved and the thought process he puts into each and every single variation are borderline obsessive. Every detail is not just already thought out, but has a plan B, if you’ve got the minerals to fish another tide by the time plan A has been put to the test.

Mr Larkin’s positive mental attitude is second to none. The belief you’re going to catch, whatever it is you’re targeting, bolstered by the vast amount of preparation he puts into it. With that amount of planning, you know he wouldn’t be somewhere, targeting a specific species, if it was likely to be a waste of time. There will be a reason he is fishing for what he is, when he is, where he is and how he is.

It’s not all fish fish fish on our crusades though, far from it. We would often fail, but were never be beaten mentally. In failure comes experience and more learning opportunities and we would analyse every part of the session after we had gone our separate ways home, often still speaking to each other on the phone, storing more valuable info and knowledge of any particular mark.

 


I do like to figure things out for myself and, whilst embracing every last shred of knowledge from others along a journey helps immensely, it’s the confidence of putting those learnings to the test and experiencing your own highs and lows that improves you as an angler over time. 

Paul has enjoyed targeting gilt head bream with Martin Larkin in recent years

Being guided by a fishing buddy on the open coast a few years back and catching my first wrasse on a tiny soft plastic lure was mind blowing, a whole new world opened up for me and another species to work out. Yes, another obsession added to the list and yet more knowledge gained/shared! I took these bits of information as starting blocks, throwing myself into learning more about the hows and whys of the soft plastics, when they offered an advantage, when they would be futile and ultimately how to maximise my success whilst using them. 

Obviously, good fishing marks are massively important for success but, more importantly has to be knowing how and when to fish it. 

Very few marks produce consistently in all conditions, and it can be all too easy to write a mark off if the first time you fish it, the conditions simply aren’t conducive to it producing. The knowledge I gained from Martin, Mark, Henry and others over the years was never about “fish here”, but understanding how to work out what to look for in a place to fish, how to fish different conditions and how to understand what is going right or wrong. Thus, you can only figure out a mark properly by fishing it in every weather condition, tide cycle and moon phase over a long period of time. There’s no shortcut to this and it’s usually a couple of years before you really get to know every detail of the ground through searching and experimenting with day and night fishing not to mention mastering the baits. 

Constantly learning, wrasse on soft plastics is a recent passion for Paul

So through sheer determination and a ridiculous number of hours spent searching, experimenting and blanking, a few decades on and I have gained some knowledge to be able to reliably catch a variety of species and have the fortune to ultimately pass on that gained/shared knowledge to my fishing friends and clients on a professional basis as a fishing guide helping others achieve their goals.

My advice is, if there’s another angler on the beach just go and talk to him or her.  Be friendly but don’t be afraid to be a little nosey! Most anglers are only too willing to share information and see what can be learnt from each other.

Ask what baits they are using or and strike up a conversation but remain humble. The decent anglers will always give you something to go on, some invaluable snippet of information and that’s what it’s all about, the cycle of knowledge.

To sum up then, as with everything in life, you only get out of angling what you’re prepared to put into it. Take every tip you can from others, but seek to apply it and keep learning from your own successes and failures.  Seems obvious because it is, the old  annoying cliche ‘hours equals rewards’ is bang on the money, so if you can only get out once a week or fortnight make the most of every session and give it one more hour than you planned to and try to leave you’re phone firmly in you’re pocket so you’re always on the right line and ready to strike!

A big conger for Paul on a local mark
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