Kevin Ashurst About Match Fishing

12 kevinKevin Ashurst is an angling genius who never gives up trying to catch fish.  He is the John Wayne of angling; unceremonious, brief with his words, easy to understand yet always aware of what is going on around him and very appreciative of those who make the sport tick.

At 72 he is among the sport’s most senior anglers and remains so effective that most matchmen would prefer to be drawn on another section. Kevin loves match fishing and gets out fishing almost every day, though there is no such thing as pleasure sessions because he is forever striving to get an edge whether it is from tackle adjustments, baits, groundbaits or visiting a particular water to discover if there is any new circumstance. In spring and late summer big Kev takes up residence in Ireland so that he can enjoy the increasing number of week-long angling festivals and we caught up with him at the water’s edge.

After winning the 1982 World Coarse Angling Championships, did you ever feel that you could win it again? 
Yes, of course. I had the self-belief and and fished for England 23 times on the World stage. It was terrific to work alongside so many talented anglers who always worked together to establish methods, baits and the best way to feed a variety of waters. After ever World Championship I arrived home a better angler and always believe that if given a decent peg I’d have been in with a chance of winning again.

What do you make of modern match fishing, especially venue experts on commercials that fish one water all year?
I’ve never fished a commercial fishery match, so it is a little difficult to comment, though in fairness to anglers it is an expensive day out with ticket fee and pools. So I can understand and wouldn’t criticise anyone who is being successful on a particular venue who keeps on going back. Very often all venues have more or less the same anglers fishing weekly matches on both commercial and public fisheries – certainly it is the case on north west waters such as the River Weaver at Winsford or Northwich, Carr Mill Dam in St Helens and all of the canals in the region.

You’re now a resident in Ireland – what made you make that decision?
I love the life-style and the bonus of so many angling festivals. It is the type of fishing that I enjoy most of all – traditional methods – on some great waters and my home in County Fermanagh is within striking distance of most of them.

Who’s the best angler you’ve ever fished against or with? 
Marcel van den Eynde was an outstanding and brilliant match angler. Steve Gardener was the best angler who has never won a World Championship, an excellent talent but just unlucky in that event. The England squads have always been outstanding and I’ve a high regard for those who I fished with at those times. It was really interesting because each one had different strengths and if a man had a method suitable for the venue, we would scrutinise it and practice until everyone in the team would be good at it. There’s nothing quite like being “on the method”; it goes a long way towards catching a lot of fish. I would recommend all match anglers to get into a group of anglers who know more, ask questions, listen and learn!

Favourite method if you could only fish one?
I consider myself proficient at all of them (or I used to be) and simply loves all forms and methods used for catching fish under match conditions. Look, I’m an angling fanatic and everything is great as long as I am enjoying myself.

What do you rate as the best match water you’ve ever fished – and the worst?
Late summer and autumn provide exciting fishing in Ireland and during a five day festival there is a chance I shall have to tackle five different lakes, certainly five different sections. One of my favourites match venues is Lough Ramor at Virginia in County Cavan. It is a large, relatively shallow water absolutely bursting with quality hybrids along with bream and roach.

My favourite all-time places to fish are the River Weaver at Northwich and Winsford. I could fish there day-in, day-out. Mind you there were times when my dad used to day: “I’m not going there, it’s bad. Soon there will be nowhere left”.  He was partly right because say 25 years ago there could be match with 500 anglers on the River Weaver and hardly a keepnet in the water. But now it is the highlight of winter when I return to my home in Leigh and within a couple of days I head off for the river where I know for certain there’s a chance to catch plenty of fish.
12 weaver at northwich
Are northern anglers better than southern?
In the 1960’s and 70s the northern lads had a bit of an edge but since then match fishing talent seems to have evened out. Everyone wants to win, whether it’s a World Championship of a pub sweepstake, and there’s not much between them when it comes to ability.

Is Ireland still like it was 20 or 30 years ago?
There is no comparison – the fishing in Ireland today is far better than it has ever been. There are more bites, loads of roach, skimmer bream, tench and hybrids to be caught, but not as many bream. Today is typical, we have spent a few hours fishing on the 12 kevin catch shotpump house stretch of Lough Scur at Keshcarrigan in Leitrim and I’ve got about 40lb of roach and hybrids without a bit of fuss. And we are the only ones on the bank.

The truth is that Ireland used to produce a handful of staggering bream catches (that would always make the angling papers) while the majority of lads on holidays would end up struggling and head off to the pub. Today anyone can come along with a pole or feeder, chuck out a 14s hook with double maggot and catch a lot of fish.

Do you miss fishing back in England or are you glad to see the back of it? 
I’m very lucky because I spend most of the winter months in Lancashire and the best part of spring and autumn in Ireland. It is totally a lifestyle thing and I lucky to enjoy the situation because I would hate to have to choose between them. My angling expectations are more than satisfied with the situation.

If you could have your time again would you like to be involved in the current England set up?

Without a doubt or moment’s hesitation!  I have loved my fishing life – even though I used to get up at 4am to work on the maggot farm before heading off to places like the Trent, Welland and Nene to fish a match – and get home at all hours.

The same again, please. I wouldn’t ask to be a perfect angler, just the chance to repeat everything exactly as it unfolded. Fishing the big matches was like being on the stage. There were times when a large gallery would congregate behind me and if I missed a bite there would be great groans and I’d hear someone say “missed another”, but it was a brilliant buzz.

Does match fishing still have its characters like Ivan Marks, you and Billy Makin? Does it need them? 
There are loads of characters throughout angling but certainly match fishing always seems to have a healthy batch and the sport thrives on them.  Frank Barlow was top of the pile and he had the perfect wife, Mo. We were away from home at a major event. Frank was checking in at the hotel reception desk when Mo whispered in his ear: “Best pay our room bill in advance and then we’ll know how much we have to spend on our booze!”

Where next for Kevin Ashurst? Simply more of the same and a few more wins will help towards the pension. Peter Drennan recently insisted that I accept two of his Drennan feeder rods and the exciting Zircon 16mt pole so I will be trying very hard to make the best of them.

Published by Angling Times September 2011

Written by Dave Houghton