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MARCH 8 2011




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The people’s champion...

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IVAN MARKS EDITORIAL CONTACTS Tel: 01733 232600 Fax: 01733 465844


Ivan in his trademark peaked cap and lucky scarf.

Write to: Angling Times, Media House, Lynchwood, Peterborough PE2 6EA Published by: Bauer Consumer Media, Media House, Lynchwood, Peterborough Printed by: Heron, Wyndham

“He’d regularly win 1000 peg all-in matches on waters across the UK and enjoy every single minute”


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2 M A RCH 8, 2011 23/2/11 16:29:35

Next page Fishing for England






M A R K S ’



MAIN: Ivan in his 70s heyday. RIGHT: Still smiling in 2004. BELOW RIGHT: With his favourite species bream.


he modern giants of English competition fishing are equal in both number and status, but during the 1970s and 80s there was really only one person match anglers looked up to – the great Ivan Marks.

On many waters frequented by the Mids-based ace in his prime, he was simply unbeatable given a half-decent draw. His record of three Ouse Championship wins in four years, an individual silver medal at the World Championships in 1976 and 11 England caps are testimony to this talent. But beyond the bare facts of Ivan’s extraordinary career, one aspect of his life stood out when speaking to old friends and colleagues – that he was a true gentleman and a real character. With Ivan, match fishing was never a dull experience. He’d regularly win 1000 peg all-in matches on waters across the UK and enjoy every single minute. He was also renowned for his charitable outlook on life and helped many youngsters get started in the sport, especially through his informative writings in Angling Times during the 1970s and numerous bankside chats with the huge crowds who loved to watch him in action. Angling lost a true legend when Ivan passed away, but his legacy survives in almost every single club or match angler. When you next catch a bream over groundbait, cast a waggler for chub or run a stick float through an inside roach line, take a moment to remember one of the sport’s first superstars.



Ivan on making his England debut at the 1972 World Champs

Ivan’s view on the versatile running-water float method



A masterclass in the methods that won Ivan many matches

Ireland’s roach fishing was a favourite subject



Ivan ignites a friendly but long-running feud

Lady Luck was often on the Leicester angler’s side



The late, great Dick Walker details how he could win

Three former World Champions and their memories of Ivan



The low-down on the legendary Likely Lads match team

Ivan was a great exponent of the waggler on rivers and stillwaters



Steve Partner meets Ivan shortl;y before his death in 2004

The fish that won Ivan more titles than any other


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3 M A RCH 8, 2011 23/2/11 16:30:16


England calls

“FISHING FOR ENGLAND WAS MY GREATEST HONOUR” In this piece, from May 1972, Ivan describes a golden moment in his career – For nine years Ivan Marks had longed to fish for England: now he was!


his summer I shall be fulfilling my greatest angling ambition when I go to my swim on the River Berounka in Czechoslovakia. Ever since Billy Lane became World Champion in 1963 on the Moselle in Luxembourg, I have wanted to fish for

England. Now at last the opportunity has been given to me. I certainly shan’t be taking time off for a stroll round in this match. They will have to blow me up before I take my eyes off the float. People have asked me if I am excited at the thought of crossing the Iron Curtain. Well I’m there to fish, not sightsee. There will be time enough


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after the match for celebration…if we do well. Everything’s got to go right on the day. We’ll be fishing as one man and if our style is wrong it’s possible we could finish last! But I regard that as extremely unlikely, especially as we will be practising on the river four days before the match.

4 M A RCH 8, 2011 24/2/11 09:39:38


Next page Tip fishing


➽ Steve Gardener “I remember when a friend went to watch Ivan fishing a National on the Witham. He came back and said he couldn’t believe what Ivan was doing - he was feeding his hemp and groundbait lines at the same time by squeezing his ball of groundbait together and then dropping some hemp in his hand before throwing the whole lot out. The hemp would fall short and feed that line, with the ball going to the far bank. Ivan was a real entertainer – one of fishing’s true greats.”

to cover any situation. Last year the England team ran into bait difficulties. Each Italian threw in more bait than our whole team could scrape up. This year, I hope, it will be different. Team manager Stan Smith will take enough bait with him for practice. When we find out in the first two days what bait is catching fish, Stan will telephone home and arrange for a further supply of fresh bait to be brought over, for the match. Even if we find the best bait is bloodworm I’m confident each team member will have sufficient for the match. I don’t think we’ll be bothering with sweetcorn this year. The England team wants to see sizeable fish of 4oz and above. The Continentals are very fast with small fish and we would be unlikely to match their speed. But by using poles they will have to net fish that we would swing in on our tackle. This will slow them up and give us the speed advantage. Our team will be taking poles as well and will try them in practice. If we found they gave us the best chance of winning then we would use them. I’m a great believer in practising on a water as near to the match as possible. To win a match you’ve got to hit on the right method pretty quickly. Conditions can often change overnight, but knowledge gained in practice is never wasted. This year we have the best team that England has ever sent to the World Championships. But there is one factor that might upset the applecart….the limited-line restriction. All of the team have got a big cast, but they will have to make do with just

“They will have to blow me up before I take my eyes off the f loat”

a fi rst England call-up Each team member will fish his own way and try to come up with the method that will give us the best chance of winning. Kevin, perhaps will try a stick float ….I’ll try a peacock (waggler). After a couple of hours we’ll see who is catching the fish. Once we’ve hit the method on the head the team will stick to it. All of us will carry enough floats

The new team England.


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The England team hoped for sizeable fish of 4oz and above...

51 feet of line. This is from the reel to the hook, so if you were fishing the North Bank you would reach just over half way. This means that the pole anglers will be able to reach our casting limits. In fact, all the anglers could well end up fishing the same line down the river. This is a problem we shall have to try and resolve in practice. If we find the fish are under our rod tips, then that’s where we shall fish. To be selected to fish for England is a big responsibility, and a great honour. Yet what recognition does the team get in national media? We’re unknown to the general public, unlike the soccer stars who appear daily on the telly and in the papers. Angling is the biggest participant sport in Britain, yet we’re ignored by the publicity machine. Surely the team deserves some spotlight for being chosen to represent its country. I know I’ve got a reputation for fooling around, but that little badge that says England makes all the difference. Every team member is an ambassador, and we will live up to that idea. Anyway, I’ve always got big brother Kevin Ashurst to look after me if I get into a scrape!

5 M A RCH 8, 2011 24/2/11 09:40:19


Legering in theory and practice

THE KING OF TIP FISHING You’ll hardly ever see a swingtip on the bank today, but Ivan was a master of this method – and the quivertip too


wingtipping and quivertipping are similar…but that doesn’t mean you should use the same rod for both. My quivertip rod is nine feet long, a foot shorter than my swingtipper and a shade more powerful. It’s a lighter, stiffer rod all through. When you are quivertipping you don’t want a rod that bends right round with the tip. It would be too slow on the strike. The bend must be in the top joint and quivertip, which should form a uniform curve. Remember that with a 12-inch quivertip the total length will be much the same as the swingtip rod’s ten foot. The swingtip rod has a fair bit of give. It has to pick up a long line and at the same time absorb the plunges of a heavy bream without the hooklength breaking. It should be designed to balance the weakest link in the chain. Many anglers favour a short swingtip rod which gives a quick strike. But by using a ten-foot swingtip

You never see a swingtip used today.

rod I can comfortably clear any marginal weed and cast with an extra-long tail. The only disadvantage with this is the ‘bounce’ in the middle which can reduce the efficiency of the strike. But you’ve got to strike a happy medium, and I feel that ten feet achieves this. When you are swingtipping it’s as well to remember to use three rod rests. If you use just two, one at either end, then the rod will bow in the middle. When you strike you will have to pick up that bend before the rod is working to hook the fish. This will slow your strike just that fraction of a second, and you could lose the fish. A rod rest supporting the middle of the rod will help to keep the whole rod straight. It’s the same with swingtips. I use a shorter tip of around eight or nine inches in summer to hit bites quicker. There’s a little less slack line to pick up. In winter I prefer to use a longer swingtip, perhaps up to 15 inches. On the Welland and the Witham, which have a winter flow, I let my bait roll along the bottom. The swingtip reacts to the current and moves with an up-and-down rhythm. If the rhythm of the tip alters it could be a fish…so strike. You may need to replace your bomb with swan shot to get it moving slowly in an arc through the swim. If it still anchors to the


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bottom reduce the shot until it shifts, making sure that it moves through slower than the actual current. Too many anglers put on the same swingtip or quivertip winter and summer, lake or river. Yet they wouldn’t dream of fishing the Severn with an antenna float they used the week before on a lake! Different tips are needed for different waters. Obviously a stiffish quivertip works better on a fast flowing river, while a nice ‘loose’ tip performs on a Fenland drain. Whether you are swingtipping or quivertipping, one thing is essential to both – the target board. With bites that may move the tip only one eight of an inch, a target board is a necessity. With the swingtip a lined board is probably best, but for quivertipping a plain black board with two clear patches will work just as well. Staring at a quivertip against a background of rippling water can play tricks with the eyes. But a plain dark background will present few problems of eyestrain. Some anglers persist in holding their rods high in the air when they are quivertipping. I do this only when the river is running hard and I want to avoid weed fouling the line. Otherwise I fish with my rod parallel to the bank.

6 M A RCH 8, 2011 23/2/11 16:48:12

Next page Marks vs Walker Ivan with a brace of tipcaught slabs

“If the rhythm of the tip alters it could be a fish…so strike” WHAT A MATCH! WHAT A MAN! In 29th June 1972, Angling Times reported on one of Ivan’s greatest ever bream hauls - a catch that won him his second Great Ouse Championship. Irrepressible Ivan Marks, Angling Times’ weekly columnist, set the match world alight on Sunday when he heaved out a personalbest English match bream haul of 62lb 10oz to collect the Great Ouse Championship title for the second time in three years. But that was only part of the excitement in this incredible event, held on Norfolk’s Relief Channel. Huntingdonshire airman Geoff Bibby had the catch of a lifetime, 62lb 8oz, but it gave him only second place, just TWO ounces short of the Leicester man’s tally. But there was much more to the match than that. The amazing list of supporting weights had everyone talking. There were three catches over the 40lb mark and 11 topping 30lb. With over 22lb 8oz needed to get into the top thirty, the total aggregate weight is the best in a five-hour open contest in living memory. The leading thirty had very nearly 1,000lb. The fantastic match showed that the Relief Channel is about the country’s best bream water and that Ivan Marks is arguably the country’s best matchman. Using a new swingtip rod designed by Roy Marlow, his partner in a tackle shop, he whipped out 28 bream, from an end peg, to pocket £225 and earn a place in next year’s Gladding Masters Final. Happy Marks, who, along with sixth-placed Robin Harris (39lb 10oz) fishes for England in next month’s World Championship in Czechoslovakia, remarked: “It’s one I wanted to win, for the England squad more than anything else. It proves we can do something”.

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23/2/11 16:49:47


Head-to-head with Walker

“I here and now challenge Dick Walker and any five specimen-hunters he cares to name to fish a six-hour contest”

Ivan was a huge fan of fine line and small hooks, and a master in their use.


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8 M A RCH 8, 2011 23/2/11 16:52:24

Next page Continued


Two styles collide, and Ivan throws down the gauntlet

van Marks and Dick Walker were two of Angling Times’ most prominent columnists during the 1970s and 1980s and, from two opposite sides of the angling divide, would often verbally spar. Here, in a piece penned in January 1980, Ivan challenges fellow legend Dick to a fishing duel – a duel Walker turned down… It gets a little wearing for people to continually counter advice I, and others, give on tactics to catch fish when writers who ought to know better make a habit of countermanding what we say. The business of big hooks and big shot being the right approach to fishing is so grossly misleading that, if taken literally,

it can mean advising people to fish for fish that aren’t there! Big hooks and big shot, even lots of bit shot, may have been used in huge catches made years ago but times have changed…fish stocks have changed, pressure on the remaining fish has intensified. It is altogether much harder to catch fish now than it was 20 years ago. People who advise big hooks in all circumstances really are leading most of the country’s anglers astray and they also do no-one any favours with some of their shotting theories. Now I’ll put my words to the test. I here and now challenge Dick Walker and any five specimen-hunters he cares to name to fish a six-hour contest against Marks and five others on Coombe Abbey Lake or on the Trent, fishing 10am to 4pm. My side will use hooks ranging from size 24 to size 14 with the

opposition to use hook sizes 14 up to size 2. So far as Coombe is concerned, just to make it more interesting, only fish weighing 1lb or more to count at the weigh-in! If the challenge is fished on the Trent then only fish of 8oz each or more will be eligible to weigh. All styles allowed. Let spectators be the judge of the team using the right tactics both during the contest and at the weigh-in. If people who fish the Trent and Coombe Abbey Lake aren’t doing it right then let those people who say we’re not doing it right prove it…so that everyone gets the message. I’m not saying that the specimen-hunters’ logic is wrong, I’m sure we can learn from them – as they can learn from us – but let them prove that big hooks are better than small ones, that big baits are best, that we don’t shot properly. Come on Dick Walker, how about it? It would make an


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opportunity for hundreds of Angling Times readers to actually see you fishing for coarse fish. It’s all very well to say that shotting patterns drawn to illustrate words on shotting techniques don’t look like that in the water. A shotting rig doesn’t necessarily assume the required presentation unless the angler helps it to happen – by the use of tension and/or the lack of it with the rod top. The slower moving water may be nearer the bottom in a flowing river and big shot sink faster than small shot. No-one is arguing about that. But I know what my shotting patterns do for my bait presentations…they catch me fish I wouldn’t otherwise get anywhere near. Presentation is very much more important these days – as all keen coarse anglers know full well.

9 M A RCH 8, 2011 23/2/11 16:53:06


Head-to-head with Walker


“Put all their names in a hat, draw out the winners from that, and save all the cost and trouble of holding the match!”

Here Dick counters Ivan’s claim that it’s match anglers who are the real talent, arguing that luck plays too big a part… Match fishing is very much a matter of luck, especially where pegged matches are concerned. We all know that some match fishers are outstanding, but even they can’t catch fish that are beyond casting range. To win, they must depend on drawing a peg that gives them a reasonable chance. Given pegs having equal potential, men like Ivan Marks would catch three pounds of fish for every one that I caught. But peg me opposite a big shoal of bream, averaging three or four pounds, and peg Ivan where there are only a few undersized fish, and I’ll win. But if Ivan’s peg put him within range of very large numbers of undersized fish, his superior skill would probably result in his still beating me, despite my far better peg if – and only if – the match was fished all-in (with every fish counting). It is easy to see, therefore, that although there is no way of eliminating altogether the luck of the draw in match fishing, luck of that sort plays a far greater part in size-limit matches than in all-in matches. I can tell you how to give the smaller clubs and the mediocre match fishers a better chance. Put all their names in a hat, draw out the winners from Size-limit that, and save all the cost and contests are trouble of holding the match! now history Ridiculous, you say. Of course it’s ridiculous! The proper course is to run these matches in a way that goes as far as possible to ensure that the best team wins. The individual winner will in any case be the angler who has top weight, regardless of the points system, so the small clubs have as good a chance as the big ones of providing the individual winner. But not even a points system can be fair, if matches are fished to size limit. I can think of nothing so unfair as allowing an angler who catches one roach 8 1/8 inches long to beat another who has taken fifty or a hundred roach between, say six inches and 7 7/8 inches. Still more ridiculous is allowing one seven-inch dace to beat twenty 13-inch chub. You can add any number of similar instances. As I have said, it is impossible to remove the element of luck from match fishing, but if we believe in the good old sporting principle of “let the best man win,” we can at least reduce luck as far as possible. And fishing all-in instead of to size-limits is one way of working in the right direction.

Top Tip

LEFT: Walker fishing for trout – he leaned increasingly towards game-fishing later in life.


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10 M A RCH 8, 2011 23/2/11 16:58:14

Next page Whatever happened to the Likely Lads?

The only reason our catches ever rival those of 20 years ago is because of the improvement in fishing tackle and fishing techniques. Collectively we owe a very great deal to casting reels, fine nylon line and improved float and legering techniques. Dick Walker has said that we often put the big shot in the wrong places. It should be closest to the hook. I can’t think of any situation where I would ever put a big shot closest to the hook. One of the prime reasons – to beat the bleak – no longer applies, because the bleak have become as thin on the ground as most other species. And, if a big shot falls fastest, there’s no disputing that a small one RISES fastest. So, in my view, that means that when running a float through a flowing river you put a small shot nearest to the hook to make the bait behave in a manner the fish find attractive. That way you can make the hookbait rise and fall in the water by holding back and then letting the float run a foot or two. You can’t do that so well with a swan shot nearest to the hook! Part of any success formula is finding out where the fish are. And that means the level they are swimming in as well as the actual area they occupy. The Trent, for instance, is false in many ways. It isn’t a natural river since it is fed with warm water…and you catch your fish most often in the warmer layers, not in the colder ones. It isn’t enough to fish the bait on the bottom all the time…when the fish aren’t there! Leicester anglers may not be quite as prominent these days as they were when the fishing was easier, but Nottingham and Barnsley anglers – the two best teams in the country in

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my book – are winning wherever they go. And they’re catching fish to do it … of course. Doesn’t matter much to them whether they fish the Welland, Witham, Trent, Nene, Thames or any others you care to name…they are catching more than their share.They fish on-the-drop style with their shot spread through the distance between float and hook. Imagine for a moment that you are trotting a river with a float taking the equivalent of one swan shot. Anglers from both those teams would do as I do and split that shot up in such a way that the bait could be fished effectively in the lower half of the depth. But put all that swan shot on close to the hook and you will only get your bites in the bottom two inches of the river. That won’t do on most rivers I know. Dick Walker and people like him who offer advice to the whole of the angling fraternity must particularise their advice and clearly define its limitations, or they will lead anglers astray. There is, of course, one great difference between match anglers and people who fish as they do and specimenhunters and anglers who share their logic...and that’s timing. Specimenhungers fish

at times of the day or night when fish show the greatest interest in food. Match anglers fish are more convenient times – bearing in mind that more often than not they collectively have to travel greater distances and then fish for shorter periods. Match anglers fish at times when the fish are hardest to catch. That’s a necessary fact of life; no complaints about it. But if we adopted the specimen-hunter’s approach and used big hooks (assumedly that also means big baits) we would be in great peril of a water-licking eight times out of 10.


➽ Ian Heaps

Ivan was unassailable when it came to putting a big weight together.

“Ivan and Kevin Ashurst were a bit older than me so they were the ‘old boys’ when I was a youngster. I remember when I first met Ivan at one of the Nationals when I was a boy. We arrived at the venue and my Dad pointed him out: ‘That’s Ivan Marks’. There was a young man in a dark blue tracksuit in the car park, and that was my first encounter with him. Eventually, I had the chance to fish for England with him and I was so pleased. We had some wonderful experiences together over the years.”

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ivan marks

Good times on the match circuit

whatever happened to the

likely lads? The stories behind the members of the greatest match fishing team of all time


oy Marlow finished runner-up in the 1967 World Championships and went on to become one half of the dynamic ‘Marks & Marlow’ duo in the 1970s. Together, they dominated the match scene and formed a vital part of the all-conquering Likely Lads team. Roy now runs Mallory Park fishery and Marukyu UK and is still a force to be reckoned with in any match: “I met Ivan before 1970 as he used to fish the Leicester Canal a lot with Black Horse AC. One of Ivan’s friends was a guy called Eddie Allen and I knew Eddie, so we started to fish together. After four or five years we had the idea of starting a tackle shop, so I ran the shop for a while. After about six months Ivan packed his job in – he was an engineer – and so Marks & Marlow was born on King Richards Road in Leicester. Around the same time we also formed the Likely Lads team – well, that was our nickname anyway. We won lots of team and individual events and between us there wasn’t much we didn’t win. Ivan was very witty and also very good at mispronouncing certain words or phrases. One day I remember we were fishing Longleat for a television programme and the fishing was terrible – nobody had any fish – but Ivan had his net in so we knew he’d caught. When the cameras came round, the presenter asked Ivan if he’d had anything. ‘Of course I’ve caught something!’ he replied, and pulled up his keepnet, which contained a teddy bear he’d found. ‘I caught it on a bare hook, of course!’ Ivan immediately told the cameras. Everybody was

silent for a second before bursting out laughing. Another favourite saying of his was ‘still waters run slow’ (rather than ‘still waters run deep’) and he always had ‘tricks up his pocket’ but everyone was too embarrassed to correct him. We used to do lots of shows around the country and right at the very beginning there was a show in London that we both attended as we were involved with Sundridge tackle, so we helped out on their stand. There was a casting competition where you cast into small hoops in a pool and the prize was a boat, so at the end of each day we used to sneak on to this pool and practise casting into the hoops. All the people taking part in the contest were big names at the time but we were relatively unknown then. The announcer had seen us practising and he asked us if we’d be up for a casting challenge match at the end of the show against all these superstars. Now, all the big names were casting overarm, even to the closest hoops, but Ivan was very good at casting underarm and feathering down the cast. Thousands of people turned up to watch this contest and we let the big names go first. Every time they missed, myself and Ivan would start chuckling to ourselves and soon the whole crowd were laughing when someone missed. The stars weren’t used to people laughing at them and they went to pieces, while Ivan and I used an underarm cast feathered down to score loads of points and win the boat. We were absolutely chuffed, but when it came to the prize-giving they disqualified us because we were exhibitors! We got pretty good at these casting competitions and we were able to compress the rod with a foot on the

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Likely Lads National Champs 1971 1st (Severn) 1972 7th (B. Avon) 1973 2nd (Witham) 1974 1st (Welland) 1975 7th (Nene) 1976 4th (Trent) 1977 3rd (Welland) 1978 8th (B. Avon)

weight and flick it into the target. Nobody could beat us for years but it taught people to feather their cast. In those days, there were no such things as line clips so if you were fishing towards some rushes or the far bank, the only way to get it tight to the feature was to feather the cast. In 1980-81 the rivers went downhill but at the same time commercial fisheries starting springing up, and in 1982 we got the lease of Mallory Park, which was one of the first commercial fisheries.

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Next page Groundbait mixing

“ ‘I caught it on a bare hook, of course!’ Ivan immediately told the cameras. Everyone was silent for a second before bursting out laughing”

What became of the Likely Lads? n Jim Todd Big Jim could launch a ball of groundbait across a river with ease. Last heard of running a smallholding in Sleaford. n Trev Tomlin Trev, now employed by Sensas, was drafted into the team when Ivan was fishing the World Championships. n George Bott A late addition to the team, George sadly passed away in 1985. n Ced Mauger Team manager in the early 1970s, Ced concentrated on trout in later years. n Tom Bedder Florist Tom is the only angler to win the ‘Classic’ twice. He retired in the 1990s to concentrate on fishing. n Brian Dexter “If I’d had a team of 12 Brian Dexters, we would have won everything. He was incredibly consistent,” said Ced Mauger. n Johnny Essex A bad back forced Johnny to retire from match fishing. Last heard of fishing for big carp. n Pete Jayes Hemp expert Pete also, more recently, fished for Octoplus Peterborough. n Howard Humphrey Howard was a key part of the team and was a brand manager for Lane’s Tackle.

We had a very good time throughout all those years and we were really like kids – it was all about enjoyment, although we won a lot of money. I remember winning three or four thousand one year, which was a lot – you could easily buy a house for that back then – but, of course, Ivan was winning more than I was. He was helpful with anybody – he always had time. That was the nice thing about Ivan – even if someone was useless at fishing, he’d still put the time in and I think some of the top

people these days don’t do that. He could be fishing with a crowd of 200 people behind him and he would answer every single question. Ivan was also a great sportsman. He had trials at Aston Villa and he was an excellent cricketer too. I think that was important because when we used to go up on the Welland and big waters like that, Ivan could throw balls of groundbait across the river (being used to throwing a cricket ball) and very few others could manage that. We didn’t have catapults in those days!”

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Ivan Marks, Dave Downes, Dave Rossi and Roy Marlow.

n Dave Rossi A well-liked and respected matchman who latterly made his mark on carp waters. n Dave Downes Owner of a paint and dye business after his Likely Lads years. n Brian Envis Involved in match fishing until the late-1980s, he also represented Leicester Sensas.

13 MARCH 8, 2011 23/2/11 17:05:10

Ivan Marks Groundbait

Mixing it up

Ivan offers some expert advice on getting cereal groundbait just right

Ivan’s way T

here are two ways to mix groundbait, but one is far more demanding than the other. I go for what I call the ‘dry mix’, where water is added to the cereal until it is the right texture. The cereal has never been soaked with water, but enough has been added to ensure that the mixture binds sufficiently to be thrown and is wet enough to sink as required. The success of this type of mix is dependent on the squeezing ability of the angler. He has to be precisely aware of the pressure he must apply for it to do its job. If a dry mix is under-squeezed it is likely to float but, conversely, if it is squeezed too hard it will go in like a ball of concrete. Billy Lane always made a fetish of mixing his groundbait at home before he went to a match. He put it through a sieve to remove the larger, clogging particles. I used to do it too but under the revised NFA match rules I no longer feel it necessary. Provided you get to your peg with time to spare – and that’s always important – there’s time to mix. I make that my first task.

“There’s no secret potion that gets the fish feeding”

The groundbait is dampened and then allowed to stand for as long as possible to allow the moisture to be absorbed. Then, once I have tackled up I take another look at the feed. If it isn’t right, either too wet or too dry, there’s time to put it right before the whistle. Catapulted groundbait does not need to be so firm as feed to be thrown in by hand, a point worth stressing. Roy Marlow mixes his groundbait another way. He insists this is not only best for him but best for beginners and those in difficulty. I believe he’s right, although I’m satisfied with my own method for my own fishing. Roy over-wets his groundbait, soaking it so that all the particles are thoroughly wetted. Obviously it cannot be thrown or catapulted very far in that state. But having done that, Roy balances it off with additional dry cereal until his feed is of the right consistency to do its work. As a result he has groundbait which incorporates the maximum amount of water, far more than mine does. The difference should be obvious. Roy relies on the weight of the water to help him get maximum range, whereas I rely on the power of my squeeze, as well as the water. Roy’s method has to be the best for anglers who have failed with my mine. Make a mistake my way and you will pay for it. Make a mistake with Roy’s type of mixture and you will do little, if any, damage. His mix ends up as roughly three or four parts of wet cereal to one of dry,

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Ivan at full stretch, balling out groundbait to the far bank.

although the amount of dry has to vary with the distance the feed is thrown. But the dry cereal simply soaks up the surplus moisture and itself becomes thoroughly saturated. Bear in mind that the groundbait performs a different function for different species. With bleak, and sometimes roach, you hope to catch off the bottom. Then the feed needs to be soggy. A soggy, slow-sinking cereal feed can provide a diversion for the bleak. It gets them out of your swim to allow loose casters or maggots to be put in while the bleak are temporarily absent. At least that helps you get the bulk of your loosefeed through the upper half of the depth without bleak scoffing most of it. I have experimented with additives, of course, but that was a phase I passed through. Nothing except water goes into my cereal. There’s no secret potion, no chemical attractor that gets the fish feeding. It’s simply a matter of feeding good quality, well-mixed feed with the right regularity to ensure the fish stay with you once they show up. There was a time when I always added sugar – as much as a pound to a stone of groundbait – but I don’t do that any more. A scientist reported that sugar takes the oxygen out of water and if you think about that it becomes pretty certain it won’t do your swim any good. In the end your groundbait is as good as you make it. Dickie Bowker has the ability to make his balls of cereal explode under water – literally like a shell-burst. Once you understand that you can

14 M a rch 8, 2011 24/2/11 09:16:05

Next page Interview with Ivan

Ivan would often have a cigarette while he waited for his groundbait to soak up moisture.


➽ Dick Clegg: “I knew him for most of my matchfishing career and he was part of the England set-up when I took over. He had all my respect as an angler and a good friend.

Ivan about to apply the all-important squeeze...

Top Tip

Add water to cereal, not vice-versa


14-15 AT Legends March 8.indd 15

His ability to communicate was excellent and he was a superb all-round angler, the best in England probably. I also bought him into the Barnsley Blacks set-up and he fished several home internationals for me. We had some great times together over the years. When he died it was a sad loss for me, and for the sport of angling as a whole.”

15 M A RCH 8, 2011 24/2/11 09:17:18


➽ Keith Arthur “My first close encounter with Ivan came during the Efgeeco Coax Challenge on the River Erne when, on one of the rest days from the event, we all went fishing. Ivan opened

his fishing basket, pulled out a Mitchell reel, that had another four reels tangled up with it, a couple of cardboard packets of hooks and a bait box. In the box were three sheep hearts that were alive with gozzers. That was the sort of thing the great man did. Tackle was the workhorse, but Ivan knew it was the right bait - and how it was used that caught the fish.”

Ivan has always seen the funny side of life.


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16 M A RCH 8, 2011 24/2/11 09:32:06

Next page Ivan: a history

THE PEOPLE’S CHAMPION Shortly before Ivan’s death in 2004, Steve Partner met the great man on the Middle Level. This is the article just as it appeared in Angling Times


here is a trophy in the living room of Ivan Marks’ house in Leicester that everyone who visits can’t help but notice. Nearly all the other medals, shields, trinkets and prizes that one of Britain’s best-loved match anglers has claimed in a glittering career spanning half a century are either gathering dust in the loft or have been given away to local youngsters. But this one remains. It’s an impressive sight, too. A huge, ornate hand-carved fish sits atop a heavy wooden base that carries an inscription, etched on a bronze plaque, that Ivan has read so many times before that when he shuts his eyes it stares straight back at him: ‘Second in the World Championships, Bulgaria 1976’. For all its aesthetic beauty, though, this is a trophy Ivan wishes he’d never won. He didn’t want to be runner-up... he wanted to finish first. At 68 years old, Ivan Marks can look back at what he’s achieved with the greatest of pride. He’s won more big matches (and by big, that’s contests with 1,000-plus anglers) than anyone else alive, been a fundamental part of the crack Leicester Likely Lads team, and represented his country on the International stage. As a consequence he remains one of the most respected, recognisable and well-liked anglers in Britain – a man held by many in such deep affection that the mere mention of his name will cause grown men to fall into emotional reverie. If you were brought up fishing

in the 1970s, Ivan Marks will, at one stage or another, almost certainly have been your hero. But even a man as great as this has regrets. And the trophy in his living room is a constant reminder of the biggest. “I would have loved to have got my hands on gold, I really would,” he said. “I wanted badly to win the World Championships and although I hit the crossbar, I never quite made it. “I keep only a handful of trophies in the house nowadays, and the most impressive is the one I got for coming second in 1976. It’s beautiful, but I’m reminded every time I see it that I never finished first.” The pain of that memory is intensified because, after his near miss on the River Varna in Bulgaria, Ivan never got many more chances to realise his dream. After being a regular member of Stan Smith’s England side, a new dawn broke when Dick Clegg took over in the early 1980s. And that new dawn didn’t include Ivan Marks. “I fished for my country 11 times at World level and that is something I will always be proud of. But when Dick took over I wasn’t part of his plans. “I remember getting a call from Angling Times to tell me I had been dropped. But I wasn’t dropped. He never picked me in the first place, so how could I be dropped? “Of course I was disappointed, and I fished trials the next year and the one after that, and even turned out in Home Internationals. But I never fished on the World stage again. “I didn’t complain and I’ve never


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“It’s beautiful, but I’m reminded every time I see it that I never finished first”

Top Tip

Ivan’s own Persuader rods are still used

spoken to Dick about it. He went on to have a superb record and who knows, if he’d picked me maybe I’d have made the mistake that cost the team gold so, ultimately, he was right, wasn’t he?” Such a dignified and humble response would be acceptable from almost anyone else, but the words ‘mistake’ and ‘Ivan Marks’ don’t belong in the same sentence. Ever since he began fishing as a schoolboy, he’s known little other than success. By the age of 12 he was taking part in local club matches, banned first because he was too young to enter the pools and then banned all over again because he was winning the coin. From there he joined Leicester’s foremost match team in 1954, the Black Horse Pub, and its captain, Eddie Allen, recognised the young talent and took him under his wing. It was Eddie who taught Ivan how to bream fish. Following National Service he threw himself into matchfishing, joining the ‘circuit’ as he travelled from his base in Leicester to Boston, Sheffield, Coventry and beyond. With his natural ability and his carefully learnt skills he began winning for fun.

17 M A RCH 8, 2011 24/2/11 09:33:20

IVAN MARKS Interview

“Youngsters in an old man’s sport, we had a laugh and people took to us” Having blitzed the open match scene, he joined up with other emerging talent in the area like Roy Marlow, Dave Rossi, Brian Envis, Dave Downes and Howard Humphrey, and Leicester AS were famously reborn as the Likely Lads. “It was the late 1960s and we were youngsters in an old man’s sport. We had a laugh and a joke and people took to us.” They could fish a bit, too, and moved from the Trent to the Severn, to the Welland and Ouse, basically anywhere they could find a big match. They almost always came back flush, having picked the pockets of the local outfits. But even those they’d beaten didn’t seem to mind. “We got a good name because we had fun. We were like a big, happy family.” He clearly misses those undisputed glory days of matchfishing, and a smile as wide as the Coronation Channel itself breaks across his face as he retells the story. Even when the Likely Lads slowly

melted away, as lads became men and settled down into middle age, he went and fished for Barnsley Blacks and continued to collect the honours. Nowadays, having gone full circle, he’s back where it all started, helping out, when needed, Leicester Sensas. “I was a winner. People said I was only a bream man and could only fish the waggler or bomb. But I would fish the Severn or Trent and

Thousands used to turn up and watch him fish and Ivan, ever the entertainer, always shared a joke with them.



Ivan Marks was born and raised in Leicester. He still lives in the same house. As a youngster he bred greyhounds. By the age of 12 he was fishing – and winning – club matches.


Ivan, along with rising talents Roy Marlow, Dave Rossi, Brian Envis, Dave Downes and Howard Humphrey, changed the name of Leicester AS to the Leicester Likely Lads, seen as one of the greatest-ever match teams.


In 1954 he joined Leicester’s best match team, the Black Horse Pub. Captain, Eddie Allen, taught him how to bream fish – skills that were to catapult the young Marks to angling stardom.


16-19 AT Legends March 8.indd 18

run a stick down or fish a feeder and win there, too. “I was extremely dedicated. I went to win whatever the venue was and if the fish were there, I’d do it, too. I never cheated, but I’d pull a trick if the organiser allowed it. If I could see in the draw bag and had a choice of numbers, do you think I wouldn’t pick the flyer? Come on,” he said, looking over his glasses, “do I look daft?”


Ivan took to the International stage in 1972, when he fished for England in Prague. In the squad 11 times, he claimed individual silver in 1976 on Bulgaria’s Varna river. He took six team medals. In one of the last big Nationals on the Severn the Likely Lads beat the Birmingham lads in their own backyard.

18 M A RCH 8, 2011 24/2/11 09:34:14

Next page Stick float fishing According to Ivan the halcyon days of matchfishing are gone, probably lost forever in an era when the commercials have supplanted the rivers and a turnout of 80 is considered big. For a man who made his name winning huge matches, it’s no wonder he fails to find the enthusiasm to competition fish today. “I won more big matches than anyone left alive. But then I always was a man for the big occasion,” he says, with all the assurance of someone with an incredible angling CV. During his golden era in the 1970s he won regular 400-peggers on the Welland, Coronation Channel, Severn, Trent and Middle Level. On top of that he claimed a remarkable 10 or so (his memory won’t allow him to recall the exact number) matches where 800, 900 and 1000-plus anglers lined the banks. Three years out of four he claimed the Great Ouse Championship – a truly gigantic event that saw 1,300 matchmen do battle. No-one else has a record like that. “The thing is, I could have won a lot more. I remember times when up to 1,000 people stood behind me in matches. I knew winning would be impossible, so I’d turn round and have a bit of fun with them. People remember that. When the match finished I’d give away bait or floats to local youngsters and offer advice if they wanted it. “People say the prize money wasn’t great in those days, but 48 years ago I won £800 in a year and that was



Ivan was married to Linda, who last year presented the trophies at the sixth Ivan Marks Memorial match held at Roy Marlow’s Glebe Fisheries complex in Leicestershire.

enough to buy a house. Nowadays, the biggest pay day is £25,000 and I tell you something, you couldn’t buy much of a house with that,” he said, before throwing his head back and laughing until his diminutive frame literally shook. Today, Ivan Marks fishes mostly for pleasure, happy to pass on the advice that made him so successful. The ill health that beset him in later life – he suffered a heart attack in his early 50s, underwent a heart transplant in 1993 and recently beat cancer – has failed to dampen his irrepressible spirit. His skin is tanned a deep bronze from an outdoor existence, his smile shines as bright as the midday sun, and the eyes that have struck at a million bites now hide behind a pair of glasses. And he loves to talk, with an endless supply of stories from an era he bestrode like a giant. Ivan also likes to gamble on the

When England manager Stan Smith’s era came to an end, Ivan’s World career petered out. Dick Clegg took over the reins in 1984 and Ivan never fished at World level again. The Likely Lads dissolved and Ivan went to fish for the Barnsley Blacks – one of the very best match teams of the time.


Having only started smoking at the age of 35, he would go through 40 in a five-hour match. By the age of 51 he’d suffered a heart attack. “Back in those days,” he said, “I always had a fag in my mouth and a smile on my face.” Ivan had a heart transplant in 1993.


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Ivan enjoyed passing on what he’d learnt and always had a word for everybody.

dogs and the horses and gets out on the bank a couple of days every week, spending more time talkingto the anglers desperate to shake the hand of a legend than actually fishing. “I’ve had a good life,” he said. “I’ve been very lucky, very fortunate in what I’ve achieved. At the end of the day I was just an ordinary bloke who could fish a bit.” The world – it is safe to say – will never see another man like Ivan Marks.

Ivan with the trophy that ca rries painful memor ies.


Ivan still fished every week and helped Leicester Sensas, remaining as upbeat as ever throughout his latter years. “As long as I’m on the bank,” he said, “I’m happy.” Ivan was voted third in an Angling Times poll on the greatest anglers ever. He sadly passed away in December 2004.

19 M A RCH 8, 2011 24/2/11 09:35:51


Flowing river techniques

THE STICK FLOAT a versatile choice

Ivan describes how he fishes a deadly weapon in his river armoury

A skimmer netful on the ‘stick’ for Ivan.

Top Tip

‘Sticks’ always take a double float rubber

20-21 stick float.indd 20


he stick float is for flowing rivers. It is versatile, being available in a range of 12 floats measuring from five inches to over eight inches long, but it has its limitations. It is, in effect, a compromise between buoyancy and sensitivity, achieved with the use of two materials; cane and balsa. The more buoyant balsa makes the top of the float, the heavier, denser cane the base. The combination allows the float to set quickly because there’s little resistance as the top rights itself – and this is vital in flowing water where the sooner the tackle is in register, the sooner it can catch you fish. So, sticks are for trotting relatively shallow water; nothing over 9ft deep. Which means they are deployed against roach, dace and chub in the main. But the swims in which they are used need to be of even pace. If the water is at all turbulent, as is often the case with shallow water, then there isn’t enough buoyancy in the float and an all-balsa float, for example, might be a better choice. Every river offers the opportunity to use many different types and size of float but the perfect location for a stick float has to be the River Trent at Long Eaton Tip. Pegs 1 to 10 in the Silver Prize Band water offer generally even flow running inside a line of turbulent water. The flow is conveniently at its best over a run of gravel which the chub and roach frequent, particularly so because this is a comfortable piece of water for them. I have 12 sizes of stick float to choose from but I settle on one carrying the equivalent of 4BB shot to fish the 5ft deep swim. I could get away with a float that’s marginally less buoyant but

23/2/11 17:35:04

Next page Irish roach fishing I have to hedge my bets a little. The Trent is now an odd river. It’s a little unpredictable, since its flow can change as the result of power station demands and outflows. So I have a little buoyancy in hand should the river become more pacey and therefore develop the tendency to ‘boil’. Don’t forget that stick float fishing demands the use of the double rubber. In other words, the line is fastened to the float at the top as well as at the base. You are, in effect, fishing a floating line, whereas in a stillwater situation the line would most likely be buried beneath the surface to minimise wind difficulties. My stick float fishing involves two distinct shotting patterms. The first is the one I favour the most, and it involves the use of SOFT split shot, fished in bunches. I emphasise ‘soft’ shot, for you may need to relocate it during the day and hard shot will damage the line; you can’t slide it. This first pattern is the conventional style where the float is fished marginally over-depth but where the angler trots the float downstream through the swim at different speeds. Some of the time the float is allowed to run with the current. At other times its movement is slowed. It is easy to visualise what happens when the float is held back, isn’t it? The bait swings up from the bottom… and that can be mighty attractive. You get more bites. But the real secret is to vary the approach. Fish become wary as time goes on. They go off one bait and it pays to try another. Even a modest change may work sometimes. The second pattern has 2 x No1, 2 x No4, 2 x No6 and 2 x No8 shot regularly spaced over the final two-thirds of the hooklength, with a No8 telltale. This one is used to virtually hold on – you almost lift the float downstream through the swim. This slows the bait’s movements right down and gives finicky species the time to make up their minds whether or not they are interested. There are few occasions when I don’t locate one shot, usually a single BB, immediately under the float. There are some good reasons for this. The first is that it speeds up the cocking process when fishing shallow, flowing water. Speed fishing often demands that the fish are hooked as close to the angler as possible, but you are handicapped if your float has to swim down five yards before it is in

Intense concentration by the master.


“There are good and bad cycles lasting several years with all species at one time or another but bream stocks in public high-pressure fisheries are now at an all-time low” register with the terminal rig. I would carry on fishing the same stick float if a strong wind developed. It would be effective in even a Force 8 gale for a number of reasons… assuming there was no boil. It rides the water well in a swim which is quite well protected by the terrain. The simple addition of a black-shot (No8 dust) nipped on to the line six inches or so above the float will help settle the line. To some extent the float has to be chosen with the fish as well as the conditions in mind. There was a time,


20-21 stick float.indd 21

DERBYSHIRE DERWENT: A remarkable sequence of roach and chub catches TRENT: So much quality, quantity and variation for so many people WARWICKSHIRE AVON: Constantly responds for people who fish it right SEVERN: Down from position one because peak of barbel stock has passed THAMES: I don’t fish it much but like what I find when I do BRISTOL AVON: A good match river – there’s always something feeding NENE: The most improved of all the rivers I fish WITHAM: Consistently average and not so many water-lickings WELLAND: Good in parts, pegs 1-300 best. A big-fish failure. GREAT OUSE, RELIEF CHANNEL, CUT-OFF CHANNEL, 20 FOOT: Nothing to choose between them 10 years ago, when the 4BB stick would have been rated too heavy – but not any more. The Trent is no longer a roach river first and foremost. In fact we are reaching the stage where the roach are now the bonus fish, the exception rather than the rule. We now have to consider the carp, bream and chub and the fact that these are generally bigger fish than the roach. The extra shot-carrying capacity of the chosen float helps you provide a much steadier bait presentation. In effect the stick helps anglers to do an effective searching job in flowing water…in swims, I repeat, with no surface turbulence and where the depth is, at best, up to 7ft.

21 M A RCH 8, 2011 23/2/11 17:35:38


Irish roach fishing

IRELAND’S “The roach daren’t come to the top for if they do they lose their space down below”

Some things do change. Sadly, Ivan’s analysis of the state of Irish roach fishing has not stood the test of time


he enormity of the scale of the roach population explosion in Ulster and parts of the Irish Republic defies description. This must be the biggest single move forward in coarse fishing in the British Isles this century. Perhaps we are lucky to be around while history is being made in this way, for the present roach population is growing steadily and spreading. The spread worries the South. There’s a ban on pike livebaiting to prevent roach being carelessly released, but the main river systems are bound to become heavily stocked. Only British anglers who have been to Lough Erne can imagine how big that is. You could tuck Rutland Water into one of the small corners…yet, so far as I have had time to discover, there are roach everywhere. In between the days spent fishing the recent Benson and Hedges Open at Enniskillen, there was ample time to sample the local pleasure fishing. Everyone who roved around looking for out of the way places reported the

same sequence of events – a few minutes to get the swim primed and then it filled with roach. The locals have netted their home waters for many years to obtain bream for pig food. Goodness only knows how many fish have been taken away, but one thing’s for certain – there’s no way anyone can tell the difference, simply because there isn’t any. This is a fertile area so vast and unexploited that even man, ingenious though he is, will find difficulty in messing it up. Some of the recent visitors to the Erne for the Benson and Hedges match were so impressed they said they would leave their tackle behind and return as frequently as possible, English fishing getting the equivalent of a decisive thumbs down. Virtually every factor taken into account is favourable. The lough and river system is so big that flooding is no problem. The fishing is predictable, accessible…and everyone can catch. The Erne system, unlike the Shannon, has permanent water colour. It has that peaty-brown stain that comes from flowing in and out of bogland. Whether this is good or bad is


22/23 irish roach.indd 22

22 M A RCH 8, 2011 23/2/11 17:32:07

Next page Superstitious Ivan



at least so far as casual visitors are concerned, impossible to tell. The colour must help us keep the roach fishing, since peaty water is better than clear stuff, but there may be questions about the effect of peat on the long term stock. Could be there are so many roach that few if any of them will grow extra large, but the stock is bound to settle down to what is sustainable in time. One oddity of the situation is that the roach don’t prime on the surface as they could be expected to do in such situations. “There’s an easy explanation for that,” said our Irishman I discussed it with. “They daren’t come to the top for if they do they lose their space down below.”


One fear is that the roach will mess up the bream stock. Certainly the bream can never again have it all to themselves, but considering how few people ever bothered with the bream that isn’t really a problem. There should be plenty of fish of both species for everyone. The perch are already bigger than in most Irish rivers. There were quite a few of 1lb caught, and the run of the mill fish were perch of 6oz to 12oz – much better than were found some years back. The facilities for anglers are superb. We could have fished out of the bedroom windows of some hotels – three were actually on the water’s edge. There are, in fact, plenty of hotels for holidaymakers. So far as the fisheries are concerned, there’s space for 2,000 anglers at a time. I’ve been told that it’s 99 per cent certain the Benson and Hedges match will be repeated next year, and there’s

no need for anyone to attach the slightest significance to the fact that parts of D and E Sections fished relatively badly. Any other time they could both have been exceptional hotspots. All depends, it seems, on the time of year and the temperature. That helps resolve the whereabouts of the fish in the river.


Although this was late May, the roach still hadn’t spawned. A couple of fish were opened up to reveal that it would have been another three weeks before the fish actually spawned. The locals make the point that most of the fish come out of the lough into the river to spawn. Which is good theory. But how then does one explain the fact that wherever we fished in the bigger waters we caught roach? Maybe there are localised concentrations, but one thing’s for sure: if all the roach in Lough Erne moved into the Enniskillen town water the river would become solid with fish. There’d be no room for any water! I can thoroughly recommend the Benson and Hedges to everyone. It really is a wide open contest, and if you look at the results, the thing that sticks in the mind is that although Kevin Ashurst won it overall, lots of what might be considered lesser-lights got into the money placings. You need simply the ability to catch fish, to keep on catching fish and to keep your cool while others all around are knocking out enormous weights. Whether or not this is good or bad practice for the English match circuit is arguable. Maybe the gruelling run of winter pegs, for instance, will be less bearable after comparison with the Erne ….but at least you’ll know how good I was once! Ivan fishing for his beloved irish roach


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23 M A RCH 8, 2011 23/2/11 17:32:35

IVAN MARKS Lucky man


The 13th is his birthday an


Good day: Ivan is happiest drawing peg 13.


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lack cats, spilt salt, broken mirrors… these are omens I never ignore. Like most gamblers I’m as superstitious as a Medieval monk. I’ll do anything to keep Lady Luck on my side, even if it means crossing the road to avoid walking under a ladder. I was born on the 13th and that fateful date has been my lucky number ever since. It started when I drew a peg where the number added up to 13 and then won the match. Since then, that number has given me great confidence and helped me to win whenever I’ve drawn it. I always prefer to draw late at a match, putting my hand in the bag only at the last moment. I always believe the last pegs to be as good as the first. It was the same when I played football…I always made sure I was the last player on the field. Silly perhaps, but luck and superstition are part of my life. You’ll never find me fishing a match without a scarf tied round my neck. My original “lucky” scarf is so tattered and torn that I’ve acquired two or three more. And if I can’t find one before the whistle I tear the car apart in the search! I took my original scarf with me to Ireland this year as a good luck charm. One of our party, Ray Elkington, didn’t catch a fish during the first few days so I lent him the scarf… you’ve guessed it, he came back with 50lb odd. Coincidence or fate – we can only guess. But I’d have a heart attack if I lost that scarf. I’ve also got a lucky float that has won me more matches than I can remember. It’s a green and black antenna which I’ve used to win both the Nene and the Welland Championships. There’s that many coats of paint on it, I’m sure there’s no balsa underneath.

24 M A RCH 8, 2011 23/2/11 17:25:29

Next page World Champs Tribute


day and favourite number, and Ivan will do anything to keep Lady Luck on his side If I break my line above that float, everything stops until I get it back. It was the same with the groundbait bowl which Kevin Ashurst lent me before a big match. I won the event so I asked Kevin if I could keep it. I used that bowl for the next three years and enjoyed a fantastic run of success. Then I lost it and my luck disappeared as well. My mother-in-law has a huge snail’s shell standing on her window sill. Yet if that ornament is moved from its place – even for a spot of dusting – I am unhappy. I first saw the shell at a fancy restaurant – the sort of place where you

“The gods of fortune are my allies on the river bank” can’t read the menu – during the Likely Lads “do” one evening. I was strangely attracted to it so I shoved it in my pocket, and later I gave it to my mother-in-law. Now the first thing I do when I walk into her house is to look for the shell. I’ve adopted it as my lucky mascot. Lots of anglers ask me what’s happened to Tiger, the little Jack Russell terrier I used to take to all the matches. Well, he’s still as frisky as ever but rather than leave him in the car all day I keep him at home. If he got out of control on the riverbank he could get me banned from a competition, and tickets are hard enough to get hold of anyway. When my luck is running I play it all the way. A couple of years ago I finished second in the big Wraysbury three-day open. To celebrate the

following day I went horse-racing with Robin Grouse and his fiancée. Two races had already been run and I saw that the horses I fancied had both finished well. So I splashed out my match winnings on the next four races and, incredible though it may seem, picked four winners on the trot! Sometimes I get strange premonitions that I’m going to do well in a big-money contest. Three years ago I was travelling back from Torquay when I turned to Linda – now my wife – and predicted that I was going to win the following day’s Welland Championship. I never normally make predictions but this time I felt so confident that I did. And sure enough I won the match. It’s rare that I dream about fishing. I just take each match as it comes, but there was one dream which I


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When Ivan’s luck is in he can do no wrong. And vice-versa..

Top Tip Hang on to your lucky float!

shall never forget. I saw my mate Brian Dexter drawing a sweep ticket out of a hat. Then some horses flashed by and he shouted that he’d won. The following day at work there was a sweep for the Lincoln. And as soon as Brian picked his horse I rushed round to the bookies and put on £5 each way. Even I was shattered when it came home at fourteen to one! At the moment my luck is definitely out. I’m having a bad run in matches and who knows, it could last as long as two years. To do well, you’ve got to draw a good peg. And this is something I can’t do at present. Roy Marlow suffered a similar run of bad draws last year until he asked me to draw his peg for him – with the permission of the organisers, I hasten to add. I picked some good pegs for Roy, including first and second on the Severn. My luck was in and I could do no wrong. But when it’s out I can do no right. I shall never forget an unlucky trip to Ireland when a few of us paid a visit to a greyhound breeder. This chap bred all the best dogs so when he showed us a young animal which he thought was unbeatable we couldn’t wait to get our money on. The gate went up, the dog shot out and stopped dead after 100 yards. We couldn’t believe our eyes, especially when it repeated its go-stop performance in another race and we lost our money a second time. The owner was so disheartened that he gave the animal away. It was only later that he learnt it was colour blind and couldn’t see the hare under artificial light. In daylight over the hurdles it broke all track records! Luckily we were able to recoup some of our losses.

25 M A RCH 8, 2011 23/2/11 17:28:04


Ivan the legend

Ivan Factfile ➼ LIVED: 1936-2004, Leicester ➼ OCCUPATION: Engineer and tackle shop owner ➼ GREATEST ACHIEVEMENTS: Eleven England caps, second individual place overall 1976 and six team medals 1970, 1972 and 1973 Great Ouse Championship - first 1970 and 1972 Welland Championships - first 1967 Nene Championships - first 1961 CIU National (Trent) - first individual 1971 & 1974 National Championships team first


Ivan in pictures.indd 26

26 M A RCH 8, 2011 23/2/11 17:22:04

Next page Fishing the waggler

“Ivan was a true legend”

Three World Champions share their memories of the great Ivan Marks


hen Ivan passed away in 2004, the whole angling community remembered an exceptional man whose skill, charm and toothy grin inspired generations of fishermen at all levels of the sport. His amazing record of victories during the 1960s and 70s – including a hat-trick of Ouse Championship wins and a brace of Welland Championships among hundreds more top placings – is unsurpassed, and, with the demise of huge all-in matches on the nation’s rivers, will never be matched A second place in the World Championships in 1976 simply adds more weight to the argument that Ivan really was in a different class to almost every other angler on the planet during his heyday. Everyone who came into contact with him has a story to tell, and here are what some of today’s stars had to say about their encounters with Ivan, who was universally described as being both a great angler and a great person. Five-times World Champion Alan Scotthorne : “I remember on one trip to Ireland, Ivan was fishing in the teams of four Classic week contest. Myself and the other young guns were in a team as well and we were beating his team all week. It got to Friday and I can remember Ivan coming back into the presentation area. I knew he’d caught some fish but I didn’t know exactly what he’d

caught, just that his team-mates had done well. Our team was still about 25 kilos in front of them and it looked like we might win. When Ivan came back he wouldn’t tell us what he’d caught and he really strung us along for ages, which he loved. It got to the final presentation evening and he eventually revealed that he’d had more than 50 kilos! If he had you going with something like that then he was excellent at it – he’d string

you along for ages. He was a real character and he loved a good story.” Four-times World Champion Bob Nudd: “My first memories of Ivan – and this was when he was at his best, I think – was him fishing for bream on the Fens. I was a young angler then – just starting out – and he was very good. The best, really. He was well-known even then but I was impressed that he’d chat to anybody and give them advice. I was just a boy and he would talk to me just like a normal person for ages, which was brilliant. He could communicate well – he taught me to sit on my hands when fishing for bream, which was brilliant advice! I had a few trips with him to Ireland too. He used to go a lot – he really loved it over there – and I’d just started going back then, so I got to know him very well. He was a wonderful person who never got angry with

anyone, and he was a brilliant angler.” Former World Champion Tommy Pickering: “When I was a boy everyone had footballers on their school pencil case but I had the Likely Lads and Ivan Marks – he was my angling hero. I remember on one National match we tried everything we could not to let people know where Ivan was pegged so the bank wouldn’t get too busy, but when we arrived at the section there were 200 people waiting to watch him fish. When he won his second Ouse title and the Welland match two weeks later, Angling Times ran the headline ‘Ivan the Great, Marks the Magnificent’ and that’s how I will always remember him. I had that photo on my wall and from then on I knew what I wanted to do. When I spoke at Ivan’s funeral, it was a very proud moment in my life. I felt deeply honoured that I could pay tribute in this way to such a special person.”

“Angling Times ran the headline ‘Ivan the Great, Marks the Magnificent’ and that’s how I will always remember him” I VA N M A R KS SPECI A L

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Fishing the waggler


WAGGLER A FLOAT FOR ALL WATERS Ever the innovator, Ivan explains how different shotting patterns make it such a versatile tool

Top Tip

Store delicate wagglers in float tubes

Ivan about to launch a waggler in classic overhead casting style. I VA N M A R KS SPECI A L

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he waggler is one of those floats – and there aren’t very many of them – that can genuinely be claimed to be versatile. It can be fished on many stillwaters, but is equally at home on smooth-flowing rivers of average-to-medium depth…but the circumstances need to be exactly right for it to work. There are six floats in the waggler range and they are all exactly the same length – eight inches. The variation is in the length of the balsa body – it is this that helps take the shot loading range of the floats from 3BB to 5AAA. The body of each float is also of uniform thickness. Modern wagglers have relatively buoyant stems. Sarkandas reed is the most commonly used material, and this holds up to the surface rather better than cane and enables the float to overcome a certain amount of wind and tide resistance. Sarkandas reed isn’t exactly thin either, which means that floats in which it is used can be seen at long range – whether that long range is way out across a stillwater, or when long trotting on a flowing river. I propose this week to use a waggler while fishing the River Severn at what can be called number one peg on the right bank downstream of the bridge at Stourport. The river there is a little pacey, but the flow is even, there’s no turbulence and no danger of the float creating problems.

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Winter bream The wind is what I call ‘upgate’ – upstream – which makes either all-balsa or stick floats dicey prospects. They are too prone to tangles stemming from the wind. The waggler, on the other hand, being a longish float, is well sunk. This means that the pressure on the flow forces the float downriver despite the retarding influence of the upstream wind on the tip. Clearly, a shorter float with a thicker top would be impossible. The swim offers a number of alternatives. My main choice has to be fishing what might be called the second shelf. That is where I expect to pick up the bulk of, if not all, the roach and chub catches. This is a swim I have fished three times in matches – although it is seldom numbered peg one. I’ve had 13lb, 17lb and 9lb, and each time it has put me into the money. It isn’t a winning peg. There are better ones, certainly in the summer when the barbel are active. There may not be so many barbel at Stourport as in some other areas of the Severn, but there are enough to ensure that the swims without them are unlikely to win their users much match money. Chub to 1lb are the main chance, along with roach to 12oz, but this is a peg where you take anything that moves. Dace can be numerous…and bleak a nuisance. I fish rather differently to some others, I suspect. People have expressed surprise that I should have as much as an inch of waggler top showing above the surface – but that’s for a special reason. If you want to slow the bait down through the swim there’s no way that’s possible if the float is shotted to within a fraction of an inch of the surface. The slightest tension on the float top and down it goes. On the other hand, you can lean on an inch of waggler top quite a lot, and that effectively slows the rate of trot. I am assuming the Severn is in a


➽ Denis White In my early years I remember travelling from Barnsley to the Relief Channel in my Del Boy van for a match - one hell of a trip. I asked Ivan about the peg I’d drawn and he told me ‘you could catch a bream or two there young ’un. But you can’t catch a shoal on a dustbin lid’. He taught me that you had to feed over a decent-sized area to hold the bream. ‘Bream fishing is like reading a book - with a bit of patience you’ll get into it’, he also told me. He was 20 years in front of everybody back then and you never saw him strike at a liner.

reasonable nick. If it is out of sorts there’s no way that a 5AAA waggler could fish this swim, and the next step has to be to leger if conditions get any worse. On the other hand, if the river is sluggish there’s a chance that you could fish a stick float on the first shelf – where the water is 5ft deep. Better, though, to use the waggler and cover both possibilities with one float. Bear in mind that a waggler is first and foremost a small bait float. It can quite competently support maggots or casters, but it isn’t really man enough for meat, bunches of wasp grubs or paste. There are two possible shotting

patterns for the waggler in this Severn swim. In the first – the normal pattern for trotting through and going for the mixed species – the float is locked on with two swan shot, with a BB, 3 x No6, a No6 and a No10 down the line. If bleak are a nuisance it is time to lock the float on with a swan and an AAA and space 2BB (equivalent to an extra AAA shot) above the original BB, which has been slid down closer to the 3 x No6, to achieve a faster sink rate. I look to fish this swim with casters, adding some hemp to the feed, but there are times when bronze maggots could also do a good job – although not as good as the casters when the fish are going on them. Ivan nets a waggler-caught roach from a swim on the River Severn.

“People are surprised that I should have up to an inch of waggler top above the surface” I VA N M A R KS SPECI A L

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Cold-weather tactics

TEMPTING WINTER BREAM Ivan’s recipe: small hooks, worms and patience

Snow on the ground, fish on the feed – Ivan was an innovator.


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inter bream fishing is a waiting game. The first frosts and cold winds send the bream scurrying into deeper water where they form massive shoals. But trying to persuade them to feed can be more difficult than ending a person’s hunger strike. All you can do is cast out and leave your bait alone for as long as 20 minutes at a time, hoping for a fish to pick it up. Weights in the winter are usually lower than summer catches so you can afford to wait for bites. If you took one fish every half-an-hour in a five-hour match, you could finish up with 25lb – enough to win most winter contests. Of course, you must draw on the fish otherwise you could sit all day without a bite. These bream shoals are massive but one peg away is too far. The fish won’t move once they’ve taken up their winter quarters until spawning time. Certain areas on the Fenland rivers are noted bream grounds from now until the end of the season. I would always be happy to draw a peg in the 200s on the Welland, particularly just upstream of the noted red barn – now painted green. Every bite counts in winter, so concentration is important. The bream are usually heavier as they’ve packed on extra weight to combat the colder months. At this time of year worm fishing becomes a must. But most anglers make the mistake of tackling a contest with just a carton of brandlings. They wouldn’t go fishing with just half a pint of maggots! Heavy goundbaiting is definitely out. About five or six pounds is as much as you would want to use. The

“If, like me, you have trouble leaving your bait alone, smoke a cigarette slowly before reeling in”

“Most anglers make the mistake of tackling a contest with just a carton of brandlings. They wouldn’t go fishing with just half a pint of maggots!” bait – redworms or brandlings – can be chopped up and mixed with the groundbait. Remember that fish are moody and will not go head over heels to feed. So bombarding them with heavy balls will kill the swim, as well as frightening off any smaller fish which might be around. The Leicester lads have noticed on the Welland that they can catch good quality roach by loosefeeding at certain pegs in midweek practice sessions. But when they draw the same pegs in a match, anglers after bream ‘fill in’ the river, with the result that not a roach is to be seen. I usually fish a worm on a small black hook such as a size 18, knocking off the head and threading it on like a caster. The bait is only about an inch and a half long and sometimes I slip on a pinkie as well. Legering with either a swingtip or quivertip rod makes it possible to notice the slightest knock. Rivers in winter can vary so much in speed that I always carry at least five different quivertips with me of various thicknesses. I still use a long tail, as for summer fishing, but I keep a careful eye on the anglers around me when they catch a fish to spot the position of their bomb. If it’s different to mine I alter it quickly. Some anglers may think that a size 18 hook is a bit small to fish with worm. But I’m after bites and if the fish are finicky I may get two or three where the angler using the larger hook will ‘blow out’. If the fish start to come fast I can always scale up. Four years ago bream fishing in the winter was unheard of. The fish have always fed, but in the past the bait has been wrongly presented. Now modern legering methods have changed this. It’s possible to sit on a huge shoal of bream and not get a bite. Then


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Top Tip

Always carry a selection of quivertips

Ivan proves that bream can be caught in winter.

suddenly they start to feed. Although the angler is unaware of any difference, the water temperature may have risen fractionally or the wind direction altered…only small changes but enough to start the bream feeding. Many bream matches have been won in the last hour so it pays to sit it out and wait. If, like me, you have trouble leaving your bait alone, smoke a cigarette slowly before reeling in. A spot of rain will improve sport in most of our rivers, which at present are suffering from drought conditions. Last week I went to the Wye Championship and thanks to an extra eight inches of rainwater in the river all records were broken. I had never fished the river before and was told beforehand that dace would win, so I planned my match accordingly. But too late I found I had drawn a chub swim, and I hadn’t the float or the bait to tackle them. I finished third in my section with 24lb of mainly dace, but I could have doubled this weight with chub if I’d had enough bait to feed the dace out the swim. As it was, I was casting further across than anyone around me with a four-swan-shot loaded zoomer, but it wasn’t the right float for the job. If I’d known I’d drawn a chub area my whole plan would have been different. But this is where pre-match practice makes perfect.

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Legends Series: Ivan Marks  

Part two of Angling Times' Legends series - Ivan Marks