Martin James – Angling Star

There can’t be many keen anglers in the North-West who haven’t listened to Martin James on BBC Radio Lancashire’s ‘From the Water’s Edge’ at some time or another.  The show has a huge catchment area and can be picked up in Greater Manchester, Merseyside, Cheshire, Cumbria, West Yorkshire and of course, Lancashire. It’s broadcast on Thursday evenings at 7-30pm.

Following the launch of my book ‘Where To Fish: Lancashire Coarse Fisheries’, I was invited on the show and thought that it would be a good opportunity to write an article on the man behind the microphone, Martin James, for Anglersnet and give the listeners of the show a chance to see what Martin looks like in the flesh in his studio!

All-round angler, Martin, has been presenting the show ever since he moved from the South-East to Lancashire 25 years ago.  Before becoming presenter of ‘From the Water’s Edge’, Martin had done other work for the BBC and had written for angling magazines.  In fact, over the years Martin has written articles for all the major fishing publications, several chapters in various books and has written his autobiography, ‘Up Against It’.

He currently writes for www.fishing.co.uk   and www.worldwideangler.com. He is also working on two books ‘Fifty Years of Fishing and Travel Around the World’ and ‘Oregon from the Brit’s Point of View’.  Martin hopes these books will be released sometime in 2002 with all the royalties going to Crossroad Carers.

Martin has developed a mass of knowledge on fishing acquired over nearly sixty years of angling.  He caught his first fish as a four year old on 16th June 1941, using a ball of red wool, a nut for a weight and a penny eel hook.  Bait was a worm and the method brought about the downfall of seven small rudd.

From those early beginnings, Martin has progressed to becoming a more than competent angler who shares his successes and failures through his writing and broadcasting. I asked him whether he was ever recognized and he said: “Sometimes people will recognize me but when I’m fishing as soon as I open my mouth people realize who I am especially in and around Lancashire.” (For those who have never heard Martin’s radio show I must point out that he has a very distinctive voice that has become a trademark to his listeners.)

Martin’s favourite British venue is the River Kennet, where he enjoys fishing for whatever comes along from barbel to trout and anything in between.   His favourite species is the roach and Martin loves float fishing the most.   His favourite method is float fishing with a centrepin reel either by trotting or laying on.  He would choose float fishing everytime as his preferred method as he ‘absolutely loves it’.

Martin has fished all over the world from Sweden to South America. Foreign trips that stand out in Martin’s memory are fishing in the Amazon jungle lakes and rivers often for several weeks at a time and living with the Indians. The Oregon rivers of the  Rogue, Deschutts and Umpqua he considers majestic rivers for the fly fisher. He has become an avid saltwater fly angler both in the UK and the warmer climes Florida, the Bahamas, Mexico, California, Oman, Persian and Arabian Gulf. Later this year Martin hopes to catch his first striper from Chesapeake bay.

While on his travels Martin has experienced some hair-raising experiences and puts flying through Hurricane Isis in a two-seater plane in Mexico in 1998 probably top of his list as the plane was thrown around like a bit of cardboard.  It was an adventure that he describes as ‘frightening’.

Martin was brought up on the writings of Richard Walker and Bernard Venables, ‘Mr Crabtree’, and he holds those anglers in high esteem. ‘Stillwater Angling’ by Richard Walker is his favourite angling book along with Rachel Carson’s ‘Silent Spring’, although his chosen angling author is Sheringham.  Martin has over 2,000 books on fishing and the collection is expanding all the time!

In 1993 NASA presented Martin with the Richard Walker Trophy, a bronze bust of the famous angler, for services to angling and the environment. When Martin was describing to me the achievement he was obviously touched by the award.  He said: ” The trophy is my pride and joy.  It means more to me than anything else that I have achieved in sixty years of fishing.”

When I asked Martin how he views modern day angling, he said: “I think adult anglers have to make a major contribution to help youngsters enter the sport and make it an enjoyable experience.”

“I also feel there are too many experts who write about angling who don’t really understand it or fish often enough to be writing from real experience.”

“Litter and politicians are my pet hates! I don’t like litter whether it is in the town centre or on the riverbank. It is so unnecessary.   I’m not keen on politicians for not being honest enough and not really caring about mother earth.”

Martin was diagnosed as suffering from Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in 1977 and was bedridden for a couple of years until his unswerving determination helped him fight the disease and get back on the river bank.  Martin openly admits that it is a constant battle but with modern drugs and a belief that mind over matter can conquer he continues to fish on and present his show.

The severity of the symptoms varies but in an average week Martin will find he has a couple of days where he requires the use of a wheelchair or walking frame.   He also suffers from slurred speech, which can be quite a problem for a radio presenter, staggering and fatigue. Martin has his ups and downs but continues to battle on to pursue the sport he loves. He admits that he owes a debt of gratitude to the Temple Street Physically Handicapped Centre and the skill of the doctors and consultants.

Martin realizes how lucky he is to be able to continue and therefore actively supports several charities.  The royalties from his autobiography went to the Crossroad Carers as does all his fees from writing for www.fishing.co.uk, www.Worldwideangler.com   The Angling Star, newspaper columns etc, As does all his fees from speeches/presentations.  The first chapter in his autobiography focuses on his battle against MS, the last is the History of Crossroads.

Away from angling, Martin is married to Kate who also fishes. He has been married three times, from his first marriage he has a son, Nigel, 32, and a daughter, Sharon, 34.  Nigel does a bit of fishing but Sharon is more active and prefers netball and volleyball. Although she also has a love for water as she goes water skiing!

Martin enjoys reading biographies and autobiographies especially on military men.  The autobiographies by General Colin Powell, General Sir Peter de la Billiere and General Schwarzkope who is also a great environmentalist are amongst his favourites.

Martin has a love for music and enjoys traditional jazz and the old style rock n’ roll of the 1950’s.  His favourite singers are Lonni Donegan, Bill Haley, Elvis Pesley, Willie Nelson,  Waylon Jennings, Tammy Wynette and Crystal Gail. His favourite musician is the late drummer Gene Krupa with Jungle Drums.

‘From the Water’s Edge’ is currently broadcast at 7.30pm on Thursdays on BBC Radio Lancashire on 103.9 fm

Martin Salisbury – 2000