You probably wouldn't expect to pick up a review of a book about a match fishing legend, possibly THE match fishing legend, and read that the author of the review is not a match angler, has never been a match angler and will probably never be a match angler. Sorry, but that's me!
HOWEVER, that hasn't stopped me enjoying 'Ivan Marks – The People's Champion', or made me feel any less 'qualified' to knock out a few words about it, and here's why...
I was born in 1971 and, although I started fishing at an early age, I didn't read fishing magazines all that often. Probably not until 1984-ish, to be honest, when I started doing a paper round and could get a 'free look' at the magazines. At that time, I used to enjoy reading a column by Frank Barlow. I don't remember which magazine he was writing for back then and, to be honest, the only copies of any magazine I bought and fully digested at home were the ones with the free gifts on. I wasn't what you'd call 'brand loyal' – throw a free disgorger on the cover and you got my money! However, I did like the fact that columns like Frank's were 'real'. Even though I didn't match-fish, they gave a sense of being the kind of man-on-the-street angling that I liked. We grew up in a pretty poor area and part of fishing, to us, was overcoming challenges, getting out there and enjoying it, too. It struck me that the matchmen of old were pretty similar.
Ivan Marks was a name I saw frequently and peers always spoke and wrote of him as a 'legend'. I often felt that I missed out on something there and this is where his book steps in.
Having seen so much written about 'Ivan Marks – The People's Champion', I got hold of a copy and thought I'd see what all the fuss is about. Basically, the book is a collection of his best Angling Times columns, with a few nice photos thrown in for good measure, and I was taken back in time the moment I started reading it.
Not only did the opening few pages remind me of those magazine articles of old, but they also reminded me of my own real introduction to fishing. My early days were spent fishing with my dad and his mates at night in winter off the piers and beaches of Essex, so you'd think that this book would be a polar-opposite to my own experience. However, there are so many similarities, it's unreal; the camaraderie, the preparation of tackle and bait, the anticipation, the often arduous journeys...and the occasional failure! The only real differences were the lack of a crowd behind us when we fished, a complete absence of prize money and the fact that we ate what we caught!
Match fishing back then was certainly a different game. It was more popular with both anglers and fans, it would seem. There are matches that still draw in a few spectators these days, especially if you add the promise of a TV camera, but nowhere near the numbers that there used to be. In his columns, you could almost feel that Ivan expected it to grow on a par with other major sports and, at the time, many would probably have shared his opinion. It really was that popular and fans were part and parcel of the mix. It's great to know that 100 people will turn out to support you come rain or shine, but it's not so great when they get in the way, make a racket and all the other things that fans do when they're excited. Sadly (or maybe not), 'celebrity anglers' don't seem to attract that level of fandom now, and most crowds are restricted to tackle shows and book signings. It does help to know how things were back in the 70s and 80s, though, as the reader can then understand where Ivan Marks was coming from in his writing, and why he was seen as the 'people's champion', rather than JUST a very successful match angler!
Because of the nature of this book (i.e. it's a compilation of magazine column articles), it's very easy to read as lots of bite-sized chunks – in fact, it's just dawned on me that it is, rather appropriately for a match fishing book, a 'little and often' style of read! Obviously, you could sit down and digest it all in one go ('balling it in, continental style', maybe), but I preferred just to pick it up when I had a spare ten minutes and, when the busy period is over here at Anglers' Net, I'll read it again.
At this time of year, everyone is telling you to buy this and buy that, but I'll say this: If you don't get 'Ivan Marks – The People's Champion' for Christmas, buy it for yourself in January. It may bring back memories; it may give you an insight into a valuable piece of UK angling history, and it will definitely bring a smile to your face.
Ivan Marks: The People's Champion is more than 330 pages long and includes never seen before photographs. It is published by Mpress and costs £20 (plus postage and packing). Ring Calm Productions on 0845 4082606 or visit www.calmproductions.com
50 leather-bound copies are also available, priced at £180.
To view Ivan Marks: The People's Champion on Amazon UK, please CLICK HERE .