Kevin Nash Interview
Interview by Beverley Clifford and Rupert Whiteman Typesetting by Tom Gibson
Carpworld editor Rupert, and Bev Clifford, travelled down to Essex to ask Kevin Nash some questions about his last 30 years in carp fishing and the tackle industry
Carpworld: What is the first ever Carpworld cover image that you can remember? Did it have any significance, or inspire you in any way?
Kevin Nash: I think it was issue number one. I’ve got an aged memory now but if I recall, wasn’t it the one with Rod Hutchinson in the mist at Cassien? I wouldn’t say that it inspired me but, wow, it was the first edition of this new magazine with great content. I’m gutted that I never kept it as I hear they’re very hard to get hold of now!
CW: Yeah, I don’t think there are too many of them!
KN No, they certainly have a value I think. Not sure if people know, but in the beginning Carpworld was bi-monthly wasn’t it?
KN: Do you know why it went monthly?
CW: I don’t off the top of my head, it was a little before my time.
KN: It went monthly because Rob Maylin brought his magazine, Big Carp, out. Tim Paisley, as soon as he found out, said to Mary, we’re going monthly and that was his response.
CW: Good ol’ Tim, always likes a challenge! What was the first ever article that you wrote for Carpworld and what was it about?
KN: I’ve no recollection, but I spoke to Julian and apparently in issue one, I think maybe in issue two and three, you had extracts from my rig book back then. What date was the first issue?
CW: So it’d be 30 years this year, with the first issue being August 1988.
KN: That would’ve included the rig book I brought out at the time called The Advanced Rig Book. I have actually written four different rig books.
We ventured down to that hotbed of carp angling, Essex, and in particular to Nash HQ, earlier in the year, to ask Kevin some questions, based around his time within the industry over the past 30 years...
CW: Have you still got copies of those?
KN: There’s definitely copies of them all kicking around our office, probably in the archives. The first one I think was the early eighties, and to the best of my knowledge that’s the most successful carp book ever sold. It was so basic, because I was the first to bring out a range of rig components. It’s crazy, you talk to the kids nowadays and they think Korda invented rigs. Well, Korda weren’t even around then, and I was the first to put a range of rig components on the retailer’s walls. If I remember, the book sold in the region of 150,000 to 180,000 copies. I let my Benelux distributor have it for nothing just to get it out there and he did 120,000 – unbelievable! And, he never even bought me a drink [laughing]!
CW: What did Carp Fever sell? That was a phenomenal amount wasn’t it?
KN: Yeah, if I remember correctly, that did just over 100,000 and it set Kevin Maddocks up with his publishing business, which went on to buy the video business, Clearwater, from David Hall. That’s a funny story – Angler’s Mail alleged that Kevin had, shall we say, moved carp to new homes. This resulted in Kevin suing Angler’s Mail for libel and he won about £80,000, if I recall. He then approached David Hall to buy Clearwater which David readily agreed to. The fact was though, there was no money in videos. I had found this out myself after producing Starting Carping and Canary Carping in the late 80s. It was all video rental – you sell a couple of copies to a shop at five quid each and they rent them out all day long at fifty pence a time. Very few people bought copies outright. David told me he couldn’t believe it when Kevin rang him up and offered him eighty grand; he would have taken twenty just to get rid of it!
CW: So you’ve flitted in and out of writing for Carpworld for many years, with your most recent stuff being ‘Tales from an Essex Monastery’. Why did you stop?
KN: For the simple reason I decided to write my first autobiography, Memoirs Of A Carp Fisher: The Demon Eye. And I didn’t realise how much of a project writing a book was – as well as when you go fishing, try to live life, have family time and, unfortunately, something had to give. It took me, if I recall, a year. That was basically four to five hours, one day a week – because I’m a prolific writer and really fast. I used to knock out the Monastery pieces in two or three hours and they were four or five thousand words. I remember speaking to the late Kevin Green, he couldn’t believe it. He used to spend a week writing a thousand-word article in the Angling Times. I was able to just smash ’em out.
CW: When you’ve been doing it for such a long time, it’s a skill that you’ve honed isn’t it?
KN: I think it is you know. I was saying to Rupert earlier, I left school with an E in English and as it happens in Maths, and now it’s clear that was down to the poor standard of teaching in schools in those days – as modestly, Rosie Barham, who used to edit for me says I’ve got a natural talent as a writer. I don’t know about that but as I was saying to Rupert, every time I used to write for Tim, I’d be so anxious if it’d be any good, ringing him up, asking him if he’d received it. He’d always say “Well, it’s going in because it’s by Kevin Nash”, which used to kind of upset me in a way because it was going in because of my name rather than a piece that had writing merit, was a good read, informative and hopefully with a laugh or two. It’s the same with the book, I was struggling how to make the book appeal to as many people as possible. I was very aware the old school guys wanted a good read. The new kids that are into the sport, however, just wanted the technical information. It was a massive head f*ck, trying to juggle it and achieve my ambition of whoever bought it thinking it was a good read and worth the money.
At the end of it, I was mentally drained, as well as that, it was a really emotional experience and I don’t mind admitting that when I wrote my final words I burst out into tears – it absolutely drained
me. I picked up my pen to start writing ‘Essex Monastery’ again and I quite simply couldn’t. It was bizarre. It took something like three years before I was able to write again and then only very occasionally.
CW: That leads on to the next question, apart from this interview, do you see yourself writing for Carpworld or writing anything again?
KN: I think the simple answer is no; there’s a lot of reasons for that. Age is creeping up on me. I never expected to see it coming but it’s arrived and I think carp fishing is a young man’s sport, or a relatively fit person’s sport. I haven’t fished now since last year, because my hip’s playing up and I’ve got to have a hip replacement. I think to write a regular feature series, it’s important that you’re out there fishing and that’s for several reasons. Unless you’re out there fishing, you can’t really think of great content. Certain people can churn out pieces, year after year, without being out on the bank but my god it shows! It’s so clear to see in an angler’s writing whether they are out fishing regularly or not – you need to be out there doing it, experiencing it and thinking about it to write good content. The ‘Essex Monastery’ was great because I could just write about what other people had written about and have a laugh with some of them. It was so easy to write, add a bit of fishing into it and a little bit of thought. But you still needed the pictures.
CW: So, once upon a time you actually used to sell the advertising for Carpworld – how did that come about, and did you enjoy doing it?
KN: I cannot recollect the timeline of events but this is when I made a leap of faith to go full-time, selling carp tackle, in 1982. At the time I was friendly with David Hall, who published Coarse Fisherman magazine, and I was a regular contributor to that and I recall a conversation with him where he said he wanted to bring out a new match fishing magazine and he needed someone to sell the advertising. I said “Well, I know the retailers who are hot for the trot” so he offered me the job. I started going up to Daventry once a week to sell the advertising for it. I wasn’t any good at it as the match shops weren’t my customers and I wasn’t a match angler; they didn’t know who I was, so there was no relationship. I got talking to the editor at the time, Dave Phillips, and I was convinced that there was a market for a specimen hunter’s magazine. He went to David Hall and his response was simple... “Well, if you get me the advertising, I’ll launch it”. So I rang the shops that were my customers, the ones I had a relationship with and I sold the advertising in a day as easy as anything! I think that magazine was called Big Fish. It was the first magazine to focus on a specific discipline within coarse fishing. If you track back from the 70s, the magazine of the day was Angling which covered all the disciplines from coarse fishing, specimen, sea, trout and salmon. As a kid I would buy angling magazines in the hope that there might be one carp article in the whole mag. This is the days when the carp scene was really small but a few were starting to write, the likes of Paul Snepp, Robin Munday, Gerry Savage and Bob Morris. There were very few carp articles, maybe as little as six throughout the year. Then David Hall started the first dedicated coarse fishing magazine which was down to a single discipline, coarse fishing, but we had everything within that, from maybe team fishing, to bream fishing, to match fishing, and a carp article – and then, as I say, we brought the Big Fish mag out so that focused it down to specimen hunting and, more to the point, a significant increase in carp content. Later on I was approached by Peter Mohan to sell the advertising for the Carp Angler’s Association magazine, so I guess without knowing it I was building up a bit of a reputation in selling magazine advertising. Anyway, I got to know Tim, I can’t remember when, but without doubt it would have been through the Carp Society, which emerged as a direct competitor organisation to Peter Mohan’s BCSG and CAA. Peter’s organisation got into financial trouble, basically because Peter took the funds out, so the magazine folded.
Tim started up Carpworld and Mary called me to ask if I’d help them out to sell the advertising which I happily agreed to. I’d always try to get the advertisers to sign up for a 12-month booking. All the ones who I could get in would book a page a month for example, and then I’d just have to spend a couple of hours ringing around to get the guys who might want a quarter of a page. It was half a day a month to get all the adverts and I think they realised how easy it was as I’d taught them how easy it was! So, in the end Mary took it back off me, which was fine as I was starting to get busier with Nash at the time – but to answer your question, yeah, I enjoyed selling advertising as I enjoyed talking to people. I run the company customer line. I just love talking to people and talking to the customers, not from a point of view of trying to sell, just to give them the advice on tackle or equipment from Nash. A lot of the time I would say it isn’t right for you, other times people would ring me up about some waters and I’d say go in with sweetcorn to which the response would be, “Aren’t you going to sell me some Nashbait?” I’d say no as it isn’t right for the situation. I love talking and if it leads on to a sale then happy days...
CW: Carpworld has got a strong international presence amongst its readership. You’ve fished all over the world so where’s the most amazing venue you’ve ever fished – if you had to pick one?
KN: I think I would have to say Lac Du Der/chantecoq. I had such great times there, also made so special by the person who I was with, Nigel Botherway, who was an incredibly fit guy. You needed to be fit to fish a lake where you might row 10 miles a day or be wading in mud up to your knees. We went there on the back of the Joe Taylor times and in fact, Joe had just given up his fishing in France. For the record, it was Joe who’d found Chantecoq, driving back from somewhere and he saw this huge water. I remember him telling Nigel and then telling me that he’d sat there and thought: “Where do I start!?” What he didn’t
know was it was a flippin’ aquarium! There’s just so many carp in there. Nigel took an Orkney Long Liner – an oceangoing rowing boat. He’d had oars customised to eighteen inches longer than normal and with an electric outboard it still took us an 1½-hours to get to this island – that’s how big Chantecoq is! It’s over 50 miles around. We’d go out at night and just drift down the whole lake listening for fish crashing. The mud used to be up to our knees and we decided to go barefoot as we thought it would be easier. It didn’t turn out that way though – the mud packs under the bottom of your feet and it puts pressure on your tendons on top. On one session I become absolutely crippled as I just couldn’t deal with it. I remember the last evening I had a couple of banksticks to get down to the rods (acting as crutches) to get to this take and I said to Nigel, “You’re going to have to have all the takes”. It really pissed me off that he wasn’t affected by it! But he eventually had it, delayed, as we walked onto the ferry on the trip home. And because we were barefoot, I ended up treading on a broken bottle, cutting my foot. It was a bad cut but we both agreed I wasn’t going to hospital. So he set his sights on some hooklink to stitch it up. As he stuck the needle in my reaction was, of course, “Ouch!” He just looked me straight in the eye and said, “Kevin, pain is relative!” I thought... you fu**er! I never made a sound afterwards!
It was all just a massive adventure, it really was. I’ve always said it’s not the lake, it’s not the country, it’s the people. We kept it quiet and in fact it was Kevin Maddocks who blew it with Alan Taylor. That’s how Alan Taylor and Joe Taylor fell out, because Joe was really secretive and he’d told Alan not to tell – but Alan told Maddocks and they went to the lake. Maddocks then reported it to Angler’s Mail and I think there was a headline revealing something like they’d “caught a tonne of carp in week.”
I remember waking up one morning during a storm and looking out of the bivvy and seeing carp launching out of the water everywhere – they’d be in shoals of hundreds, coming through. In fact, I came up with this idea that we could hold them. There’s a photo somewhere, I think Nige has got it, where I took a quarter of a ton of boilies to try and hold them and this was just for a threenighter. We still couldn’t hold them – they’d just eat us out in 3-4 hours! It was like herds of wildebeest.
We found the fishing so easy, the longest session we ever did was four nights. Frankly, that was enough with the tough conditions and catching 10-15 carp per night. We’d just drive around, talk to the anglers and from them, figure out where to go. We’d always go the opposite direction because we were poaching basically, fishing at night, which was illegal at the time. Yes, Chantecoq was an unbelievable place – it was just pure adventure time but we had to give up on it, ironically because they opened it up and made a number of authorised night fishing spots, which made it harder for us to fish it covertly. Let’s be honest here, the most exciting form of carp fishing is fishing for carp when you’re not allowed to! It was a massive buzz – the huge lake, the huge shoals of carp and trying to dodge the Garde-pêche to boot! Some of Joe’s stories are awesome, of when the Garde-pêche sent the army out on night sorties, to try and catch him. They really took their job seriously!
Myself and Nigel usually did the three nights, but our very last session was four nights and we had 48 carp ranging from mid-20s into the 40s – you know that’s a lot of carp! We fished six rods, with literally every rod going off simultaneously. I remember having three thirties in the net and having to put it down on the bank because Nigel was into a bigger one. It’s just a crazy place!
CW: Carpworld is, of course, a platform media outlet to give the carp anglers knowledge about carp fishing but from your point of view, also a vehicle to promote your company’s products. How do you find a balance between these two things when contributing – i.e. promotion of your tackle and bait, versus passing on information and knowledge?
KN: That’s an interesting point – I never did find a balance. I believed that when I wrote an article, I shouldn’t use it as a vehicle to plug gear to aid the company’s growth. Unlike the modern world now, where an article is just used by the contributor to plug the company’s gear or the company’s sponsors. You could say I was, well I still am, a very naïve businessman. Even if I did pick up my pen and become a prolific writer again I don’t think it would be any different. I’ll be frank, a lot of carp anglers, especially newcomers to the sport, struggle with it and they don’t get it. You’ve got to get the fundamentals right. So rather than understanding the watercraft, they are looking for the secret. It is almost like if they copy what the sponsored angler says in their article, then they are going to automatically go and smash it.
You now have this new generation of tackle companies – let’s be honest, Danny Fairbrass was probably the first one who really understood marketing, so they really started pushing the tackle rather than teaching people actually how to catch carp, and not that location was more important than spodding out whatever. To be honest if you look back I think it’s been detrimental to carp fishing because anglers come into the sport, they’ve seen the article and the big fish, the videos and think that’s all they’ve got to do, just buy this gear and this bait and then they’ll be able to go out and be like the star names. There’s more to it though, so they lose their enthusiasm and give up.
CW: We loved reading both your incredible books but for the guys who haven’t read them yet, why did you write two books?
KN: I wrote two books because I couldn’t say it all in one – simple as that! I thought it was going to be three books though. When I set to on the second book, I had it in my mind the third would basically be the technical one. What happened though was when I got through to the Warmwell chapters in Herman’s Hole, I realised that all I was going to do was start writing about sessions and ‘look
I tried to deal with the confusion of why for example one carp angler would have a rig with certain properties, whilst another could have completely opposite views on what makes a successful rig. Most importantly is to cut through it all and get back to the fundamentals of being successful – focus and graft
at me and what I’ve caught’. We’d have nothing else to show except the technical so that’s why the second book became half story, half re-visiting everything I’ve learnt along the way. The plan when I wrote those books was to pick waters where I could illustrate my learning curve, my progression if you like through my carp apprenticeship, and hopefully I could make people laugh at the same time.
CW: So, which is the chapter or section that you most enjoyed writing?
KN: That’s a difficult question as I enjoyed writing it all, for different reasons – for remembering the stories, for the technical part because it was so challenging to write it. I found myself re-reading bits and thinking “God, how do I put that across?” and what would be the most enjoyable way?
I’d probably go for the Silver End piece, leading up to the capture of the Essex 40, because I’m thinking of the characters and telling the story of ‘Uncooked’. Well, you know every story I told in the books was absolutely true. That may sound unbelievable when we are talking about three deaths and two murders, but writing ‘Uncooked’ just illustrates some of the crazy characters we have in our sport. It was just such a mad story where he (Uncooked) fell in and nearly drowned, along with his reaction to the event, as well as mine.
CW: What chapter or section do you think the reader will take the most away from?
KN: Well, it’s got to be the ‘Knowledge’ just for the depth of
technical content. I really tried in the Knowledge to condense down a lifetime of learning that was portrayed across both books – from the basics of watercraft and understanding carp, to the mechanical elements of the rig and what you need out of it, and the many diverse elements of bait. I tried to deal with the confusion of why for example one carp angler would have a rig with certain properties, whilst another could have completely opposite views on what makes a successful rig. Most importantly is to cut through it all and get back to the fundamentals of being successful – focus and graft.
CW: Confidence? I think confidence plays a massive part of it still...
KN: You’re right Bev, I think the biggest reason these top anglers just seem to go anywhere and catch is confidence. This was a thing that, once upon a time, was a complete mystery to Tim, as he used to write about it as if you could only package it up in a bottle – but it’s quite simple.
It’s about consistency when fishing. The more you go out and catch, you are by definition becoming more capable, confident and you’re working harder at it. In short, rather than waiting for it to happen you are making it happen. With the top anglers it’s about the work ethic. If you’re on it, you are actually working harder and that’s my definition of confidence, you’re making it happen. It is as simple as that. I touched on it when I went on to the mid-90s in my book where everything had come together. I’d got it then. It took me a bloody long time, but I realised I had my best results on challenging waters after I had been on a water where I had caught stacks of carp. This was why I went to Star Lane to get a load of fish under my belt, and trial my rigs and methods before the big challenge of the Manor and Warmwell. When I walked on to The Manor I knew I was the b*llocks and I could catch carp anywhere! I know that’s not a good thing to say, but in your head you don’t doubt yourself – you just know you’re going to go and catch them and that’s because you’re on it, you’re just catching so many carp...
ABOVE TOP I chose Star Lane to allow me to hone my rigs and tactics
ABOVE BOTTOM Star Lane
ABOVE RIGHT Another resident of Dorset’s Warmwell. An incredibly busy little lake on a holiday park. Although the monsters are long GONE, IT CAN STILL BE FISHED TODAY
ABOVE LEFT WARMWELL WAS TO PRODUCE TWO HUGE fish for a water of its size
BOTTOM By the time I rocked up on the Manor, I had the self-belief that I could catch ’em from anywhere!
RIGHT Things were different back then