Paul Garner Q & A

Paul Garner - Scratching the Surface

Paul Garner – Scratching the Surface

Scratching the Surface is an autobiography documenting Paul’s life long lover with water  and the fish that lurk beneath it’s surface. Covering his childhood angling, his life in academia and extensive career in the fishing industry and of course many tales of truly outstanding captures it’s great read for anglers of all disciplines and really does offer something for everyone who has a love of fishing. From huge Skate off the coast of Scotland to chalkstream Grayling, huge Pike, barbel and Rudd plus almost every other species of coarse fish you can think of it’s full of tales most of us can only dream of. I shan’t give too much away, you’ll have to read the book to find out more.

After recently receiving and reading a copy of Paul Garners new book ‘Scratching the Surface’ I chanced my arm and asked if he’d be kind enough to take part in a Q & A session with me. Paul kindly agreed and after putting a few questions his way our conversation is detailed below.

Scratching the surface is your second book in 3 years. With the first focusing on the technical aspect and underwater work you undertook with Stu Morgan & this new offering being an autobiography is there scope for more offerings in the future?
Yes, definitely. I have several ideas that I am sure will see the light of day eventually. Producing books can become quite addictive, it is a similar thrill to the one you get when you first see an article you have written in a magazine, only with a much greater sense of relief that it is finally done!
I think the next project is going to be a collaborative work with several other anglers involved. I am becoming increasingly keen to try to record as much of our specimen hunting history as possible. Many of the stories relating to venues that were at the top of the game even twenty years ago are starting to disappear and I would like to leave a written record for the next generation of anglers.
My next solo work is likely to be another technical book. I already have a basic plan for this. Without saying too much, this project won’t be finished for quite a while as there is a lot of background work to do before I can even put finger to keyboard.
To be honest, even though writing a book can seem like a daunting job, this is actually the easiest part of the whole process. I have published both my books myself. That means I have to find the money to pay for them and hopefully eventually recoup that not unsubstantial sum and hopefully make a bit of profit. Selling the books is the hard part, that is for sure and although I would encourage anyone to write a book of their own, I would also advise them to think very carefully about how they are going to sell them.
Scratching the Surface

Scratching the Surface

You’ve been in and around the fishing industry as both an employee and consultant for 20 years. How do you maintain the enthusiasm & commitment to keep going  & continue to produce the goods week after week & year after year?
It is actually 23 years since I started my PhD, which I guess was the point where my whole life started to revolve around fishing. From that day to this I have not wanted to do anything else. Sure, some jobs have worked out better than others, but on reflection I can even look back on some of the less happy times and see the lessons that they taught me.
Whilst my life revolves around fishing, I try to keep a clear distinction between my work and my fishing. Sometimes this can become a bit blurred, but no one has ever paid me to just go fishing. Whether I have been developing products, looking after the other sponsored anglers, running websites, or whatever, this is what I get paid to do, my fishing is separate from this. What this means is that if I don’t want to go fishing then I don’t have to. Or if I suddenly get the urge to go and fish for a record gudgeon then I can. This definitely stops me from burning out.
Social media has made a huge difference to angling in the last 5 years, do you see this as a good thing for angling long term?
Well, you youngsters Lewis are much more savvy when it comes to Face Book, Twitter, Tumblr and all the rest than I will ever be, but anglers have been using the ‘net for a lot longer than five years. As I was working in academia almost twenty years ago I had access to the fairly early internet and what would later become chat rooms. I met a lot of great anglers like this and many adventures came about as a direct result of the internet as it evolved.
So whilst I think the internet is a good thing, there is a tendency for some people to use it in a negative way. I just can’t see why you would want to do that, but I guess that is just the way of the world. Personally, I try to use social media positively to try and encourage anglers to try new things and to think about their own fishing.
There are a lot of anglers out there that are keen to be sponsored and involved in the industry. What advice would you give to someone starting out who has the ambition to be involved at the top level?
The most important thing to remember if you want a career in the industry is to learn a skill that is going to be in demand from companies. The fishing tackle industry has become much more professional in the last decade. If you want to design products then you will probably need a degree in design. You might want to work on the media side, where photography skills, the ability to write coherently, and perhaps graphic design skills are key. Maybe you want to work in sales, again a good grounding is essential if you are going to be considered for a job. Companies are looking for the people with these specific skills, a passion for fishing is just the cherry on the cake.
You’ve had a very varied angling career, fishing many dozens of different venues for different species. If you had to choose just one species per 12 months what would you fish for & why?
I think I would become pretty bored fishing for just one species the whole year round. I like to be able to chop and change as the seasons and my moods dictate. If I could stretch your question a bit then I could probably lure fish for 12 months straight and with no distractions I think I would learn a lot too. I do love the feeling that you get when a fish hits a lure. In that split second you almost jump out of your skin and the adrenalin starts pumping, I never get tired of that feeling.
Fish of a Lifetime

Fish of a Lifetime

With all round specimen angling under huge pressure from predation where do you see the sport in 10 years time?
Specimen hunting, especially on rivers, is facing so many threats. To be honest, I think the current focus on predation, whilst very relevant and important, is perhaps taking away the focus from other issues, such as habitat degradation, endocrine disruptors and urbanisation. The rivers around London that I fished as a kid are now in a terrible state, hardly recognisable from then to now.
I can see that we are probably going to have to lower our sights eventually when it comes to really big fish. I have lived through a golden era where many species’ have seen their maximum weight go through the roof. This won’t continue for ever, and the ever-growing pressures on water will inevitably reduce the ability of many venues to produce specimens.
We all know you as an all round specimen angler & writer but what passions and interests do you have away from angling?
In the past I have been into quite a few things. Cycling was a big passion of mine when I was younger, including racing, but knee damage put paid to that. I also used to spend quite a bit of time fell walking when I lived in Cumbria. I suppose the one thing that has stayed with me right through my life is a love of music and especially seeing bands live. My music tastes are quite obscure, certainly not the kind of stuff that you will hear on Commercial radio – mainly Grunge and Desert / Generator Rock, bands from the States and Scandinavia mainly.
You’re passionate about angling in the UK. From the Scottish lochs to southern chalk streams and everything in between but is there anything abroad that would tempt you to travel for the opportunity of something special? 
I’ve done a bit in the past, and caught some nice fish, but I like to do it on my own terms. I’m not a big one for social fishing – as you well know I don’t fish with many people, so the holiday-style venues aren’t my cup of tea. I would love to spend some time specimen hunting in Europe, as carp fishing friends are always telling me about the big fish of other species that they are catching. The trouble is, I am the worst person in the world at speaking other languages, which is a major handicap. Maybe one day though.
A brace of big Rudd, one of many impressive captures detailed in the book

A brace of big Rudd, one of many impressive captures detailed in the book

And finally what does the future of your angling hold (without giving too much away)?
That would be telling! Suffice to say that I always have lots of ‘projects’ on the go. Increasingly though I am turning into a grumpy old man and prefer the solitude of more out of the way places, so a lot more of my fishing is done ‘off the radar’ on venues with less pedigree of producing big fish. This isn’t always possible of course, so I will still be out and about on some of the more mainstream venues. I enjoy what I do, so if it ain’t broke why fix it?
Hopefully I will be spending a lot more time out filming, especially underwater. There is just so much more that we don’t know and that is just waiting to be explored right under our noses. I think that will keep me busy for a good few years yet.
 Many Thanks for taking the time to talk to me Paul.
For anybody interested n buying a copy of Paul’s book, it cab be purchased directly from Paul himself at
Paul will also be attending all the winter carp shows plus the Tench Fishers AGM and the Barbel Society Annual meeting next spring where there will also be the opportunity to buy the book in person.

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