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Features
19 Oct 2016
by CARPology
What life's really like as a full-timer
We've all thought about it, dreamt about it... jacking it all in and fishing for a living. Meet Nigel Sharp, the man who did just that and become a pro angler.

We’ve all been guilty of it at one time or another. The thought of jacking in the day job and going ‘full time’ as an angler. Fishing the country’s best waters every day, having the lake to yourself mid-week and been given the opportunity to design and develop new items of tackle and bait. It sounds like heaven, doesn’t it? But is it all it’s cracked up to be? I caught up with Nigel Sharp, one of the few who’s managed to make a living from doing just that: fishing full time.

Around eight-years-ago, Nigel worked in the removals industry as well as doing various other odd jobs like labouring and building between his stints on the bank. Work for Nigel was always just a means to pay for his fishing; even at school all he could think about was escaping to get down to the lake. Aged 36 he saved up enough money to take a year out from his on-and-off job lifestyle to concentrate solidly on his fishing. Numerous consultancies and a best selling book and DVD later, I guess you could say he’s done alright.

Now known as one of the UK’s big fish scene’s most prolific carp-catchers, Nigel says, “Fishing is something I’ve always loved to do, whether I was sponsored or not, I would have gone fishing anyway.” And at first that’s actually how he did have to support himself – off his savings and not through sponsorship deals.”

“I’ve always been good with money and whilst at my last job I saved up quite a bit that year so I knew I had enough behind me to take a year out. At first, when I went full time, there was a level of definite uncertainty. I then got some magazine work and as the year progressed, it looked pretty good so I thought I might even squeeze two years out of what I had.”

Eight years later and he’s still going. As Nigel said, “I’ve taken a lot of gap years and loved everyone of them.”

As Nige had some savings, it wasn’t difficult for him to go full time but he had to be ultra disciplined about what he spent. Initially he had a bait deal at Nashbait thanks to his massive success on the Yateley complex, being one of the few to catch a 30lber from all the lakes. With four of them being over 40lb (Heather, Arfur, Single Scale and Bazil) he could get his bait for free providing his catches made it into the angling media. That just left rent, fuel and food for on the bank as his expenses. Nigel’s first few ‘real jobs’ for the media also came in his first year of being a full time angler in 1999 and as he started catching regularly, with a few mates pointing him in the direction of magazine writing, he started to be introduced into the carp fishing press.

"As I started to catch regularly I was offered some pieces of magazine work to do. I felt like I was starting to become part of the trade. In the early stages I was unsure how long it would last without any kind of security but once you get a consultancy or in my case I was lucky enough to get a monthly column in CARPology, then you can work out your expenses for the year and calculate how much money you have to live off allowing you to budget accordingly. It was a little while down the line before I considered that it was actually a viable job – permanently!"

'Sharpy', as he's commonly know, was lucky enough to start writing regularly in two magazines and once a few companies took note of the level of coverage he was attaining on a monthly basis, a few consultancy deals were being offered to him. Though Nigel was happy with his bait at Nash, he was offered a better deal as a few carrots with small dollar signs were dangled, he decided to change and go with the best financial option available. He moved from his bait deal at Nash to consultancies with Korda and Bait-Tech, the latter being almost unheard of at the time. This was an exciting project to be a part of as Nigel was called in to develop a boilie range.

“Nigel spent almost five years to the day trying to outwit the Burghfield Common before eventually catching it on the 13th May 2006 at a colossal weight of 52lb 12oz.”

“They wanted me to come up with a boilie for them and that’s basically what I did. I had an idea of a recipe and what I wanted in the base mix, it was then just a case of tweaking and testing it until we were happy with the results.”

Nigel maintained his deals with Korda and Bait-Tech as the bait range proved very successful, before moving to ESP for tackle in late 2006 and DT Baits in 2008. More recently, in 2011, Nigel went back to Nash under a consultancy contract but moved again several years later and now has deals with Wychwood, Rig Marole and Marukyu.

In 2010 he released his book, ‘Living The Dream’ and is the first to admit that he never thought he’d write a book. The idea was first sparked during a social session on The Road Lake with a few friends. That little spark was kept alight as more and more people asked when Nigel Sharp would write one. This, added to the enquiries from a few book collectors at carp shows, pointed to there being a market for a book to be written. After a full year of scribbling ideas, jotting his memories, sitting in-front of a laptop, Nigel had completed it. Since it was published in December 2010, it has gone on to sell over 5,000 copies.

For Nigel, targeting big carp and in particular single fish on what he calls ‘man’s waters’ where the fish are notoriously difficult and wily, to catch became a complete obsession. His longest big fish campaign being the time he spent on the nearly 100-acre Burghfield gravel pit. Nigel spent almost five years to the day trying to outwit the Burghfield Common before eventually catching it on the 13th May 2006 at a colossal weight of 52lb 12oz.

As Sharpy reflects back on the last 13 years of angling full time and more recently the success of his book, he tells of his fondest memories and conjures some advice for the next wave to follow who would like to be full timers.

“The best highlight of my career has to be catching the Burghfield Common and my most treasured memory actually goes hand-in-hand with that moment: how much it played up in the net; it completely thrashed the water to a foam! After catching that fish, I won the Nash Carp Cup in the Anglers Mail which had a £5,000 prize. I also won the same from the Angling Times Fox Carp Cup but strangely enough that year Carp-Talk stopped doing their annual award!”

“I think what the youngsters need to remember is that it’s important to go out and catch fish for yourself and enjoy it without the pressure of needing to catch to please other people. I was always cut out to be an angler, even through school I never wanted to be there and always wanted to be fishing. The route you pick depends on what you want or if you’re interested in a career or settling down. A fishing consultancy won’t support a family. The best bit of advice I could give any young angler is to enjoy their fishing, enjoy life and catch what they want to catch and not to go chasing a job as a full time angler. Let it come to you. You can’t expect to catch a couple of big fish and immediately get sponsored, that’s not how it works.”

So what does the future hold for Nigel Sharp? Is he fished out? “Not a chance!” he jokes. He plans to keep his angling profile up and carry on writing features. With his own fishing, there is still a lot he wants to accomplish, starting with some unfinished business on a water near Reading. His view on going back to work is yet undecided and depends how the fishing industry continues during the next few years. That said, after so many years spent on at bedchair giving him a dodgy back, one thing is for sure, he won’t be going back into the removals trade.

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