John Darling ( 1946 – 2004)
John Darling was a native of east Sussex, and apart from a short time as a student in Oxford, and some time in “the smoke”, working as a Night Security Guard (to give him more time during the day for fishing, he explained), spent all his life in the general area around Seaford.
He enjoyed “Huntin’, Shootin’, and fishin'”, and was remarkably good at it. Converting our interests into a career must be an unfulfilled dream for most of us at some time. John did this seemingly effortlessly, writing his first article before the age of eighteen, and getting it published in probably the most influential angling magazine of the 20th century, “Creel”, in May 1964!
At this period, John probably felt that certain age creeping up on him, and he disappeared from the angling stage for a while, reappearing around the time when “Creel” and “Angling” magazines merged under the editorship of Brian Harris. As anglers do, John found a mentor in the form of Budge Booker, a well-known south coast angler of the time, and the learning curve steepened. John began writing and taking photos for Brian Harris, and produced some excellent and at times controversial writing, inducing some at times heated correspondence!
In 1973, the inaugural meeting of the Bass Anglers Sportfishing Society was held at Weymouth, and John was there, John’s own story of what happened is in the 30th Anniversary issue of BASS.
Around 1979, Ian Gillespie was preparing a book describing the coastal fishing. John was asked to take over the project on Ian’s sudden death, and the result was John’s first book, the Sea Angler’s Guide to Britain and Ireland, published in 1982. Also in 1982, his next book, Shore Fishing, was something of a sea angling Readers Digest, with contributions from Ronnie Preddy, Keith Roberts and Alan Yates covering subjects John felt himself not qualified to write on, like match fishing! John was an airgun enthusiast, and in 1988 Air Rifle Hunting was published.
In the eighties, John took up serious small boat bassing, and being a thinking angler soon sorted out the most effective method: harnessed live mackerel. In his most successful season, JD told me he had taken 143 doubles before he lost count, before you ask, most returned. His last book, Bass Fishing on Shore and Sea, published 1996, became one of his best selling books.
Sadly, his last article is almost certainly the piece he wrote by request for our magazine. He referred to many of his friends as stars; he didn’t realise he was one himself. He will be missed.