Midland based angling legend, Don Slaymaker has passed away after a battle with cancer. Don was widely regarded as being one of the best river anglers of his generation, and also had scores of commercial victories to his name.
Originally hailing from Stoke, Don moved to Nottingham as a young man, cutting his teeth on the ultra competitive River Trent circuit of the 70s and 80s. A onetime member of the Trentmen, and famous Shakespeare Superteam squads, Don was regarded as one of the country’s finest anglers.
England feeder international, Dean Barlow said: “I was incredibly lucky as a young man to grow up in the presence of great anglers like Don. I can still remember sitting behind him on the rocks at Shelford, asking him a million questions. He would always answer honestly as well, unlike so many top flight anglers of the time, he told me exactly what he was doing, and why he was doing it. The word legend is banded about too freely these days, but in Don’s case it can definitely be applied.”
Maver Bait Tech skipper, Wayne Swinscoe was also a great friend of Don's. He commented: “I am absolutely gutted. Don was a great bloke, and a brilliant angler. He was also a true friend – we used to travel together, and our wives were great friends –we would often go away on fishing holidays as two couples.
He was an exceptionally talented angler. Back in the days of the big Trent matches he was up there with the best, and he adapted his skills very well and became a great commercial angler. One of the funniest memories I have was from the Turner 400 match on the River Thames. Don was on a real flier, and was emptying it, catching chub on the waggler. Halfway through the match, he had a disaster though – the bloke below him lost his umbrella in the wind, and it landed slap bang in the middle of Don’s peg. He never had another bite for the duration of the match, but still managed to come third with 18lb.
He will be very sadly missed. To be honest, I am still very raw about it, as the news is still sinking in. I have lost a great friend.”
Former teammate, Stan Piecha added: "“Unless you are a famous rock star such as Sting, Bono or Madonna there are not many people known by a single name. But in the angling world there was a man who answered to the one word moniker of “gizzafag” … Don Slaymaker.
“The affectionate tag was first given to him by the late Frank Barlow in the early 1980’s and it stuck with him for the rest of his career. Don was an exceptional all round talent and became a great asset during his time with the Shakespeare Superteam. His switch to commercials was equally successful as he continued picking up brown envelopes. Apart from his natural angling skills he was great fun to be around and I am proud to have known him not only as a team-mate but a true friend. He will be sorely missed.”
Don’s longtime friend, and travelling partner, Sam Wildsmith added: “I met Don 25 or more years ago. We used to travel all over together, and my mum would often cook him tea when we got back. We used to have a right laugh.
I was even lucky enough to travel abroad with him – fishing festivals in Denmark. I will never forget the smile that spread across his face after one particular festival – when me, him and Wayne Swinscoe set about sharing £7,000 in winnings. We always used to tease him about being tight – and he would play up to it. We used to say that his bank book was the eighth wonder of the world!
As luck would have it, he won the National the first year that the payouts were reduced. It was on the River Nene at Middleholme, and Don weighed 19lb of skimmers to take the victory. Not long after he had started fishing, his rig became tangled – and a big loop formed. This in effect meant that he was fishing two feet off the bottom – but he kept on catching and so was reluctant to change it!
I have lost a great friend, and angling has lost an exceptionally talented angler. He will be sadly missed.”