A few beers with Ian Miller
  |  First Published: December 2007

Name, age, partner, kids and where’s home?

Ian Miller, 46years old, partner Julie and we have two kids, Paris aged 17 and Jack who is 12 years old.

Your first fishing memory or first fish?

Catching a legal size bream from a Tuncurry jetty on a little solid ‘glass Jarvis Walker rod. I’m not sure how old I was but I was pretty young and my Dad took me.

Your favourite fishing style?

Lure fishing for barra, bass, bream, billfish – you name it! If it is surface lures even better and if it’s sight fishing with lures then that’s about as good as it gets!

How many days a year do you fish?

Not nearly enough! Probably around 70 days, but a few less in the past year. Between work commitments and family/sport commitments it’s a busy life – but a great one.

Your favourite fishing memory/moment?

There are so many to choose from!

I have had some amazing barra fishing on a hot Awoonga surface bite, pulling 1m+ fish one after another in only a few hours. Every big blue marlin capture is also memorable for me. And one of my all time favourite moments was catching over 100 big black bream with Chris ‘Slick’ Wright while sight-casting with unweighted flick baits.

Overall, I suppose my most enjoyable fishing moments is to watch my family enjoy their fishing.

There are probably another hundred or so – how could I ever pick a single favourite moment?

Your favourite fishing destination/s in Australian or abroad?

I really love the Top End, and the GBR. But I also love Tassie and the south coast… anywhere that is peaceful, beautiful, wild and loaded with fish!

You are a rod builder, how long have you been in the game?

It started as a hobby when I was a young teenager, then it became a profession when I was about 20 years old. Over 25 years professionally.

How have you seen the progression of rods over the last 10 years in Australia? And where do you see it in the next 10 years?

We are seeing a lot of small advancements these days. We may never see another revolutionary change such as the move to graphite fibres but designers are continually working on ways to make better components and I think this will continue to be the status quo.

I continually work with overall rod design, so for me the biggest advancements have been both the ability to make rods that work better as well as the massive expansions of diverse rod models to tackle virtually every fishing situation. And fortunately there are continually new styles of fishing being devised!

Has American and Japanese rod design influenced Australian rod design?

Both have had an influence. The American style has opened our eyes to some facets of rod design including the effectiveness of rod length, although I feel that most of their actions are not quite what we need.

The Japanese rods have their own angle on the American style that I think is sometimes more in tune with our fishing styles. There is no doubt that the quality and attention to detail of Japanese tackle has an appeal to keener Aussie anglers.

You are known as Ian ‘Barra’ Miller. Why is this and were you a barra God in a previous life?

Nothing quite so exciting! I was nick-named ‘Barra’ by my good friend Mark Deeney when we both worked at the rod company Hank Newman Sports in the early 80’s. I had just travelled around Australia and apparently went on and on – and on – about barra fishing (as you do!). So he started calling me ‘barra’ and it stuck.

How do you see the tournaments in 10 years in Australia?

That is a good question. For freshwater/estuary it will be interesting to see if our love affair with tournaments continues its popularity. There is no doubting the value of tournament fishing because it drives a lot of new techniques and gives tackle companies the opportunity to lift their profiles, and of course it offers an element of competition which a lot of serious anglers like. It allows you to find out just how good an angler you are at that particular pursuit.

Water may also play a hand in the long-term picture because it seems we are getting drier and that is already affecting the bass lakes.

Bream fishing should maintain its popularity given most of our population has that type of fishing on their doorstep. I think barra comps have the most potential because they are an exciting fish that have everything you need for a spectacular tournament. The only downside is that they are often remotely situated and barra can get so big that handling them is tricky. However, work on those two aspects and barra tournaments could go anywhere! And if the TV can capture the sort of fishing I’ve experienced it would go a long way to promoting it properly.

Snapper fishing is just starting and may become popular but it also is at the mercy of other factors, such as weather.

I think we are in good hands with ABT but there will ultimately need to be some sort of consolidation because the tournaments appear at times to be fragmented and competing against each other.

What do you see for the future of Australian fishing? The south coast where you live is under pressure from Marine Parks, will this effect tourism and fishing?

I think there have been very unfair declarations of Marine Parks down here and elsewhere in NSW. There is no doubt they will have a big impact on the economy and on a way of life that revolves around the healthy and wholesome recreational activity of fishing – both for the community and our visitors.

I do not buy the Marine Park biologist’s claims, I find it underhanded that overseas studies, that are unrelated to our local fishery, were presented as a basis for their arguments to gazette parks. And the fact that parks have been declared when it is clear the majority of the community, who have an opinion against them, is totally abhorrent to me. In fact I can’t believe that such a situation has been allowed to occur.

I fear for the future of our industry when these things occur and I think that the tackle industry was nowhere near aggressive enough in defending us. They were far too fair and equitable in their presentations. We needed a lot less lobbying and a much tougher campaign. And it is clear that the blanket rulings of Marine Parks are drawn for easy management not fair dinkum protection of the fishery.

Who are your most influential people in regards to your fishing? You have worked with some big names in the industry, who has been the most memorable?

That’s tough, I have been lucky enough to travel a lot and fish with plenty of guides and Captains and talented anglers and all of their approaches, techniques and knowledge can have an influence so I am loathe to leave anyone out, and they all know who they are!

However, I’d have to give special mention to those who freely gave of information when I was learning the ropes. It would include John Turnbull for his bass book, and John Bethune for my bass fishing; Chris Hall and Capt Bill Billson for my marlin fishing; Russell Kenny, Warren De With and Neil Croft for my barra fishing; and, Starlo and Bushy for bream on lures advice. There’s plenty more, what a terrible question to have to answer!

In the industry I can only stress that it is important to work with talented, focussed and dedicated people if you want to maximise your own potential so it is just as important to make the right choices in your career as it is to follow your own dreams. For me there are many who fit that description but once again there are a few I should make special mention of. Chris Hall from my earlier days at Harbord Tackle is one, and currently John Dunphy and Mark Mikkelsen from Shimano, who have been a pleasure to work with over the past twelve years. I consider these men to have become life-long mates through our working together and I am a better person for it.

Anyone you would like to thank that has helped you get where you are today?

Family. Especially Julie, who has always been supportive of a struggling rod builder, fishaholic and allowed me to do what I needed to. She’s also pretty handy with a fishing rod and great company on the water!

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