Fly fishing gear

John Bailey @ Exploring the Explosive Era of Angling

6:00 a.m. on December 1, 2021

I have always been fascinated by the fact that the development of angling has not followed a steady and steady path, but rather been catapulted by periods of intense activity.

These eruptions of piscatorial knowledge take place when groups of talented anglers come together and combine their talents to propel the sport into whole new areas of understanding.

Let me give some examples and point out right away that geography often plays a major role. Take off from the flatwater fly fishing that took place in the 1950/70 period in the Midlands, around Northamptonshire in particular.

The opening of the large reservoirs for trout fishing inspired Cyril Inwood, Dick Shrive and Bob Church to pioneer the flatwater approaches that we still use today. For the specialist anglers among us, how about the Herts Chilterns group of the 60s and 70s? Jack Hilton, Bill Quinlan, Bob Buteux, Pete Frost and most notably Frank Guttfield forever changed the way we hunt big fish then and even today, many of us would say.

I have always been passionate about the river roach and it is quite possible to see a common thread connecting the great roach fishermen on what we loosely call the rivers of Wessex. Captain Parker forged a path followed by Owen Wentworh, Gerry Swanton, Peter Wheat and most recently, John Brough and Dave Howes. As a child I devoured everything Wentworth and Swanton wrote and their knowledge helped all of us aspiring young cockroaches of Norfolk in the 1970s.

Of course, I still haven’t mentioned the greatest angler of modern times, Richard Walker. Before he died in the 1980s, he had collaborated with men like Maurice Ingham, Peter Thomas and, most recently, Chris Yates to change the whole face of carp fishing. Walker was everywhere, even contributing to the stillwater trout scene, but his influence on pike fishing was immense as well. He was an integral part of the team that pioneered pike fishing on Lomond in the 1960s and, together with Fred Buller and Ken Taylor, made us realize the importance of the environment to the growth of the pike.

And that’s where the Norfolk Connection comes in again. Walker and Buller both fished and communicated with our own 50s and 60s pike stars, pike like Bill Giles, Reg Sandys and Frank Wright. In turn, they had been influenced and learned from men like Jim and Edwin Vincent, while present-day modern pike names such as Nick Beardmore and Paul Belsten admit, I think, that they follow a proud tradition of posed pike. almost a century ago.

I got a good idea of ​​this whole process last week on the excellent Redditch Tackle Show. This is a great opportunity for old timers like me or anyone interested in plastic fishing tackle that does not come directly from China. At Redditch you will only find rod, leather and feather and a mountain full of fishing memorabilia, and I love it! I especially liked a recently handcrafted sugar cane called Avocet, built by that master cane craftsman, Andrew J Davis. What a gorgeous, gorgeous and exquisite workmanship this rod is. And its history is also worth exploring.

Nottingham and the Trent Watershed have long been a hotspot for angling. In the mid-19th century, William Bailey was a Trent expert who mentored the great JW Martin, better known as author The Trent Otter. Martin fished with lacemaker Henry Coxon who found eternal fame as the designer of the Aerial Center pin reel. Coxon became an angling partner of FWK Wallis and together they pioneered barbel fishing in the Hampshire Avon Royalty Fishery, with Wallis catching the record barbel and dozens of other big fish. Wallis was also the inventor of what is known as the Wallis cast and the pre-war years hot rod, The Wallis Wizard. Around 1953 or so, Rod Company B James decided that the Wizard could be improved upon and the rod that all young big fish anglers wanted was born … the Avocet.

A close-up of my “dream” Avocet
– Credit: John Bailey

Davis’s modern take on the Avocet is widely believed to be even better than the James Rod of 70 years ago, and, yes, Davis himself is from Nottingham. Oh my God, I waved that rod and almost felt it bend with the power of a tench, chub, or barbel. I dreamed about it, I checked my bank account and I dreamed about it again. So if there’s a Santa Claus outside, I hope he knows I’m still dreaming …