A TRIP BACK TO THE RIVER THAT STARTED IT ALL
The birthplace of Angling Times revisited
AS ANGLING Times celebrates its 65th anniversary, where better place to visit than the river where it all began?
Angling’s first-ever weekly publication started life in 1953, when founders Howard Marshall and Pat Winfrey, along with co-creators including Bernard Venables, met to discuss the idea in The Greyhound Hotel by the Hampshire Avon at Fordingbridge.
Sixty-five years later, Angling Times is still going strong, but what about the Avon? Can it still produce the chub and barbel that made it famous all those years ago? There was only way to find out, and our Where to Fish team of Jake Benson and Chris Haydon were the men to do it…
Jake takes up the story: “Although the Greyhound Hotel no longer exists, a stone’s throw away is the George pub, overlooking Fordingbridge Park downstream. We called in for a pint after our four-hour journey to the river and a quick look over the beer-garden wall revealed several greedy looking chub – all of which I was sure had been partial to a chip or burger bun diet! I could offer them only a slice of brown bread, but within seconds numerous rubbery white lips were demolishing it.”
FIRST STOP THE ROYALTY
“We decided to head to the Royalty Fishery, before returning to hopefully tempt some Fordingbridge chub. A quick visit to Ringwood Tackle and its ever-helpful Rich Middleton revealed that the fishing was free, but required waders to access it, as there is no fishing from the bank.
“Waders duly purchased, two days later we were back, armed with six pints of reds and some casters. At around 8.30am, we waded into position just 20 yards below the road bridge. The first half-hour we spent spraying maggots towards the arches, feeding from the top of the run in readiness to trot back towards our position.
“Soon we were both sending a light waggler towards the pub’s beer garden. First run through the orange-tipped float dipped sharply, resulting in a solid dace of around 6oz. For the next hour it was one dace after another at the head of the run, some knocking 12oz – I think you could put together a 20lb bag of silver darts if you targeted them.
“I wondered why the chub hadn’t arrived, but Chris was convinced they would join in eventually. All he had to do was get a bait to them, which proved difficult due to tiddlers smashing our maggots every time the float splashed in. At this point we decided to feed casters. This worked for a few chucks, but the turning point coincided with a slice of Lady Luck…”
FLOATING MAGGOT FRENZY
“When wading I like to wear a bait caddy around my waist, but as I ventured out into the flow it dipped under the water. Wet maggots become buoyant, and Chris began to feed heavily
with these ‘ruined’ baits, putting in as much as three large catty loads at a time. To our surprise the surface erupted – it was like feeding piranhas!
“The small stuff wouldn’t rise to the floating baits, but the chub soon gate-crashed the surface in style, competing maniacally for every last morsel.
“Chris’s rod hooped over as a caster-crunching chub dogged away in a bid for freedom. I was further downstream with the camera just before disaster struck as the fish found sanctuary in the weed.
“By this point the sun was well up, and the pub and surrounding park was full of locals enjoying their Sunday.
“Our antics had drawn quite a crowd, so it was all eyes on Chris as he nervously played the chub from one strand of streamer weed to the next. Thankfully, after a little bit of Chuckle Brothers-style ‘to-me, to-you’, the size 18 barbless hook and light hooklink held firmly and Chris scooped up the first chub of the day – which was met by a loud cheer and applause from the gathering crowd!
“That chub was the first of many. The more we fed, the more we caught, and we left only when we ran out of bait!
“Before that, though, I was able to chip in with a handful of lovely bronze summer chub. I reckon that had we stayed and put in more bait, we could have put together a bag of 100lb-plus.
“That said, due to the locals deciding to use our swim as a swimming pool, it was certainly time to head off !
“If you’re thinking of visiting, I’d definitely suggest fishing at first light before the tranquillity, is spoilt – and remember to wade with care.”
Chris Haydon trots a waggler down from the road bridge.
Chris with just a few of the chub he tempted.