A TRIP BACK TO THE RIVER THAT STARTED IT ALL

The birth­place of Angling Times re­vis­ited

Angling Times (UK) - - WHERE TO FISH -

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.

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