The History Of Bridgwater Angling Association, Part 2.

As already stated the 1930’s was a time of steady enlargement of the association where membership was concerned. But all this was brought to a halt by the out break of world war two in September 1939. Very soon, even those not eligible for service in the forces, found themselves occupied with various wartime activities which sadly reduced opportunities for fishing or serving the affairs of the association.

In spite of these pressures there were some who were able to find chances of getting out with their rods. Very soon they were confronted by shortages of tackle and bait. The resources of the tackle manufacturers were being diverted to war work. It was hooks and line which presented the greatest difficulties. Various ingenious expedients were adopted to overcome these. It was not long before it was realised that the suture silk used in the course of treatment of wounds was identical with the fishing lines of those days. Some hospitals noticed a mysterious disappearance of this material.

In the later part of this turbulent period, during which of course, Ray Perrett was secretary, developments of momentous portent were taking place. A large scale programme of improvements to the drainage of the moors around the Sedgemoor area was getting underway. The Huntspill river was cut and was completed in February 1943. It could be mentioned that the general belief that this waterway was created for the purpose of supplying water to the Royal Ordnance factory at Puriton is not true. It may have had importance in this direction but its main purpose was to drain the land up towards Glastonbury. This function had been seen long before the war. Furtherance of the agricultural potential of the land was made more essential by the German U boat campaign.

The Kings Sedgemoor Drain was widen extensively throughout its length, and subsequently other channels such as the North and South Drains and the West Sedge Moor Drain appeared. The transactions relative to the former two occupied some months but while these were taking place Raymond Parrett backed by a guy by the name of Paul Hellard, refused in spite of many protests , to call the committee together . They held off taking this proper course of action until they were able to present a fait accompli. No doubt this simplified the negotiations but it was a highly unconstitutional procedure which would not be tolerated in present times.

These acquisitions, with the increasing popularity of angling appearing after the war, soon took the membership from hundreds to thousands and brought the funds to beyond the wildest dreams of those who controlled the association in former days.

The large measure of opinion questioning this apparent progress soon became evident. It has been mentioned that it was felt that it went beyond the requirements of the local anglers. To meet the expenses incurred, encouragement had to be given to anglers from farther afield, including in particular those from the Bristol area, towards whom a feeling of friction had grown up. This was thought to contrary to the interests of the local angler. The contention was that the Bridgwater Angling Association had been set up to meet the needs of those living in the locality, and that it should give priority to this aspect of it functions. It was a view that lingered on for quite some time.

A suggestion put forward was that another and separate association might be floated. It could embrace the waters further removed from Bridgwater and accommodate the visiting anglers whilst the associations original waters could cater for the locals. It may have been worthy of consideration then but its practicability may be doubtful now.

The advent of the improved drains marked a turning point in the Associations fortunes and built the reputation of Somerset fishing. All England championship contests on the Huntspill and Kings Sedgemoor Drain made these and other waters in the vicinity known and indeed famous throughout the country. Membership spread widely and especially into industrial areas. The consequent influx of visitors in holiday times must have made an appreciable contribution to the local tourism. It could be said that Association was on the angling map. Three national championships were held and written about on this blog.

Although constructed essentially as channels for the free passage of flood water, the drains have supported excellent fisheries and some of the local angling clubs are now largely dependent on them for their fishing. It was the quality of the bream and tench which made them so popular and valuable. It was very good fortune that they came to the fore front when the rivers of Somerset had declined somewhat from their former glory.

The depreciaton of the fisheries in the drains and other waters during recent years through pollutions and excessive weed growth is very obviously a great tragedy, but it must be realised that but for the efforts of many dedicated members in spurring authority on to taking action taking action as far it was possible the consequences may have been far worse.

Also the effects of weed growth which has made so many of the lesser drains useless in summer is to be regretted. So often these little waters have been considered unimportant and it has not been seen sufficiently clearly that they had have added variety to the local fisheries and have provided the kind of quietude coveted by many fishermen.

The 1950s and the 1960s brought a variety of challenges to the Association and one of the biggest problems was pollution which will be one of the main subjects in part three.

Tight lines

Pete C

Winter league Match Fished at Sedges on Feb 19th 2022

The venue listed on the match calendar was somewhere. Now being slightly sarcastic (who me) that could mean anywhere from White acres in Cornwall to some obscure lake on Shetland. Well things wasn’t as drastic as that. The first choice was Parchay on the Kings Sedgemoor Drain. But that idea was put paid to by the arrival of storm Dudley which decided to deluge parts of our much beloved Somerset with rain water in vast quantities. This in turn would initiate the powers to be to open every sluice every clyce and every type of gate responsible for flood control on the the KSD. Which in turn would create a situation where fishing would be impossible.

So the match lake at Combwich which is aptly named the sardine factory by our dear match secretary owing to the size of the fish caught by yours truly, was than promoted to first choice. Come Friday the eve before the match I gets a phone call from my good old mate the one and only Alan Jenkins. The subject of his message was that he had been in touch with a Bridgwater Angling bailiff Trevor Coombes, who promptly told him that because of the carnage caused by storm Eunice all Bridgwater waters were closed due to safety reasons. Well that put paid to Combwich then.

So a few phone calls were made and in the end it was decided that we had to rely on Jamie Cook from the Sedges to accommodate 4 anglers whose sanity is quite questionable. A venue was finally found and it was the canal lake.

We where thin on the ground with a meagre attendance of four. We were even lucky to get that! It had been doing the rounds that Paul Smith’s car had blown up and thus he wouldn’t have been able to make it. ( well I did warn him that parking in Moscow’s Red square with his car decorated with the Ukrainian flag was a bad idea) So out of the kindness of his heart Dave Nash went all the way from Bridgwater to Pilton to give Mr Smith a lift. Alan Bland our match secretary extraordinaire was working and the rest rang in sick or just said “up yours do you think I’m stupid.” or words to that effect.

Four anglers were it seemed were to endure rather than fish. The draw was a rover or as some people prefer to call it a London draw. I pulled out number one and had first choice so I opted for peg 41 in the car park but honestly owing to the conditions it didn’t really matter. The weather was brutal and inhumane, high winds and persistent rain dictated the day.

The fishing was from 10 until 3 but as the match got going it became apparent that staying until the end was going to be quite a challenge indeed. The wind picked up considerably accompanied by an improvement in rain fall. Holding a pole was becoming a bit of a problem, caused by the wind and the cold attacking ones fingers. At 1120 I had a few bits in the net but definitely nothing of note. I went to talk to my neighbour on the next peg Ian Grabham who as I approached caught his first fish, a small roach. He explained it took him about 5 minutes to put maggots on the hook because of frozen fingers verging on frost bite ( yes folks it was that bad). The cold was bitingly intense.

It was agreed among all concerned that there would be a decision made at 12. I went back to my peg and to top it all the zip on my so called water proof jacket busted. Wind and rain straight in my face with a malfunctioning water proof jacket, well you imagine. I caught a few more bits, 12 o’clock came, a conference of sorts was held and 1 o’clock was decided to be the finish time. A skimmer of about 12 oz was added to the net as well as some more bits. But a big relief came when it was the end of proceedings.

Congrats to Ian Grabham who had first spot with 3lb 6oz this consisted of mostly bits but also 2 nice size skimmers.

Yours truly with 1lb 12oz came 2nd with just bits and 1 nice skimmer, it would of helped if I could have held the pole straight.

Dave Nash and Paul Smith fought it out for 3rd place and it was a gnats whisker in it with 8oz and 7oz respectively. Both catches consisted of, guess what? all bits. The bait used by all who took part was maggot and pinkie. As is with life near the end it started to brighten up, but by then we all had had enough and some of us were thoroughly soaked to the skin. There was just one last thing to do concerning this match and that was to firmly place one ex water proof jacket in my wheelie bin.

Two points to note from the Bridgwater Angling prospective.

One, is that the club will know for certain when the restocking will take place for South Pond by this Friday. I have been told by Someone in the know that this will consist of a 125 carp between 2 and 5 pound.

Two, there will be a AGM for the Bridgwater Angling Association on the 15th of March at Bridgwater town hall. You have to show your full Bridgwater license on entry.

Scouts honour, part 2 of the history of Bridgwater Angling Association will be on the blog by the end of the week.

Until then tight lines

Pete C.

The History of Bridgwater Angling Association, Part One

The year in which it all started and by that I mean the formation of Bridgwater Angling Association was it appears 1905 and there seems ample support for this date. Amongst the various accounts which have been heard there is one that has been told by a former member and his story has been passed down throughout the years.

It is more than probable that Dunwear ponds were a popular fishing venue for anglers at the back end of the 18oo’s. Now according to historical accounts in 1905 they consisted of the North pond, Middle pond and a South pond. Now we know the location of North pond, that has stood the test of time. South pond which is mentioned is not the South pond of that we know today. The original South pond was situated were the car park is now and the reed bed to the left as you enter the car park. The middle pond still exits but is is now completely over grown see map below. The yellow is North pond, The green is Middle pond and Red is South.

A time came when the owners of the brickworks situated in Plum Lane and surrounding lands were complaining about damage being done to bricks and tiles in the yard, and they decided to prohibit fishing. Just who is to blame is not on record. Amongst the then small band of anglers there were some with a small degree of influence. They approached the owners with a proposition that they be granted the right to fish on condition that they formed an association and accepted responsibility for the behaviour of the members. This was conceded, and the Brigwater Angling Association came in to being.

Thus it can be asserted that Dunwear ponds was the Associations birthplace. Down through the years following, so much of the history was enacted there. Outstanding members long since departed from the scene, came to fish in their chosen swims with regularity, and made such a contribution to events inseparable from the development.

No rent was asked for these fishing rights and they continued to be held free of charge until 1956. In that year changing circumstances led to the Association being able to purchase the North, Middle and the “NEW” South Pond (the one we know today). The cost was £100!

It seems very certain that the first secretary was one Herbert Farrance. His large family was very well known in the district and particularly in angling circles. Several family members were very keen anglers and were deeply involved in the origins of the Association. Herberts mother in law a one Mrs Novark also took an important role in the club beginnings. By all accounts this lady was a formidable character and noted for riding a tricycle loaded with her fishing tackle along the canal.

An advert printed in the Bridgwater Mercury from 1904.

It’s unlikely that Mr Farrance remained in office for any length of time, because it appears quite early on that the secretaryship was held by Cliff Allen. He appears to have occupied this position for a period until his livelihood took him away from Bridgwater. Then his brother Arthur took over and resumed the responsibility.

It now appears that Arthur Allen served through a time of relative tranquility as far as angling matters are concerned, but it was a period that saw the violent disruption of world war one. Arthur retired in the late 1930s to be followed by the legendary Ray Perrett. It may be asserted that Raymond had a longer and more eventful term in office than any other secretary. Although this in turn was interrupted drastically by war, It saw profound developments in the history of the association.

Ray Perrett’s father had a significant place in the early angling scene. He kept a well established grocery business in St Johns street Bridgwater roughly where the William Hill bookies is now. With the assistance of a younger Raymond he sold some fishing tackle as a side line. This took place in a part of the shop where anglers brought and exchange stories of their fishing adventures. Photos of specimen fish and out standing catches where often exhibited in the window.

Even a sparse account of the history of Bridgwater Angling Association would be incomplete if it did not contain the surname Vinten. Snuffy as he was called by his friends was apparently by all accounts a small man with a shrewd mind and a force full personality. Snuffy kept a shop in Fore Street on the corner of Court St in Bridgwater He sold tobacco, fishing tackle and guns. At the time and by that I mean in the early part of the 20th century it was the angling centre of the local area. This was the place where angling issues great and small were debated and settled. Mr Vinten had been chairman of the association since its inception, but the strange thing is that no one at the time can ever recall him attending a committee meeting. But if anything appeared in the minutes which failed to meet his approval, the secretary was required to strike it out. Snuffy died in the late 1920s and his death was considered a great loss to association and to local angling.

Go back a hundred years or so and you would of met Snuffy.

One Frankie Styler was another person who figured prominently in the early days. As far as it can be ascertained he was the clubs first treasurer and his retirement did not come until to the 1950s.

Like so many personalities of the association Frankie was a shop keeper, he had a drapery business in Eastover in Bridgwater which was not far from the Bridgwater Motor Company. Roach fishing was his main love and like many of his contemporaries, he would not have been happy without an average of about three quarters of a pound in his catches, this meaning that many of his fish would be well over a pound. Certainly he would be very far from happy with the quality of roach fishing that is prevalent today.

There was a trio often seen to be seen at Dunwear ponds or on the banks of the canal. It consisted of Ran (Randolf) Hook, Wally Roberts and Jim Jefferies.

Ran Hook was chairman for a period from some where in the early 1920s until the late 1930s. Immaculately precise in all his methods, he won the Association cup on five occasions. At the time the cup competition was the event of the year and getting ones name on the plinth was a real distinction. There was an intense rivalry between him and Bill Watkins who also had won the cup on several occasions.

Wally Roberts was almost a dwarf but what he lacked in height he made up for in angling prowess. He was a likable man and seemed incapable of saying or implying anything unpleasant about other people. Amongst the fisher folk of the day Wally had enormous respect as a first rate angler. How ever later in life he had fallen victim to the economic state of the country then prevailing and was reduced to rather straightened circumstances, and added to this predicament poor Wally began to suffer from failing eye sight. Jim Jefferies was another splendid companion but his life was cut short during an out break of very serve influenza.

Another unforgettable character was a gentleman called Stan Lewis. Stan stood in direct contrast to Wally Roberts. He was an enormous man. He was well known in sporting circles around the town. As a young man he played rugby for Bridgwater. He was well over six foot tall and in training weighed in over eighteen stone. An excellent angler by all accounts and it was some somewhat incongruous seeing such a man handling the most delicate of tackle. Later he became the land lord of The Crown Inn in St John street in Bridgwater.

There were so many who featured in the evolution of the association that it is quite impossible to do justice to all of them. One can mention a few names from the early days. Albert lock, who followed Frankie Styler as treasurer, Bill Carver, Jack Diamond, Cliff Lea, Bert Croker, were amongst those in the fore front before the first world war. Fred Denner Sammy Adlam, Cyril Matherick, Bob Radford, Bob Stacey, Donald Baggs, Mitchel-the mad jeweller- and pennywho kept a barbers shop on the Taunton road all seemed conspicuous a little later. The Hoopers, a father and two sons, and the Seamen family were essential features of the scene at Dunwear.

The history of the association over the years before 1914 is now very vague and shadowy. No one from them days who were involved are no longer around. It may be guessed that some of the members of the Farrance family, Ray Parretts (more on him later) father, and Snuffy Vinten where amongst the people concerned, but an attempt to name all the active spirits would be hazardous.

In the 1920’s the association reached a mile stone in that the membership exceeded 200 and to boot had a healthy bank balance. Come the 1930’s the club would start to develop. Definite signs of progressive thinking and concern for the future was quite evident, but this was brought to a halt by world war two. In the next part we see how after the war Bridgwater Angling Association evolved in to one of the biggest angling clubs in the country.

A day on the bank at Banklands.

Thursday February 3rd just gone my dear friend John Hughes and I decided to have a go at fishing the Bridgwater and Taunton canal at Durston. Our original plan was to fish the bank between Maunsel Lock Tea rooms and the Somerset Boating Centre. On entering the car park we were met by a hearty group of volunteers from the Taunton section of the Inland Waters Association. Amid the hustle and bustle of unloading hedge trimers, shears and other assorted tools and bits and bobs, we where told that our intended place of fishing was the target of a good old tidy up and a bout of well needed hedge trimming. Fair enough no problems with that, so me and John decided to fish the other side of the bridge known as Banklands.

Nothing complicated was implemented I just set up a small waggler and John decided to go piking with ledgered dead bait. The most notable thing about this stretch is that it is not all that deep, I say three and a half foot at most. But this did not seem to spoil the fishing. Yours truly had a most productive day with out even trying. Plenty of plumpish Roach, Rudd, Perch and hybrids were caught, even a Dace. John managed to catch a pike of about 5lb which put a smile on his face. All in all it was a pleasant days fishing. This was a type of session where one just chilled out and just took in the surroundings and lived the moment.

John catching his pike

It has been mentioned before in this blog that one of the nice things about fishing the canal is that you meet a lot of pleasant people who always have a bit of time for a chat. I got talking to a local lady who lives in one of the nearby farms who was out for a jolly old stroll. She happened to mention that in all the time she had been walking this stretch we were the first anglers see had ever seen fishing this part of the canal. I think this a bit of a shame, but saying that me and John agreed to visit this place again. The fish know of this place and so should you.

That, all for now Part two of the history of Bridgwater Angling Association will be in the next post, until then tight lines Pete C.