Angling: Glory days of the Nationals

I received some positive feedback about these angling articles recently from a couple of anglers that I used to fish with in the Bury St Edmunds Angling Association match fishing team about 20 years ago.

Chris Boughton

Angling in West Suffolk

By Chris Boughton

I received some positive feedback about these angling articles recently from a couple of anglers that I used to fish with in the Bury St Edmunds Angling Association match fishing team about 20 years ago.

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At that time match team fishing was very popular nationwide. The main team events we fished were the National Angling Championships held annually and run by the National Federation of Anglers (now part of the Angling Trust). At its peak of popularity there were six National divisions of about 100 teams per division and 12 anglers per team. So there were over 1,000 anglers at every National match and over 7,000 anglers fishing in a National every year.

To accommodate matches of that size you needed a river or canal with reasonably good access and 20 years ago there were plenty to choose from, especially locally, where we have an extensive network of flood relief drains in the fens and the rivers Cam and Great Ouse. But sadly there will be only two Nationals fished this year and team fishing is largely becoming a thing of the past. There are a number of reasons for this starting with the cost of fuel to get to these events to practise for and fish these matches. But probably the major impact has come from the dramatic decline in the fish stocks of the drains, canals and rivers capable of holding these big team events. Cormorants, otters, abstraction, pollution and crayfish have all contributed to this decline and the majority of anglers now fish exclusively on lakes. Also as the number of teams fishing has declined so the better teams, who still retain some sponsorship, have attracted the better anglers and these teams - Barnsley, Dorking, Shakespeare, Starlets - have dominated the remaining team fishing scene, making it nearly impossible for others team to compete.

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Going back 20 years ago most teams had some sort of sponsorship and the local Bury AA team were no exception and were supported by local tackle dealer Ricky Nunn, and in return we had the name of his shop - Tackle Up - printed on our matching team jackets, which Ricky supplied us with. Annual membership subscriptions for the old NFA were calculated on a per head basis and 20 years ago Bury AA had around 1,300 members making it very expensive to be an NFA member and consequently in the early 1990s they pulled out of the NFA and therefore were no longer able to enter teams in the National tournaments. There were still the six matches in the annual Norfolk/Suffolk winter league that did not need NFA membership but the nationals were the jewel in the team fishing crown. So from the ashes of the old Bury AA team John Hosking formed the Eastern Match group just to fish team matches and they joined the NFA, and it is a credit to John that the team is still going strong.

The Norfolk/Suffolk winter league is long gone but the Eastern Match group still enters the Nationals each year and from the Bury AA team squad of 20 years ago, to my knowledge, three anglers are still fishing with the group - John, Rene Mitchell and Dennis Vaughan. But several of the anglers from the original team are still fishing matches locally, and successfully, but as individuals and rarely if ever on drains, canals or rivers. It is a great pity about the dramatic decline because team fishing brought wonderful camaraderie into angling, got us all fishing venues we would never otherwise have experienced and was a good way to encourage junior anglers.

The Bury St Edmunds Angling Association has its AGM on Monday 8th February in the Moreton Hall Community Centre in Bury St Edmunds, starting at 7.30pm. Any members wishing to put items on the agenda should contact the Secretary, David Plampin, in writing by 5th February please. Any cups or trophies still held by last year's winners should be handed in at Tackle Up by Monday lunchtime latest please.

If you would like your local angling stories, photos or match results included in this article, then please email them to

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