This match fishing programme came in last week and I couldn’t help flicking through it. What a glorious era this must have been. Travelling by train, coach or maybe car, this was a marathon of planning by organisers and competitors alike.
Match fishing was big business in its day. A 48-page programme was available, priced sixpence, fully illustrated with a special front cover drawing of Bridgenorth’s Telford Bridge.
Opening the front pages you find a wealth of dignitaries running the operation: President Mr. T A Waterhouse O.B.E, Vice President Major B J Halliday M.C, M.M, and Hon Secretary H A Alderman-Hind J.P. Advertisements carrying testimonials flowed from the Midlands powerhouse of fishing tackle makers and beyond. Rueben Heaton of Birmingham for their scales, Jas Aspindale rods, Reg Ironmonger general tackle dealer in Birmingham. Hardy of Alnwick were represented through their agent Westley Richards in Birmingham, advertising Perfect tackle. Martinez & Bird were included for accessories, Bernard Sealey for tackle, Allcock’s of Redditch of course, and Apollo rods with a testimonial of a 49lb Royalty salmon caught on their Moray hollow steel rod. Precision Rods of Redditch for their match range, Clayton of Boston fame for their lightweight bamboo and reed rods, and the list goes on.
Page five lists all the Places of National Conferences commencing 1903 in Birmingham, traveling all-around the country and returning to Brum in June 1953.
Famous names galore. Eighty-seven teams from all over England descended on the tiny town of Bridgenorth and its surrounding districts. The good news was Ye Olde Restaurant of 3 Bridge St advertised in the inner front page of the programme as “ open for ham and egg breakfasts from 6 o clock onwards,” being only 20 yards from the river and 3 mins from Match HQ.
Sadly these days are gone. I recall sponsoring the Potteries Championship when I owned my tackle shop in Stoke on Trent through the 1980s and 90s. This was a major event for the area with newspaper and radio coverage plus good advertising for the shop. I was an honoured guest at the draw and presided over the process. All went well until I found one of the anglers tucking into a knife and fork breakfast using the rear spoiler of my new Escort Cosworth as a plate. He had no plate, just a napkin, and so it was off to the body shop to remove the knife cuts.
I have never claimed to be a match angler. I fished the Scottish Open on the Forth and Clyde canal in my youth only three times. First time pegged next to a large Englishman. I watched him hoover every fish from his swim and then mine so winning the section. I weighed in a pair of tiny eyeballs and that was it. This was my introduction to Kevin Ashurst.
The terrible twins Ivan Marks and Roy Marlow stole across the border to fish Scotland. Hogganfield Loch on the outskirts of Glasgow is a shallow park lake with a central island holding a good head of shy roach, suicidal perch, and the odd menacing pike. M&M tipped up pre-match in the early morning in their van opening the rear door to show a mini tackle shop of magical floats. Huge homemade peacock quill floats up to 18” long were sold as the “thing to use here”. We all spent our cash and bought some on the advice of our icons. We all fished them at long, really long-range and all lost the competition. They fished under the rod tips going home with not only the trophy but our cash. To organise a cross border raiding party to Scotland taking the trophy and our money was a brave thing to do! They never returned to Hogganfield but I’m sure locals still lie in wait in case they do.