London used to be one of the UK’s most thriving fishing cities and a renowned angling hotbed that produced brilliant matchmen, crack teams and larger-than-life characters. But it’s in danger of turning into a tackle shop graveyard, AT can reveal.
Just recently long-standing Hounslow Angling fell by the wayside and Dons of Edmonton closed its doors for the last time, no-one considering it worthy of further investment. And going back only a few years, Browns of Manor Park, Bills of Manor Park, East 17, Trevs and A1 Angling have all disappeared too.
The current economic climate is one obvious reason for the demise, but many experts believe it has more to do with the unbalanced demographics of the capital city, with numerous ethnic mixes replacing the traditional working class white population ¬ especially in the north and east regions.
One tackle retailer, Bob Sloan, who is owner of Robertsons, has spent a lifetime in the angling trade. He upped sticks some five years ago from his Plaistow premises in the heart of the East End after plying his wares there since 1945 and moved lock, stock and bivvy to new premises in Dagenham, Essex.
“Unfortunately the ethnic mix surrounding the old shop in Plaistow had changed quite severely over the years, and although not the only reason for moving the shop to Dagenham, it certainly was the major consideration,” said Bob.
“I remember a time in the 1950s when there were at least eight fishing shops within a two-mile radius of the East London area, but that has changed.
There’s just no market for them with the change in community.” Fishing has traditionally been a pastime for the British working class male and although the sport thankfully carries no racist overtones, ethnic groups show little interest in coarse fishing. Although the recent influx from Eastern Europe seems to buck that trend, it’s too late for many of our city centre tackle shops.
Ex-England International Dave Vincent is one of the few remaining born-and-bred London anglers still residing in the East End of our capital city.
“The demographics of the city have forced many anglers to move outside the M25 perimeter,” he said. “Such has been the phenomenon that the once all-powerful LAA club that could once boast 15,000-plus members is currently running on under 1,000. With very few of them still living within the city, there just aren’t any customers left to support the tackle shops.
“The East End is now a very culturally one-sided affair, with around a 70 per cent Muslim occupancy, and they show no interest in fishing.
“It is now possible to leave your fishing tackle unattended in your car outside your house without it being nicked. Why? Because no-one recognises what it is any more!” Richie Borley, of Carr and Borley Groundbaits, has been servicing the inner London tackle shops with bait and equipment for nearly three decades now and knows the capital’s tackle business inside out.
“I have regrettably become aware of an ever-increasing rate in the acceleration of closures with regard to tackle shop premises within the M25 boundary. At Carr and Borley we once had 22 shops with an 0207 telephone number (the inner London dialling code), now unfortunately there are only the two left,” he said.
“Most anglers have moved away from the central London areas, and even though the inner city has an abundance of canals, these fishermen now almost certainly exclusively fish on the commercial fisheries of the South East.”