Reflections of the River Lea in the 1950s

Recently while re-reading the Compleat Angler I was reminded of my teenage years fishing the River Lea through the 1950’s and went on-line to investigate what is happening there now. I found Keith Arthur’s article on Fishers Green very interesting and was inspired to add my own recollections.

I lived in Chingford then and in my pre-teens fished the Lea around Waltham Abbey. Later as an early teenager I would take the train from Ponders End to Broxbourne or Rye House. I particularly liked the area around Hoddesdon and Dobbs Weir which was all rather undeveloped and even pristine in my recollection. A favorite swim was located by the railway crossing just upstream of the confluence with the Stort. I could pull roach and perch out all day here with the occasional added drama of a Britannia class steam locomotive thundering over the bridge on its way to Cambridge. Otherwise the only disturbance would be the need to move off the towpath for the horse drawn barges that still plied regularly up and down the Lea navigation.

I discovered the Waverley stretch at Fishers Green in my late teens after I became mobile by acquiring a moped. Chub and barbel were very prolific as many of your correspondents recall and I caught plenty of them, usually on lobworms using a rolling ledger, although never a really large barbel. On one occasion I took a camera. Below is a photo of the swim where I caught several chub and barbel. The largest chub, shown in the second photo, weighed-in at 2½ pounds. Soon after this I went off to University and hardly fished again for 30 years. However, Fishers Green sparked something because I saw my first trout there, in a private fishery stream nearby, and vowed I would someday become a trout fisherman. So be it. Now I only fly-fish, mainly for trout, but also for landlocked salmon, bass and striped bass in the ocean. Nobody here fishes intentionally for chub! I went back to Waltham Abbey recently but that’s as close as I got to the old fishing grounds. As Keith Arthur says, it’s probably unwise to go back!