Record catches, massive money matches, lockdowns, floods, and some of the most surprising specimen fish in over a decade – it all happened in 2021.
It wasn’t an easy time for many, as Covid restrictions hampered our ability to travel and fish outside our area at the start of the year – but once the shackles were off it was full steam ahead.
With many anglers keen to make up for lost time, the number of specimen fish hitting our newsdesk inbox reached fever pitch by mid-March, with more huge chub reports than we could ever hope to print.
By mid-June the rivers were back on our agenda, and it seemed that the nation was rediscovering these natural resources too, leading to us having to fish around swimmers, paddleboarders and novice kayakers during what was a glorious summer.
Mid-summer also saw most tackle companies report record-breaking sales, and many tackle shops saw their shelves decimated by hordes of newcomers.
As we headed into autumn, we witnessed the first £100,000 match payout – a moment even the longest-serving match angler could never have envisaged – plus success at international level as England headed abroad.
In terms of reader catches, we’ve never received so many high-quality pictures as we did in 2021, and I’m sure your stories of triumph have inspired many others to head to the banks.
Here, then, are just some of the highlights from the past 12 months which made us all proud to be anglers and remember why we love our sport so much…
A RECORD START
The new year began in style with a potential record crucian reported in our January 5 issue – a fish of 4lb 11oz taken by Matthew Wright in some of the worst weather our winter could throw at him. Matthew’s specimen came as part of a brace of four-pounders.
“For 30 years I’ve targeted crucians and have caught them in -3°C conditions before, but I never expected to break my PB twice,” he revealed.
It was revealed that the West Midlands area accounted for the biggest rise in newcomers to angling during the 2020 lockdowns, when fishing was one of the only permitted sports. The EA’s figures showed over 151,000 licence buyers in the region, a rise of 17 per cent. Greater Manchester and Merseyside were next with 86k sales, up 16.4 per cent on 2019.
Tickets went on sale for the FA Super Cup event, with a prize fund of £100k on offer.
Fishing was off… and then on again.
A blanket ban on all sports was announced as England entered another winter lockdown period in a bid to battle the spread of Covid-19.
Days later, following pressure from the Angling Trust, the Government announced a huge U-turn and we were allowed to fish again, albeit only on a local basis.
BIGGEST ROACH OF THE SEASON
Specimen ace Simon Daley got his hands on a fish many would describe as the Holy Grail of angling when he slipped his net underneath a 3lb 8oz river roach from a flooded Hampshire Avon. A flurry of 2lb fish joined the incredible redfin on the bank, highlighting the huge successes of the Avon Roach Project and its restoration work over the past two decades.
“The fish was colossal. I’ve never seen anything like it,” admitted Simon.
Predator angler Dan Hill laid claim to the largest UK pike to fall to a lure – all 45lb 11oz of it! The fish (below) was caught on his favourite white mouse lure which Dan retired from service straight after the capture.
BREXIT BAIT BANS
UK bait firms and travelling anglers sought clarity over potential bans on transporting baits to the Continent after the UK left the EU. Under new legislation, popular baits derived from animal products – such as boilies, pellets and groundbaits – would need a health certificate before they could be exported. It remains a grey area.
A rare ‘Tiger Carp’ netted £2,500 at auction for leading fish famer Mark Simmonds. It was bought by Devon’s Todber Manor Fisheries.
Storm Christoph hit Britain, with widespread flooding causing havoc. Over 100 rivers were slapped with warnings for the public to stay away, and fishing was a write-off for many.
Colin Hebb landed an 8lb 6oz British record ide while quivertipping a lobworm on the River Hull. It beat the old record by 1oz.
The 37-year-old from East Yorks had been targeting them on the river for the past eight seasons.
ANGLING THE BEST MEDICINE
In a huge boost for those suffering from depression and anxiety, it was announced that GPs in Somerset would introduce a pilot scheme advising people to go fishing to improve their wellbeing, rather than prescribing drugs.
The trial, which kicked off in the summer, is due to last three years and was backed by the NHS, the Angling Trust, and Wessex Water, who were keen to find a way to reduce the amounts of anti-depressants reaching our waterways. If successful the scheme could be rolled out to other regions.
Proposals to restart the match fishing calendar and allow anglers to fish overnight were submitted to Government ministers by the Angling Trust after it was revealed that lockdown restrictions could be eased in early March.
The Trust pointed to the success of 2019’s return to fishing which showed that, with precautionary measures such as online match draws and cashless payouts, competition fishing could resume in full.
An electrofishing operation on the Birmingham & Worcester Canal to remove non-native zander from the waterway sparked calls for the Canal & River Trust to establish ‘zander safe zones’ to allow lure anglers to benefit. Catch reports had pointed to thriving stocks of silverfish in these areas.
BIG CASH BOOST!
An Environment Agency report revealed a £48million investment into fishing, thanks largely to increased rod licence sales of nearly one million in 2019-2020.
The money went on fish stockings, the creation of fish passes on rivers, and help to protect our waters. EA Fisheries Partnership Manager, Heidi Stone, said: “We saw an exceptional increase in licence sales as people rediscovered fishing.”
Philip Lord (82) completed a 300-mile challenge walk with his dog to raise vital funds to help protect Lancashire rivers. Philip, chairman of the Ribble Rivers Trust, said the charity had been hit by a lack of funding through the pandemic and decided to raise the missing money himself.
SCHOOLBOY BAGS BIG BRACE
Thirteen-year-old Kyle Brayne banked a 7lb 10oz chub and a 17lb 14oz barbel on a quick trip to his local River Trent.
7lb CHUB AT LAST
John Clark finally realised a 25 year long dream of a Yorkshire ‘seven’ with a 7lb 1oz chub while fishing a chilly river near his Leeds home. “Don’t let the bad weather put you off, you’ve got to be out there to catch,” he said.
Our new season rod licences depicted a summer rudd on the two-rod permit, and a specimen pike portrait on the triple rod licence. David Miller was again behind the stunning artwork.
LEA CHUB FEST
Simon Baker signed off the river season with chub of 8lb 6oz, 7lb 5oz and 7lb from the River Lea in Hertfordshire. Simon’s eight-pounder – caught trotting a big lump of breadflake on a size 8 hook - was confirmed by the Chub Study Group as the biggest ever recorded on a float.
FINAL RIVER FLING
Mild weather and dropping river levels sent our river fish into an end-of-season feeding frenzy.
The barbel record on the River Lea was obliterated by a fish of 19lb 4oz, taken by 73-year-old King’s Weir bailiff Ray Kent on a bunch of maggots fished just a rodlength from the bank.
Dozens of other 7lb-plus fish were reported, plus a handful of ‘eights’, and we also saw perch to 4lb 10oz and roach to 3lb 10oz caught this month.
On the predator front, Midlands angler Andy Holden decided on a zander session for his final fling and took an historic brace of River Severn zeds weighing 17lb 10oz and 14lb 11oz from a stretch below Upton.
AT LAST, A FULL RETURN TO ANGLING
Anglers across the country were delighted at the prospect of a full return to fishing at the end of March. Match angling, boat fishing and overnight sessions were all given the green light by the Government as the nation eased out of lockdown.
Angling Trust CEO, Jamie Cook, welcomed the ruling, saying: “We made it clear to the Government that recreational fishing has provided a lifeline for many thousands of people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds throughout the pandemic. We can now look forward to a summer of fishing.”
FISH O’ SELLOUT
As match angling returned after lockdown for a third time, anglers clamoured for tickets to some of the biggest events of the year, and Fish O’Mania was a complete sellout – over 2,000 entries – within 36 hours of tickets going on sale. Organisers of the Maver Match This and RiverFest events also reported selling all their entry tickets for 2021 in rapid fashion.
Alan Storey became the first angler in history to bank a 4lb roach from both a stillwater and river with this fish of 4lb 2oz – just 2oz off the British record – on a trip to a local Dorset chalk stream.
The 66-year-old’s latest fish, unsurprisingly his PB for a river roach, fell to feeder fished maggots on a 3ft hooklength of 2lb fluorocarbon, tied to a size 20 hook.
RECORD CATFISH ON THE FLY
“It was like hooking the back of a car!” revealed Angling Times reader Oliver Cullingford after landing the UK’s biggest-ever fly-caught catfish weighing 66lb 8oz.
Oliver (45) was fishing Kingfisher Lake on the Burton Springs complex in Somerset when he locked horns with the fish.
“I love the challenge of catching catfish on a fly as it’s an uncluttered and active method that gets you totally immersed,” he said.
25 YEARS OF THE F1
Love them or loathe them, F1 carp have had a major impact on British angling, and in April we celebrated a quarter of a century of catching them. Created by Riverfield Fish Farm boss Simon Hughes at his Kent complex, the fish are a hybrid between a crucian and a common carp, and are known to feed more consistently in colder conditions.
Lindholme Lakes’ Neil Grantham revealed he’s spent around £1 million stocking them.
The EA began a crackdown on anglers flouting closed season rules with a series of sting operations on the River Trent in early April. The first patrol found 18 anglers breaking the rules.
BIG BREAM BONANZA!
Night fishing was back on the cards in April, and one angler who took advantage of this was Dorset rod Tim Jackson, who enjoyed the kind of bream session most of us can only dream about.
Fishing a southern stillwater, Tim’s haul included fish weighing 19lb 3oz, 17lb 10oz, 16lb 10oz and 14lb 7oz – nearly 70lb in total – all caught during a manic Monday night session floodlit by a full moon.
“The lake is only 25 acres and has a very small shoal of bream,” Tim explained, “which is what made this catch so special.”
Angling celebrated a new crucian record after a fish initially weighing 4lb 14oz was banked in mid-April by Julian Barnes during a trip to a Surrey lake.
Following a scales check, the fish was ratified by the BRFC to be 4lb 12oz, which was still 1oz heavier than the previous best, jointly held by three anglers. Two of the fish date back to 2015 and the third to 2020.
Julian (55), from St Neots, Cambs, revealed he’s spent the last three spring seasons in search of a monster crucian and was rewarded for his efforts on an unseasonably cold day when he added fish of 4lb 6oz and 4lb 3oz.
“Spring is a great time to target crucians as they’re at their top weight,” explained Julian.
“Conditions on the day weren’t that great after a very cold, frosty night, but I felt daytime temperatures were just warm enough to encourage the fish to feed.”
TENCH CROWNED AS No1 SPECIES
Angling Times readers voted in their thousands in a bid to crown Britain’s favourite fish in an online poll. The winner was the tench, with past favourites roach and carp only mustering fourth and fifth places behind perch and barbel.
There were some surprise entries into the top 10 list this time too, as catfish and gudgeon took seventh and ninth places overall, two fish which didn’t even feature in a 2009 survey.
Underwater film-maker, Jack Perks, thanked generous anglers who donated over £30,000 to help him create a cinematic-standard movie called ‘Britain’s Hidden Fishes’. Jack also confirmed Jeremy Wade will be the narrator of the film, which is due for release in 2023.
BARNSLEY PULL OFF THE TREBLE!
Drennan Barnsley Blacks cemented their position as Britain’s top match team by winning the first big event of 2021, the Commercial National at Lindholme Lakes.
It was a tight affair between the 23 teams, with Barnsley edging the win by just 730g following a tie on points with the Daiwa Tackle & Bates squad.
The victory meant the Yorkshire lads were the holders of all three of match fishing’s premier titles, having scooped the Division 1 National and Winter League in the same 12 months.
SPRING IS SPRUNG
Reports of the first big tench of spring filtered through to our newsdesk, with respected specimen angler Darryn Stolworthy showing off a double-figure fish of 10lb 7oz in our first issue of May.
There were bream to be caught too, and Angling Times reader Richard Eyles laid a real giant on his landing mat during a trip to the famous Pan Lake, in Kent. Weighing 18lb 12oz, the super slab is believed to be the only one in the water!
We polled our readers on the best, most soothing sounds in angling and there were some surprising entries into the top 10 list... including John Wilson’s iconic laugh! Others picked out the sound of a screaming reel, rolling fish, kingfishers, the plop of a Method feeder hitting the water and, bizarrely, the opening of a tin of corn.
The UK’s rarest fish, the only two blue carp in British waters, were caught in the same week in May – ‘Big Blue’ at 45lb 8oz and ‘Little Blue’ at 34lb 9oz, both from Hawkhurst Fish Farm on the Kent/Sussex border.
Stocked in the early 1990s by owner Tony Wilkinson, the pair originate from China, and were placed on the prohibited species list by the Environment Agency not long after their arrival. After a legal battle, which proved they were unable to escape into any nearby watercourses, they were granted permission to stay.
Big Blue tends to get caught once every 18 months, while Little Blue slips up three or four times a year.
TEN IN A ROW!
Some things in life are a dead cert – taxes, rain on your summer holiday, and Jamie Hughes qualifying for the Fish O’Mania final.
In May he did it again, on his birthday no less, bossing a low-weight encounter at Weston Pools. It was the Wirral ace’s 10th Fish O’ final in a row – now that’s some record!
DALEY WINS THE DRENNAN
May is the time when Britain’s best specimen anglers feel the nerves as they await the results from votes to crown the Drennan Cup champion each season.
This time it was Simon Daley, who got the nod in a season which saw some of the most impressive catches in the competition’s history.
Roof tiler Simon (45), from Hampshire, caught fish most anglers can only dream of in their lifetimes during the same season, sealing victory thanks to barbel of 16lb 3oz and 17lb 3oz and a remarkable 3lb 8oz roach.
GREATEST RUDD HAUL EVER!
Specimen ace James Champkin’s three-night session saw him bank 11 massive rudd to 4lb 5oz – and more than 50 tench – from a northern lake. He revealed that the proportions of the rudd were ‘simply incredible’.
“They were wide across the back, with huge frames, and immaculate,” he recalled, adding: “At times I struggled to keep a single rod in the water.”
KID CASTS FOR CHARITY
Kind-hearted schoolboy Rowan Barrington (10) cast an almighty 36,960 yards over a series of sponsored sessions in a bid to raise awareness and cash for the Carp4Kids charity.
Equivalent to casting across the English Channel – over 21 miles – Rowan raised more than £2,000 for the cause.
“THOSE 90 NIGHTS WERE WORTH IT…”
“For me, targeting big eels is the ultimate challenge,” explained seasoned specimen angler Steve Pitts after spending 90 nights on his chosen stillwater and receiving just four bites in that time.
However, he further enhanced his reputation as the country’s leading eel catcher with an immense fish of 7lb 4oz from the water.
Steve revealed he feeds molehill soil packed with fish oils, fishmeal and crushed hemp in a bid to create loads of attraction for these nocturnal predators.
NEW SEASON KICKS OFF IN STYLE
The 2021 river season kicked off on June 16 with barbel the target for many. Reports filtered in of anglers camping out for up to two days prior to the whistle to get the best swims on some waterways, with those on a low-flowing Trent witnessing the biggest opening day whacker – Ian Potts’ new PB of 18lb 4oz from Gunthorpe Weir.
He wasn’t the only one reporting success, though, as the big chub which were last seen in mid-March made an appearance and a raft of 6lb-plus specimens were celebrated.
It was the start of what would become one of the busiest-ever summers on our rivers.
NETBUSTING BREAM & TENCH
Big bream and tench just kept on coming in early June as spring temperatures gave way to warmer summer sessions. Bream expert Lee McManus led the way when he showed the nation his new personal best fish of 17lb 12oz taken from a Midlands gravel pit. The Leicester builder backed it up with another bream of 14lb 4oz the same morning.
Just a week later the scales were spinning again, this time to 17lb 15oz, as Hants ace Adrian Eves made the most of a low-pressure southerly on his target water.
Not to be outdone, former Drennan Cup champ Darryn Stolworthy took the season’s biggest tench so far from a Cambs gravel pit with a beast of a fish weighing 12lb 2oz.
SCHOOLBOY LANDS UK’S BIGGEST CARP
It’s every schoolboy angler’s dream to catch a record fish, and 14-year-old Jensen Price did just that when he caught the UK’s biggest carp – all 73lb 8oz of it!
Tackling the Holme Fen complex in Cambridgeshire with father Darren, he’d only gone to fish for one night when he hooked the giant known as ‘Marshall’.
Jensen described the moment he first saw the heavyweight by saying: “I saw it come up on its side on the surface and I thought my eyes were messing with me.”
But despite it weighing 5lb more than the current best, the British Record Fish Committee threw out the claim on the grounds that the fish had been ‘subject to fish farming and fishery management practices designed to produce and maintain ever-larger fish, in some cases with the specific intention of exceeding the existing record’.
SHOCK CATCH NO1
Pontefract angler Dean Herbert admitted he was a nervous wreck after connecting with a 19lb 5oz sturgeon while barbel fishing on the tidal Trent.
“The fish jumped 3ft out of the river and I could see it was a sturgeon! It went mental,” said a shaken Dean.
SHOCK CATCH No2
Teen Ajay Ross highlighted the unpredictability of our sport when he banked a surprise eel of 6lb 1oz from a commercial. Fishing bomb and pellet at Manor Farm Leisure, near Evesham, it was the 13-year-old’s first-ever eel.
SAVE OUR RIVERS
The Angling Trust and Environment Agency called on Government to prove it cared about our rivers by restoring the huge funding cuts made over the past decade. Over the years, the EA’s grant had been slashed from £120 million to just £40 million.
FESTIVAL OF FISHING
National Fishing Month kicked off at the end of July and ran through to the end of August, with more than 200 nationwide activities helping to create an amazing ‘Festival of Fishing’ during the school holidays.
SHOPS SELL OUT
The post-lockdown fishing boom continued in July as we reported record-breaking footfall in tackle shops and fisheries, and a massive spike in rod licence sales.
In the six weeks following the lifting of restrictions, over 373,500 individual licences were purchased, while most tackle companies were reporting ‘off the scale’ sales, many struggling to keep up with orders.
Demand for on-the-bank coaches hit an all-time high too as newcomers to fishing and their families sought knowledge from our network of fishery-based experts.
Some fisheries even closed their doors to anglers after a hectic time in a bid to allow their stocks to recover from the pressure.
A group of anglers fishing out of Milford Haven took a step back in time as they boated a remarkable haul of prehistoric six-gilled sharks. These ancient creatures, scientifically speaking, have more close relatives in fossil records than they do among living species.
Fishing aboard Kevin McKie’s charter boat over a spot known as Jurassic Park, the group hooked into 14 fish to over 450lb, all of which were returned safely.
With the delayed Olympic Games in full flow, Angling Times revealed that the first modern games in Paris in 1900 did involve fishing as a sport. We also took a sideways look at the aspects of angling which could feature in future events, such as distance-casting, bait balling, and the ‘riverbank hurdles’.
Meanwhile, super-keen angler and global swimming star James Guy was ripping up the record books in Tokyo as he won two golds and a silver medal.
HAVEN’T YOU GROWN
The British record catfish – an individual known as ‘Goliath’ – was re-caught after nearly 25 years as anglers once again got to fish the famous Withy Pool.
The big moggie set the record in 1997 when it was caught by Richard Garner at 62lb, but the venue made famous by Kevin Maddox has been largely unfished in recent times.
Catfish Conservation Group member Steve Stewart was the lucky angler to encounter the impressive beast, which this time sent the scales spinning to a whopping 101lb!
RECORD-BUSTING FISH O' WIN!
Match angler Harry Bignell obliterated the field in the Fish O’Mania final, finishing an almighty 63kg ahead of his nearest rival in the £50,000 showdown at Hayfield Lakes.
The Beverley, East Yorks ace finished with a net of 85kg 225g, giving him a record winning margin for the competition.
Drawing an unfavoured spot on the riverbank side of the lake, Harry searched his peg to find a plateau and caught fish steadily on 6mm pellets.
Fishery officers from the EA carried out a rapid rescue at one of the North West’s most popular bream waters after nearly 200 bream – over 900lb of slabs – became trapped in a tiny brook leading from Pennington Flash, near Leigh, Lancashire.
Our first issue of August revealed a 5lb 2oz crucian – 6oz heavier than the British record – had been banked from a Hants club lake by Mick Philips (72). No claim was made due to a lack of measurements and scale samples, but fellow club members didn’t doubt the weight of his fish.
YEAR'S BIGGEST TENCH
A softly-softly feeding approach helped Rob Spinks to fool the biggest tench of the year at 12lb 7oz from Kent’s Medway Valley Fisheries.
A light scattering of bait via a maggot feeder over a double 10mm pop-up boilie hookbait on a gravel bar was the tactic. “This isn’t your typical big tench approach, but the fish had seen it all by this stage of the year so I fancied doing something different,” Rob revealed.
Fashion model and racing driver Jodie Kidd urged kids and families to give angling a go in the school holidays, having learned to fish during National Fishing Month.
Days after the gold-winning England team looked set to miss out on the World Feeder Champs event following France’s Amber Plus List status, the country dropped an alert level, and the team sped their way to join the other 14 squads.
It wasn’t the result they’d hoped for, though, slipping to seventh place overall on an alien venue where knowledge of Continental groundbaits and additives played a huge part in Belgium’s victory.
WYE IN POOR FETTLE
River Wye anglers claimed they had never seen the iconic waterway in such a poor state during the summer months, with a lack of streamer weed, dense algal blooms and slow flows blighting the famous fishery.
KEEP IT IN THE FAMILY
It was a family affair at the Supercup Southern semi-final as a Kent match squad of Steve, Tommy, Vinnie, Jay, and Dan Martin, plus pal Ian Harper, won through to the grand final after dominating the catches at Todber Manor in Dorset.
LAST OF THE LICENCES?
There was uproar from loyal rod licence fans in August as we revealed the EA was polling anglers on the future of our paper-based permits with a view to phasing them out by 2023. Many readers believe the licences – featuring stunning artwork from David Miller – were part of our angling heritage.
Barnsley’s stranglehold on match fishing’s biggest events was loosened as West Country outfit Devizes MG claimed the Division One National title in a tight event on the GUC around Northampton.
A flying start with bream and skimmers gave individual champ Dave Brown, fishing for Preston Innovations Black Horse, the win with 19-170 from a peg at Weedon Bec.
The event hit the headlines for other reasons, too, as the 420 anglers competing were asked to retain any alien species such as zander and catfish for removal from the fishery by the Canal & River Trust.
BOB & PAUL RETURN
COMEDY duo Bob Mortimer and Paul Whitehouse launched their fourth series of Gone Fishing on Sunday evenings.
This time it took in locations as far-flung as the Outer Hebrides, Burghley House in Lincs, the Norfolk Broads, the Lake District, and the mighty River Severn. Few fish were caught, but who cared?
The biggest junior event in decades saw 200 young anglers descend on the Shropshire Union Canal for the Cadets, Junior and Youth National Championships. Credit was given to work by the Canal & River Trust and local angling clubs with their Let’s Fish scheme, in growing the number of young anglers.
FRY’S £60,000 DELIGHT
The Maver Mega Match This Final went right down to the wire at Hayfield Lakes, with six anglers in contention with minutes remaining.
The title and £60,000 winner’s cheque went to Simon Fry, who finished with 23-350 of carp, just 2kg ahead of runner up Tom Edwards.
The first 20lb barbel of the season was banked by Marcin Kazimierczak from the Thames at Sunbury. Setting up at 8pm and fishing with a spicy sausage-flavoured pellet on an 80cm long hooklength, Marcin didn’t have to wait long before the remarkable fish - weighing 20lb 9oz – tore off with his bait.
NET-BUSTING CARP HAUL FILLS 20 KEEPNETS!
Match angler John Foster was left shattered after a session at Angel of the North Lakes, in Co Durham, saw him bag 881lb 5oz of carp...filling 20 keepnets in the process!
The haul was taken on a home-made paste bait fished close in.
BRONZE FOR ENGLAND
Team England secured a long-awaited return to the podium after winning World Championship bronze medals on the River Mincio in Italy. Newcomers Cameron Hughes, Matt Derry and Rory Jones joined Matt Godfrey and old hands Sean Ashby, Steve Hemingray and William Raison in the squad.
£50K GOLDEN PAYDAY
Leeds matchman Stuart Fotheringham turned in a fine display of feeder fishing on the Match Lake at Larford to land 174lb 9oz of carp and win this year’s £50k Golden Reel Final. It was the second time Stuart had won the title, but he nearly missed out – only winning through to the showdown at the last minute thanks to victory in a wild card qualifier.
UP FOR THE SUPERCUP
Fishing across Barston Lakes and Meadowlands Fisheries, South Yorks outfit Stainforth Angling won the Angling Times/Bait-Tech Supercup Final by just three section points over Tackle Shack Silver. Stainey skipper Mark Price took the individual win on Barston with 107lb 14oz of carp and skimmers while team-mate Jamie Snedker aced Meadowlands with his 29lb 8oz of carp.
ANGLING’S ECONOMY BOOST
A survey by The Rivers Trust revealed that Britain’s anglers pumped an incredible £1.7 billion into the economy each year.
Derby rod John Lock had a fabulous opening day catch of bream to thank for his victory in the 2021 RiverFest Final on the Trent at Burton Joyce. The Loughborough Soar AS angler took around 94lb of slabs on the first session of the weekend, adding over 11lb of roach and dace on day two for an easy win.
THE PERFECT SCORE
Andy Power chalked up his fourth UK Champs title with a perfect score of four section wins over the summer series.
UK’s FIRST £100k CHAMPION!
The biggest prize ever paid out in British match fishing – £100,000 – went to Surrey’s Zac Brown (38) for his win in the inaugural Fishing Association Supercup event at Woodland Lakes. Zac hammered out over 208lb of carp from peg 21 on Partridge Lake.
Afterwards he said: “Did I really win £100k in a fishing match? It doesn’t feel real!”
FEEDER MASTER AGAIN
England ace Lee Kerry made it two wins on the bounce at the Preston Innovations Feedermasters Final in a really tight contest. Catching 65lb 8oz of skimmers and roach across the two days’ fishing on Upper Tamar Lake, Lee finished just 2lb ahead of Dave Berry, with Jamie Harrison in third.
BLAST FROM THE PAST
One of match fishing’s most famous sides, Saints, claimed the Division 2 National on the Gloucester Canal, two years after returning to the national stage. The North West legends pipped locals Lobby’s Tackle to the title, but the runners-up posted the individual winner in Andy Jane, who took 24kg of bream.
FIRST BIG AUTUMN CHUB
There were ‘sevens’ galore, and even an 8lb chub hit the bank, as we entered the first week of October. The Great Ouse, Dorset Stour and Derbyshire Derwent all produced the goods as specialist anglers switched from their summer species to the ever-reliable chub, despite unseasonably warm conditions.
ANGLERS HELP HOMELESS
Liverpool-based angling coach Ann Myers launched a new project to bring fishing to the city’s homeless. The first event took part on Walton Hall Park Lake and was supported by her team from the North West Angling Academy, the YMCA, Whitechapel Centre, and tackle retailer Fishing Republic. It’s hoped the pilot scheme can be rolled out to more people and locations in 2022.
Big-fish angler Simon Davidson etched his name in the history books when he caught and returned a 550lb British record porbeagle. Kettering-based Simon was fishing out of Ilfracombe, North Devon, with Dan Hawkins’ Reel Deal Charters. The fish beats the old best of 507lb caught off Scotland in 1993.
THE £10,000 BREAM!
Match ace Neil Mallinson landed the most valuable bream in Britain in early October as his 2lb 6oz fish was enough to win him the £10,000 NuFish Feeder King Final at Southfield Reservoir - an event where only four of the 32 finalists weighed in!
SOUTH COAST SHOCK
Anglers were warned to be vigilant after a highly poisonous lionfish, a UK first, was landed by Welsh rod Afron Summers off Dorset’s Chesil Beach. The Indo-Pacific species has spiked fins packed with venom.
TRENT FISH BOOST
Plans were unveiled for the UK’s biggest-ever fish pass – a scheme costing £8million – which would open up miles of the River Trent around Colwick to migrating salmon and eels.
ZANDER SAFE ZONE SUCCESS
Trials on waters where zander had been allowed to thrive concluded that sport had benefited from the pause on culls. Clubs on the Coventry, North Oxford and Grand Union Canals were hoping temporary zander safe zones could shape future plans for the species.
BABY BARBEL BOOM
A steep rise in the numbers of 1lb-sized barbel was reported from the Trent, Don, Great Ouse, Wye, Dorset Stour, Warks Avon, Swale and Wandle. Alan Henshaw, manager at the EA’s Calverton Fish Farm, reckoned the three-year-old fish would have been part of a successful 2018 spawning season.
The tackle industry warned of low stock and rising prices in the run-up to Christmas as global issues caused chaos in the supply chains of many of our big brands.
RECORD WIN AT PARKDEAN
Paul Holland triumphed in the Parkdean Masters at White Acres with a record weight of 105lb 12oz from peg 19 on Jenny’s Lake.
BARRIER PLAN ON BROADS
A controversial river scheme by the EA and Natural England to create fish barriers on the Norfolk Broads was given the green light in October – despite being thrown out earlier in the year when the EA’s own scientists revealed it to be a bad move for bream stocks.
GIANT RIVER PIKE
A 31lb 10oz lure-caught river pike kicked off the predator season for Nathan Edgell on his first trip to a Wessex river. It was just reward for six years of work targeting a river ‘thirty’.
GOLD FOR ENGLAND'S OLD GUARD
England team manager Mark Downes aced the World Veterans Championships in Slovenia, just ahead of team mate Roy Marlow.
The star-studded side dominated the weekend event too, bringing home team gold.
AMAZING ROACH MATCH
A trial silverfish session on Suffolk’s big-fish water Homersfield Lake produced one of the greatest roach matches of all time. The winner, Andy Moss of Chelmsford, put 93lb 12oz of redfins and small skimmers on the scales to edge four-times World Champ Bob Nudd into a close second with 90lb 10oz.
Over 1,200lb of fish to 2lb were caught by the 21 anglers taking part, with waggler and pole tactics plus maggots, corn and casters doing the business. The session also raised £600 for a local charity.
A £2.5 million project to remove the 900-year-old Dovecliffe Weir was completed, opening miles of migration possibilities for coarse fish species on Derbyshire’s River Dove.
‘SNEAKY’ BARNSLEY WIN WORLD SILVER
Drennan Barnsley Blacks showed their class at this year’s World Club Feeder Champs, taking home team silver on a challenging Plovdiv Rowing Course in Bulgaria.
Skipper Glenn Lawrence revealed the side of Lee Kerry, Matt Godfrey, Mick Vials, Will Freeman and Frankie Gianoncelli had found a sneaky close-in line which no other team sussed out, and it helped them to add bonus chub to their catches each day.
Hurricane-force winds raged across the Midlands, sending trees crashing down on top of tackle and cars just as anglers gathered for some of the UK’s biggest winter league matches.
One of the hardest-hit spots was Castle Ashby in Northants, where anglers ran for cover as the freak storm uprooted huge trees surrounding the lakes, causing thousands of pounds’ worth of damage to cars and gear, and forcing the event to be abandoned. Milton Keynes angler Ian Smith described the scene as “like Armageddon!”
HOLY TRINITY COMPLETED
Antique tackle collector extraordinaire Chris Sandford secured the third part of angling’s ‘holy trinity’ when he bought the landing net which Dick Walker used to land the iconic 44lb record common carp known as ‘Clarissa’.
Chris had owned Dick’s famous rod since 2015 and bought the matching reel last year from carp historian Chris Ball. He was able to reunite the trio following a purchase from fellow collector Pete Rogers.
RECORD-SHAKING THAMES BARBEL
The second 20lb barbel caught from the River Thames was reported in early November as experts tipped the waterway to produce the next British record, possibly during this winter.
Farnham, Surrey angler Mike Perrin got his hands on the 20lb 12oz fish – which falls just 6oz short of the current national best – after falling water temperatures saw him switch his target species from carp to barbel. He caught the specimen on a snowman boilie set-up fished over a bed of hemp and pellets.
“The fish took off like a freight train,” revealed Mike, who played the barbel for 25 minutes.
“When I saw the length of it I had serious doubts whether it would fit into my 42-ins landing net.”
A Brit angler came within a whisker of breaking the 250lb River Ebro catfish record when he banked a 234lb moggie from the Spanish waterway.
Mark Steward-Brown, from Norfolk, landed four other cats over 100lb during his epic trip.
BIRMINGHAM’S BIG BOOST
The Canal & River Trust announced that a major new international match fishing event for youngsters would take place on Midlands canals in 2022, to run immediately after the Commonwealth Games which are being held in Birmingham next summer.
Drawing on qualifying anglers from nations competing in the games, the event forms part of the Let’s Fish/United by Birmingham initiative, and is hoped to not only inspire more youngsters to take up the sport, but also create a legacy that can be rolled out for future events.
C&RT chief John Ellis hoped that it will finally see angling accepted as a permanent fixture in global sporting events such as the Olympics and Commonwealth Games.
BIGGEST CHUB OF THE SEASON
We all love a big chub, and they don’t come much better than the colossal 8lb 3oz fish banked by Essex specimen angler Peter Davies during his trip to the famous Kings Weir fishery on the River Lea – a fish which ranks as the biggest river chub of the season.
With the river running low and clear, and after trying a few swims without success, Peter dropped into what he described as ‘a classic chub swim’ and received a few finicky bites before his rod hooped over.
The fish shattered his previous PB and was fooled by a piece of homemade paste fished on a link leger rig and a light quivertip rod.
WYE CHAMPIONSHIPS WINNER’S LUCKY PEG
Drawing the same peg twice in a week can be a nightmare or a blessing, and it was certainly the latter for Nigel Garrett in this year’s eagerly-awaited Wye Championships.
Postponed due to horrendous flooding in early November, the river was back in form for the weekend event, which was held around Hereford. Silverfish came on the feed, and Nigel found himself back in the same swim he’d drawn in a midweek encounter just a few days earlier.
Finishing runner-up the first time around, Nigel went one better to win the famed title with over 73lb of mainly chublets and roach taken on stick float tactics with three maggots on the hook.
BIG EEL ON A BOILIE
Surprise catches are part and parcel of fishing, but few are as powerful – or as long – as the 7lb 3oz eel which picked up Devon angler Peter Lilley’s boilie hookbait while he was fishing at the prolific Stafford Moor complex.
“At first I thought it was just a line bite or a bream, but as I hit into it I could feel the power of this eel,” said Peter, who was on a carp session at the time.
“To tell you the truth I was in shock when I saw and weighed it – I doubt whether I’ll ever see an eel that size again in freshwater. It’s definitely the fish of a lifetime for me.”
DEANO’S DREAM PERCH
A tatty old lure that had been in his box for years proved to be just perfect for a PB-smashing perch, as Dean Macey revealed in our December 7 issue.
The fish – weighing 4lb 2oz – ended a two decade-long quest for a ‘four’ by the Olympic decathlete and TV star. He admitted he had no idea what type of lure it was, but it certainly worked on the big reservoir he was fishing!
“Don’t ask me what the lure is called, but it’s the oldest one in my box and it looks epic!” he told us.