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Chris Boughton's angling column: Rushbrooke Lake stirs up treasured memories

It is 19 years since Rushbrooke Lake (also known as Rougham Lake) was a Bury St Edmunds Angling Association club water but for many members, past and present, the lake still holds treasured memories.

Situated five miles south east of Bury, the four-and-a-half-acre lake was a visual delight as well as being an ideal safe location for junior anglers to learn and enjoy fishing as a pastime.

Whilst I was researching the past connection between the Bury club and the lake, former association treasurer and chairman, Nick Bonney, searched through his collection of old membership books for me, looking for the first appearance of the lake, which was 1960. The lake’s last appearance in the Bury club book was 2002 – some 40 years year, if you deduct a couple of years when the lake was closed to angling for essential maintenance.

Rushbrooke Lake, pictured in 1991, was a popular fishing spotPicture: Chris Boughton (44103654)
Rushbrooke Lake, pictured in 1991, was a popular fishing spotPicture: Chris Boughton (44103654)

Nick also found a document entitled ‘Rougham Lake (Final Report)’. This is a detailed account of the maintenance work, which has no name on it but Nick suspects was written by the club secretary at the time, Nigel Bruton.

The document records: “In early 1973 the Great Ouse River Authority and some members of our committee removed the fish. In August 1973, the lake was drained.”

The maintenance work was to dig out all the mud, some 7,000 tons down to the hard bottom and place this around the perimeter.

Rushbrooke Lake, pictured in 1991, was a popular fishing spotPicture: Chris Boughton (44103652)
Rushbrooke Lake, pictured in 1991, was a popular fishing spotPicture: Chris Boughton (44103652)

The report goes on to say: “The authorities which helped us with the grants are the Sports Council (London), the Bury St Edmunds Borough Council, the West Suffolk County Council, Thedwastre Council and the National Anglers Council, totalling £2,764 which pays for the work carried out by Messrs. Heyhoe and leaves £32 in hand.”

I suspect the same work would cost substantially more now, but how impressive that the Association’s committee found funding for the entire project!

However, the operation wasn’t without its problems. “Because of the rainy weather early in 1973 the removal of the mud was not too easy but the continuation of heavy rainfall in 1974 filled the lake far more rapidly than we could have expected,” it went on to say.

The Association were also successful in getting the lake restocked without cost to the club: “In the midsummer of 1974 I refreshed the memory of the Anglian Water Authority regarding stocking and they promised to help in every possible way so that our lake would become one of the finest fishing areas in East Anglia.”

Rushbrooke Lake, pictured in 1991, was a popular fishing spotPicture: Chris Boughton (44103658)
Rushbrooke Lake, pictured in 1991, was a popular fishing spotPicture: Chris Boughton (44103658)

It was a goal that the club’s committee clearly achieved, based on feedback I have received from members who were juniors in the late seventies, eighties and nineties.

I posted recently on the Bury Angling Association Catch Reports and Chat group page on Facebook asking for stories and anecdotes about Rushbrooke Lake and within just a couple of hours I had received more than 100 responses (posts, messages, emails) almost all relating to the positive experience of junior members during the period 1960 to 2002.

There were far too many to report them all here but current Bury AA secretary David Plampin and Court Newsagents owner and keen pike angler Carl Whitehouse emailed typical accounts of the nostalgic passion still felt for the lake.

David said: “I remember I would cycle to Rushbrooke and we would stay at the lake all day. I also remember the teach-ins on an evening, from memory I want to say it was Tuesday, and I recall fishing with maggots and it was like boiling water, full of fish coming to the surface to take the maggots, you could not fail to catch.

“I remember losing a carp at the time, that was on the straight long bank up towards the horseshoe which was my favourite spot. I also remember catching a golden tench at Rushbrooke and have never caught one since, such a beautiful fish and probably the best-looking coarse fish in the lake.

“I can remember being with my Dad when he took a picture of me and Stephen Allen at the bottom of the lake when it was dredged.

“The other funny story I can tell you was when we were lads fishing the short bank with Nigel Howard and we were having a competition to see who could cast the longest. I did this almighty cast and was looking for the float to land and thinking that was a good one, but I could not see it in the lake. Little did I realise that Nigel was standing too close, and I had managed to hook his ear with my barbed hook. We could not get the hook out and had to cut the line and he went home with the hook in his ear.” (and I said it was a safe location!)

Carl recalled: “We used to cycle to Rushbrooke from Bury with our rods strapped on our bikes! Our mums would let us go out fishing all day as they knew where we would be (despite no mobile phones).

“I started fishing there when I was 12 and, like many others, it was the lake that taught me how to fish.My first carp was an 11-pound mirror on a white chocolate boilee. I remember it well as a bailiff netted it for me and his sunglasses fell off his head into the lake! You would be lucky to get a swim sometimes as it was so popular. What an amazing lake we were lucky to have!”

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