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Chris Boughton's angling column: local river match legend Bob Bonney still going strong



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In my last angling article I looked back around 35 years to when I fished pleasure sessions and club matches on the river Blackbourn between Euston and Honington, mainly in the winter months when the weed was less troublesome.

Going back even further to my childhood in the 1960s my father, Tony, took me fishing to many local rivers including the river Little Ouse at Wiltorn Bridge, Cowles Drove, Black Dyke and Redmere, which were all Bury St Edmunds Angling Association waters.

He ran the Heron Angling club at the time where we fished matches at Welney in the fens on the Delph and the Bedford rivers, which are man-made large drains that form part of the fens drainage system controlled by the large sluice complex at Denver; amazing bream venues back then.

The Henron Angling Club at the River Waveney at Needham in 1968. From left: Les Goodfellow, Ricky Lee, Alan Humphries, Tony Boughton, Johnny Bennett, Chris Boughton, Jock McNeil, Jack Wetherill and Ron Hollingsbee. Picture: Tony Saunders
The Henron Angling Club at the River Waveney at Needham in 1968. From left: Les Goodfellow, Ricky Lee, Alan Humphries, Tony Boughton, Johnny Bennett, Chris Boughton, Jock McNeil, Jack Wetherill and Ron Hollingsbee. Picture: Tony Saunders

We also regularly in the summer months fished Heron Club matches on the River Waveney at Needham. So, probably around 75 per cent of my fishing in the ‘60s was on rivers.

I did not fish during the ‘70s but returned to the bank-side in the ‘80s and early ‘90s, mostly match fishing.

The rivers I had frequented in the ‘60s were very different, having suffered from the combined effect of pollution, excessive abstraction and consequential fish stock decline – but there were still bright spots.

Bob Bonney with his winning catch from the Old West River. Picture: Ashley Kinsey
Bob Bonney with his winning catch from the Old West River. Picture: Ashley Kinsey

The River Cam near Cambridge was a popular winter match venue. At Waterbeach there were occasional open matches on the Cam with entries up to 250.

I drew the end peg on one match which I should have won but I had major pike problems (pike don’t count in most matches), but I managed a section win and fourth overall.

My eldest son James and I fished most weekends over the winter months on the Cam between Baites Bite Lock and Clayhithe Bridge (he had more success than me!).

This stretch held 120+ pegs, so it was an ideal location for the Angling Times Norfolk/Suffolk Winter League (10 teams of 12) and also almost weekly open matches were held there.

The open matches were very popular and tickets needed to be booked well in advance.

But I suffered some brutal journeys to my peg with my tackle, even with a trolly which was essential as there were only two access points along the tow path (at the lock and the bridge).

So, potentially you could have a 60-peg walk if you drew in the middle section, which I seemed to do on a regular basis.

We went to every match we could get tickets for and I can recall us sliding our way down the A14 in treacherous snow-laden road conditions.

We must have been mad but there was always the Little Chef stop-off on the way for breakfast to look forward to!

All these past winter river fishing memories were brought to the fore for me following a conversation I had with local river match legend Bob Bonney last week.

Bob is one of the best local river match anglers that I know and has been a prolific winner over the past 40 years, if not longer.

He told me about what he described as ‘a little run of success’ he had recently on matches, run by Ashley Kinsey who owns the Cambridge Carp Cabin tackle shop, (on Burwell Lode and the Old West River at Holt Fen).

Bob is notoriously a modest person but I did manage to extract the results from him.

Over four consecutive weekends Bob had two second places and two first places.

At Burwell Lode he won with 16lb of fish. At the Old West he had 16lb again for second place and 21lb for another 2nd spot, only missing out on top spot by 3oz. He also had a win at the Old West with 18lb.

Meanwhile, with the colder winter nights now upon us the weights in the Bury AA Veterans’ matches have dipped at Badwell Ash.

However, the winning weights in the last three matches were still impressive – Dave Tobin 31lb 12oz, Bob Huant 23lb 10oz and Rob Parnell 19lb 6oz.

The Veterans’ matches for 2021 are now complete and the winner of the Ron Hubbard Trophy for the top points scorer this year is Rob Parnell, who retained the trophy he also won in 2019 (there were no veterans’ matches in 2020 due to Covid restrictions).

Bob Huant was the overall runner-up and Dave Tobin was in third place.

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