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Rushbrooke Lake brings back so many positive memories

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There is little doubt that Rushbrooke Lake (also known as Rougham Lake) evokes angling nostalgia like no other fishery locally.

I made only a brief reference to the lake in last week’s angling article and it prompted several emails reflecting on the past and asking whether I knew what the future fishing plans for the lake are.

I do not have any information on the estate’s plans but I can relay some of what I know about the lake’s past.

Rushbrooke Lake in May 1991
Rushbrooke Lake in May 1991

The four-and-a-half acre lake is where many local anglers learnt their watercraft, especially for junior anglers in the 1960s, ‘70s, ‘80s and early ‘90s.

It was a Bury St Edmunds Angling Association member’s club water for more than 40 years, followed briefly as a day ticket water and more recently a carp syndicate fishery for 10 years until about two years ago.

Since I started this angling column in November 2020, I have had more feedback (all positive) on Rushbrooke than any other water.

I posted in January this year on the Bury Angling Association catch reports and chat (Suffolk) Facebook page asking for stories and anecdotes on Rushbrooke to feature in this angling column and the response was amazing.

My two posts received in total over 60 responses, the vast majority came from anglers who fished the lake as children and teenagers in their Bury AA days.

Rushbrooke was not primarily a carp water when run by Bury AA, it was a mixed coarse fishery with roach, tench, rudd, perch, as well as carp.

During most of the 40-plus years that Bury AA leased the lake there were 40 fishing places, which included fishing from the island. The island pegs were subsequently closed for safety reasons, reducing the fishing spots to less than 20.

The first record of the lake as a Bury AA water I can find is for 1960. Lord Rotheschild, whose family owned the lake, was president of the club and on a personal note my uncle Harold was listed on the front page of the club book as Hon. freshwater secretary.

I first fished the lake in the early 1960s when large groups of very young anglers would cycle together from the Mildenhall Estate in Bury, somehow managing to load all our tackle on our bikes!

Matches were not held on the lake back then and neither was junior coaching. The lake was just too popular to allow pre-booked sessions.

I won the club’s Junior Cup when I was 14 on the River Little Ouse at Lakenheath and I recall that all our junior matches were held there and the junior officer was Jeff Holloway.

The first junior officer to hold coaching sessions at Rushbrooke was the legendary Eric Bolton in 1980.

The sessions were very popular with Eric receiving assistance from David Wales and Ray Wicks.

In the late ‘80s David Balaam and James Woolnough also served time as junior officer for the club, followed by Vic Turner.

I never got involved in coaching for the club myself but I often used to walk around Rushbrooke Lake on the junior coaching evening and there is no doubt that Eric and his helpers produced a large number of very talented young anglers.

What was particularly impressive was the tackle set-ups that Eric had the young anglers using. Hook lengths of just 12oz breaking strain with floats dotted down so much that you needed very young eyes to see the tips.

There were no specimen carp in Rushbrooke in the ‘80s, but all the same it took a lot of skill to land 5/6lb carp on such light tackle.

Eric’s young stars included match anglers that I later fished with in Bury AA National Championship teams – Carl Hitchcock, Darren Newport, Andy Flight and Nigel Howard.

Others included Matt Baker, Simon Price, Tony McCourt and the current Bury AA general secretary David Plampin.

Two of Eric’s young stars are now living and fishing matches in Australia. Jay Owen and Mark Bryant provided content for this angling article earlier this year. They both fished in the Canberra Classic match tournament in Australia last week.

They have also both fished for Australia in international matches against New Zealand, home and away.

Coarse fishing matches down under are few and far between and Mark made the observation to me that he often has to travel more than 1,000 miles to fish a coarse match, which was somewhat different to a five-mile cycle ride to Rushbrooke in the ‘80s!

Please do send your Rushbrooke stories, catch reports and other fishing stories and photos to me by email on chrisboughton@outlook.com