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Chris Boughton's angling column: polarisation of specimen carp anglers and match anglers made for a testing time as chairman of Bury St Edmunds Angling Association



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Our local fisheries are quiet as they usually are in late November and early December as the water temperature drops and anglers’ catch expectations have to be adjusted.

The Bury St Edmunds Angling Association fishery at Badwell Ash is still providing reasonable catches for pleasure anglers and the day ticket water at Rattlesden (Kettles) is still fishing well for pleasure anglers, family groups and small club matches.

But generally, locally, there is little to report with fewer anglers out and about and fish expending less energy in the colder water and consequently feeding less. So I thought I would look back exactly 30 years to my angling year ‘of living dangerously’!

Dennis Vaughan and Nick Bonney (foreground) were among those taking part in platform building at West Stow in May 1991 Picture: Chris Boughton
Dennis Vaughan and Nick Bonney (foreground) were among those taking part in platform building at West Stow in May 1991 Picture: Chris Boughton

I was in my late thirties with a young family and a stressful demanding job but for some unexplainable reason decided to take on the challenging role of chairman on the Bury St Edmunds Angling Association committee having been vice chairman the year before.

Angling was very polarised at that time between specimen carp anglers and match anglers. The Bury Angling Association’s committee had been dominated by match anglers for many years but big changes were on the horizon. Match angling was declining and specimen carp angling was growing in popularity at a very fast rate countrywide. Bury AA was no exception to this trend.

In the space of a couple of years the club’s committee went from no specimen carp anglers to five of the 12 helping to run the Association. At the same time specimen carp syndicates were forming and starting to compete for the lease of waters locally and nationally. Rushbrooke Lake (also known as Rougham Lake) and West Stow Country Park Lake would soon become syndicate waters for primarily specimen carp anglers.

West Stow CP Lake 1991 - John Hosking building fishing platforms for disabled anglers Picture: Chris Boughton
West Stow CP Lake 1991 - John Hosking building fishing platforms for disabled anglers Picture: Chris Boughton

When I took on the role of chairman for Bury AA in 1991 there was already a strong and active representation of specimen carp anglers on the committee. David Balaam, Keith Davies (who later ran a carp syndicate at Rushbrooke for over 10 years), Bob Tarpley, Jon Parker (who helped establish the early night fishing at West Stow) and Emrys Sampson the following year. These were all general committee members without a specific portfolio but certainly with a specific agenda!

The rest of the committee were diehard match anglers: myself (chairman), Nigel Bruton (general secretary), Nick Bonney (treasurer), Dennis Flack (publicity officer), John Hosking (match secretary) and Grant Humphreys (junior officer). David Wales, also a match angler, was another general committee member.

David Balaam, Bob Tarpley, Keith Davies, Emrys Sampson and Jon Parker fought hard for Bury AA specimen carp members and even though they made my period as chairman of the club challenging at times, overall they were effective in supporting and promoting specimen carp anglers via the Association’s committee at that time.

I last saw Keith when he first took on Rushbrooke as a syndicate water when I took photos and discussed his plans for my original Bury Free Press and Bury Mercury angling articles.

Chris Boughton’s son James (left) lends a hand to the platform building project at West Stow in 1991 with Simon Birrell Picture: Chris Boughton
Chris Boughton’s son James (left) lends a hand to the platform building project at West Stow in 1991 with Simon Birrell Picture: Chris Boughton

I last saw David when he was helping his father Mick provide an airport chauffeur service for the company I worked for circa 25 years ago.

I cannot recall when I last encountered Bob, Jon or Emrys.

Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be but sometimes its good to look back with a positive and objective mindset!

Where would the tackle trade be today without the exponential growth in carp angling over the past 30 years? Ironically, the majority of match anglers now have carp as their dominant catch species!