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"Tony keeling", journalist, expert Angler, and lifelong member shares the history of the club..."


Part I
It is difficult to take on board but the Izaak Walton (Stafford) AA stretch back over three centuries, - just! It can not lay claim to be the oldest club in the country by any stretch of the imagination, I believe Warrington AA have clear evidence of being the oldest although one or two other clubs may well contest that. There is also proof that our near neighbours, Stoke City DAS go back to the 1860s and their Staffordshire Championships is one of the oldest matches in the calendar, something they are rightly proud of.
The local club was formed circa 1898-99, I believe it was called Stafford Angling Club at the time, there was no mention of Izaak Walton until a name change came about in the late 1920s or the very early 1930s at latest. The interest fact is though, Izaak Walton (Stafford) AA have offered continual membership since its inception, even through two World Wars membership was continuous. I can only assume that fishing was some kind of therapy from the vigours of conflict at the time. An intersting fact is that Belgian POWs and refugees introduced hemp fishing in this country during the end of and just after World War One, a practise that is taken for granted today and successfully used by many anglers.
When the club started the headquarters were Radford Stables, near what is now known as Radford Bridge. Their fishing rights were the Staffs-Worcs Canal from Hazelstrine Arm to Milford. Fishing was restricted to the 'field' side only as the horse drawn barges commanded the towpath bank. In fact you needed a Hawker's License to even walk on the towpath until that pracise was abolished. The last remaining notice of this was on an iron post behind what is now Tilcon Industrial Estate at Baswich.
It will come as a surprise to most but one of the first things the original Izaak Walton (Stafford) AA committee did was to run contests, - they held one in their very first year in existence. At that time Stafford was well known world wide for two great industries, engineering and shoe making and it is interesting to note that amongst the prize list was a new pair of all leather boots, valued at seventeen shillings and six pence! There were many other prizes donated from all the hardware shops that existed in Stafford during those early days.
The owners of the canal were the Railways in the early days and stayed so until as late as 1948-49. In fact the early rents were sent to to Crewe Railway Sheds. Another interesting fact was that there was a Stafford Arm Canal that came off Shaw's Basin at Baswich and ran alongside the River Sow, culminating in a dead stop at the Green Bridge, on the opposite side of the river to the old Brine Baths. This was used and dug out to make the process of delivering goods to the town that much easier because as you all know the Staffs-Worcs Canal actually skirts around the town. As the Railways developed they became a victim of their own success and with the canals in decline for transport the Stafford Arm was filled in during the 1920s but I believe there is hope of it being restored in the years to come. 
Part 2


As the name changed and the membership grew so did the list of waters but despite brief flirtations with ‘new’ venues in the main the IW(Stafford)AA had the fishing on the Staffs-Worcs Canal from Hazelstrine Arm to Milford Aqueduct, the River Sow (for some reason it was spelt Sowe in those days!) from the spinney above Shakey Bridges to the Great Northern Bridge, the latter being the old railway/river bridge behind the cemetery, - the downstream reaches were generally known as ‘Blackberry Lane’ as many will recollect. Also under the club’s control was the River Penk at Silkmore Hall plus the lengthy section from Radford down to Ladder Bridge.


Time moves on and 1938 was a good year to take the next summary as it was a landmark being 75 years ago. The membership card was ten shillings or 50p in todays money for an adult and five shillings (25p) for under-17s and ladies. It is interesting to note that over-65s and registered disabled paid the full rate. That particular year there was no less than twenty-seven committee members, this number did not include any officers whatsoever. The headquarters, as they were for many years, were the Talbot and Smithfield Hotel in Victoria Square. Just digressing a little the club had the fishing from Acton Bridge to Deepmore Lock on the Staffs-Worcs Canal that particular year but only from January 1st to June 15th, - how this came about I just don’t know as the Closed Season started on March 15th!


The club continued with membership every year through World War II. In 1948 the waters basically remained the same except there was no fishing in the River Penk in the Trumpet Meadow and the lease, if there ever was one, was discontinued from the Acton Bridge to Deepmore length. For those that are interested I believe the now defunct Whitmore Reans AA took over the Acton Bridge section whilst the Birmingham Anglers Association had the fishing on the Deepmore length. The IW(Stafford)AA membership fees were exactly the same as 1938.


Leading up to 1948 the local canals were left to rack and ruin, several were filled in and it really was touch and go as whether the same fate would happen with the Staffs-Worcs Canal. The saviour was undoubtedly an organisation called the Inland Waterways Authority (IWA) who had the foresight to see the great potential the canals offered, including the ‘leisure’ point of view. To celebrate their 50 years the IWA sponsored a large match in 1998 on the Staffs-Worcs Canal at Stafford, - every competitor was offered a free meal and drink afterwards at Stafford Boat Club and anglers came from many parts of the Midlands, even some from London, to celebrate this contest. In all probability, without the IWA, there may well have been a lot fewer canals about than there is today. Another point of note was the IW(Stafford)AA joined the National Federation of Anglers around 1948/49.


Moving on to 1958 and the membership fees had gone up to 15 shillings (75p) for an adult or six shillings and sixpence (32 and a half pence!) for ladies and under-16s, - still no mention of a reduction for OAPs and registered disabled! The waters varied a bit whilst stretches of the River Sow at Chebsey and Shallowford were added to the list. I don’t know whether anybody else can remember but the Association also had the fishing on two small pools on Mr Hidderley’s land at Shakey Bridges. – members had to prior book to fish these as numbers were restricted, - the pools have since been filled in. It was around this time that an IW(Stafford)AA trout committee was formed as fly fishing was allowed on stretches of the rivers in the coarse Closed Season.

In 1965/66 the Club took the bold step to take on the Estate water on the Shropshire Union Canal at Cowley and Wood Eaton. This was eventually to prove to be a very costly exercise as the fishing dates were very restricted owing to the ‘shoot’ on the land. Dave Barnard and myself sorted out all sorts of accesses and even made car parks for members use. We also ran lots of matches there; in fairness the fishing was excellent and this was possibly the first canal venue in the area where ‘double figures’ often won and framed. The venue was well liked by all and the ‘wood’ area at Cowley, offered brilliant pleasure and match fishing. However, costs went up and up and Dave and I just couldn’t keep pace with running the amount of matches that were needed to allay the largest part of the rent needed, despite bribing the gamekeeper with a bottle of whisky per match to get a few winter contests there! In reality the IW(Stafford)AA were paying four times the value of the water so it just had to go.


It wasn’t too long after this the club fell on real hard times and there was very much a danger of running out of money followed by the inevitable. I was approached by the then Treasurer with the problem and a heavy programme of contests was organised over a four years spell. At this point it needs saying that the whole point of running contests in the first place is help to pay rents on the various clubs’ waters primarily as well as supplying match anglers with their hobby. Anyway over £10,000 was put in the club’s coffers over this spell and that gave the Association a lot of breathing space. It has to be said that an awful lot of work also went into these contests in obtaining sponsorship to attract such large entries. The waters also had to be used very sparingly and carefully as to retain the high quality of fishing.


In 1986 the club’s profile was raised by quite a chunk as the match squad improved year on year creating all sorts of records, winning various winter leagues, other leagues, championships and the coveted 500-entry Fish Aid twice The icing on the cake, of course, was the Division One National Championships on the Oxford Canal. As the only true ‘club’ side to have ever accomplished this Stafford Borough Council organised a Civic Reception, attended by the Mayoress and other Civic dignitaries. With the ‘National’ win came a huge sponsorship deal, a promise fulfilled by Maver UK. This was the largest sponsorship deal in the country, by some distance, at the time. As an added bonus from winning the National many members, nine in all went, were invited to fish in the World Inter Clubs Championships in Sweden. Every single one of the squad worked hard to obtain a lot of sponsorship and money towards this trip and occasion of a lifetime and that is how it turned out to be. For the record despite fishing against many countries with full international squads The Izaak Walton (Stafford) AA had represented England and considering the power of the opposition the result of finishing just under halfway was well acceptable.


It was just after this Maver UK increased the sponsorship deal. One or two of the squad had ‘retired’ and some others pointed at it; my fishing became very restricted as I chose to concentrate on work as I was a director of a growing business. Ironically I had a choice of a top job in fishing with the NFA but I took my name out of the hat to concentrate on my trade, printing; it is little known fact I did spend a year working for the Angling Trust (formerly NFA) at a much later time. As an added bonus the IW(Stafford)AA team were voted ‘Team of the Year’ two years in succession by readers of the Angler’s Mail, - beating Team England on both occasions, - an achievement that I always thought of as good as winning the ‘National’. That ‘National’ win also changed a few lives within the squad for the better. However, let me just say the team had started ‘drifting’ apart and not too long after and the ‘club’ side of things went with it. Eventually the sponsorship went to Barnsley and the team folded.


The club also had a fantastic junior squad and Pete Bryan was the man behind all that. He sorted out trips all over the Midlands for the lads and they in turn followed the example of the senior team by winning the juvenile National equivalent in 1994/5 on the local Staffs-Worcs Canal. It was a brilliant achievement and I am just as proud of being presented a medal for this as I was when we won the senior counterpart. This was also the last of the proper juvenile nationals before the teams were heavily reduced in numbers. I shall never forget the tears running down some of the parents faces as their offspring went up on the stage to receive their just rewards. As a matter of fact can any other Junior set up in the country boast two former Kamasan Matchmen of the Year champions from their junior ranks, - Andy Moors and Kieron Rich, - Izaak Walton (Stafford) AA can.


In recent years my main ambition in fishing was achieved; that was to organise a match on the three local canals at the same time. One was prepared some years back but fell through because of unavoidable sponsorship reasons. After running quite a few industry nationals, British Waterways matches (as they were then) plus the Division Three National Championships I put a plan together to run the biggest of the lot, the Division One Angling Trust National Championships some four years back. To be perfectly frank this would not have happened without the help of the likes of Paul Turner and my Eclipse team mates from the Potteries. Finding headquarters was a nightmare and pegging out the match was more so, - I was actually pegging one section out at 1am on the Saturday morning and had a taxi booked for 4am to get me to the Rodbaston headquarters where I had to erect all the signs. The practise matches and the National alone made well over £10,000 for the local clubs which was split between Wolves AA, Shugborough FC, Saracen’s Head

AG, Stoke City DAS and the Izaak Walton(Stafford)AA. One of the practise matches attracted 281 competitors which is a record in today’s climate.


This basically brings the Club up to date with obvious exceptions that you all know about.


With deepest gratitude to the late Walter Tooth who inadvertently supplied a lot of this information.


Angling Tales

My Life In Angling


Melvyn Moss, life member of the IWSAA shares his Angling Tales, lasting a lifetime..


It all started when I was seven years old and my Uncle introduced me to angling (no, not fishing).  I was taken to the Bream stretch of Milford for my first outing and I caught fish!


Then I was introduced to the boat house at the Ladder Bridge. You got over the Penk there with a rope secured to the far bank and you pulled your way over, then over the plank, over the brook leading to the canal.  The first time I set up my bamboo rod, tied my two inch reel to the mid hook and float (which was purchased from Dales shop) I had a bite under the bridge; my first Perch came out of the water.


I spent many a happy hour in that boat house with my father and friend Teddy Blakemore, listening to the fishy tales of old.


By the time I went to King Edward 6th School I was doing quite a bit of angling but school work and rugby at the weekend curtailed it.  When I left school it was time to give up rugby and get on the football circuit, both in the youth league then amateur youth, with Holmcroft, and the Universal Grinding Wheel, playing twice at the weekend and up to three times in the week.


The British Army needed me and when I came out, it was to look forward to getting married.


1962 came and in the August I resumed angling with my cousin - our method of transport was bicycle or walking. These were the times of Albert Barker and Eric Till amongst the good anglers.


Universal Anglers then obtained the Pool at Weston and this was the time I started committee work both at the Uni and in late 1963, the IWSAA


Netting parties then started with the purchase of a new net, kept in the hut at Radford.  Dick Wilton then arrived on the IWSAA scene and eventually was elected Secretary.  By this time I was Chairman and Treasurer.  At the time many good people had left the IWSAA  - Joe Ward, Reg Slinn, Ernie Emery.  More and more people also joined and left and by this time I was angling Saturday and Sunday.  Also I was a member at six clubs thus spending a lot of time rushing around the different waters.


Probably the best at this time was the River Trent at Swarkstone and below


I was then away from committee work for a few years until asked to return as Chairman once more.


Contests??  Yes! I entered there and won some and lost some! I gave this up when they turned away from trophies into “pool money” my angling was enjoyment not wanting for a few shillings.


I was invited, around 1964, to join the Potteries Angling Society who had a waiting list in those days.  These were probably the stable years of my Angling.


How things have changed.  From a bamboo rod, reel tied on with string, a landing net made from an old onion sack, a little canvas chair in a gas mask bag – all on your back or strapped to your bicycle cross bar!  Oh yes, I have pedalled to Gnosall at five in the morning on June 16th (a date now nearly forgotten).  River fishing - not until the fine weather came – and then we were off to the ladder bridge for the best peg if you were lucky to beat the rest there (this bridge is now in the middle of the field at Baswich.


Although my time is coming to an end I still enjoy the Angling game – I still can fish and catch, but not with the concentration I used to have.  Hope you have enjoyed my little story – perhaps other will follow.   My apologies to those I have not mentioned who gave me help when needed on the committee, work parties and of course chasing poachers – you were all great.


….To the memory of all those before and now in heaven – “Gone Fishing”

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