Was there ever a 'Golden Age' of angling? And if so, when was it?

davidms

Well-known member
Points
18
Location
North Lancashire
I'd suggest the 'sixties and 'seventies; not too many women breadwinners in the workforce, an identifiable urban male working class culture within which fishing was popular, and little predation from piscivorous birds and otters. But maybe I've missed a different era?
 

lhomme

Well-known member
Points
63
Location
Antwerp
I would say the golden age started when the first man produced a hook to angle. From there on it went downhill. We're in the plastic age now.
 

BobP

Well-known member
Points
48
Location
Wiltshire
In my view the latest "golden age" was the 1950's through to the end of the '70's. A huge amount happened in those three decades and angling jumped forward further and quicker than it had since the mid- to late-1800's.

Let us compare. In the 1800's we had the centralisation of the tackle industry, much of it based around the West Midlands brought about by the improvements in transport, firstly the canals and then the railways. This lead to mass production and the cutting of manufacturing costs.

Then we had a huge leap forward in tackle design and manufacture. We got the 6 sided built cane fly rod, which when paired with the new dressed silk tapered fly lines meant that casting on a windy day was now possible. Reels were much the same in basic design as they had been for two hundred years, but were much improved as regards lightness and line capacity. We had the development of eyed hooks on which the new fly patterns could be tied.

Finally the railways brought anglers together and opened up areas that had hitherto been inaccessible to all but local people. This in turn lead to greater knowledge of methods and techniques which were spread by publications rather than by word of mouth.

So to the 1950's. The 2nd World War had brought forth new materials that were slowly making their way into the angling world though in the early part of the 1950's built cane still ruled the roost as a rod building material. By the end of that decade glass fibre was making significant inroads and greatly reduced costs making decent quality rods within reach of the average chap in the street. Plastics made their presence felt with the first plastic coated fly lines appearing though dressed silk still held sway. Nylon lines for leaders were now commonplace.

The major jump came about as people became more financially stable and the average guy found that he could afford a car - previously well outside his reach. The need for water brought about the construction on new reservoirs and legislation meant that recreation was built in to those water supply reservoirs. No longer did the angler have to wait for his annual holiday to go fishing for trout if he had a reservoir within travelling distance.

By the mid-'60s the burgeoning space industry was resulting in the production of new materials such as carbon fibre which by the 1970's was being developed into fishing rods. Fly lines went through changes as well with lines now being designed to sink as well as float. The reservoir building programme proceeded apace and the car had now replaced the train as the mode of transport of choice.

Into the 1970's the first of the small stillwaters open to anglers at a cost of the day ticket appeared and grew rapidly in number. The new reservoirs such as Grafham and Rutland spawned new ideas, methods and flies, many of which are still with us today, and many having their roots in the ideas of those who fished at the start of this period.

So, in that three decades we went from built cane, to glass, to carbon fibre for our rods. The first built cane rods arrived in last half of the 19th century and lasted just over 100 years as a material of choice or rather the fact that there was nothing better.
 

bobmiddlepoint

Well-known member
Points
83
Location
STAYING AT HOME!
I'd suggest the 'sixties and 'seventies; not too many women breadwinners in the workforce, an identifiable urban male working class culture within which fishing was popular, and little predation from piscivorous birds and otters. But maybe I've missed a different era?

Are you suggesting that today's less working class anglers are not so tough as those of the 60's and 70's and so they are being picked off more easily by birds and otters?



Andy
 

PaulD

Well-known member
Points
63
Location
South Northants
When I started fly fishing in 1968 the 'Golden Age' was 'last Tuesday' . . . which was the expression often used by the bailiff at my local reservoir when I turned up to buy a ticket . . . "Ah boy, ya should've bin 'ere las' Tuesday!" He was also the one who'd pinch the last boat and shout at us on the bank, "You should see'um risin' out 'ere!"

In fishing, the Golden Age is just like nostalgia . . . and we all know that today's nostalgia isn't as good as it was a few years ago. What we fail to recognise today is that our mobility is far greater, there is a far greater choice of waters available to each and all of us, stocked fisheries stock with greater numbers of fish in much larger sizes.

I started after trout on a local stream where the usual fish was around 9 or 10", a 13" fish which may have gone close to 1lb was reason to run up and down the bank with your T shirt over your head. On the reservoir they stocked in 100s, not thousands with 14" fish that weighed 1lb 4oz in good nick - at the beginning of the season, eel thin black males would squirt milt over you as you landed them.

However, our wild fish population continues to be under ever increasing struggles with careless, thoughtless practices and if you were to look at the fishing diaries of the Rev' Edward Powell of Munsloe, and note that in the 1930s / 40s he was catching and killing 4000 fish per year from the Shropshire streams (he did give them to his parishioners in the times of food shortages) then yes, aspects of our fishing have previously been better.
 

4wings

Well-known member
Points
28
Location
Bristol
I never had one of the Tank aerial rods or the solid fibreglass horrors but I do remember my first hollow glass carp rod (glass to glass joints) by Modern Arms. Then the explosion of float types and quiver tips and ABU finer nylon lines along with stainless steel pike traces, fixed reels and closed face fixed reels.
Those were the days.
 

Tommy Ruffe

Well-known member
Points
48
Location
Ecclesfield Parish
Back in the 50's I would, along with my father and what seemed like half the male population of Sheffield, journey by train into Lincolnshire.
Special trains were put on from Wadsley Bridge, Sheffield and Rotherham and the banks of rivers like the Witham were lined virtually from Lincoln to Boston. That truly was the Golden Age of Angling.
 

BobP

Well-known member
Points
48
Location
Wiltshire
17th century. Isaac Walton et al.
Yes, that was also a "golden age." Despite the ravages of the Civil War there were still many advances in tackle, eg the tapered woven horsehair lines that permitted a certain amount of casting as we understand it today. Amazingly there were 11 books on fishing, including fly fishing, published in that century including Walton.

Of them I consider Venables, one of Cromwell's leading Generals, to be the true Grandfather of modern fly fishing. He was fishing flies that we would class as emergers 200 years before Skues nymphs created that Chalkstream controversy that still rumbles today. He advises anglers to beat the bushes along the river before fishing because he knows that flies resting there will fall on the water. I've done that myself on Irish loughs at mayfly time AND caught fish afterwards of dries. He knew that some flies had a second stage of development for which he suggests an "orange fly." Again, it took another 200 years before that was realised. He also suggested that flies should be tied to float upside down. It wasn't until around 1910 that THAT re-surfaced.

Venables was, by all accounts, not a pleasant man, but he was a keen, thoughtful observer of what went on along the waterside. He eventually fell foul of his boss for failing to take Hispaniola in the West Indies and was consigned to the Tower which is where he wrote his book, "The Experienced Angler."
 

Paul_B

Well-known member
Points
63
Location
South Yorkshire
Back in the 50's I would, along with my father and what seemed like half the male population of Sheffield, journey by train into Lincolnshire.
Special trains were put on from Wadsley Bridge, Sheffield and Rotherham and the banks of rivers like the Witham were lined virtually from Lincoln to Boston. That truly was the Golden Age of Angling.
It was in the 50s that me dad won the national and he was knocking on a bit by then, I was a bairn but caught on quickly
 

davidms

Well-known member
Points
18
Location
North Lancashire
I grew up in London, where 'works' teams affiliated to the London Anglers Association would compete on the lower Thames at weekends. I recall teams like Walthamstow Turned Parts, Negretti and Zambra, and a newspaper nightshift printers team Lynchnobite (check the definition). Parking must have been easy in those days.
 

davidms

Well-known member
Points
18
Location
North Lancashire
Funnily enough, I suspect that the abundance of coarse fish in the lower Thames is way greater now than back in the day. Cleaner water, warmer climate, maybe?
 

anzac

Well-known member
Points
43
I agree with Bob and Paul B. -- 1950s through the 1970s, and for all the reasons mentioned.
Why not later decades? I'll say societal change and leave it at that.
 

black jungle

Well-known member
Points
18
Location
Southern Ireland
When I started to fish back in the start of the sixties, That was it for me, Ok We did not have carbon rods and today's modern tackle available to us.But we had a lot less pollution, the water quality was a lot better and the hatches of flie were also better There were streams where we once had great sport,that I am sorry to say are now are completely void of fish.You might catch a shopping trolley or a used tyre...
 

BrownieBasher

Well-known member
Points
48
Location
Hampshire
I would say that for trout fishing, it was probably around the time of the explosion in the stillwater scene. Fly fishing became less 'stuffy' and available to more of us. Small stillwaters such as Damerham, Avington, and Two Lakes started producing impossibly large fish, Grafham and Queen Mother reservoirs introduced Loch Style for all, and new patterns and techniques hit the market. throw in shorter, lighter, more powerful rods and you have the icing on the cake.
 

BrownieBasher

Well-known member
Points
48
Location
Hampshire
When I started fly fishing in 1968 the 'Golden Age' was 'last Tuesday' . . . which was the expression often used by the bailiff at my local reservoir when I turned up to buy a ticket . . . "Ah boy, ya should've bin 'ere las' Tuesday!" He was also the one who'd pinch the last boat and shout at us on the bank, "You should see'um risin' out 'ere!"

In fishing, the Golden Age is just like nostalgia . . . and we all know that today's nostalgia isn't as good as it was a few years ago. What we fail to recognise today is that our mobility is far greater, there is a far greater choice of waters available to each and all of us, stocked fisheries stock with greater numbers of fish in much larger sizes.

I started after trout on a local stream where the usual fish was around 9 or 10", a 13" fish which may have gone close to 1lb was reason to run up and down the bank with your T shirt over your head. On the reservoir they stocked in 100s, not thousands with 14" fish that weighed 1lb 4oz in good nick - at the beginning of the season, eel thin black males would squirt milt over you as you landed them.

However, our wild fish population continues to be under ever increasing struggles with careless, thoughtless practices and if you were to look at the fishing diaries of the Rev' Edward Powell of Munsloe, and note that in the 1930s / 40s he was catching and killing 4000 fish per year from the Shropshire streams (he did give them to his parishioners in the times of food shortages) then yes, aspects of our fishing have previously been better.
LOL - i remember the days of the milt filled fish, and the gravid hens too. you'd bank a nice big fish and walk with extreme care to the scales unless half the weight of your prized catch ended up in a pile on the bank leaving you holding a rather ugly, inedible black sack.
 

Tommy Ruffe

Well-known member
Points
48
Location
Ecclesfield Parish
LOL - i remember the days of the milt filled fish, and the gravid hens too. you'd bank a nice big fish and walk with extreme care to the scales unless half the weight of your prized catch ended up in a pile on the bank leaving you holding a rather ugly, inedible black sack.
I took two fish from Wharncliffe, on different days (if any members are reading this) last week to supplement our declining food stocks. I don't usually eat trout, they taste like tater peelings, but these are hard times! On returning home I found they were full of eggs and not worth eating.
 

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