Developing and running a fishery can be a giant task, but with hard work and a little help from EA fishing licence funding, anything is possible. Dominic Garnett went to Izaak Walton Fishery to meet owners George and Trisha Taylor, and hear about their vision to put angling at the heart of their local community.
Looking across the lakes from the cosy fireside café at Staffordshire’s Izaak Walton Fishery, you might never guess just what has been acheived here in under three years. Not so long ago, it was a neglected picture as George and Trisha took over. Even with their willingness to take on a challenge as an early retirement project, this was to be no laidback venture.
“We wanted it to work for everyone and create something a bit special,” says George, “but the place was pretty run down. It was a lot of investment and hard work. It’s made us fitter, I’ll say that much- I reckon I’ve lost half a stone!”
“From day one, we wanted to set a good standard and make the place welcoming” says Trisha. “Angling is no longer just a man’s game- if we want it to grow we need to get wives, mums and youngsters on board, too, so the facilities had to be right.”
A friendlier vision for fishing Today’s fishery shows just the vision she means: Once there were pockmarked tracks and a portacabin; today there is vastly better access along with a beautifully renovated café (above), complete with stylish vintage décor and toilets that are anything but bog standard, if you’ll excuse the pun. Izaak Walton himself, the godfather of angling, takes pride of place on the wall, while the visitor can order cappuccinos and homemade cakes along with something from Dynamite Baits at the same till!
“When we first arrived, it was very basic” says Trisha. “The café is a real godsend on a cold, wet day and it means that people can bring the family.” The level, outdoor patio is a big help too. Created with some help from the Angling Improvement Fund, which channels Environment Agency fishing licence money towards worthwhile projects, this is easily accessible to all and provides a lovely clear view across the fishery, so adults can also keep an eye on youngsters. It’s already proving popular with locals and families, but this is just the start as far as they are concerned. Izaak himself would be proud: with nine kids of his own he could have done with a similar setup perhaps.
Fishery paths and swims are also looking a lot better, thanks to hard work and a little support. Not just a benefit to families, these features are also ideal for George’s regular match fishers. Indeed, a much higher proportion of current anglers than most of us imagine have mobility issues, hence level paths and accessible pegs are of great benefit.
A helping hand from the Angling Trust
Having been told about the Angling Trust from one of their regulars, the fishery soon became a member and has never looked back. “Mark Wilton was really helpful” says Trisha. “He could see what we were trying to do and the difference it could make to the area. But it was he that helped us get that vision onto paper and apply for some extra support.”
Aside from the funding, the knowledge and networking opportunities from the Trust have also come in extremely handy. They also speak highly of friendly Angling Development Officer Danny Williams. It was with his support they organised a busy and memorable Easter open day, complete with live music and family activities, which went down well with all ages.
Since then, they’ve had everyone from groups of school kids to veterans wetting a line and enjoying the benefits of fishing. Local networking is a must for any fishery, of course, and they’re also grateful to all the friends they have made in the village. They speak especially highly of Vincent Beardmore, a local who has put in countless hours helping out, following a simple conversation about the fishery.
Equally inspiring has been the involvement of Libby, a local girl who has been helping in the café during school holidays. From being incredibly shy and unsure at first, she has bloomed into a confident young lady under Trisha’s wing. It’s just another example of the greater good a well run fishery can offer the local community.
Future plans and fishing dreams
As far as the fishery has come in the past three years, George and Trisha are as keen as ever to grow and reach out to the community. For every great result, there is something else to learn and accomplish. Most immediately, this has included better paths, and improving the bottom pond, where George has had the unenviable task of removing vast lumps of concrete! It’s a lake with some immense carp, but was rather neglected to put it mildly.
Meanwhile, he also has a series of holding tanks to grow on his own fish stocks (above); a process that’s been a real education but hugely satisfying. The fishery is already gaining a good reputation for beautifully conditioned skimmers and F1 carp. Not that it’s all about modern match fishing, because there are some stunning roach and even a pretty stretch of river with some nice chub in it, which could be utilised in future.
As for where they go next, the plan is to keep building and reach out to more visitors. They are particularly keen to encourage the next generation and offer more tuition sessions; and George has also been investing in better starter kits, so that beginners can come and try fishing without having to fork out.
“You can see the great effect fishing can have when kids come here” says George. “That includes kids with particular needs and those who don’t get on quite as well at school. When you bring them out fishing, you see them in a different light.”
Using social media and technology has been another learning curve, but the fishery’s Facebook page is already showing its value in sharing news and match results. The fishery has come a long way then, but as it grows, so do the possibilities. Even on a wet winter’s day you have to feel inspired by this. So much for a quiet retirement project for George and Trisha then; but with their passion for people and angling I get the feeling they wouldn’t want it any other way.
Further details and useful links
The Angling Improvement Fund (AIF): Does you know a club or fishery where a helping hand could really benefit the community? Using Environment Agency Rod Licence money, the AIF is there to help worthwhile projects and those who can demonstrate the value of angling in their local area. Click here for further details.
Izaak Walton Fishery: Check out the fishery’s Facebook page for current news, match results and more: www.facebook.com/Izaak-Walton-Fishery
Izaak Walton Tea Room Official Opening Day (Easter Sunday 21st April 2019)
Save the date this Easter Sunday for a special opening day at the fishery, as the Izaak Walton Tea Room gets a grand opening! From 12 noon till 4pm, visitors of all ages can enjoy free taster fishing sessions with the Angling Trust, along with an Easter Egg Hunt, live music and excellent local ales from Izaak Walton Brewery.