Brilliant match angler, specimen hunter, writer and angling administrator, Jim Bazley did much to raise the profile of our rapidly evolving sport in the early part of the 20th century.
James Henry Royston Bazley of the Robin Hood Angling Club and Leeds Angling Association was born in Gloucester in 1872 and first fished on the Severn. Teaching then took him to Leeds, where he remained until his death in 1933 at the early age of 61.
In 1917 the War Committee called upon Jim, who was president of the National Federation of Anglers (NFA), to help them review how freshwater fish might supplement shortages in the nation's food chain. Again in his role as president, which he held from 1913 to 1925, he played a significant part in the formation of the 1923 Salmon & Freshwater Fisheries Act, the basis of our modern rod licensing and fisheries regulation system.
The salmon-angling lobby attempted to introduce government legislation which would allow the removal and sale of coarse fish in salmon rivers, irrespective of the season. With the help of many influential anglers of the day like Robert Marston and Hugh Sheringham, Jim ensured that this section was amended so as to still retain the key coarse fish clauses contained in the 1878 Mundella Act. This has largely remained untouched as the cornerstone of angling and fisheries protection right up to the present day.
Bazley was astute enough to realise that access to rivers, drains and canals was a corner stone of the rising popularity of angling and worked hard to negotiate cheap rail tickets for all anglers, not just members of the NFA. Cheaper fares meant anglers could go further afield for the same price, or travel to fish more often.
We think that many of the angling techniques employed in modern times are brand new, but often they are not. Jim Bazley studied and wrote about atmospheric changes, water temperature, fish movement in rivers, coloured baits, the use of raw and cooked meats, and back shotting the line.
Bazley’s angling exploits were legendary. He was the only angler to win the single weight All-England Angling Championship twice and was a member of the Leeds All-England Team winners in 1909, 1910, 1914 and 1928. Bazley’s 30lb pike, taken in February 1928 from Hornsea Mere, shared the record of being the largest fish taken in Yorkshire in the first part of 20th century.
Commenting on his 1927 win, Harold Clayton described Bazley’s rod as having, "More bandages on it than the bat of Jack Hobbs after a season’s wear, and as far as straightness was concerned, was the facsimile of a dog’s hind leg."
Bank fishing, during 12 ½ hours, he caught 161 grayling. His best roach failed to reach the 3lb mark by a mere ½ oz and in 1919 from Hornsea Mere, Yorkshire, he landed fifty roach over 2lbs. His other sporting successes included three monster trout from Blagdon weighing 8 ¼, 6 ¼ and 5 pounds.
A regular and popular columnist for The Fishing Gazette, Anglers News and the Yorkshire Evening Post, he also wrote eight angling books including a 'Guide to Angling Resorts' in 1909 (pictured) on behalf of the Great Northern Railway, and the informative top seller 'Coarse Fishing' in 1932.
Highly observant with an exceptional memory and keen sense of humour, Jim was always willing to give advice and guidance. A regular on angling’s after dinner speech circuit, his wit was always in great demand. His generosity knew no bounds and after a successful day fishing he would often leave parcels of trout, or coarse fish, at various stations along his route for the less fortunate.
After trout fishing on the Ure in 1933 he caught a chill and never recovered. The angling world was shocked by his premature death. Buried at Horsforth Cemetery, the branches of the NFA raised more than £42 to purchase a commemorative granite headstone. The inscription still reads:
"In Memory of James Henry Royston Bazley
Erected by The National Federation Of Anglers to His Honoured Memory
And not only had he filled his own creel, but by his contributions to the Angling Press and his indefatigable zeal in organisation, agitation, and administration, he had very materially helped to fill the baskets of thousands of his brother anglers.W Carter Platts, trout angler and writer
Thanks to John Essex
Last date edited: 14 January 2021