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In this article, John Ellis takes a forward look to the upcoming Angling Trust Division One National, which this year is being held on the Shropshire Union Canal north and south of Market Drayton.
Being somewhat of a traditionalist, the pinnacle of the match fishing calendar in particular and the world of fisheries and angling generally will, for me, probably always be the Division One match. Nationals have been around since 1906, not long after Alf Waterhouse et al got the National Federation of Anglers up and running. It wasn’t until 1937 that a canal was first chosen as a venue for the All England and the second canal national took place in 1963. Amazingly, the same peg produced the winner on both occasions. Since 1963, things have really taken off for canal nationals and in total of 66 events have been held on the canal network. Here is a full list by Division:
I have to confess, I can’t wait for our volunteer angling historian, John Essex to finally finish his History of the National book. He has been researching the subject for more than fifteen years, which I keep telling him is long enough! Having had a sneak preview of some of the material he has collected, I guess his real challenge is knowing which content to leave out.
The match fishing world, like so many sports, relies extensively on its volunteers. Every large event needs a team of expert volunteers behind the scenes. So far I have been impressed with the commitment and dedication of Hodnet’s dynamic duo, Terry Nutt and Dave Watkins. This pair of handsome young heroes have already put in many hours of work behind the scenes sorting out parking, access, suitable headquarters, likely peg locations, multi club permits to name but a few things they have been up to in their spare time. There are several others in both the Hodnet and other controlling clubs playing their part too, for planning and staging an event of this size is a real team effort. If you fancy volunteering to get involved in stewarding on the big day, then I am sure that Dave would love to hear from you.
Fifty teams, each comprising of ten anglers, are eligible to compete in the match and virtually all will take the event seriously. The various controlling clubs have got together and come up with a permit offer whereby members of the competing club can purchase permits that allows the holders to fish on all of the national sections from April through to the week prior the match. For full details of how this scheme works please drop Dave a line on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Whilst some anglers prefer to practice in groups away from match pressure, others prefer the prospect of getting to know the venue under actual match fishing conditions. A week before the national, the Angling Trust Individual National will be held on part of the match length.
There will also be two heats of the Angling Trust/Canal & River Trust canal pairs events.
Here’s a full list of events coming up:
Terry and Dave have put a lot of effort into determining the optimum location for each section and whilst this list is subject to change, I don’t foresee too many last minute major alterations, unless some disaster strikes such as a full blown canal breach or major pollution incident.
You can view the lengths on a pdf map: Div 1 Nat A to F, Div 1 Nat G to J, Div 1 Nat K
I did think about putting some predictions down in print as to a winning team. Then I realised the risk of upsetting the rest of the competing teams. In my eyes, it’s the most open national in years and I could make a case for at least 20 teams winning it, including many of last year’s ten promoted squads. And after apparently jinxing Ben Sharrett and Jason Cunningham in the 2016 Canal Pairs final, I definitely wouldn’t want to upset the whole of the Shakespeare squad by putting any added pressure on them. I won’t jinx Frank Szakeley’s lads by tipping Matrix Halifax as a good each way bet either. Instead, I have played it slightly safe and picked an all-time dream team of narrow canal experts which would take some beating if they were all at their peak and lining up in my dream team on the big day.
Do you agree with my selections? If not, please do let us know who you would have chosen instead and equally important, who should be dropped from the team to make way for your pick.
The team undertake a diverse range of work including looking after the Trust's £40 million worth of fish stocks, managing agreements with over 250 different angling clubs and helping more people, especially youngsters, take up angling on the canal. Follow this blog to keep updated with the thoughts and work of the team.