In 2014 it was the Shropshire/Cheshire combination of Simon Mottram and Simon Preece. In 2015 it was two Lancashire lads, Kevin Clark and Dave Edgeley who took the crown. Will it be you in 2016?
Tickets for the 15 qualifying heats go on sale on Monday 15th February. Phone Sandra Drew at Angling Trust on 01159 061301.
I am regularly asked why there were 11 qualifiers in 2015 and why the figure has gone up to 15 for 2016. The Trust’s canal network is split into 11 Waterway units each having their own Waterway Manager. We hold one qualifier on each waterway. Back in September we asked customer clubs to nominate qualifying venues. We will do the same this coming September too so keep your eyes peeled on the Canal & River Trust Angling Facebook page or in the autumn edition of Anglers’ Update for the details.
The opening qualifier at Soudley on Saturday 2nd July promises to be a cracker and few would bet against a full quota of 100 anglers lining the banks that day. The final two qualifiers will be held on the weekend of 8th and 9th October – one of three double header weekends. Eagle eyed observers will have twigged that the London qualifier has crept northwards over the border onto the Aylesbury Arm. With little support in 2015 for the Lee qualifier, it seemed safer to relocate to a venue where a good turnout is on the cards.
The concept of a Welsh qualifier emerged following a chance comment by Jeremy Frost of the Welsh Government. I love a challenge and was soon on the phone to fellow Salopian Terry Nutt to see if he would work with the Trust to help run the qualifier on my beloved Llangollen canal. It’s a lightly fished canal that I think will really perform. In recent weeks, having been in touch with Tony Rees of Angling Cymru, we are already working together on the qualifier on a South Wales canal in 2017.
If there was going to be a Welsh heat, there just had to be a Scottish heat too. Luckily, I’d had the privilege of covering fisheries management for the Scottish canals throughout much of the first ten years of the century. I worked alongside Ron Woods, Steve Clerkin and Gus Brindle, developing relationships in the angling community. I learnt at least a dozen Scottish words describing different sorts of inclement weather and became well coached in the art of appreciating the product of the Scottish distillation industry. Technically, on those occasions, when the Loch Ness monster may have migrated into the Caledonian Canal, it would have been under my jurisdiction. That’s assuming that it’s a fish species and not some other class of vertebrate. Disappointingly, Nessie never did turn up in any of the lock stoppages. A quick phone call to Gus and the Scotland heat to be held on the Forth & Clyde was in the bag.
It was the great Staffordshire stalwart Tony Keeling who gave me the perfect Irish contact. I first met Geoff Quinn at the Evesham festival back in August. My sources had told me to expect a shy retiring type and that I could struggle to even get a conversation going. They were, how I can best put it, ‘being economical with the truth’. Such was Geoff’s enthusiasm, he even made the trip over to the 2015 final. Geoff’s done a sterling job behind the scenes in sorting out the Irish heat on the Grand Canal. I do wonder if this heat will attract some travelling anglers heading westwards across the Irish Sea. I certainly hope so. Time will tell of course, but on the assumption this year’s match is a success and well supported, I see no reason in principle why there would not be a qualifier in both the north and south of Ireland in 2017.
Whilst in England & Wales the vast majority of the canal network is owned by the Trust, some canals remains in alternative ownership. David Kent and I both felt that it would be appropriate to hold one heat each year on a non-Trust owned canal in England & Wales. We were delighted to accept Basingstoke Canal Angling Associations’ offer to hold a qualifying heat.
Too often anglers forget the dedication and fail to acknowledge the hard work of match organisers. Competitive anglers are too apt to complain about this or that useless peg being put into the draw bag. Non-match anglers probably don’t ever stop to consider the fact that the peg fee income, brought into club coffers by holding matches, does help keep the cost of day and season memberships lower than they perhaps ought to be. As a special thank you, there will be a ballot for one of the 15 heat organisers and their partner (if they have not qualified elsewhere) catapulting the lucky winners into the final. On 29th October 2016 some 152 anglers (76 pairs) will line the banks of the Staffs and Worcester Canal between Penkridge and Acton Trussell (check spelling) Will you be amongst the elite that qualify?
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.See more blogs from The fisheries & angling team