The Grand Union as a national venue
Construction on the Grand Union started in 1793, the year of canal mania. The canal was built to connect the Thames near London with the growing second city of Birmingham. On the fishing front, it was 1984 when the canal was first used as a national championship venue when the Division two event was held on the outskirts of the capital. Lancastrian raiders Southport, whose team included the young Barry Thomas, took the honours in that Division Two event.
Subsequently, various lengths of the Grand Union mainline in Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire were used by the National Federation of Anglers (NFA). The north west based Highfield squad won the 1992 Division Three event based around Milton Keynes and the canal was used again in 1995 (Division 2), 1996 (Division 4), 1998 (Division 3), 2001 (Division 2), 2002 (Division 4) and 2006 (Division 2). Prior to 2021, the only occasion the venue hosted the top division was back in 2005. In this article we look back at some of the highlights of that occasion.
Rod licence antics
The EA had warned the NFA in advance that there would be rod licence checks on the day. The NFA sensibly insisted that all competitors produced their rod licence at the draw to avoid any angst later on. One member of a northern based team kicked off at event organiser Ken Ball when he could not produce his licence, much to the chagrin of his team captain. ‘I do have one, the angler pleaded, but my brother has borrowed it today to save him the cost of buying one himself.' A quick dash to the post office ensured that competitor didn't end up missing out on his fishing that day.
Doing the double
Thus 68 team of 12, that's 816 anglers all hoping that it would be their day, lined the towpath. In the days of weight nationals there were many examples of the individual winner being part of the winning team. If you want to know more, it's all recorded in John Essex' epic National Championship book. It's been a much less common occurrence since the change to points back in 1972. On the last occasion it was done, it was a Steve Gardener / Dorking double act.