Fishing Match brings 15 miles of anglers to top boating canal

May 2017 - Peter Underwood looks at plans to stage one of the countries biggest fishing matches at the height of the holiday boating season on one of Britain's most popular canals.

Hundreds of the nation’s top anglers are set to descend on the Shropshire Union Canal in the middle of August for the Division One National Championship – 500 of them in fact, spread over 15 miles of the middle of the canal near Market Drayton.

And there will be lots of anglers lining the banks in the lead up to the event as the teams are allowed to stage practice matches before the main event.

As a result the Shropshire Union canal – one of the busiest in the summer months with hire boats on the Three Counties Ring and other boaters heading for the Llangollen Canal – will have miles and miles of fishermen asking passing boaters to slow down, speed up or move to one side or the other as they creep past at tickover to avoid disturbing keep nets and swims

The Canal & River Trust is working alongside the Angling Trust and Hodnet Angling Club to host this major championship along “the Shroppie” in Market Drayton on Saturday 19 August – and boast it is the largest single one day event in the angling calendar.

Up to 500 of the UK’s best anglers will be occupying their 'swims' along a 15 mile stretch of towpath, complete with the masses of nets, poles and other kit that match anglers regard as essential.

It is the first time the competition has been hosted entirely on the Shropshire Union Canal and with some 50 teams, each fielding ten anglers, plus a number of advance practice matches, C&RT claims the contest will 'give a major boost to the local economy'.

And it won't just be the fishermen on the towpath in the narrow cuttings and open embankments of the Shroppie, dozens of volunteers and angling club officials will be helping to marshal and organise the competition.

The national championship started with the first All England angling contest in 1906. It wasn’t until 1937 that a canal was selected as the venue for the national competition and then for a second time in 1963.

After that the fishermen decided they liked canals and, since then a total of 66 national angling championships have taken place on canals, hosting matches in six different divisions.

The August event is seen as a coup by Canal & River Trust national angling and fisheries manager John Ellis and his small team.

He said: “This 2017 competition promises to be a fantastic event both for the anglers and for Shropshire. There will be about a dozen practice events before the big day. If you factor in the money spent on accommodation, food, drink and fishing tackle, the payback for the county is considerable.

“Once you get the angling bug, there are dozens of competitions up and down the country where you can test out your skills. This 102nd championship is the pinnacle of that competition world, with the nation’s best anglers pitting their wits to be crowned national champions. We are all looking forward to a spirited and closely-fought competition.”

It is not known at the moment whether C&RT plans to us the event to raise funds by positioning swear boxes along the 15 mile length and shaking them every time fishermen and boaters exchange words.

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