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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


10/12/2015 - Some Great News and Lets All Raise Our Voice In Support


Angling: Licensing:Written question - 17525

Asked by Mr Charles Walker (Broxbourne) [N]  Asked on: 24 November 2015

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Angling: Licensing 17525

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, if she will discuss with the Environment Agency (EA) the proposal by angling bodies of marking the centenary of the birth of the angler Richard Walker with a portrait of Clarissa the Carp on the 2018 EA fishing licence; and if she will make a statement.

Answered by: George Eustice   on: 30 November 2015

Defra has discussed the marking of the centenary of the birth of the angler Richard Walker with a portrait of Clarissa the Carp on the 2018 rod fishing licence with the EA. The EA is happy to consider this option, along with other design proposals. They will be pleased to support celebrations of Richard Walker’s achievements, where they can. I have asked the EA to keep me updated.



The following took place at Oxford Brookes University when I took part in a debate entitled: Who is Britain’s Greatest Freshwater Angler?

Good afternoon honoured guests, ladies and gentlemen. Fellow speakers let’s not forget every generation has its great freshwater angler. It’s not possible in the next twelve minutes to tell you all the things I would like to say about the greatest freshwater angler of all time who, in my opinion, was not just the most charismatic angler of the 20th Century but of any century. That man is Richard Stuart Walker, affectionately known as Dick, who was born on Oak Apple day, May 29, 1918 in Hitchin, Hertfordshire.

Walker brought a new dimension to freshwater angling. He created change and added to the Art of Angling. It was his depth of thought that made catching fish not just an exciting challenge but also a successful one. Much of today’s angling stems from those roots planted by this man.

It’s impossible to understate the achievements in the angling world of Walker and his impact on today’s angling scene. When he caught this record 44lb Carp in the early hours of 13th September 1952, it was of immense interest to the angling world, which sat up and took notice. You must remember that most anglers thought that you had to spend a lifetime trying to catch a big Carp, in those days a 10lb fish was considered big, and then only if you were very lucky.

In those far-off days of black and white televisions, Walker’s 44lb Carp was featured on BBC TV, being seen by viewers on a Saturday evening and thousands flocked to London Zoo to see the huge fish, the largest in England. Some years later he hit the headlines again, landing a record Rainbow Trout of 18lb 4oz.

Bernard Venable’s, angling writer and artist, described Richard as: “The stormy petrel of angling”, no doubt justifiable since his pronounced views on a wide variety of freshwater angling subjects aroused either strong partisanship or bitter opposition; though when his opponents met the great man they were captivated.

Walker’s great success as a freshwater angler wasn’t difficult to understand, as you could not fail to learn from watching the master fish or from reading the many hundreds of thousands of words which have been published. His first paid article on Trout fishing was published in the Fishing Gazette and as he later said: “That was enough money to keep me in food for a couple of weeks, and far better than washing dishes or taxis”.

Inspired by this, Walker sent in another article that didn’t get accepted. Instead he received a two-page letter, part of which read: “You have written about what you thought would happen rather than what you knew from experience did happen.” The great man once told me: “I have never forgotten that piece of advice.”

His series on Carp fishing in the Fishing Gazette, under the nom-de-plume of Water Rail, opened the eyes of thousands of anglers. His weekly column, Walker’s Pitch, in Angling Times was, I believe, the reason for that paper’s great success. Walker’s Pitch was the first page that my friends and I turned to on a Thursday morning. He was also a great photographer, and he had attended some meetings of the London Camera Club. He was able to send in top quality photographs, which made his column even more interesting and exciting. Walker became our messiah; the teenagers and twenty-year-olds at the time all became his disciples - we all had a floppy trilby hat, which was Dick’s trademark in those days.

He showed us that it was possible to catch all species of fish from rivers, streams, canals, ponds, lakes and reservoirs. He disliked the artificial barrier between game and coarse fisherman, correctly arguing that we were all anglers.

Two of the reasons why Walker was so successful were his analytical mind and wide knowledge of natural history. He was educated at The Friends’ School in Saffron Walden, then St. Christopher in Letchworth. He then read Engineering at Caius College, Cambridge. During World War 2 he was a boffin at the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough, helping to defeat Nazi Germany.

Not only was he a brilliant freshwater angler, he was also acknowledged as the leading authority on the Flemish Giant Rabbit. His book on the subject is still widely acknowledged by today’s Rabbit breeders. His top prize- winning Rabbit was called Laura.

His first published angling book was Rod Building for Amateurs in 1952. But the book that changed the face of freshwater angling was Still-Water Angling, published in 1953 by MacGibbon & Kee, in which he showed us we could catch big fish by design and not by luck. In the same year, Drop me a line by Walker and Maurice Ingham was published, a book full of knowledge of all species of fish in freshwater.

Through the writings of Walker, no longer did we need to talk about a glass case specimen as if it only happened once in a lifetime. Through his teachings catching big fish could happen several times a day if you followed his five principles: 1. Locate your quarry: 2. Don’t frighten the quarry: 3. Use the right tackle: 4. Choose the right time to fish: 5. Use the right bait.

The man designed and built the rods we needed to catch those big fish. He showed us how to use the fixed spool reel having hooked our big fish. How would we get the big fish onto the bank? Walker had the answer with his landing net design, which consisted of laminated cane arms with a spreader block and a six-foot handle.

Another problem solved by Walker was casting long distances when fishing a big stillwater. He gave us the Arlesey bomb, a streamlined lead weight used for distance casting, named after Arlesey Lake where he caught several huge perch over 4lb in the early 1950s.

Today, I use a thermometer, which helps me catch lots of good fish. Walker gave me that knowledge. When I started Carp fishing we used silver paper or a penny on the spool of the reel, which dropped onto a plate when a fish picked up our bait. All that changed when Walker gave us the electronic bite alarm. The first commercial alarm was called the Heron bite indicator, produced by Jack Opie of Faversham in Kent; but it was Walker’s idea.

He was extremely skilful at passing his knowledge on to you and me, to his viewers, listeners and readers. He was recognised by millions of non-anglers as a great freshwater angler through his many appearances on television and radio, including Desert Island Discs with Roy Pl mley.

In the early 1950s he was commissioned by BBC television to catch a Carp on the opening day of the season at 5.30am. On that glorious June morning, Walker caught a 16lb 8oz Common Carp.

Another high point in angling during the 1950s was the three matches with Tom Sails, the Lincoln Angling Club captain. Tom’s choice of venue was the Witham and he was the winner. Walker then chose the Bain, where he won but was still behind Tom on aggregate weight.

The third match was on a neutral venue, the Royalty Fishery on the Hampshire Avon, which Walker won. He caught a 10lb 2oz Barbel, his first double. The final weights were Walker: 27lbs 4oz 4drms, Sails: 21lb 11oz 8drms. Many thousands of anglers waited with bated breath for the result after each contest. Tragically, Tom died from an accident in 1956, and it was Walker who wrote a fine obituary to him in Angling Times.

The river Beane in Hertfordshire was a gin-clear chalk stream containing big Roach and Dace; everyone said they were uncatchable as they fed only on snails and silkweed. For several days Walker fed gentles into the swim, until he had the fish feeding with confidence. On his first fishing outing he caught a 2lb Roach and a 1lb Dace. On another occasion he caught more than a dozen 2lb Roach in a session. Angling by design, in practice. With the opening of Grafham, Rutland and other Trout waters, he was there showing us how to catch those Trout. Working with Hardy Brothers, he designed some superb reservoir rods and also perfected many flies, including the Polystickle and the Mayfly Nymph. The latter was my first choice of fly when seeking Barbel. He encouraged his army of coarse-fishing fans to try Trout fishing; we did in fine style by following the master’s example and were very successful. In the early 1960s he joined the Moncrieff Rod Company, which had a tie up with Hardy Bros. In the 1950s, when we needed a carp rod, Walker gave us the MKIV and B James & Son supplied it.

In 1964, Minister for Sport Denis Howell was given the task of improving British Sport. In 1965, under the chairmanship of the Earl of Antrim, the then Prime Warden of the Fishmongers’ Company appointed a deputation to meet the Minister. During a meeting at the House of Commons, Mr. Howell and the Director of the Sports Council, Walter Winterbottom, urged the deputationtoformulate astructure foraNationalAnglers’ Council. Walkerserved onthat council in its first year, representing the voice of Mr. and Mrs. Angling, in other words you and me, the ordinary anglers. He had many true sayings like: “A fish will eat anything unless it’s taught not to.” Or: “Never say never” and: “Never say always”.

Finally, I believe we all owe a debt of gratitude to Richard Stuart Walker, Britain’s greatest freshwater angler.

Being the last speaker I left the rostrum then made my way to the back of the debating chamber to await the result. I won the title hands down. In the audience was Richard’s widow, Pat, who collected the award. After thanking Pat, Fred Buller and others for their congratulations, I left for the long drive north. I had achieved my aim.


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