MEMBERS of Saddleworth Angling Society have been casting their lines for 50 years.
The society, whose waters include a stretch of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal at Mossley, has reached a momentous birthday this year – something that is special to chairman Herman Wagler.
The 79-year-old was a founder member of the society that is the largest angling club in the area.
And to mark the landmark, the society has placed two plaques at Kiln Green, Diggle as a lasting memory to the eight founder members: Keith Tibbott, Trevor Johnson, Brian Howard, John Marshall, Keith Ratcliffe, James Stanford snr, Arthur Rhodes and Herman. James Stanford jnr is the current fisheries officer.
Herman and Jim Stanford are the only two founders still alive, though the latter is now living in a care home in Mossley.
How the society, which has members from Stalybridge, has evolved since 1967 is of immense pride to Herman, who has been active throughout its existence.
He explained: “Keith Tibbott was the first chairman. It was his idea and he was the driving force along with Trevor Johnson.
“Members of different angling clubs got together with the aim of cleaning up the River Tame that was badly polluted.
“We didn’t have our own waters and wanted an agreement to fish on the council owned stretches of the river.
“We helped instigate a couple of prosecutions and had to fight for a lease. It took about 12-18 months to get an agreement with the council.
“Most of the industries, especially dye works were the polluters, have gone and now the river is a grade one listed wild brown trout fishery by the European Union, and is self sufficient whereas once we had to stock it each year.”
Today the club has 251 members – it has been more than 325 at its height – and owns three pools in Diggle – Kiln Green, Eagle Mill and an adjoining one that has no name. In addition the society leases Ogden reservoir and has the rights for two miles of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal.
The society has invested heavily at the three pools in Diggle with landscaping as trees provide protection from the elements making it an idyllic place to fish. It was originally surrounded by bare hillside.
They also obtained a £35,000 lottery grant – they also found £35,000 themselves – to dig out Kiln Green and repair its dam and also repair the dam at Fairbanks.
In a separate project at a later date, the third pool was also dug out.
Herman attributes the fall in membership to a reduction in the number of juniors. There was once more than 100 and it is today only 12 and he says more youngsters are needed.
“I am aged 79 and our secretary Roger Whitchurch is also in his seventies so we need more young blood,” he explained.
How the society varies from other angling clubs is that it is not a competitive one, with the fishing done simply for pleasure.
“We used to have a small group that had competitive matches, but there are none now and it is just for fun,” explained Herman.
And of the changes in fishing in the last half century, Herman added: “It is all about big fish, carp is now the craze.
“When I started fishing, there were few carp. It was all roach, perch and tench.”
The season runs from June to March – the remaining three months are the spawning season – and the three pools are well stocked with carp – some weighing more than 20lbs.
And a whopping 27lb pike was caught on a stretch of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal at Diggle.
Herman explained how difficult it is to breed large fish, saying: “The water quality is poor as it comes from the peat moors and the PH levels are low compared to the chalk down south which has high levels and is good for growing fish.
“We breed fish well, it is just they don’t grow to a great size because there is not enough feed in the water.”
Herman added the only problem the society has to confront is wild mink that “swim like rats” and kill fish.
Anybody interested in joining the society can contact membership secretary Peter Munday on: 07762 757026.