In March 1975, long before iPads and smart phones, a new angling club was formed to counter concerns that local youngsters were becoming too inactive.
A few months earlier, Bodelwyddan Town Council had uncovered documents showing that the fishing rights on a section of the River Elwy had been given to local residents. It felt this was an ideal opportunity to form an angling club and encourage youngsters to take up fishing.
Forty years on, Bodelwyddan Game Anglers (BGA) is preparing to celebrate its anniversary as just one legacy of that grand idea.
BGA emerged from a split in the original angling club which saw first the sea angling section go its own way, followed by the club’s coarse fishing section.
Now, having been nominated as club of the month in Flyfishing Flytying magazine, and with the rivers Clwyd and Elwy voted as one of top 20 places for sea trout fishing in the UK, BGA is riding the crest of a wave.
“Our original ethos was to encourage participation by the local youth and at one stage membership reached 300,” said BGA chairman Paul Hughes.
“Now, however, average ages are rising and once again we are looking at strategies to encourage youngsters into fishing.”
In addition to three beats on the River Elwy, BGA has one on the Cledwen as well as stocked stillwaters, a wild trout lake and even coarse lakes.
Its predecessor, Bodelwyddan Angling Club (BAC), first looked beyond the Elwy when a badly silted-up pool was discovered in the grounds of Bodelwyddan Castle. A local contractor was hired for £3,000 and, after five months, the debt was cleared and the lake was fishable.
Expanding membership meant that the club needed to secure more waters. It acquired Hafod Pools, which the club stocked with rainbow trout, then Tai Lake near Trofarth, now its most popular still water.
BGA now claims to offer one of the broadest portfolios of waters in North Wales, at one of the lowest prices. Memberships and, more recently, day tickets have been kept deliberately low so as to entice youngsters.
Around a quarter of the membership now resides outside Wales. Among them is the club chairman himself: Mr Hughes, a civil engineer for Liverpool highways department, can be found in North Wales every weekend and quite a few workday evenings too.
Such persistence paid off last season when he landed the “fish of a lifetime”.
This was a 17¾ wild brown trout plucked from the upper reaches of the Elwy.
“I’ve been fishing since I was a young lad and I’m now aged 52,” he said.
“This was the fish you always dream of catching. It was a bit of battle – I had light tackle and the fish kept diving for the tree roots – but I got there in the end.”
The success and failure of any club owes much to its members, and there are several stalwarts who have safely chartered BGA through choppy waters.
Bill Wilkes, one of the founder members, still maintains an active interest, not least by bestowing his name to the trophy for which members compete each year.
Club treasurer Alan Smith has overseen the finances for more than 30 years, while John Lewin, a former international angler, was awarded honorary life membership for his work as Tai Lake’s bailiff and principal champion.
Then there’s membership officer Ken Oliver, a former rugby prop forward who was once left stranded on an island in Tai Lake after his boat drifted off. He blamed a swan for undoing the knot, but no one believed him.
His wife, Sylvia, is the club’s secretary and its only female member. Over the years she had to battle hard for recognition, but having won the Bill Wilkes competition, she is now a regular pick in federation competitions.
“When I first joined the club I felt some, not all of the male members thought, ‘Oh, a bloody woman’,” she said.
“I have since organised and attended work parties where I have not only worked as hard as the men, but occasionally carried on when they have given up exhausted.”
BGA continues to look forward: its latest venture is to re-acquire fishing rights to Llyn Diwaunedd, near Dolwyddelan. It has also re-established its coarse fishing credentials, with waters at Llyn Syberi – an important lure for its primary audience: the next generation of anglers.
BGA membership is £90 per year. Day tickets for Tai Trout Lake is £10 per day.
Details: Ken Oliver, 07826853012 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
BGA’s AGM is at Rhyd y Foel village hall, Abergele, on Thursday, March 5, 7.30pm.