100 years of angling great Dick Walker

Dick's First Article  

Dick Walker with a fine chub.
Dick with a fine chub


The first article that Richard Walker received payment for, was published in the Fishing Gazette on the 12th December 1936. It was titled 'Fishing In Floods' and follows this introduction. Dick was eighteen at the time, and reading engineering at Cambridge. The fee kept him in food for a couple of weeks, and proved to be a much more enjoyable way to help fund his time at university, than the other work he undertook; washing taxis and cleaning dishes in the kitchen of a local restuarant.

Dick sent his second article in only to have it returned by the Editor R L Marston. However Marston also wrote a letter with words of encouragement for the young writer, and advice that he should write from experience rather than speculating on what 'might' happen, which was why his second submission had been rejected.

This advice proved invaluable to Dick, and he shared this wisdom with many of his angling friends that he encouraged to write. He went on to have many articles published in the Fishing Gazette, and various other publications over the years. Indeed he was prolific, his weekly contribution to the Angling Times alone totalling over 1,500 articles over the 30 years he wrote for it.



At this time of the year many of our rivers are either flooding the surrounding country or threatening to do so, and this abnormal state of affairs has caused many anglers to postpone their next fishing excursion until such a time as the waters have abated somewhat.

These anglers are missing some of the best sport that is to be obtained in coarse fishing, for when the rivers are feet above their normal level, and the water is of that consistency which is generally known as ‘pea-soup’, then is the best fishing of the the whole year to be had. When such conditions are prevalent, nearly all freshwater fish are feeding freely, and the larger fish put aside their usual shrewd suspicions so far as to be willing to investigate anything in the shape of food.

The chief difficulty which the beginner to this sort of fishing will find himself up against is finding the fish, for they are anywhere in their usual swims. Indeed, it is practically useless to fish in the main stream, a diminutive dace or chub being all that is likely to reward one’s efforts.

Backwaters, drinking-places for cattle, eddies at the tails of islands or on the inside of bends, and flooded ditches are most likely to produce a fair bag of fair-sized fish, and it should be borne in mind that fish will be found in much shallower water than is usual in winter. Flooded ditches are very good places in which to try for perch, and only last week I took five nice fish from the mouth of a ditch leading on to a flooded meadow, in less than 18 inches of water.

Another excellent place in which to try is the extreme edges of mill-pools. All sorts of insects, snails, worms, etc., are washed from the banks when the river is high, and after passing over the mill-race, are deposited in the shallows at the edges of the pool, hence the presence of the fish there.

With regard to baits, I do not think one can do better than use worms of one kind or another, and personally I like good big ones best. When the water is very thick a large bait is easier seen than a small one, and has the advantage of weight which makes possible the use of little or no lead. Other baits which are more or less useful in flood-fishing are snails (both land and water), freshwater shrimps, which are very difficult to obtain at this time of the year and the catching of which is guaranteed to produce a severe cold, small frogs or newts, which may be found under stones near water, and various grubs.

I have just invented an excellent bait which I have used with success recently. It consists of half a pipe-cleaner wound round the shank of a hook-to-gut, and one end dipped in red ink. It looks like a large maggot, and it has accounted for several roach and perch, including a 1 3/4 lb fish of the latter species. I have not tried it in anything but floodwater, but have high hopes of it for trout and chub in the summer. The float-ledger will probably suit most anglers best for heavy-water fishing, but if a large lobworm is used for bait the shot-ledger is even better, as it responds to the slightest nibble. It also has the advantage of causing very little drag
on a fish which is swimming off with the bait, which it should be allowed to do for some little distance before the angler strikes.

When the fish is hooked, care must be taken to keep him away from snags, which are usually of a much more indestructible material in, say, a flooded ditch than in the river itself. I still have unhappy memories of ‘something big’ which bolted under a semi-submerged gate and left me rod, reel and running line but nothing else. A stiffish rod of split-cane, 8ft to 10ft long, is my particular fancy for this sort of fishing, but probably most anglers would prefer something rather longer. If you are using a thread-line reel, screw up the slipping clutch as tight as you dare, for you must steer clear of submerged bushes and such-like obstructions at all costs.

For fishing flooded meadows, a canoe is a prime convenience, and far superior to a punt or rowboat, but don’t attempt to take one up a river which is in spate unless you are familiar with the handling of such craft, unless you want a ducking in icy water. (Yes, I’ve had one, and not very long ago either.) It is best to have a companion if you do decide to use a canoe, both to steady it and to manoeuvre it if you get into a good fish, but it must not be rocked in shallow water as this will soon scare the fish away.

If you prefer to fish from the bank, or rather the water’s edge, remember that soggy land transmits vibrations very much more than dry land, and tread accordingly, for the fish, though biting freely, are just as easily frightened by heavy footfalls in flood time as when more orthodox conditions prevail. It is not advisable to remain long at one spot unless something is forthcoming, and groundbait is not often effective in bringing the fish together. The best method is to keep moving until the fish are found, and then to cast in a few chopped worms from time to time to keep them there; but often this is unnecessary.

I will conclude by saying that the softer your tread, the longer your cast, and the bigger your worm, the greater will be your bag in flood-fishing.

R. S. W.


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