About the NAA
Newbury Angling Association is one of oldest coarse angling clubs in the UK, founded in 1878, when the Great Western Railway signed over the fishing rights of the Kennet & Avon canal between Four Hatches (ie the sluice still seen by Victoria Park) and Aldermaston at a cost of £1 per annum. The GWR, keen to maximise profits, had previously bought the canal to reduce competition for its trains by driving up the tolls for barge traffic. By handing over fishing rights, it was perhaps passing over some of its unwanted legal obligation to maintain the waterway, thus reducing some of the associated costs. The newly-formed NAA also had fly-fishing only rights to the Newbury stretch of the River Lambourn by arrangement with a local landowner for the first years of its existence.
Before 1878, the waters had been freely fished (and where privately-owned, poached) by the town’s residents, some of whom, not impressed that they now had to pay for the privilege, were successfully prosecuted in the local courts by the NAA for continuing their hobby without purchasing membership.
The NAA’s first chairman, John Packer, a well-known dignitary around the town, was keen to promote the contemporary activity of fishing tourism for the economic benefit of the town, with numerous articles published in the Fishing Gazette, highlighting the good sport available to anglers from London and the Home Counties. The GWR, ever keen to increase passenger numbers, introduced special fisherman’s train tickets to transport anglers from the metropolis, and the Association’s home, the White House Hotel (subsequently the Narrow Boat pub and now a Lidl), was happy to provide board and lodgings for them.
Under Packer’s leadership, the fishing thrived as he oversaw the stocking of trout to the Lambourn. The Association was awarded a prestigious silver medal by the organisers of the 1883 International Fisheries Exhibition for its display of 20 glass cases of stuffed fish, all caught by members from its waters. This was a major public event held at South Kensington which attracted 2.6 million visitors.
The many articles available on the Newbury Weekly News on-line archive for the late-Victorian period record many good catches. These include a 25lb pike, displayed by it’s captor in his jewellery shop window in Bartholomew Street, and a trout that having been seen frequently in the canal from the bridge by what is now the Lock, Stock & Barrel, was finally caught at 18lbs.
In the 1950’s, the club held just a few sections of largely dilapidated canal, including Enborne, as shown in the picture below, and the length of the Kennet at Hambridge that it now has a ticket-exchange scheme with the Civil Service Angling Society.
It took on its first lakes in the 1970’s when the first of the gravel pits dug in Thatcham Reedbed were purchased in what became known as the Widmead Complex. Dobson’s lake, for example, came at a cost of £1,000. In the 19990’s, rights to three more ex gravel pits were passed to the NAA and named Rawlings Retreat. The club took the opportunity to purchase Bellwood Lake in 1991 and added Pallet’s Pool to its portfolio in 1999.
In the early 2000’s, the Kennet was renowned as one of the premier barbel rivers in the country, the picture showing member Karen Peacock landing a then Kennet record fish of 17lb 2 from a NAA water. Membership stood at around 1,200 in 2002 and big river catches seemed the norm. Since then, like all fisheries, NAA have had to face difficulties presented by water abstraction, algal blooms, pollution and predation by ever increasing numbers of otters, cormorants and red signal crayfish. Covid 19 brought its own issues, of course, but through the fine work of the Angling Trust, fishing was allowed during lockdown when so many other activities were banned. This saw a surge in membership, and though this has fallen as restrictions were lifted, it stands in 2021/22 at around a healthy 850 approx.
Despite the pressures faced by the sport, the fishing at NAA continues to thrive. Our Specimen Award for the last year was contested between two barbel, the winner coming in at 15lb 10. Third place went to a pike of 23lb 2. The club’s carp record has now exceeded 40lb, and one of our junior anglers, Archie Moore won a substantial prize in Improve Your Coarse Fishing magazine for this perch of over 3lb.
For many years, the NAA has held regular matches in various categories throughout the season, such as an open club championship, 4-match winter pike competition (its Buckingham Cup being first contested in 1949) and several 48-hour carp matches. The Over-60 and Over-70 leagues are probably the best supported, but numbers for all matches are lower than we would like. If you’ve not fished one of our matches for a while, or are a match virgin, then why not give it a go - we would be delighted to see you, and who knows: you might win a trophy! Fixtures are shown on this website and are printed on club permits. Look out for our Christmas and annual charity matches.
Trends always evolve in angling, and recent years have seen increased popularity in carp and lure fishing in particular. The NAA has moved with these demands, with Bellwood, Collins and Knotts being managed chiefly with carp in mind. Our canals in particular attract roving anglers, travelling light with a short rod, landing net, unhooking mat and a box of lures, seeking the many perch and pike. Of course there are plenty of waters available for all angling preferences, and we strive to cater for all arms of our sport. Maintenance of the club’s waters is largely undertaken voluntarily by members. All are welcome to join in, with dates and locations publicised on the members Facebook site and on the Forum which forms part of this website.
Over 140 years since its formation, NAA’s fisheries include stretches of the natural river Kennet and its side streams, the Kennet and Avon Navigation in the form of still and flowing waterway, and a variety of still waters large and small. Between them these waters hold all the coarse species you would expect from the southern lowlands.
Standard membership is available to anybody who lives within a 12 mile radius of Newbury town centre. There are different membership categories to cater for all people, and associate membership is available for the more distant friends of our local members.
If you are keen to find out more please browse this web site. There are contact pages for you make further enquiries or join the club. On behalf of the committee I hope you join soon and begin to enjoy the benefits of membership.