Matches and Club Competitions
The Society’s origins were born in the Match and Coach Outing style of fishing, the terms Specimen Angler, Specialist Angler or indeed Carp Angler rarely used in those early years. Coach outings were a necessity with the Society regularly filling two coaches for the popular fortnightly trips. Such was the lack of private transport that Coaches were even used for local matches on the Rib. Coach outings continued regularly into the early 80’s but have since all but disappeared from the angling Calendar.
On one occasion in the early 50s, a coach was not required for a match as it was to be held locally at the Royal Gunpowder Factory, Waltham Abbey. The MOD invited the Abbey Cross to organise a match on the Old River Lea within the factory grounds, unfortunately after all the hype about being able to access fishing normally protected by armed guards, the match results were disappointing and the match was never repeated.
On the Social side of the club it was quite usual to advise members which bus routes served a particular venue the notice of a New Year party in 1962 carried with it an extensive list of bus routes serving the Wolsey Hall at the Old Pond Cheshunt.
Abbey Cross were very active on the LAA match scene well into the 60’s fielding a team for the prestigious Shield Match and whilst never winning the competition did progress several rounds. In December 1949 Abbey Cross were beaten by the White Hart Dagenham in the 4th round at Henley on Thames.
In February of the same year 798 anglers fished the LAA Lee Benevolent Competition held on the Lee from Hertford to Rye House a Mr A J Speller of Abbey Cross achieved 3rd place in his section.
The Thames Benevolent Competition held in August 1949 saw Abbey Cross member J Chapman achieve 5th in his section with 1lbs 11ounces and in the same competition Junior member J Francis is 3rd overall in the Juniors match with 1lbs 3ounces. The LAA monthly journal of August 1949 advises members of a match to be held on the Lee between Enfield Lock and Waltham Common organised by the Abbey Cross in aid of the Waltham Abbey Darby and Joan Club.
By the early 1960’s with a membership of over 300, attendances at matches were less than 10% despite over 75% of members expressing an interest in competitions when returning retainment and enrolment forms.
In the late 60s and into the 70s, annual junior matches were organised mainly at Toyhall. These were open to all local junior anglers, the Society hoping some of these would be encouraged to join Abbey Cross. Our late Chairman, Bert Munns, who at the time was the Society’s junior organiser, became involved, co-opting senior members to assist him at one notable occasion when over 80 young anglers turned up for the match. Most of them had very little tackle and some none at all. By the start of the competition all at least had sufficient equipment to catch some of the prolific Roach population, this was before the Cormorants had caught them all. Every entrant received a prize, with the main ones provided by the Society, however Bert provided the bulk of the other prizes out of his own pocket. The top ten young anglers were rewarded with a days fishing on the Rib with an Abbey Cross senior member to help and advise them. One such junior winner was Bob Fox and as a result he joined the Society. Sadly the numbers attending the match dwindled and eventually the junior open match faded away.
Over the decades the Carp and Specialist membership of the Society has grown whilst the regular match attendees have gradually reduced, as much a social shift with everyone having private transport and the shift to pursuing large fish. That said all of the Societies Competitions are hotly contested every year with intra Society matches against the Metropolitan Police and Bishops Stortford Angling Clubs to name but two, held every year.
Such was the competitive nature of the Society a casting tournaments was held in May 1962 Mr George Aitken champion caster and member of the British Casting Association was in attendance giving casting demonstrations and officiating on judging. Chapmans of Ware, Dick Walker, Ken Leigh and Don’s of Edmonton all donated prizes. Don Neish, himself a champion caster, and Alan Vare of Don’s Tackle shop won many of the events whilst angling luminaries such as Eric Horsfell Turner gave casting demonstrations. The tournament was widely reported in the Angling press of the day not least because Abbey Cross were the first ever coarse angling society in the Country to hold such an event. The event continued for a few years but appears to have lost popularity with the membership.