The small market gardening town of Evesham is blessed with the picturesque Warwickshire Avon running its course through the Vale of Evesham and it’s been a mecca for river anglers for years.
In 1929, Ernie and Eileen Huxley moved to Hampton Ferry to operate a smallholding market garden and the ferry, which was still the only link between the village of Hampton and Evesham. Being a keen angler, Ernie spent as much time as he could fishing the waters and was approached by an increasing number of anglers requesting permission to fish there too.
The popularity was such that Ernie held a competition which was the first of very many contests. Success led to Hampton Ferry growing to become the heart of angling in the Midlands, with many of the big names in angling often visiting to fish there. Eileen opened a cafe to serve breakfasts to the ever-growing number of anglers. The cafe evolved over the years and is now Raphael’s Licensed Restaurant. Ernie and Eileen’s daughter Diana and her husband Sam Raphael, became partners in the business and later it was Diana’s contribution over the years that has seen match fishing thrive in Evesham.
Post WWII in 1946 saw the formation of Evesham and District Angling Association from several well run local clubs and the fishing thrived in this golden age of angling. The now famous Evesham Town stretch and Common road areas of the River Avon, Hampton Ferry with it’s famed Whitehouse bend plus the Naight stretch and Twyford a little further outside the town all saw local clubs joining the association fishing matches.
Evesham Angling Festival
With Evesham’s match fishing historical heritage well and truly established by the Huxley’s the Evesham fishing festival soon followed. It started as a bet as to whether an angling competition could be a spectator sport by Dick Derrington who put on a one off match of 40-50 invited anglers on one day. Then over the years this was expanded by Dick Derrington with the help of Diana Raphael, Ernie Huxley’s daughter to two days and then all 3 days over the August bank holiday weekend. It started in 1978 as the Colt 45 then the Courage championships followed in later years by John Smiths, Shakespeare and Match fishing Magazine .
In addition to the main Evesham match one of these three days sees Evesham and District Angling Association run their prestigious Wychavon Angling Championship where half the field is made up from local fishing club champions and also qualifiers from matches held in Evesham throughout the year against invited star anglers from across the Country. Then the Monday normally see’s some of the Country’s top Teams compete in the Teams Championships.
The John smith’s sponsorship ended 2002 and this nearly lead the prestigious competition being transferred to Bewdley but then Shakespeare stepped in and then later David Hall Publishing with Match Fishing Magazine as sponsors.
Up to 30,000 spectators visit Evesham during the long August Bank holiday weekend. Many attracted by the fishing festival. This brings extra revenue into the towns hotel’s cafes and bars. So the festival receives backing from Wychavon District Council’s from the additional car parking fees generated on the Crown meadow next to river by the tented tackle village. This prize money on offer helps to attract many of the Country’s top running water anglers. Which in turn keeps Evesham on the map regarding fishing. Any angler always wants to add an Evesham title to their match winning fishing CV.
Evesham’s large Crown meadow right next to the match length of the River Avon is ideally suited for the tented tackle village that accompanies the angling festival and this allows anglers to do a bit of shopping for all types of fishing tackle in between watching any of the three matches over the weekend and in 2018 Paul Boothby, Rod Scott and Sean Ashby proudly agreed with Wychavon District Council to take on the running of the show side of the Angling Festival on the August Bank Holiday weekend for foreseeable future. Whilst the fishing was always going to go ahead under the expert guidance of Diana Raphael and the Evesham & District Angling Association.
How it all started, listen to Diana Raphael’s memories
Further up stream from the EDAA waters used for the Evesham Angling Festival there is the Twyford Farm stretch of the River Avon. This was one of the Country’s best running water match venues during the 80’s and into the 90’s famed for its large bags of Barbel, Chub and Bream were anglers such a ‘The man in Red’ Jan Porter and Dave Harrell made their names along with many of the leading angling ‘superstars’ of that generation. Twyford was a mecca for these top anglers at the time but this all changed when the site was developed into what is now known as the Twyford Country Park. Angling wasn’t something of interest to the new owners during this development and also with the new style commercial fisheries popping up at the time drawing anglers onto still waters the running water fishing at Twyford declined. The matches stopped and this famous stretch of the River Avon fell into decline.
Twyford is back
But you can’t ‘keep a good dog down’ 15 years after the fishing stopped Twyford is now back. Local tackle dealer and former Wychavon champion, England under 20’s manager Howard Kaye has recently rejuvenated Twyford Farm having spend many hours last year and during the closed season, repegged the stretch. Adding new pallets to fish from and re landscaping the roadways and paths at the venue giving river anglers access to this famous stretch of water once more.
It’s early days but quality bags of fish that made Twyford famous are thankfully still there in abundance with plenty of big fish being caught from the matches Howard is running.
Running water fishing seems to be on the up. The weekly qualifiers for the Evesham Festival weekend are sold out most weeks with 40-50 anglers fishing these open matches, and now with Twyford up and running again. Evesham coupled with it’s fine historical association with fishing, really is one of the UK’s prime running water match fishing venues!