WELCOME TO THE ALL ABILITIES FRIENDLY FLY FISHERS
BIRTH OF THE AAFFF (ALL ABILITIES FRIENDLY FLY FISHERS)
A HELPER’S VIEW
The All Abilities Friendly Fly Fishers (AAFFF) was formed in 2017 from the original Leicester Handicapped Fly Fishers club (LHFF). The LHFF was originally formed back in the early 1970’s when a local Fishing tackle shop ‘Wadsworths’ advertised and organised an event to try ‘The gentle art of fly fishing’ around a newly formed lake at a local park in Braunstone. Then followed it up with night school classes to learn to tie fly’s.
At that very first gathering our very own Mr Fred Kettle attended to help prospective anglers learn to cast. The club formed and started to grow rapidly with People joining from as far afield as Newcastle in the north and Brighton in the south. Fred has remained a helper to this present day I Mark Goodge joined the club about 6 months later and soon became close friends with Fred.
Fishing in the 70’s was nothing like today. No pontoon’s or purpose built jetties to load boats, often just a dirt track to get to the fisheries. A fishing lodge was usually just a shed and a toilet was often just a bucket behind a bush, or a smelly chemical loo. Outboard or electric motor’s didn’t exist. We simply had to row!
We started by fishing the smaller waters mainly from the bank, then in a boat at venues like Packington, Elenor, Colwick park and Ravensthorpe. Then a little later at the Eyebrook (the wooden fishing lodge over the water was amazing). Only Ravensthorpe and Eyebrook had flushing toilets although not accessible for wheelchairs. Loading of chairs in the boats was usually completed by placing two lengths of 4” x “2 timber on the side of the boat, then gently guide the wheelchair up in to the boat or if the bank was about the right height a two man lift into the boat (think health and safety would have had something to say about that nowadays).
I seem to remember other original members Brian Foster and David Brooks spent a good deal of their time travelling and advising fisheries on how to improve the access and their facilities. Each year things improved and access became much easier.
It is a wonder we caught anything at all in the early days, with stocking at the larger waters only 4 or 5 times a year at best. Fred and I sometimes rowing a boat out into the lake towing another couple of boats behind, to a chosen spot were the anchor was dropped. Then when the anglers wanted to move we rowed back to them, pulled up the anchor then moved them to the new spot. On one outing to Packington Fred was the only helper with two-wheel chair anglers, he wedged the boat just a punt in those days under a low landing stage then ran the wheelchairs into the boat from the front on his own! Before rowing and towing the boats out onto the water. Ah those were the days I have to Say Fred was a fair bit slimmer then. I cannot think why!
The Club Grew and grew to 40 plus members, then in 1980 we were asked to select a team to fish for England against the home nations up on the lake of Menteith in Scotland and the English Disabled Fly Fishers (EDFF) was formed, organizing matches and International events. But the LHFF continued with their policy of only pleasure outings and introducing anglers to Fly Fishing.
In the mid 1990’s Ian Bradfield and Paul Crane joined making the helpers life much easier, followed by Shaun Higgins in 2008. Sadly Paul’s ill health now prevents him from helping. Times have changed and our club now has members from all around the UK. Therefore we decided a more national name was required for our clubs identity that captured our aims. After much deliberation we decided on THE ALL ABILITIES FRIENDLY FLY FISHERS, (AAFFF) as the name that best summed up what we were all about.
With Shaun leading the way with new ideas and introducing new technologies the AAFFF are moving forward and steadily growing. The policy of fishing for fun, in a friendly non-competitive environment has remained key to our aims.
We try to accommodate an angler’s needs and requirements to help improve their potential and enjoyment whilst fly fishing. We fish as a group and help each other to get the most out of our days fishing. We are all equally important within the club, the fully able, the less able and disabled working together to enjoy each other’s company and enjoy fly fishing in beautiful, tranquil surroundings. We are SIMPLY FRIENDS THAT GO FISHING TOGETHER.
As an angler improves and becomes more knowledgeable, should he or she wish to experience competition fishing we will encourage them to join the EDFF. Where they can further test themselves in different situations and if able to qualify, could then go on to Fish for England in the internationals.
Mark Goodge 6th April 2018.
Since joining the AAFFF a couple years ago I would highly recommend it to any person, able or disabled, as it is exactly as it says. It’s FRIENDLY! I had previously been in other organisations but when it came down to it they only to achieve wins in competition not have great days out. This club treats everyone exactly the same whether you’re a brilliant fly fisherman or, like me, you only catch the occasional fish. The helpers are excellent and make sure that everyone has a great days fishing. Personally, I have found that I have learnt more from this experience with them and more importantly, I can go fishing knowing I will have a good day out with great company.