The image of dad, snoozing under his umbrella, a can of beer at his side, the radio unheard as he sleeps, while his float dips and ducks as he sleeps through the only bite of the day is the iconic image of British angling - or should we say, English angling? Coarse fishing is a peculiarly English phenomenon and although it is widely practised throughout Europe, within the British Isles, only the English have a tradition of coarse fishing that extends much further back than the beginning of the 20th century.

There are many reasons for this - for most of Ireland's post-medieval history, the country lay under the British yoke and the Irish were more interested in survival than going fishing, even if they had been able to gain access to water which was jealously protected by landlords. Even in the late 20th century, Ireland was still largely virgin territory from a coarse fishing point of view and it has only been in recent years that it has emerged as a coarse fishing Mecca. The Scottish Highland rivers are too fast flowing for cyprinids and so for the most part Scotland's heritage has been as a pike and game fishery. Wales, too, had a great lack of suitable water until the great era of reservoir building began in the late 19th century.

So for better or worse, the history of coarse fishing was dominated by the English until the 20th century and one man stands out above all others as the reason for this - Izaac Walton. With the publication of The Complete Angler in the 17th century, Walton totally changed the way people thought about angling. Before he wrote, it was seen as a way of getting food - afterwards, it was seen as a sport and a hobby worthy of a gentleman. The result was a tremendous increase in the popularity of angling, as the population doubled and doubled again.

The phrase "coarse fishing" wouldn't have meant anything to Izaac. If you had said it to him, he would have raised his eyebrows and asked what was your meaning, pray, because it was all fishing to him, whether he used a fly, or a float, or an artificial minnow made for him by a handsome lady.

So any handsome ladies reading this page can smile to themselves, secure in the knowledge that even if women are in the minority of anglers, they have had more influence on the development of the sport than most of their menfolk can possibly appreciate.


J.W. Martin

Martin left school at ten, but grew up to become one of the best known coarse fisherman of his age and a working class hero.



RoachThe champion roach fisher of all England

The gripping story of a 19th century clash of angling titans.



RoachThe Carp Catcher's Club

In 1951, barely a dozen carp over eight pounds were caught each year. Read how the CCC changed everything.



HT SheringhamSheringham on carp

Sheringham was one of the most famous angler's of his time - read the tale of a monster carp, 1912 style.



Slater NottinghamThe Nottingham style

Widely practised until 1945, the Nottingham style was a favourite technique for more than a century.




Nottingham reelThe Nottingham reel

The story of how the backroom boys from Pomfret designed the perfect reel.



A short history of the float

Tthe history of the float is mostly unknown, yet it begins nearly half a millennium ago.



AzurineAzurine - the fish that never was

Read about the adventures of a fish that was a mistake.


AzurineHow the carp came to Britain

The story of how a fish travelled across a continent.