History of the Thames Valley Branch
The Thames Valley Branch was founded by John Dawson (then a STANIC now a GAIA Instructor) when he started organising Fly Tying Classes at the Berkshire College of Agriculture and at Sheephouse Trout Fishery near Maidenhead in the early 1990s.
From these classes and a short piece in the local Maidenhead Advertiser there was a core of about 20 people who were keen to set up a group and to be part of the Fly Dressers Guild. They were mostly beginners who were very keen and willing to put the work in to get everything going. We had a large attendance on the branch opening evening in 1992 when all the good and the godly from the Guild, including Donald Downs, came to set us on our way.
We started meeting, and were made very welcome at the Maidenhead Sailing Club, on the first Tuesday of each month for nearly 3 years, by which time we had a solid core of about a dozen regular members. Apart from the fly tying there were open evenings with guest speakers and an annual fish cooking evening (by John Dawson and his cooking star wife, Chris) that were always popular and well attended.
In 1995 we moved to the Maidenhead Cricket Club where again we were made most welcome. We stayed there until 1999 when vandals torched the lovely old wooden pavilion and we had to move on to the Flower Pot pub in Aston, near Henley, where we still meet twice a month.
John Dawson was Chairman until he moved to Alaska in 1999; later he moved to Devon where he now runs a successful fishing tuition and guiding business.
The Flower Pot pub is near the River Thames in the small Berkshire hamlet of Ashton. It serves Brakespear and various craft ales, along with excellent food. The publican is a Salmon angler and has decorated all available wall space with glass cases of stuffed fish and animals, angling pictures and other angling ephemera – a fabulous (if poorly lit) venue for our twice monthly Fly Tying Workshops. Two shooting clubs meet regularly at the pub and so we have a huge stock of Pheasant, Partridge and Duck available in the game larder (landlord’s garage) to pluck if any restocking of feathers is required during the Autumn.
Membership fell away soon after the turn of the century (to 4) but has since rebounded to around 20 Members, and we have typically 15 at most Workshops. Members either tie flies for their own fishing or join one of the three tying groups who follow the Bronze, Gold and Silver FDG Awards. Several come along for a pint and a natter. Members travel in from a large area within Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire. In addition to the fly tying we have practiced Fly Casting on the River Thames and we have an excellent end of tying season dinner at the pub in early May.
During each Tying Workshop, in addition to the instructors demonstrating the flies for the evening, we have introduced a ‘9pm 10 minute demo’ during which a member gives a 10 minute demonstration of their favourite fly or a particular tying technique. These short demos have been a huge success.
Peter Watson, who took over as the Instructor from John, drafted the original FDG Fly Tying Bronze, Silver & Gold Accreditation course booklets – the concept of which has now been redrafted as the FDG Awards Scheme.
As well as fly tying, groups of members regularly fish on reservoirs, stillwaters and rivers for trout; and on the River Test for Grayling in the winter months. We have supported the Bank Fishing Competition at Elinor Trout Fishery and have also entered a team in the John Watts competition at Grafham for the last three years as well as entering in the FDG Annual Tying Competition where we have had some modest success over the years.
The Branch continues to thrive and we can boast two members on the National FDG Committee