It was formed on October 5th 1872 at The Mail Hotel in Grantham High Street, now the offices of The Grantham Journal who reported the occasion as follows: “Mr W W Leak was appointed Chairman at the meeting attended by 80 gentlemen who had given their adhesion to the movement”.
The first fishing match was held in September, two years later, when some sixty anglers competed “in a most satisfactory and agreeable manner” for a first prize of 25 shillings, the unrecorded winner caught seven fish with a combined weight of 2lb 9oz.
In the 1960’s here was a huge increase nationally in fly-fishing. With an ever increasing number of anglers turning to this delightful and sporting fishing method it was proposed that a section of the Witham be designated a “fly-only trout water”.
Membership comprised 22 anglers paying 2 Guineas each. GAA approved £300 to be spent on the stocking of 300 brown trout between 7″ and 9″, supplementing the native population, and GAAFFS was born.
The 1968 season was popular and glorious. Casting clinics were held, flies were discussed and swapped, beginners were coached and fish were caught.
In 1969, the GAA was successfully approached in seeking permission to fish further stretches of The Witham between April 1st and June 15th, during the coarse fishing close season. During the same year Lincolnshire Water Board was approached for help and advice regarding river improvement. Catch returns were adopted to monitor and to assist in preserving the trout population.
The foundations were established for the development of an environmentally friendly, managed fishery which continues to produce excellent sport, at the same time protecting the environment to the benefit of wildlife angler alike.
Interest in the club was high. Important river work was undertaken. Membership increased to 50 with seven on the waiting list. The fees rose to £5.00 per member.
The halcyon days were soon cut short…
In 1978, 14,500 gallons of oil escaped into the river, with disastrous results. 1979 subscription was reduced to £1.00 due to the lack of sport. The local MP and the appropriate Ministry were contacted but nothing could compensate for the immense social and environmental damage which had occurred. The Club also lost access to the recently procured National Trust water through the Belton Park estate, a decision that was thankfully reversed some years later.
In 1980 the majority of the Clubs founding officers chose to resign. A re-structured board of officers was formed, supported by a wider committee. £250.00 was pledged to the restocking of the river the hope that no further such damaging incidents might occur.
This was not to be, however, with a further spillage incident ensuing in which 1,000 gallons of oil were recovered from the river. Membership fell to just 35 diehard members.
The Association becomes a founder member of the National Federation of Anglers. It has continued to participate in all National Championships since the time of its inauguration. 1984 brought a new lease of life to the Cub. The joint role of Secretary and Treasurer were separated to achieve a broader focus and club member, Mr Gordon Taylor, was elected head keeper, charged by the committee with reversing the Club’s fortunes.
Although Gordon ran the river for only 3 years his positive influence over that time was inordinately present for all to witness. Gordon sadly passed away in 1987, but his vision and vigour were adopted and perpetuated by his fellow member and assistant, Mr Bob Bunn. The two men had co-authored a paper, “An Improvement Programme for Small Rivers”, which was entered into a competition sponsored by Trout and Salmon magazine. Bob and Gordon’s article proved to be unsuccessful, the price instead going to the authors of an article baring an uncanny, almost identical, resemblance to theirs. Coincidence, mix up or otherwise we may never know, but as the then treasurer George Yates, put it “right fly, right fish, wrong net”.
Following Bob’s death in 1996, Mr Gordon Brooks became Head Keeper.
Grantham Angling Association (GAA) Membership has increased significantly since those early days and now stands at over 550. Today, GAAFFS is also in a strong and thriving position, boasting over 120 members and a healthy balance sheet.