John Bailey: How we anglers can remember Robert Shanks - and a great idea to win some fabulous tackle

John Bailey and Daniel Brydon await news of your very own angling achievements. Note the photograph

John Bailey and Daniel Brydon await news of your very own angling achievements. Note the photograph of Rob Shanks above them Picture: John Bailey - Credit: Archant

The recent passing of Rob Shanks was such a tragedy for his family and for the fishing community hereabouts.

Along with his partner, Daniel Brydon at Wensum Valley Angling, Rob was a tackle dealer of the old sort. When my partner, not an expert angler exactly, went into the shop alone in 2018 she was charmed by the way he helped and guided her.

I saw the way he dealt with children, novices and experts alike over the years, always with kindness, generosity and with the benefit of huge experience and knowledge.

And, vitally, Rob was never patronising, but always spoke with honesty and integrity. His is a skill that we would do well to remember. And perhaps we can.

I am moving house yet again. The books are bad enough to box and store, but the fishing tackle is on another planet called chaos. Since leaving teaching 30 years ago I have worked around the tackle trade and have accumulated my own grimy version of a private tackle shop. The more I delved into my rodent-ridden garage, the more treasures I unearthed, mostly cradled by cobwebs, nearly always forgotten.

It didn't take me long to realise, however, that I possessed a goodly number of gems there, tackle to make a dealer's eyes glisten and tackle that simply should be used and not be allowed to fester. The upshot was that I sent the whole job lot to a friend of mine to get dusted, done up and made desirable once again. The big question now is what I do with these precious piscatorial pieces as my friend dribbles them back to me?

So Daniel at Wensum Valley Angling and I came up with a plan. It's heart is The Robert Shanks Award and this is how we see how it might work. There are two prizes every month for both adults and under 16s. The monthly prizes are largely donated by tackle manufacturers who were also devastated by Rob's death and want to be involved. Four times each year there will also be an additional award coming from my own collection of the tackle I am having renovated. This 'star' prize might be a rod, a reel, or a collection of handmade float for example. All these items will be there to be used bankside for sure but will also have history to them – a tale from my own angling past.

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So, what you have to do, adults and youngsters alike, is to get news of your angling achievements to Daniel at Wensum Valley Angling. You can phone him on 01603 929090 between the hours of 9am to 5pm Monday to Saturday and 10.30am to 3pm on Sunday. You can email him on or Facebook him @wvangling. There's also something called Instagram at Wensumvalleyangling but I'm getting lost here and so my advice is simply to pop into the shop and see the man face to face. You'll find him next door to Taverham Garden Centre and you'll enjoy the experience I promise.

Each week, at the end of my normal column I'll be listing the most recent notable angling achievements and each month Daniel and I will be making the awards and explaining in detail who has won and why. We'd love to see this competition take off and become a fixture, becoming fun for us all. We think Rob would like that. We will be beginning this initiative through April and the first monthly prizes will be in this paper on May 1 so now it is down to you to get fishing and get cracking.

What sort of angling achievements are Daniel and I looking for, you might be wondering? Remember, this is all about honouring the memory of Rob Shanks so we will be looking for the things he would have admired. Sometimes the honours will go to a top angler who has caught a great fish, perhaps at the end of a long campaign. Sometimes something completely different will win: something unusual, something to make us all think, something to provide us with the sort of inspiration that Rob himself personified. Perhaps an extraordinary sighting or great story will do it. Perhaps you have done something special for the environment or have helped someone get out fishing for the first time.

Perhaps your granddad deserves recognition as the one to have introduced you to the sport in the first place. Perhaps you drew an amazing painting of a fish in a school art class or you have made a wonderful float or tied a stunning artificial fly. It could be anything that carries off the prizes just, like Rob always did, use your imagination and dig into your love of the sport.

So, please, get fishing and get catching and thinking. Dan and I are really looking forward to hearing from you right now!!

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