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A Sad Day for Scottish Coarse Fishing

It was with great sadness that I learned of the death of Bryan Hewitt last week at the age of 84.  There have been a huge number tributes on social media, and a great article by Mike Kernan in his Angling column in last Friday’s Scottish Sun newspaper.  All were universally glowing about Bryan and his contribution to Scottish Coarse angling but I’m not sure that any of them effectively capture his true impact.  Bryan had been one of the most influential figures in Scottish Coarse fishing in the late 60s and early 70s.  In 1966, he was the driving force behind the formation of the Glasgow and West of Scotland Coarse Fishing Association (G.W.S.C.F.A), and worked tirelessly to identify and catalogue venues across Scotland that held coarse fish.  His efforts were published in the 1970 Scottish Tourist Board’s ‘Scotland for Coarse Fishing Guide’ which was updated and republished in 1973 in which he wrote articles on how and where to catch coarse fish, and was also, for a number of years, the Angling Times Scottish correspondent.  In the late 60s and early 70s he was an avid and well respected match angler and wrote and published the first set of match rules for Scotland based around those of the National Federation of Anglers in England. His drive and determination to promote the sport, saw him accepted onto the Scottish Sports Council as the first Coarse Angling Representative.  This led to the first real recognition of coarse angling as a sport in Scotland and paved the way for the formation of the Federation, even though he had drifted away from angling politics before this came to fruition.  Bryan was widely known, well respected, hugely influential and an extremely popular figure within angling circles. While he drifted away from organised match fishing in the early 70s, he made a return 30 years later when Ronnie McLeod and George Glen opened the Magiscroft Fishery, and a whole new generation got to meet and benefit from his experience. He always had time for anglers, of all ages and standards, and would happily take time to provide advice and guidance to anyone who needed it.  Whether that be about places to fish, technical or tactical advice on how to fish them, or in my case in my early years as Chairman, on navigating the political minefield which is angling in Scotland. 

Ex SFCA Policy Officer Ron Woods knew Bryan in the early years and remembers:

Living near the F&C canal in my early teens sparked an interest in coarse fishing which grew stronger from closely following the angling press. Soon I was seeing see items in both AT and Anglers Mail about Bryan Hewitt’s exploits. As I remember the story, he arrived from Wakefield to live in Hamilton in ’66 and having heard there were grayling in the Clyde nearby he gave it a try and was delighted to find it held a rich head of specimen roach. He found other venues and established contacts with a few like-minded anglers, many but not all expats from south of the border. In ’66, Bryan, along with various folk such as Ken McGowan (snr) from the Anglers Rendezvous, Deitrich Burkel, Roy Southgate, Dick Lloyd and Roger Reynolds set up Scotland’s first coarse club, the Glasgow & West of Scotland Coarse Fishing Association. He became Secretary. Junior members were encouraged, and I was among about a dozen who joined in ‘67/’68. Club activities centred on a programme of monthly matches – largely on various stretches of the F&C (the club leased a mile or so to the west of Banknock) but also taking in the Forth and some stillwater venues such as the old Bothwellhaugh pond.

Bryan could come across as a characteristically blunt Yorkshireman – I recall being advised to do something anatomically unpleasant with the large balls of groundbait that I was piling into the shallow Wyndford stretch with during a match, and two of us being invited in no uncertain terms to stop climbing bankside trees when we grew bored during an unproductive winter session on the Forth. And it’s probably best not to relate his reaction when some junior members nearly got the club barred from holding meetings at the old Fire Service social club in Bridgeton when we tried to order pints of Guinness (that being the only beer we knew by name). Despite this kind of nonsense, Bryan remained remarkably patient with us youngsters and was consistently generous in sharing his knowledge and experience. I shudder to think how much he must have been bored by my long phone conversations, and I learned a lot just from sitting at his back watching him fish the waggler at Kelvinhead (no poles in those days!) or the stick float on the Forth. In addition, conscious of the narrow choice of coarse tackle in Scottish shops at the time, Bryan often gave us some of the floats he made and picked up items ranging from butt indicators to rod blanks on our behalf when visiting his family in Yorkshire. He also went out of his way to arrange lifts from other members to matches and events that we couldn’t reach by public transport (though I suspect that being collected at a remote bus stop at 7.30 on a Sunday morning by someone I only knew by his first name would probably not accord with today’s child protection standards).

But Bryan’s influence on the development of Scottish coarse angling went far beyond his work within the G&WoS club. In the early ‘70s he was central to establishing and running the Scottish Open Championship matches which (thanks in part to being pitched in the middle of the English closed season) attracted over 1000 entries including many of the top match anglers of the day. His articles and features in AT and Anglers Mail did much to promote our sport to the wider British coarse fishing public, and he collaborated extensively from 1970 onwards with what was then the Scottish Tourist Board in the publication Scotland for Coarse Fishing and its subsequent revised editions. He also worked closely with bodies such as the Dept of Natural History at Glasgow Museums, the Freshwater Fisheries Lab at Pitlochry and the Dept of Forestry and Natural Resources at Edinburgh University, both to help build a comprehensive picture of coarse fish distribution in Scotland and to carry out responsible introductions of coarse species to carefully selected venues.

Nor would it be true to see Bryan as purely a match angler in those days. He also did a good deal of pike fishing, mostly on Lomond where he racked up an enviable tally of twenty pounders and, I believe, at least one thirty. Over and above that, along with Roger Reynolds and Dietrich Burkel (who subsequently caught Scotland’s first Porbeagle off the Mull of Galloway) he was also among the pioneers of tope and thornback fishing in Luce Bay.

I drifted away from coarse angling for a time in the mid-seventies and it was almost thirty years before I bumped into Bryan again, during a pleasure fishing session for dace on the Forth. He was still catching a lot more than I was (of course) and shared some fascinating stories from the early days.

For myself, I have Bryan to thank for a lot of my interest and (very modest) skills in coarse angling; but that’s trivial compared to the invaluable part he played in developing our sport in Scotland. Every Scottish coarse angler – including many who never knew him – owes him a debt of gratitude and we should all be saddened by his loss.

Ron Woods

 

Bryan will be sorely missed by everyone who knew him but his legacy remains and continues to benefit everyone of us who love the sport of coarse fishing in Scotland today.   

 

Gus Brindle

Chairman



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