7th John Hardley Memorial Competition Woodington Lakes

New member takes home the trophy.

On Sunday 26 February 2023, we returned after a two-month wait to Woodington Lakes Trout Fishery to fish the 7th John Hardley Memorial – 2022. 

Trout fly fishing is the winner at the 7th John Hardley Memorial.

Yes, it’s the 2022 Memorial but held in 2023, as the lakes were frozen to ice rink standards on the originally planned date last December. Undaunted, the Branch rescheduled the annual trout fly fishing competition to this day in late February.

Frozen Woodington Lakes taken during 7th John Hardley Memorial Competition

Photo courtesy of Jim Hoare

This yearly event is held in honour of John Hardley, who used to own the fishery and was a very good friend to the Wessex Branch. He was a gentleman, a friend and a great angler. John was also very accommodating as well as knowledgeable about the lakes, fishing and tackle which he shared easily. He sadly lost his battle with a major illness and has since passed away. To remember John’s friendly support and encouragement of the Guild, the Wessex Branch has from 2016 held this annual competition in his memory.

Having rescheduled from the short days of December, we were blessed with a bracing February day, gentle sun, broken clouds and only intermittent wind. Members started arriving at a comfortable 09:00 with bacon butties, eggs, and a warm drink awaiting them on arrival. Fishing started at 10:00 with an hour’s break at 12:30 for a nice hot lunch, on this occasion a pheasant curry. The last cast was completed at the stroke of 16:00.

For this year’s competition, members were allowed to select six flies and fish with these exclusively throughout the day. Under the original rules, which we will revert to when facilities permit, a basic selection of material, some hooks and Members’ tying tools allowed flies to be created and dressed in short order. From tying the fly, then on to the bank and fishing it was a delight. In the event of losing a fly or wanting to change the pattern, a Member simply returned to the bench to tie another fly from the available material before returning to try and catch again.

Paul awarding the trophy to Alex as the winner of trout fly fishing competition.

The Memorial is one of the few fishing days where Members compete for a specific trophy, which is awarded to the Member with the heaviest brace of Trout over the two sessions. The winner also gets bragging rights for a year till the next Memorial. 

With the last cast complete after fishing vigorously all day, it was off to the scales where one of our newer Members was found to have caught the heaviest brace. Alex, who had just joined the Branch recently, was declared winner of this year’s competition. He went home with the trophy with his personalized shield affixed to it.

Bragging rights for Alex will be a little less than normal this time around, as it will be less than a year to the 8th John Hardley Memorial scheduled for Sunday 10 December 2023. But we are sure that this next Memorial will be another great day like this one.