Our Society

Our Society is a major and well-respected fishery on the Ribble system that not only provides members with access to excellent fishing but also plays a broader role in conservation and environmental issues that affect the entire fishery from source to sea. We have a long and distinguished history, firm policies underpinning the operation of the society and strong links with other organisations within the region, information on which can be found below.

Our Beginnings

John Whitham has been secretary of the Society for over 50 years. During his tenure, he has overseen many changes within the Society and together with various committee members, he has faced many challenges, some of which threatened the very existence of the Society. This is John’s personal account of the Societies origins and its transformation into the Society that is widely respected by angling and conservation groups today.

The Society was formed under the name Padiham and District Angling Society in the late 1930’s by anglers from the Padiham and Burnley areas who fished two small lodges at Hapton for trout.  With the outbreak of war, the Society suspended operations until 1947 when servicemen returned from the forces.  This prompted a search for river fishing but with the limited membership and funds hard to come by, it wasn’t until into the 50’s that they acquired a lease on a short stretch of the Ribble at Trough House.  In those days the river was subject to real bouts of pollution that were so bad, it was a miracle that the river survived.

In the late 50’s the Society faced its first crisis. Following a series of serious pollution episodes, the membership collapsed leaving rents to be paid with no money in the bank.  It was at this stage that I became Secretary, under my father’s wing. I was still a junior but was allowed to go fishing on my own as a concession for being Secretary.  Fortunately, Dad had already established a friendship with the landowner, who in turn was agreeable to give the Society time to accrue funds on the assurance and understanding that all back rents would be paid. Over a nine-month period, the membership was built up to 25 and the outstanding rents paid.  The following two years were a period of consolidation, which resulted in us being able to secure a longer lease with the new owner of Trough House.

Only a year later the new owner of Trough House bought the next piece of fishing, Lambing Clough Farm (containing our wood pool) and we were offered it at an increased rental.  Thanks to a short waiting list we were able to increase membership to 30 as we now controlled a mile of fishing.  Keeping members was always a challenge following pollution events especially as some of which decimated fish stocks.

In 1964 the Stonyhurst Estate water was offered for lease.  Thanks to the energetic Officers of the club who had a good number of fishing friends, we secured a one-year trial lease on the water above Calder Foot and increased membership to 80. At the end of the trial year we were offered the whole of the Stonyhurst Estate water on an extended lease. The club now had a good portfolio of waters available to members and its stature grew as a major fishery on the Ribble system.

With the increase amount of water available we were encouraged to take an active role in the local Consultative Association Ribble Fisheries as it was then. This proved to be essential when the College lodged a ‘Right of Common’ on the river despite having sold off many of the beats down as far as Ribchester. Thanks to the Consultative, a compromise agreement was agreed that protected the rights of the clubs and the Estate.

The outbreak of UDN in the late sixties demonstrated just how many salmon ran the river. Improvements to water quality and increased migratory runs also began to change the type of fisherman that were attracted to the club – we essentially changed from a mixed type of fishing to a mainly game fishing club.

In 1971 with Trough House being up for sale, we were offered an opportunity to buy the Trough House and Lambing Clough beats.  Much scratching about and several general meetings were held during which several of the business members offered to loan the majority of the money to the club, and so the Society became riparian owners.  With the river now starting to improve we were able to maintain membership, and managed to repay our business members their loans whilst maintaining the fishing of those members who couldn’t afford to put up a loan. In the mid 1970’s our excellent relationship with the local farmers enabled us to secure a long lease on the Cross Gills beat thus linking our existing waters together. Then in 1979 the farm was to be sold and following some negotiation, the club was able to purchase the fishing giving us nearly two miles that we own. In the search for additional water that had a different character from our main beats, the club purchased a short length at Long Preston in 1983.

It was following this purchase that the need to consolidate the foundations of the club began to emerge. This reflected the desire to ensure the continuity of the club whilst maintaining the principle of securing appropriate waters for the benefit of members so that they could enjoy as wide a variety of fishing opportunities as we could provide.  To this end a number of policies were agreed that reflected the custom and practise of past years whilst looking forward to the future. These principles underpin our current constitution. 

With the cleaning of the Calder, a much greater interest was being taken by coarse fishing clubs.  Because Padiham was on the Calder, it was agreed that the club should take a name more commensurate with the area and type of fishing that more closely reflected our membership. As a result Padiham & District Angling Society became Mid Ribble Angling Society at the end of the 1998 season. The clubs original name still lives on as in 2005, we established a Limited Liability Company to hold the clubs riparian rights and capital.

During the extended drought conditions in 2005 making the river almost unfishable for an extended period we arranged a concession rate with Stocks reservoir, thus providing an additional opportunity for members.  Subsequently this was extended to cover the full season and the arrangements for an annual Reservoir Day. With the continuing improvements in the Calder catchment a short stretch, near Whalley, was leased in 2006 and was subsequently purchased in 2009. In 2008 we were approached by the farmer regarding a possible lease on a beat at Hothersall Hall Farm, which was successfully added to our portfolio of waters available to members.

In more recent times, the Society has been actively involved in national research projects about salmon and sea trout conservation together with extensive involvement, both at an Officer and individual member level, in the work of the Ribble River Trust.  It is the clubs belief that we need to contribute to these projects for the enhancement of the river as a whole through habitat work and being involved with the Fish Action Plan. We also work closely with the Environment Agency on various issues including a carcase tagging and licence-checking scheme.

As a Society we have evolved over the years to be a highly respected and major fishery that plays a significant role in environmental and conservation issues. A democratically elected committee whose ethos is to inform, listen and enhance the fishing experience of all its members runs the Society. The next chapters in the development of this Society will see many challenges enfold but it will strive to maintain its proud history as a premier fishing club with a strong focus on conservation in the entire Ribble system. 

John Whitham

Secretary of the Padiham and District Angling Society (1960 to 1998) and Mid Ribble Angling Society (1998 to the present date)