History of AJS FlyFishers
Anthony James Sterne, 1937 – 2006, born in the south of England, Tony had started his working life as an accountant, before moving to Yorkshire, when he married Sally.
He worked in her father’s rendering business, before it was unexpectedly sold, motivating him to start his own business in that industry. From his hard work and success he widened his interests into buying, developing, selling and letting property with his younger brother, Martin Sterne.
Tony lived at River House in Boston Spa for 38 years. He acquired the fishing rights there, which today, still enables course fishing on a stretch of the Wharfe for day ticket holders. Tony was keen for fishing to be available for all.
In the early 1970’s his love of fly fishing began with regular visits to the River Nidd in Knaresborough. He also spent time fishing for sea trout on Loch Currane in Kerry, Ireland and had an annual rod on the Tweed in Scotland.
In 1976 he was able to purchase the woods and river rights of one of those favourite spots, just outside of Knaresborough in the area now known as The River Nidd Gorge.
Tony formed a local syndicate for invited members and AJS FlyFishers was born. In 1995 the woods surrounding the river were sold to the Woodland Trust but he maintained the fishing rights.
After Tony’s passing in 2006 his widow’s request was that the fishing be continued and AJS FlyFishers became an annual members club by payment of a subscription.
Membership at that time was healthy with numbers in the low thirties. In 2015 the Club was beginning to see a downturn in membership numbers and it had begun placing advertisements in Trout and Salmon to advertise for new members. This is when I joined the Club.
Sadly in 2016 the Treasurer at the time passed away unexpectedly, and, as is often the case my offer to ‘look after the accounts until a new treasurer could be found’ rolled forward to the next AGM when I was duly elected to be Honorary Treasurer in 2017.
Membership numbers continued to decline whilst annual expenditure rose steadily. Good fortune often comes in many forms and after inviting good friends from Essential Fly and Semperfi to fish the river, coupled with many conversations along the river bank, a new approach to marketing was developed. Essentially the Club enlisted the support of local guides and instructors by offering to host fishing courses for beginners and experienced rods on our water. Orvis of Harrogate proved to be great partners to work with and soon enough membership numbers rose beyond the danger levels.
Raffles were held and our Riparian owner provided us with a print of an oil painting she had completed, a scene of the Nidd in autumn. This was mounted and framed and the finished result was much sought after, the raffle made 1.5 x the annual membership fee. (Photo River Nidd in Autumn) Social activities were developed with a BBQ and Master Class event being run in the summer. Two members, both AAPGAI Advanced Instructors, led the Master Classes which proved very successful and members are very keen to ensure they booked places for both themselves and wives/partners at subsequent events.
A website was developed in 2018. Prior to this a pamphlet was produced to give out at fairs and via local shops. Whilst this did attract some new members it was the new website that really gained traction and led to the Club being oversubscribed within 10 months. Memberships rose to a new high level of 40.
In 2020 at the AGM a proposal was put to the members that the limit on membership be lifted to 45, this remains the limit as following the gathering of accurate catch returns the daily fishing rate can be logged; from this data it became apparent that only on 5 days of the season were there more than 5 members present – with the natural spread of fishing throughout the day there were only 3 members present simultaneously. A unique aspect of the Club is that even at busy times, such as the mayfly hatch, you always have plenty of opportunity to fish a variety of riffles, pools and glides without the pressure of other anglers waiting to fish the same section or having just fished through it.
In 2020 the Treasurer developed the now successful Youth Project and set about raising funds and support for this to go ahead. Covid 19 delayed our start until 2021 but the rest is, as they say, history.
Annually the Club donate a ‘Guided Day for 2 Rods’ to the Angling Trust Auction. Our Club does try and ensure that we not only provide excellent fishing for the members but also we try and put something back into the sport that we all love.