On the morning of January 16th, 2024, the UK angling industry lost one of its leading lights and a champion of the game fishing sector when Ifor Owen Jones passed away with his wife and family by his side at the age of 61 following a short but brave battle with cancer, writes ATA chair Andrew Race.

There are many in the industry and the wider angling community whose lives will have been touched or influenced in some way by meeting Ifor and, whether that acquaintance was long or short, I am sure that the outcome was one of positivity and lasting friendship such was the energy of his character.

In my case that positivity and friendship lasted over 40 years, a time during which an incredible amount of memories were made.

My fly fishing journey started at Thornton Reservoir, where, at the start of one particular season, I met a young fishery manager with a passion for angling and a serious talent for fishery management.

That chance meeting was one of the reasons I went to Sparsholt College to complete a course in fish science, farming and fishery management as Ifor had done just a few years before.

Back then, we could not predict that our friendship would be as long lasting as it has been, nor could we have known that it would lead to both of us becoming members of the Angling Trades Association and working together to help build up the industry. 

Ifor rang me to discuss the things he wanted to do to promote game angling and how he proposed to encourage more people into fly fishing. In my capacity as chair of ATA Ifor hoped that I could lend some weight to what he wanted to achieve.

Knowing the level of experience and energy he would bring to ATA, I jumped at the opportunity to bring him on board and suggested that he should lead the in the development of our plans for the game sector, a role that he readily accepted. Soon after, Ifor was seconded to the ATA board as game lead, something I know he was quietly proud of. 

I cannot imagine the number of people Ifor will have taught to fly cast over the years, he was very passionate about introducing others to the sport and his achievement in terms of angling recruits and its value to the industry may never be truly known.

During that time his energy and passion for fishing never diminished and his skills and achievements as a fishery manager are there for all to see. Ifor was never too busy to help and generous to a fault. He knew the pleasure that angling could bring, how it could open someone’s eyes to the wonders of the great outdoors, and his passion for teaching remained undiminished.

Ifor’s funeral at Thornton church was incredibly well attended – as I knew it would be, such are the numbers of friends made by someone so generous and well loved.

A life modestly conducted but fully lived, and in the words of the opening song by Frank Sinatra, done “My Way”.

I will miss the conversations and the banter at shows and game fairs, the discussions before setting out on the water and the cups of coffee at the end of the fishing day. The helpful tips and suggestions about where to go and what flies to try, the mischievous comments, and those days when we just sorted out the problems facing angling and put the world to rights.

 If you fancy a day’s fly fishing at one of the UK’s finest fly fishing venues, then from personal experience I can highly recommend any of the three reservoirs Thronton, Draycote or Eyebrook that Ifor managed. Just ask for Tom and don’t forget to take a friend along for a casting lesson.

Nhw oedd y gorau o ddyddiau fy ffrind, Dduw bendithia

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