Early Years – 1919-1940s
The Ballarat Mechanics’ Institute was the venue on the 19th August 1919 for a meeting convened by Mr. Victor Wastell, which resulted in the formation of the club, now known as the Ballarat Fly Fishers’ Club. Initially the Club was simply known as the “Fly Fishers’ Club” and the following gentlemen became the inaugural membership Messrs, T.F.Wilson, V.H.Wastell, F. Foster, R.G.Radcliff, W. R. A. Porter, A. R. Morrison, H. C. Horsfall, P. Tonkin, J. J. Lowther, R. Mitchell, J. C. Rowe, W. Fraser Jnr., W. Graham, C. Hutton, G. R. Valentine and Dr. R. J. Bull. Of these, Mr. Wilson became the first president and Messrs. Foster and Wastell the first secretary and treasurer respectively. Victor Wastell later became the second president of the Club.
During the early years the Club held its meetings at various venues, the Mechanics Institute, Mr.G.R.Valentine’s offices or members homes, but then settled to meeting at Misses Brazenor’s ” Alexandria ” Tearooms where it remained until 1946 when suitable negotiations with the Ballarat Angler’s Club moved their meetings to the Angler’s Lodge where it remained for 49 years and so there has always been a strong association with the Ballarat Anglers and the Ballarat Flyfishers with inter-club fishing and social activities. The club, in 1920, and only months after its formation, became an affiliate of the Victorian Piscatorial Council and has maintained its membership continuously ever since by direct representation and in later years through the Ballarat District Anglers Association.
In 1936 founding member Victor Wastell felt that there was a need to have fly fishers get together for their mutual benefit, accordingly he was responsible for the fishing competition aimed not so much at the catching of fish, but at the fulfillment of that need of fly fishers gathering together. The inaugural contest took place, on Lake Wendouree in 1937, between the Victorian Fly Fishers’ Association, The Red Tag Flyfishers Club, The Ballarat Anglers Club and this club The Ballarat Fly Fishers. The Ballarat Fly Fishers Club is the host club for The Victor Wastell Trophy Competition an annual fishing competition conducted over two days usually on a weekend late in October. The actual trophy that was designed by another early Ballarat Fly Fishers member Mr. V. Greenhalgh – cast in bronze, in Italy. This competition was much looked forward to by the flyfishers and, at first, Lake Wendouree and Newlyn were the venues at which the competition was fished; Newlyn being particularly popular mainly it seems, because the hospitality, dispensed by Mr. Haintz, Licensee of the Newlyn Hotel, at the conclusion of each competition ensured the “get together ” Victor Wastell had intended.
1940s to 1970s
The Club continued to function right through the war years but on a much-reduced scale due to the demands of the war effort. When peace came the club again began to pick up its impetus with the return of normality and with the increased leisure time due to the introduction of the forty-hour working week. It was just at this time, In 1952;however that the club took what, in hindsight can be regarded only as a retrograde step in that it formally limited its size to a maximum of 33 members. The disadvantages, this situation created, soon became apparent and, on the initiative of Mr. Geoff Cornell, the limit on membership was removed at the annual general meeting of 1954 .The Club, however took some time to recover and it was not until 1957 that any significant influx of members occurred following the disbanding of the Ballarat Fly and Plug casting Club. Among these former Casting Club members was Mr. Artie McAdam, who was to play an important role in the progress of competition fly-casting in the Ballarat Fly Fishers Club.
After joining the Club, Artie McAdam became the fly casting coach conducting casting schools at the jetty on the east side of the Lake near Macarthur street with Members such as John Close, Graham Latter, Fred Eva, John McKay, Kevin Arnold and Roger McNeight. Artie’s enthusiasm and drive helped create a team of casters which during the early 1960’s and 1970’s could well claim to be the premier casting team in the state when they won many State and National Casting Titles and resulted in John Close being selected to represent Australia at the World International Casting Championships in Switzerland in 1968.
In 1953, The Victorian Council was re-organized into zones, covering the State with the idea of better looking after angler’s interests and so came into being the Ballarat District Anglers Association. Although competitive fly casting competitions had been conducted by the Club from as early as 1920, but under very different rules to those that existing today, and the Club became an affiliate of the Australian Casting Association when that body was founded in 1938 and remains a member ever since, it was not until 1952 that a Club member brought home the Club’s first National Championship. Alec Wallace winning the Medium Line Fly Distance Championship. Alec later twice winning the Australian Champion of Champions Trophy in 1963 and 1964.
The BFFC participates in interclub fly-casting competitions, in particular, the Brunn Shield, which is held over the winter months and conducted at four different club venues.
1970s to 2000
In 1974 the Mayor of Ballarat Cr. Rizzoli officiated at the opening of the new casting jetty located near McArthur street, the jetty had been constructed by the members of the BFFC.
In 1981 Penny Allen daughter of former club President Bill Allen became the first lady member, Penny a keen competition caster won the 1986 Australian Ladies Fly Casting Championship.
In September 1990 the club purchased a secondhand caravan and after some remodeling by members it was transported to Cobrabold Bay Lake Eucumbene, The caravan together with a portable holiday shack donated by Fred Eva was sited and erected. During the annual club trip in March 1991 to Eucumbene it was officially named the “Fred Eva Lodge”.
In November 1990 the club lost a life member and former treasurer for many years in George Davenport, he bequeathed his boatshed on Lake Wendouree to the BFFC, a gesture typical of his generosity and the feeling he held for the club.
At the September 1993 meeting the Committee recommended the club purchase the license to occupy Lake Wendouree site 12 at a once only fee of $ 3150.00 and that we sell our boatshed site 14 for $ 11,500.00 or the best offer acceptable to the committee and that George Davenports contribution be recognized in a substantial way in the new boatshed / clubrooms to be constructed on site 12. Saturday January 5, 1993 was for the next two years the commencement of many weekends and holidays for members at working bees on the boatshed / club-rooms construction at site 12 Lake Wendouree.
After 49 years the BFFC held its last meeting at the Ballarat Anglers Lodge in December 1994. In the same year the club lost its longest serving member Jim Thomas, he was a member for 70 years of the clubs 75 years. Craig’s Royal Hotel was the venue for the Ballarat Fly Fishers Club 75th Birthday celebration on Saturday 27th August 1994.
Two members of the BFFC team Craig Coltman and Royce Baxter were successful in the inaugural Victorian Fly Fishing Championships held on November 26th and 27th 1994 at Rocky Valley and Pretty Valley reservoirs Falls Creek. In December 1994 they competed in the Australian Fly Fishing Championships in Tasmania and they qualified for the Australian team to compete in the World Fly Fishing Championships in Ireland in September 1995. February 9, 1995 was the first meeting of the BFFC held at the new boatshed / clubrooms and members of the Ballarat Anglers Club were invited to the meeting.
On Sunday March 5th 1995 the new boatshed /clubrooms for the BFFC was officially opened by Commissioner Clarke of the Ballarat City Council.
The BFFC was the host club for the 1995 Victorian Fly Fishing Championships held on November 10 and 11 and for the Australian Championships held on December 2nd and 3rd. Lake Wendouree was the venue for both events.
BFFC members Vern Barby and Royce Baxter were selected in the Australian team for the 1996 World Championships held in the Czech Republic.
The BFFC was selected as the host club for the 1999 Commonwealth Fly Fishing Championships held in November at Lake Wendouree and Hepburn Lagoon. Teams from England, Canada, Wales, New Zealand and Australia competed.
In December 2000 further extensions to the boatshed / clubrooms were completed.