Monday, 30 December 2013


a perfect roach fisher's dawn

“There’s more to fishing than catching fish” … a cliché I know but never truer than when fishing with friends …

… and this year I’ve had my fill of friends catching more than me! Take Boxing Day for instance.

surely there's got to be a two pounder here 
I started before dawn, picked the swim where I was convinced there’d be a big roach waiting for me, got bored watching a float wandering around the slack water eddy and went off to do some proper trotting.

I’d convinced my mate Trevor Harrop that we’d catch a big roach, in spite of heavily coloured flood water with ice covered puddles after a heavy overnight frost - so he sensibly turned up after lunch, drinks Stuarts’ tea, talked the hind legs off all the donkeys in the field then at my suggestion, drops a bit of bread into the hot swim I had baited earlier and promptly pulls out a 2lb roach. Who needs enemies when you have friends like Trevor.
Trev with his jammy two pound roach

So my New Years Resolution is to put my friends in the worst swims with rubbish bait and then show them how it should be done. In truth, I was absolutely delighted for Trev. because as my wife Sue said, “he doesn’t often catch anything”!

Now lets stop the leg pulling and say how richly deserved that roach was – and if you doubt me, just have a look at Trev and Budgie’s Avon Roach Project Blog. You only just get an impression of how much work, dedication and sheer bloody mindedness goes into the success that they are achieving and we should all be eternally grateful that at least a few people are actually getting on and doing something to help provide us with some roach fishing in the future instead of just whingeing and suggesting it’s a waste of time. Just read on and be inspired -

And while we are handing out the plaudits, lets not forget the support for the project from the EA or the work of several of us that were concerned at the dramatic decline of roach and the critical loss of many of our rivers’ much lauded balance of nature between predators and prey.

the predatory pike becomes the prey © Stewart Canham
Lots of writing and petitions by us and the Angling Trust actually won us some Government concessions on the laws governing cormorant controls. We can now more effectively protect our fisheries and hopefully, in time, our wildlife will recover from the tragedy of unsustainable predation. The campaign was a triumph but is only the start of our attempt to enhance wildlife.

cute and cuddly - no! © Jane Adams
With more fish in our rivers, the problems of widespread predation by otters will ease, for at present they are running wild, killing lots of birds, even grebes and several of the brood of swans shown below. They destroy fisheries and even raid people’s gardens like urban foxes.
the last of our garden's golden orfe

trying to explain to Ellie the problems our rivers are facing
I banged on about this to the BBC in a series of programmes about Britain’s wildlife and I was even more disappointed than most when almost all my concerns were edited out – again. Sadly it seems that the media just don’t want to accept the truth about some of the issues over our wildlife problems, especially if it involves our much loved, ‘playful’ otters.

one of Britain's favourite mammals © Stewart Canham
I’m very fond of otters, they are one of my favourite animals because I have spent years filming them for the BBC. I would hate to see them come to any harm, but when they are so hungry that they are having to eat minnows less than an inch long and twenty were killed recently on Dorset’s roads in just three months, you have to find solutions … one of which is to create better fish habitat on rivers and protect them from all the threats such as pollution. Otters have recovered but they need more to eat if the success is not to be short lived.

the River Stour otters at Blandford are still producing cubs
OK, rant over, now I want to celebrate a year out there with the wildlife and my friends, even those that catch more than me. Some readers might feel that the catching of fish is not in their best interests but without anglers to protect them and their homes, our world would be a poorer place. I love fish like I do birds and all we anglers do if we get lucky is get to touch and admire them, then carefully return them to live another day, just as BTO bird ringers do with our blackbirds and robins [and something I used to do as well]. By catching birds we learn a lot about their lives and survival and the same goes for catching fish. They are all wildlife and we need to discover more about the challenges they face in this rapidly changing world.

This post has gone on long enough so I’ll put this ‘out there’ and write another piece about my friends, fishing and wildlife in a little while ... so please watch this space.
I returned to Britford on Saturday - three roach, lots of dace and wildlife to admire - what a lovely day

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