Friday, 18 January 2019

More or less protection for grayling?

More or less protection for grayling?

The Environment Agency (EA) have just launched a consultation on the current coarse fish close season that runs 15 March to 15 June. In essence the options suggested are: retaining the current statutory close season, retaining a close season but starting on 15 April and ending on 30 June or removing it altogether. This applies only to rivers; enclosed stillwaters and canals do not have close seasons.

I must admit I had always assumed the close season was something of a modern construct but in fact it dates back all the way to 1878 when the MP for Sheffield Anthony Mundella championed the legislation. It seems match angling was a big pastime with club competitions major events. However, this was long before the advent of keep nets so all fish were killed for the weigh-in and in the absence of a close season many spawning fish perished.

The original draft bill proposed a close season from 1 March to 31 May but this was hotly contested by the angling clubs in the North, the London Anglers Association and the Piscatorial Society. In the absence of a consensus a compromise was reached; 15 March - 15 June passed into law and it has remained as such for 140 years. The only significant change was the deregulation of stillwaters in 1995 and canals in 2000.

I have to also admit I was largely ignorant until today of the detail of the various coarse fish spawning period; stupidly I assumed that they were all of a piece but the chart from the Environment Agency is enlightening. Firstly, I think it shows the amazing knowledge of our Victorian forbears; in an age before the science we have today they really nailed it for a majority of the species. That said it is interesting to note that across all coarse fish the spawning season runs for seven months with some very distinct differences in behaviour.

On the basis of the grayling data which shows their peak spawning period being March to May I will be changing our self-imposed closed season. Currently on some of our rivers we grayling fish right through to 14/March; in future this will be taken back to 28/February. The earlier closures will remain unchanged.

As to the wider consultation I do rather find myself scratching my head at the second proposition with a revised close season of 15/April - 30/June. This removes protection for ten species during the first half of April, a peak spawning month and is doubly hard on pike, dace and grayling who will lose a full month of protection. Personally I would think 1/April makes more sense with some separate 1/March provision for dace, grayling and pike. As for removing the close season altogether I find the suggestion both repugnant and unconscionable in an age when we are trying to conserve wild species.

Image courtesy of Chalkstream Fly
But my opinions are simply that: opinions. What we need is some hard science. In 2004 when this issue was last discussed at an official level the EA looked into commissioning research to fill the knowledge gaps, but it didn't happen as the cost of £200,000+ was considered prohibitive. I have no idea how we might go about paying or conducting such research but before changing anything it needs to be done. We've got along fine for 140 years; another two or three years to get it right is worth the wait.

If you'd like to have your say the EA press release says: Consultation has started on the future of the close season for coarse fish on rivers. To find out more click here. Next week we'll invite over 500,000 anglers to respond to the consultation when we send our January e-newsletter to online buyers.

Editor Note: The EA actually started the consultation process in May/June 2018 inviting 20,000 randomly selected anglers from across England to provide their views on the coarse fish close season. Of the 5,147 anglers that took part, 2,553 (49.6%) would like to see a change, with 2,190 (42.5%) wanting to keep the close season as it is. Only 404 (7.9%) are undecided. Of those opting for change, 1,695 (32.9%) are in favour of abolishing the close season altogether and 858 (16.7%) prefer a change to the current close season start and end dates.

100% Price Promise

The internet has changed if not everything then most things; my business is no different. I started Fishing Breaks in the world before the worldwide web when the main source of clients were adverts in 
Trout & Salmon and meticulously crafted mailshots to micro-targeted mailing lists. Goodness it was hard.

Pricing the fishing you sold was something of a dark art. Some agents charged a percentage as a booking fee. Others received commission from the owner. But most, relying on the ignorance of the clients, simply marked up the rates as much as they thought the market would stand. It led to many a fraught post-fishing conversation when two rods - one booked through an agent and the other direct through the owner - compared notes. If you thought Ryanair's Michael O'Leary was unpopular .......

Today the transparency and ubiquity of the internet lays all prices out there for all to see; a few clicks of a mouse will show you the best i.e. lowest price. I understand that. I do it every day as a consumer myself. My business should be no different. And it isn't.

At Fishing Breaks I give you my 100% Price Promise. You will not be able to buy our fishing cheaper anywhere else. There are no booking fees. No credit card charges. The prices you see on the web site are those we have agreed with the owner. If they sell direct to the public our prices will be precisely the same.

If you see or hear any different let me know. I am determined to offer not only the best service but the best price. Always.

New for 2019 - Coombe Mill

It is always exciting to have a new beat. Most years I manage to entice one or two into the Fishing Breaks fold so for 2019 I am delighted to welcome Coombe Mill.

For those of you who know our current beats on the River Avon, namely Avon Springs and Upavon Farm, Coombe Mill is pretty well equidistant between the two so upstream of Avon Springs with the Services Dry Fly Fishing Association largely occupying the six miles of water in between. In fact where Coombe Mill starts the Army water ends; it is proper Frank Sawyer territory.

We sent our Guide Bob Preston, something of a grayling addict, to do a post trout season recce. I hesitate to tell you this but Bob lost count at fifty, though with due modesty he says they were mostly small. But regardless this gives you an indication of how prolific this section of the Avon, an all wild fishery, can be.

The season opens April 15 (£125/Rod) with the prime Mayfly May 15 - June 15 (£145/Rod) though many of you will know that the Avon has regular Danica hatches all through the summer. Coombe Mill is for one or two Rods, with a resident keeper and all the facilities including a rather quaint Shepherds Hut that doubles as the fishing cabin. More details here .....

The Otters' Tale talk 

It is always good to be invited back. In November I hosted a 
Life of a Chalkstream lunch and talk at the Sir Harold Hillier Jermyns House just outside Romsey, Hampshire. 

It was a full house and a lovely crowd with the most fun bit for me always the Q&A session at the end. In fact it went on so long (I think it was interesting ....) that the chef appeared to complain that our lunch was getting cold!

I'm delighted to be going back for The Otters' Tale. The talk takes place at 11.30am on Thursday February 28th. For tickets and information contact the event organiser Terry Lewis 01794 369319

The Quiz

A New Year of questions to hopefully entertain and enlighten. As ever it is just for fun with the answers at the bottom of the Newsletter.

1)     Which Conference opened on this day in 1919?

2)     What is a tepal?

3)     What is the origin of the term 'coarse' in relation to fish?

All the best for 2019.

Best wishes,
Simon Signature 
Founder & Managing Director


1)     The Paris Peace Conference that resulted in the Treaty of Versailles.
2)     A tepal is one of the outer parts of a flower. The snowdrop has six; outer and inner rings of three.
3)     In the Middle Ages when bream and their like were commonly eaten the flesh was often described in the literature of the time as 'coarse'.

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