have spent the last month on the highways and byways of southern
England visiting my many river owners. With the season drawing to a
close this is the time we collectively take stock. Talk. Plan. Review.
Bewail the bad. Celebrate the good.
These are rarely
contentious meetings; in most cases the relationships date back decades
rather than years. That is not to say we don't have the occasional
disagreement but in the end we always navigate those for essentially,
even though there is money involved, this is about all feeling a
certain amount of quiet satisfaction from the outcome of the year. We
want to enjoy everything about the fishing and hope you have too.
interesting thing about the round of meetings is that usually, without
any prompting from me, a theme appears. Often it is weather related;
yes, you've guessed it the lack of rain or very occasionally too much
of it. This year it was catch and release. However, not the principle
of it - that is well established - but rather the number of fish caught
and released. Before I explain let me back track a little.
fish of an edible size is a relatively new phenomenon for the
chalkstreams. When I started out in business nearly thirty years ago it
was all catch and kill. You caught your four fish and went home. Catch
and release? Plenty of people positively fulminated against it. I
recall many a 'fruity' conversation (this was pre-email days) as
releasing went from niche to normal. A good thing? Well, yes and no.
yes is all fairly obvious; I don't need to recite the arguments here
for you. The no? Well, you may be wondering why there might even be a
no. Well, the fact is the end-of-season conversations have revolved
around catch record books that show anglers who have caught (and released)
15, 20, 30 and even 40 fish in a day. Now we do generally ask that
people observe a limit that varies from six to twelve, but it is
clearly either ignored or unread. In any case it's impossible to police
- we rely entirely on honesty and goodwill.
therein lies the problem to which we really haven't found an answer.
What is a reasonable number of fish to release in a day? How do you
limit the catch on what might be the best ever fishing day of someone's
life without being prescriptive? How do you explain the dour state of
the river to the person who arrives the following day?
do think this is one of the difficulties with catch and release; it is
gradually cranking up the base line as to what we regard as a
reasonable day without due regard to what a river is able to sustain.
otters are back
seems my otters have been on something of a sabbatical. Having been
constant companions here at Nether Wallop Mill in 2015/16 they, at
least as a family group, have all but vanished.
an eek. Not a squeak. From time to time I have found the occasional
part eaten trout but essentially, we have navigated two winters
unscathed, starting the new season with much the same population of
trout as we ended the previous.
But for the past month, in
the depth of night, I have half woken to hear distant noises. Or at
least I think I have; sometimes the morning-after memory is fuzzy. A
confusion of what you might have heard recently and what you remembered
hearing long ago.
a week last Saturday, amidst a 3am deluge, there was no doubt. I headed
outside torch in hand. And there, right at my feet, almost within
touching distance were two pups, maybe 6 months old, caught in the
beam. I'm pretty sure I was the first person they had ever seen
(certainly the first in a white towelling dressing gown!) for rather
than flee they just looked up a me by way of curiosity.
a trait of otters of that age that they are closely bonded to each
other; where one goes the other follows as if joined by a short bit of
string. Stood on the edge of the lake they considered me for a while,
gradually moving closer and tighter together as certain doubts crept in
as to my veracity. I don't think they ever really saw me as a threat,
for when they eventually decided the lake was a safer bet than the
bank, they unhurriedly slipped into the water eeking their way to
mother who echoed back from somewhere out in the darkness.
I'm again with an otter family who are much in residence. Since that
Saturday they have been back nearly every night. Is it Kuschta, the
heroine of The Otters Tale? I think not; sadly, age will have
caught up with her. But I'd like to think the current mother is one of
her two pups. Otters being such territorial creatures the chances are
many times better than good.
Trout Trust Conservation Awards 2019
is not often we give high fives to the Environment Agency. But, for all
its manifest institutional failings, when it comes to those who work at
the sharp end, we have many allies and friends who deserve every
plaudit that comes their way.
Heb Leman, Hannah
Barclay & Jenny Wheeldon
being the case I was delighted when the Outstanding Habitat Improvement
Project Award for 2019 was given to the Environment Agency for the Test
& Itchen River Restoration Strategy. Some of you may recall that we
were part of this with our project at Bullington Manor on the River
Dever over the winter of 2017/18. Ours was just one section of the 10km
of river that has been significantly restored which has also seen eight
barriers, 1km of steel and wooden sheet piling removed, 16800 tonnes of
gravel added, and 40 hectares of flood storage created along with much
'softer' habitat improvement.
congratulations to not only Project Manager Heb Leman who has more
chalkstream water than blood in his veins but also Hannah Barclay of
the Environment Agency and Jenny Wheeldon of Natural England
captured in film
the trout lakes on the edge of the River Itchen, has long been part of
my life. As a teenage fly fisher in the 1970's it was something
remarkable to have on your doorstep as it provided British record trout
that grew in size with each passing year.
Avington - A Trout
creator of these amazing fish was an ex-NASA physicist Sam Holland who
had retired to Hampshire intent of breeding super-huge fish that would
not only break records but the rods of the anglers who attempted to
am not sure how much he succeeded with the latter, but he certainly
succeeded with the former Avington becoming the undisputed home of
British record browns and rainbows until it ceded the crown to Dever
story of AVINGTON: A TROUTFISHER'S PARADISE is now a feature-length
documentary (50 mins) that is available to watch on Fishing TV.
You may have noticed,
tempting though it is, that I haven't strayed into the Brexit debate on
these pages. Why would we want to fall out? With each other that is.
I think we can all agree that there hasn't been much humour in the past
three years, so I was grateful to a Swiss (they are neutral after all)
client who has forwarded a poster from the future.
made me laugh, so solely in that spirit of Brexit, I hope is does the
same for you.
test of your Europeanness. As ever the quiz is just for fun, with
answers at the bottom of the page.