Saturday, 5 June 2021

Petition fatigue




I, as probably you, have received a slew of invitations in recent weeks to sign water related petitions from all manner of subjects from sewage pollution to banning the use of harmful flea treatments for dogs which eventually end up in rivers.

I’m generally sympathetic to them all, though I flatly refuse to sign the one that asks us to support the campaign to “Give the Environment Agency the funds and freedom to protect English rivers.” As Feargal Sharkey so eloquently said in recent evidence to a House of Commons Committee, and as I have written elsewhere, the EA has all the powers and money it could possibly need. The best thing for rivers is to give the EA a dignified death and replace it with a Pure Water Authority.



A river runs by it ....


But I digress because really what I find slightly depressing is how little traction the river quality petitions seem to be getting. Now that could be a manifestation of petition fatigue; there are currently 2,407 petitions open for support at ranging from introducing sanctions against Israel (currently top at 384,342) to making yoga part of the school curriculum (3,127).

As a petitioner you have two benchmarks of sucess. At 10,000 the government will take notice of your proposal – I have no idea what that means. If your petition reaches 100,000 it will be considered for debate in parliament. Since Tony Blair began this people’s politics in 2006 that has happened on 73 occasions, so four or five a year. Not to be sniffed at. 

When BBC Panorama broadcast last month the programme on the wanton sewage pollution of our rivers by the water companies I thought we were nailed on for one such debate. The petition to ban water companies discharging raw sewage into water courses was launched on the back of the programme. But after an initial surge it is mired around the 35,000 mark which puts it in the top 50 petitions list – not bad, but it is, for instance, 5,000 signatures behind the petition for stricter laws governing the purchase/acquisition/possession of crossbows. Now, however worthy and justified the crossbow petition might be, how an earth can that be getting better traction?

I’m not sure what the answer is but here is a clue: in a recent survey of household utilities people rated the provision of broadband as more important that clean water. We really do have a struggle on our hands.



That was the month that was: May

 Wettest. Coldest. Frostiest. If you are of a certain age you might just now shout, it’s a record breaker! Maybe it is my fault. After a dry April I sort of wished for a dampish start to May. Just a little water will help, I said to myself. To say my wish was granted by the bucketful slightly understates how wet May was. I see in some places it was three times the average.

In truth, the rain should not greatly retard the cadence of the hatch season, but the cold certainly did, aided and abetted by regular N/NE winds. Just as a for instance the yellow Flag irises which normally bloom in early May are only this week popping their heads out and even then, in a half-hearted sort of way.

So, putting all that together it was no great surprise when the Mayfly didn’t arrive when expected. On the Itchen it was just starting this year around the time that it ended last year, and I sat here at The Mill last night looking at a full-on hatch at 8pm which, in terms of sheer numbers, is unusual for June.

It was truly brutal in those middle two weeks of May. Miserable weather. Sometimes dirty rivers. Mayfly hatches which at best were sporadic. It has eventually come good as the weather turned but Mother Nature, as is her wont, has made fools of us as ever. 

Well done to Andrew Probin who wins the May Feedback Draw having fished The Parsonage in the teeth of the aforementioned appalling weather. A bottle of Daddy Long-Legs champagne is in the post to ease the pain.



Eventually they arrived



Social media and fishing: good or bad?

I blow hot and cold on social media. On the one hand it has made possible this newsletter. On the other I do sometimes feel that much of the output is about as useful as shouting down a well. But for the most part I just jog along with its existence accepting that, as Lord Leverhulme once said of advertising, I know half the effort is wasted but nobody can tell me which half.

Some feel differently however. Trout & Salmon editor Andrew Flitcroft used his leader column in the July magazine to talk about the pernicious influence of social media on trophy hunting. Others consider the proliferation of so-called influencers denigrates our sport. No good, they argue, can come from a pretty blonde holding a fish up to the camera. Which, they ask, are you truly looking at?

So, you can guess where this is leading. The next topic for Hero vs. Villain is to be Social Media: good or bad for fishing? 7pm Thursday July 1st. Register here

Catch up on Hero vs. Villain. Brown or rainbow trout: which is the superior fish? In the wholly unscientific poll we had during the debate you voted 65/35 in favour of browns and 87/13 the same way in a subsequent Twitter poll. Listen to the podcast Watch on You Tube




Chalkstreams: the book

 No, not mine but a beautiful collection of photos recently self-published by Dick Hawkes a keen amateur photographer and fly fisher. Chalkstreams A Unique Environment Worth Conserving is the perfect pictorial explanation of all things chalkstream from the origins, sources, history, uses past and current with a look to the future.

The book may ordered direct from Dick at £30 or on Amazon  I’ll be giving away a signed copy, kindly donated by Dick, during our next Hero vs. Villain debate.



Dick Hawkes on location




Back to the more normal random collection of questions inspired by the date, events or topics in the Newsletter.


It is just for fun with answers at the bottom of the page.


1)     Who beat Japan on this day in 1995 to set the world record winning points tally in an international Rugby Union match?


2)     It is the Epsom Derby on Saturday. What age horses is the race restricted to?


3)     How many years did Tony Blair serve as Prime Minister?



Have a good weekend.



Best wishes,



Simon Cooper

Founder & Managing




Quiz answers:


1)     New Zealand who won 145-17 in the World Cup in Bloomfontein, RSA.

2)     3 year olds

3)     10 years. 1997-2007.

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