Looking forward to some winter action
This time last year we were praying for rain as our rivers stopped flowing and in some cases dried up. Now we are praying for the rain to stop so we can get near enough to the bank to cast a line or two over the Christmas holiday season. Luckily I’ve got all sorts of floodwater hotspots around me in the Thames Valley so the high water isn’t going to stop me catching a few fish – I hope. There are some some lengthy lock cuttings and Thames backwaters not too far away from my home in Reading which can be good for a bag of roach, bream or even the occasional barbel in the right conditions. These are all species that don’t mind the extra colour although I suspect my normal winter quarry of chub and grayling are going to be off the menu until the water clears a little.
I find myself fishing the Kennet less and less these days which is a shame. Although the river is a shadow of its former self in terms of numbers of fish it does still hold some exceptional specimens and there are some lumpy barbel to be had in these warm winter floods. The other species that is still worth targeting are perch. Perhaps there aren’t the four pounders around in anything like the numbers of six or seven years ago but there is still a reasonable chance of beating my current Kennet PB of 3.09. Consequently the bait fridge has a good supply of lobworms and red maggots should the opportunity present itself to go chasing stripies once the family festivities are out of the way.
The other great thing about perching in this part of the world is the ability to catch big ones in the Kennet and Avon canal should the rivers be out of sorts. My good friend and local perch expert Will Barnard has shared a couple of his favourite spots with me and I’ve got a few of my own in mind. The barbel are going to be more hit and miss but I’m tempted by a now unfashionable stretch on the lower river which should put me in the frame for at least the chance of a winter double. Casting out a heavy method feeder or huge lump of flavoured meat onto the edge of a raging torrent on ‘cod gear’ is not the most exciting form of fishing in my book but when that tip crashes over and a dirty great barbel heads east for Reading town centre then the hours of mind numbing inactivity are quickly forgotten.
I hope you manage to find somewhere fishable in your neck of the woods over the holiday period and that the fishgods smile kindly upon you.
Looking ahead to 2013
We’ve got masses of work on at the Angling Trust with quite a few important projects coming to fruition. First and foremost will be the conclusions of the Defra cormorant licensing review that we persuaded the government to undertake and which is due to report early in the New Year. These birds have exploded in numbers over the last 20 years and done untold damage to silver fish stocks on club and commercial fisheries as well as to roach, dace and eel populations in many of our our rivers. Let’s hope all those Action on Cormorants postcards, letters and petition forms have had an impact and the government finally allows fishery managers to protect their waters from these unsustainable levels of predation.
On the saltwater front we have the Angling Trust inspired review of the bass minimum landing size. The ”Let our Bass Breed’ campaign that we have been running with our friends from the Bass Anglers Sportfishing Society (BASS) has really struck a cord with Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon and I’m feeling hopeful of a positive outcome. But that’s not all we want for recreational sea angling. We are campaigning for much better protection for our important estuary habitats which are currently subject to far too much netting and commercial exploitation. We are also pressing for important species like smoothhound, gilthead bream, wrasse and mullet to be designated as recreational only. Another area of work is keeping a close eye on the process for designating the network of Marine Conservation Zones to ensure that anglers are not unnecessarily locked out of their fishing grounds for no good reason.
Both game and coarse anglers have welcomed the historic victory over the hydropower developers at Sawley Weir on the Trent and our attempts to get new guidelines in place so that these schemes cannot proceed if they adversely affect fishing or the environment. Our battles over hydropower and the condition of the nation’s rivers, including our iconic chalkstreams, are set to take a lot of our time in 2013. Particularly as the government has recently published a draft water bill that could, if passed, make matters such as over-abstraction worse not better. I’m also sure we will be kept busy by the antics of the canoeists who will continue to flout the law until and unless we can secure a couple of exemplary prosecutions.
Our partnership with the tackle trade continues to produce results with the excellent National Fishing Month allowing thousands of people to try angling for the first time and the launch of the new ‘Fishing for Life’ strategy providing a pathway to moving first time anglers into getting the fishing habit for life.
I have no doubt that Fish Legal will be taking more polluters to court and that the Angling Trust will continue to grow in both numbers and influence as we provide the type of professional representation and leadership that our sport has been needing for years. Of course it would all be so much easier if we had more resources and that comes through individual rather than club membership fees. So if you are not a member of the Angling Trust already please make joining us one of your New Year resolutions for 2013.
Fishing Targets for the New Year
In April 2010 I gave up politics to ‘spend more time with my fish’ and that meant ticking off a whole load of species from my personal bucket list. I already had my giant mahseer in the can and 15 months in Australia saw me add large marlin, kingfish, snapper and barramundi to the roll call.
In 2012 I took up and fell in love with bass fishing and a trip to Scotland with the All Party Parliamentary Angling Group saw me take my first fly caught salmon. Also last year I got acquainted with some amazing sailfish in Kenya and I’ve decided that 2013 is going to be when I land my first bonefish and attempt to catch a Giant Trevally on the fly. Look out for tales of success or failure over the coming months.
Back closer to home I’m hoping to add to the brace of two pound roach that came my way last month before the rivers close on March 14th and I’m hoping that my fifth Thames Valley tench over nine pounds, when she comes, will this time break into double figures.
Whatever your plans, your hopes or your fishing dreams – here’s wishing you a very Happy Xmas and tight lines and a singing reel in 2013.