What a difference a year makes. Last October I represented the Angling Trust at the annual Avon Fundraiser Event held jointly by The Avon Roach Project and the Barbel Society Research and Conservation section on the banks of a flooded Hampshire Avon. A combination of good fortune and dogged determination saw me sitting it out on the lead for a match winning 7lb barbel as the river rose and great islands of floating weed headed downstream for Christchurch Harbour. This year the river was gin clear and painfully low but fished surprisingly well in parts.
The winner in this ‘friendly match to the death’ is the captor of the best specimen fish on the day in the opinion of Roach Project founders and event organisers Trevor Harrop and Budgie Price. Despite some chunky chub and a catches of nice dace and grayling being recorded it was a barbel that secured the honours once again. At 14lb 1oz it was tad heavier than the previous year’s winning specimen and was taken from a classic Avon swim on a meatball and cane rod by local angler Kevin Dyer.
The 2013 event broke three records with the largest winning fish caught, the satisfying appearance of small roach on the catch return sheet for the first time, and an attendance by seventy three people who collectively raised a staggering six thousand pounds – another record for the occasion.
This was the fifth Avon fundraiser and all the proceeds are split evenly to help fund the ongoing needs and running costs of the Roach Project and much needed Avon based barbel habitat restoration and enhancement projects. Many of these projects are delivered in partnership with the fisheries teams at the Environment Agency.
The day consisted of a friendly fishing match followed by a three course meal at a local country hotel. This was then followed by an auction of some sixty fabulous lots, from exclusive guided and guest fishing days, signed books and DVD’s, rods, reels, pictures and an exclusive centrepin made and engraved especially for this event. There was also a special section of lots donated by avid Roach Project supporter Chris Yates which included signed books, a reel and a special float once owned and used by the legendary Bernard Venables.
Trevor Harrop was visibly moved by the level of support saying:
“The generosity shown at our annual fundraiser is almost beyond words; and while we are regularly reminded that we have countrywide support for our project, we are almost moved to tears at the open-handedness, kindness, support, and as importantly, belief we are shown at these events.
We have to pinch ourselves sometimes, when we remember that it all started with a tank and a couple of nutcases with a bonkers idea of reinstating roach into the Avon, then to be standing in front of a hall full of people, all showing such boundless support, with some having caught roach from the river for the first time in decades. So, maybe, just maybe, we are actually making a difference.
The money raised at these functions removes the financial burden that projects such as ours could be severely inhibited by and allows us to just get on with growing roach for the Hampshire Avon, a river that has enriched the lives of so many down the generations and can hopefully do so for future generations. And, the ongoing habitat reinstatement and enhancement projects are a vital and priceless element in the continuing recovery of our river. The more fry and juvenile protection we can create the better, and not only for our roach, but for all species of fish.
We’d like to thank everyone for their support, both at the event and up and down the country, who donate financially or with their physical help, or who simply write and email us with wonderful messages of support and encouragement.”
And so what became of last year’s winner? Well no need to trouble the scalesman this time as my decision to head up to the tough but challenging Gorley Corner above Ibsley was not the brightest I’ve ever made. Worst still I was accompanied by Keith Elliott, one time well known matchman and now editor of Classic Angling. Keith wanted to run a float through and in a mile of water we could find very few spots that had any depth and weren’t choked solid with weed. To make matters worse a huge barbel rolled a couple of times in one of the few fishable swims but our attempts to snare it were unsuccessful. Not wanting Keith to miss out on his float fishing we walked to the top of the fishery and found a glide through the weed where he could indulge his passion. Three hours later and with a nice bag of Avon dace in the net we trudged back to the car a happy pair in the fading autumn sunshine.
Best of all Keith had landed some pristine 6 inch roach amongst his bag of dace. These are almost certainly the fish that Trev and Budgie stocked over the last two years. Perhaps the hard work is beginning to pay off and we will live to see the return of those big beautiful Avon roach for which this wonderful river was once justly famous.
If you would like to know more or donate to the Avon Roach Project go to http://www.avonroachproject.co.uk/index.html