I’ve been on the road, actually more often on the railroad, a fair bit lately. Two days after returning from a fabulous time holidaying in the Scilly Isles it was up to London at the crack of dawn to get everything ready for our inaugural TideFest Competition on the Thames at Kew Bridge. The early high tide meant a 7am draw and we had the guys fishing from 8.15 by which time the levels had dropped sufficiently for all competitors to be able to access the foreshore at Strand on the Green. Sadly I couldn’t fish the match myself as I needed to keep things ticking over at our HQ at the Brentford Boating Arch. TideFest is a new part of the Mayor of London’s Totally Thames Festival and we had a full programme of events to deliver including kayaking, paddleboarding, river dipping and a sailing race. It was sponsored by the Thames Tideway Tunnel and will take place every year on the last Sunday in September to coincide with World Rivers Day. As well as bringing together all manner of river users TideFest aims to highlight the recreational and environmental potential of London’s river in order to keep up the momentum for a cleaner Thames.
With the river fishing well this year and some top quality anglers in the field I had no doubt that some impressive weights would be on the cards. Despite bright sunny conditions the bream fed well in the first half of the match and Farnborough matchman Clive Westwood’s 34lbs net of bream saw him go home £500 richer and clutching a nice trophy presented by the Mayor of Hounslow. There were some good back up weights and a real enthusiasm to extend the event next year to other sections of the Thames Tideway. I’m currently talking to people about the possibility of a pairs event with 30 pegs at Kew and 30 further downstream at Barnes where roach and dace will make up the bulk of the catches rather than bream.
Travelling up to spend two days at Conservative Party conference was not top of my list of fun things to do but the Angling Trust enjoys excellent relations with supportive MPs in all the main political parties and we always organise a joint reception with our colleagues from the British Association Shooting and Conservation for delegates, MPs and ministers. With the news of yet another Tory defection to UKIP I was inevitably teased by my former parliamentary colleagues as to whether I was planning to switch my colours from Red to Blue in order to help them even up their numbers!
Mark Lloyd and myself put a strong case for the introduction of immediate and unilateral UK conservation measures to halt the predictable and alarming collapse of bass stocks. This triggered a rather heated exchange with a particularly dim individual who appeared to be nothing more than an apologist for the commercial sector and their race to catch the last bass in the ocean. Never mind if over fishing causes a total stock collapse just as long as that last bass is caught in an English net and not by a beastly foreigner!
North,West and Midlands
After a day in the office on Wednesday it was time to pack another travelling bag as I was due to speak at the North Yorkshire Angling Trust regional forum up in Humberside. It was a lively meeting and particularly good to catch up with Mike Lee from the local fisheries team who do a great job for anglers and fisheries with ever shrinking resources. With my next meeting scheduled for the following morning in Bristol it was pointless, if not practically impossible, to think of returning by train to a Reading that night so I tapped up our Regional Officer John Cheyne for both a lift and a bed in Worcester. John is a fine angler and good company so despite arriving back after 1am the long drive passed quickly enough.
With our head office based in Leominster, and staff spread around Wales and the Midlands, Bristol is a sensible place to hold occasional meetings and on Friday we were assembled there in order to pick the brains of our colleagues from Fish Legal on what measures we can realistically press for to ensure greater protection for estuaries. These diverse and dynamic habitats are vitally important to both marine and freshwater species. They are the missing piece in the conservation network and serve not only as gateways for migratory species but as a nursery area for many sea fish. On Saturday morning I swapped the train for the car for the trip up to Warwickshire for the Angling Trust AGM and conference. The conference theme was on angling participation and the National Angling Strategy with an interesting perspective on the creation of community waters. It was particularly pleasing to hear of the support the angling projects are now attracting from local councils in intensely urban areas.
South West for work and pleasure
The following week was a little less intense but still involved clocking up the miles. Luckily the venue chosen for the Countryside Alliance’s excellent Fishing4Schools programme couldn’t have been closer to my home as Sportfish at Theale is just ten minutes away. I’ve had my run ins with the CA in the past but I’ve got nothing but praise for the work of Charles Jardine who brought down parties of youngsters from as far afield as Yorkshire, Dorset and Kent to sample everything that angling can offer from tying flies and making floats to catching, cooking and eating fresh trout.
On Thursday it was back on the road for a visit to the Cefas labs in Weymouth to discuss strategies to try and deal with invasive species such as signal crayfish and to explore how we can help them publicise the measures necessary to improve bio-security to prevent the spread of lethal fish diseases such Koi Herpes Virus (KHV) and Spring Viremia of Carp (SVC). It turns out that, lovely as it was to enjoy a long hot summer, 2014 looks like being a record year for reported incidents of KHV. Match fisheries with a high stock biomass are particularly vulnerable and the Angling Trust with be working with Cefas to encourage better practice in some areas of our sport.
I stayed with family on the South Coast as I had booked a days chub fishing on Friday with my old friend Andy Cowley on a beautiful stretch of the middle Hampshire Avon near Ringwood. As it happens I’ve had a rather lean time myself on the rivers this season so it was good to get the rod bent again. The river was in good nick after a bit of rain which had livened things up and got the fish on the munch. Heavy feeding with maggots brought the chub up in the water and I enjoyed some tremendous sport with fish up 5.14, which take a bit of landing on a size 20 Super Spade in a strong flow. All in all Andy and I had 17 chub with 7 over five pounds plus some bonus grayling. This perfect day ended when an angry seatrout took a liking to my double red maggot and dragged me forty yards down river. All I could say when I eventually gazed at this bar of silver nestling in the net say is that Mr Drennan makes exceedingly good hooks!
Saturday saw the trusty Skoda heading back down the A34 to Hampshire for the launch of Kevin Grozier’s follow up book to his widely acclaimed Avon Days and Stour Ways. I’ve known Kev since God was a Boy and happily agreed to his request to come and say a few words at the gathering. Although I will be writing a full review of A Keepnet Full of Dreams in due course I can thoroughly recommend Kevin’s second book to anyone with a love of running water and a penchant for some of the more quirky tales from the riverbank. And of course these book launches are about far more than a single publication, however meritorious it might be. They are a good excuse to meet up with fellow river enthusiasts and chew the fat about monsters caught and lost and the condition of our favourite streams. Big Dave was there along with Mark Wintle, Dave Stueart, Chris Ball and the irrepressible float maker Andrew Field. To mark the occasion Andrew crafted a special edition dome topped stick float which, although less ornate than most of his range, looks just the job for trotting flake down some of my favourite winter roach swims.
Check out some of the most impressive floats you’ve ever seen on Andrew’s website at http://lureofthefloat.co.uk/
To order a copy of A Keepnet Full of Dreams contact Kevin directly at. email@example.com
To join the Angling Trust and help us to keep fighting for fish and fishing please go to http://www.anglingtrust.net/default.asp or call 0844 7700616
The more members we have, the stronger we become and the more we can do for the sport we all love.