Corona Chronicles Part 1 – With Keith Arthur

Martin writes: Despite the floods I had a half decent backend to the season but as I don’t normally fish between March 15 and the end of April I hadn’t planned writing anything much until the Coronavirus hit and turned our world’s upside down. My much anticipated mahseer trip to Bhutan was predictably cancelled and having seen the scenes at Delhi Airport I’m relieved not to be travelling through there at the moment. In fact, travelling anywhere significant is now out of the question in ‘Lockdown Britain’ and my job at the Angling Trust seems to have switched from promoting the joys of angling and policies that will benefit our sport to explaining to anglers why they must Stay Home – Stay Safe – Support our NHS and Save Lives.

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Martin had some good perch from the Kennet at the backend but it will be a while before we get to fish again. Now it’s about doing the right thing.

We set up a special hotline to advise clubs, fisheries and angling businesses of the various government support schemes that have been introduced. There’s now a bespoke COVID-19 online resource hub with everything that the angling world needs to know on the current situation.

COVID19 Support Hub

Our new Chief Executive Jamie Cook has had a baptism of fire for sure but he has played a blinder and showed clear and steadfast leadership which has been a credit to our sport. He said:

“I want to personally thank anglers, angling clubs and fisheries for taking strong and decisive action in the face of an unprecedented public health challenge. We have come together as a community and your support has been nothing short of fantastic. I thank you for doing your bit in staying inside, saving lives and supporting our NHS.”

The Coronavirus has meant a baptism of fire for new Angling Trust CEO Jamie Cook.

Whilst I’ve been liaising with MPs and ministers on responding to the crisis Jamie has been working with Sport England and the Environment Agency. We’ve now got access to emergency funding through Sport England who have just announced a £20 million funding package to help sport and physical activity get through the coronavirus crisis. The money can be used to help angling clubs cope with the short and long-term impact of the pandemic. There’s a new Angling Trust Sport / England Community Emergency Fund Helpline to assist angling clubs facing financial concerns so that when fishing can happen again angling will bounce-back and be ready to cater for the hundreds of thousands of anglers that are champing at the bit to go fishing again.

Details are here:

Sport England Community Emergency Fund to provide financial support for community sport organisations including angling clubs

With no fishing in prospect for a while we’ve set up a new website called Fishing Buzz to host all sorts of interesting content from TV personalities like the late John Wilson and Jeremy Wade through to adventure fishing stories from our globe trotting Ambassador Gary Newman plus loads of useful hints and tips. Take a look and hopefully you’ll find enough to keep you informed and entertained until the day we can fish again.

https://fishingbuzz.co.uk/

Whilst I’ll be providing my own content through this blog for Fishing Buzz I thought it would be good to start off by hearing from one of our most knowledgeable and well known Angling Trust Ambassadors, my friend and fellow Thames enthusiast Keith Arthur.

Guest Blog by Keith Arthur

I don’t know about you but I have three good friends currently currently self-isolating with pretty strong symptoms of Covid19. A near-neighbour (two streets away) and good friend of a pal of mine is currently fighting a battle against the virus for his life on a ventilator in Kingston Hospital having lost his mother to Covid19 last week.

For the past 3 weeks I have been hosting my old radio show, Fisherman’s Blues, on TalkSPORT2, because another good friend, Nigel Botherway has been enduring fever, non-stop harsh, dry cough, loss of taste and smell, intense joint pain and all-consuming tiredness for 18 days as I write and is only just experiencing slight signs of recovery. Nigel is supremely fit and active, often cycling in excess of 50 miles a day for fun and cycling various routes of the Tour de France and other grand tours as a holiday!

Even super fit guys like Nigel Botherway have been laid low by the Coronavirus 

And whilst on the subject of work and fishing, on my journey back from the TalkSPORT studio opposite the famous Shard building by London Bridge Station, a journey on which I saw hordes of cyclists, strollers, dog-walkers, pram-pushers, coffee-drinkers and even a queue outside a petrol station Sainsbury’s – at 8.40am Sunday morning – I saw a sight I have no desire to ever witness again, although doubtless I will, in innumerable nightmares.

As I was driving down the extremely steep and narrow Star and Garter Hill just outside Richmond, just over a mile from home, a cyclist was laying in the road. There’d been no accident, he’d collapsed on the ride up the hill, a ride much-vaunted by cyclists as one of the best inside the M25.

With the current (laughingly described as) ‘lockdown’ in place it seems more and more people are taking advantage of working from home and virtually traffic-free roads to take their exercise, the one grey area in the government’s guidelines.

It’s not common knowledge and without that incident I would never have shared it but my wife had a cardiac arrest in 2016. She was technically dead for more than ten minutes while I and first responders administered CPR. It was a ventilator that got her breathing and then a defibrillator kick-started her heart. In the current circumstances that ventilator probably wouldn’t have been available; there would have been no intensive care bed available and she wouldn’t have lived, no question about it.

As it is she had extensive brain damage and whilst being physically 95%+, she is psychiatrically challenged and suffering from vascular dementia that seems to be worse daily. That’s the very best that poor cyclist has to look forward to. But imagine if that bed wasn’t there and he didn’t make it. No chance for his family and friends to say goodbye or even to create happy times that I’ve been able to do with my wife thanks to hard work and financial prudence.

What’s that got to do with fishing? Well, nothing really but it has a lot to do with not fishing. We have to behave ourselves, show restraint and patience and sit and wait – something many anglers have made a career from. I know it’s frustrating. I know us anglers self-isolate as a matter of course. Even match anglers despise intrusion into their peg. How can going to a club water or private lake, perhaps being the only angler there be a problem? I read something the other day that helped explain things to me.

Imagine the virus as glitter. You know what a job that can be to remove should you be unlucky enough to be nominated as Family Christmas Card Writer. Even a brief wash won’t get rid of it. Now imagine someone going before you leaving glitter on the fence you grip to climb the stile, or padlock you need to open…or even the gate itself. Wear gloves, surgical latex or even washing-up gloves and that keeps it off your fingers but you will help spread it. But your phone rings, or someone comes to check your permit and, still the gloves on, you remove your wallet or phone to deal with either occurrence. Now your gloves have put glitter on those. Then your car keys. When you get home the gloves come off and are disposed of. Well done. But who is going to be the next person to touch your keys, wallet or phone and find some glitter on their hands, directly before rubbing their eye. And how many times did you rub your eyes or nose whilst fishing in the gloves?

We anglers are enduring a close season, like we did for the majority of my angling life. I still do abide by the dates unless it is contracted work. Evidence tells us that fish thrive on neglect, especially coarse fish. It doesn’t take long for them to forget that we’re not benevolent beings just sent to feed them. When we can eventually return to our regular bankside haunts everything will be fresh and clean. The fish will have spawned in peace and quiet – cormorants excepted of course but that’s a different matter and managed fisheries are still able to perform their regular control measures and, in my experience, any public open space, especially the Thames towpath where I live is busier than usual, especially on weekdays when those normally on the District Line, London Overground, a bus or their car are partaking of their daily dose of exercise. If the presence of people is a deterrent to aquatic predators, it’s happening.

So please, be patient. Plan your next trip. Tie hooks, make rigs. Polish rods and poles (Armorall Dashboard wipes are brilliant for the task) and be ready for June 16th, regardless of what date it falls. Until then STAY HOME, STAY SAFE and tight lines.

All the best

Keith

4 thoughts on “Corona Chronicles Part 1 – With Keith Arthur

  1. Sensible Keith Arthur I am so glad to hear you went back on Fishermans Blues Talk Sport a Favourite of mine.
    I remember you from matches on the Crown fishery Broxbourne in the 70’s and the Thames walk ons. Also much later when I was one of the travelling NFA/PAA coaches road show of 2000.
    When you joined us for a session on the Thames
    using my tackle. I was chief coach for a very brief time when the NFA/PAA combined.
    Unfortunately this all stopped when my wife developed Alzheimer’s which fully occupied my life from then onwards until she went into a care home and is there now. I have tried to go fishing and to tell the truth my age has severely impacted both my abilities and the will to go.
    My sympathies to Keith for having his wife suffer a similar health crisis I know what it does to you.
    Anyhow thanks for your usual concise observations and the fact that you like me are still around.

  2. Well said Keith. The fish aren’t going anywhere and this enforced period of no fishing will only make anglers all the more keen once restrictions are lifted. We’ve all got to do our bit in this unprecedented situation.
    One of the first things I’ll be doing once the dust settles is hopping in the camper to go on a UK road trip where I can visit everyone I haven’t seen for years. I’m sure a I’ll find time to catch a few fish whilst on my travels.
    Take care mucker!
    Greg Whitehead, Guernsey

  3. Keith, so sorry to hear about your wife. Kind of puts not being able to go fishing for a few weeks into perspective.

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