Monday, 23 April 2012
I looked out of the window, rain lashing down with thunder and lightning, did I really want to go fishing in this? A few minutes later the storm had passed over and the sun was out once more. I arrived at the Marsh and was immediately disappointed to find it was busy, in fact I nearly kept driving but no. I got out of the motor and had a look around, the swim I’d had the Tench from last time out was taken as was my second choice however another favourite was free. I had a quick word with the carper next door, he seemed OK, friendly enough but it was quite obvious he wasn’t the chatty type. That suited me down to the ground. Mind made up I lugged my gear into the free swim and began tackling up.
Normally I’d get the rods out before anything else but with threatening clouds passing away to the east I decided to put the bivvy up and make sure everything stayed dry first. The rods soon followed; a chod rig and pop up maize cast about 30 yards to an emerging lily bed and a balanced boilie was cast along the margin to my left. This rod was baited with a dozen free boilies and three big balls of groundbait while the other had five big pouches of maize spread over it. I was a little self-conscious as it seemed every move I made was being scrutinised by two chatting carpers on the northern bank. Unseen by them was a large bow wave just off the pads, that had to be a Carp? I felt confident I was in with a chance of a fish tonight. I whiled away the daylight hours with a float rod and maggots and as usual caught a stream of silver fish; starting off with two nice Roach of about 8ozs, after that the fish got steadily smaller.
Darkness crept over the Marsh, the bats began swooping and the first owl of the evening hooted. I packed up the float rod for the night then topped up the bait on my two other rods. I figured as it was dark I might as well get into my kip bag and have some sleep. Hopefully I’d be up at dawn and back on the float rod.
The night was cool, dry but uneventful although there were a couple of fishy sounding splashes from the vicinity of the lilies. By 0515 I was up and out with the float rods having recast both rods and topped up the groundbait. I still felt in with a chance of a Tench or Carp in this early morning period. I used maize as bait on the float rod as it is inedible to the silver fish and kept a regular stream of palm sized balls of groundbait going in, one a cast. If ever I switched to maggot the Rudd and Roach were on it instantly. By 0900 the sun was up high and I’d given up my chances of the fish I was after. I decided to cut my losses and have an afternoon fishing elsewhere.By 1230 I was pulling into the car park of the “puddle” and it was déjà vu as I encountered another packed car park. An impromptu match was taking place which cut down my options considerably. I managed to find a shady swim I’d fished before that was a little out of the way and enabled me to be anti-social and fish in peace. Unfortunately the fish weren’t playing ball, the only ones in the swim were under an overhanging tree and wouldn’t be tempted out. After a couple of hours fishing I’d managed two small Roach on maggots and that was my lot, however the match was drawing to a close and my options were increasing.
I found a group of carp enjoying the afternoon sun and they were right onto the mixers I threw out. That would do me, a few fish then home for tea! The carp were moving around, patrolling the bushes, taking the odd floater en route but not over confident. What I should have done was feed them for a while and get them really feeding confidently but I was impatient. However it wasn’t long before a nice mirror took the bait and I had a bend in the rod…for a few seconds before the hook pulled. Half an hour later, another take and a repeat performance, I began to get that feeling…
I still hadn’t managed to spook the fish though, they were still drifting around and still slurping down the odd floater. Finally another take and a fish which stayed on! It was a small common but by that stage I didn’t care. It bombed up and down the margins for a bit then rolled over and allowed me to draw it towards the net…then the hook pulled out! I literally laughed out loud. But still the fish were there and one was considerably bigger than the rest. By this stage I was too disparate to try and single this fish out but there it was to my left confidently taking the mixers on the edge of a bush, all I had to do was swing my freelined bait out and… My bait landed straight in the bush and in the ensuing commotion the fish bolted in a boil of water. At this point I admitted defeat.
Some may have noticed I edited my post last week. The Broads Authority took offence at me accusing them of knowingly poisoning the water, (which of course they didn’t). Their solicitor sent me an email threatening legal action and advised me to speak to a solicitor of my own. What I should have said was the Broads Authority is knowingly carrying out work that many people believe will lead to a potentially toxic algal bloom. However it’s worded, the BA knows the risks and is doing it anyway. I’ve continued my correspondence with personnel at the BA including the CEO Dr John Packman. I asked him what he would do if there was a repeat of 1969 but so far have had no reply. The man heading the dredging project Mr Rob Rogers has gone quiet, only issuing the Environment Agency’s press release by way of an answer.
So gentlemen, now we’ve established that you read this (I’m humbled…); If your work goes wrong and there is a big fish kill, will you resign? Once again I ask, is it all worth the risk?
Monday, 16 April 2012
Since my last post the situation in Norfolk remains worrying. At the end of last week the Environment Agency were called to Catfield dyke which enters Hickling broad’s western side. Literally hundreds of thousands of fish had taken refuge in the dyke to avoid the Prymnesium toxin present in the main body of water. These fish were literally suffocating due to lack of dissolved oxygen in the narrow dyke. It’s a little frightening to note that these fish would rather suffocate than enter the toxic waters of the broad. The good news is, thanks to the swift and efficient action of the EA, who manned pumps round the clock to keep the water aerated, a major fish kill was avoided, this time.
Dead Fish are still surfacing out on the broad; apart from the shoal fish, Roach and Bream many predators too. In fact Perch to five pounds and Pike to thirty five pounds have been discovered over the last few days. These are truly massive fish by anyone’s standards. For every dead fish that surfaces, how many lay undiscovered on the bottom? I don’t know a great deal about Perch but that Pike must be somewhere in the region of fifteen years old and would have defied all the odds, survived predation by it’s own kind as a juvenile, survived the attentions of anglers, survived predation by Otters as an adult and survived the outbreaks of Prymnesium toxin which “Coincide” with dredging work. Now imagine a scenario where an adult Tiger (for example) resident in a nature reserve, was poisoned by the deliberate actions of the authority controlling the reserve. It couldn’t happen could it??
THIS POST HAS BEEN EDITED BY REQUEST OF THE BROADS AUTHORITY SOLICITORS.
If there’s anyone reading this that hasn’t sent an email of complaint, please write to one of the following;
Or write to your MP, like I did;
Dear Mr Ruffley,
You may remember that this time last year I wrote to you expressing my concern about plans by the Broads Authority to dredge Heigham Sound. You were kind enough to write to Dr John Packman of the BA and included his response in your reply to me (this was actually a copy of a press release the BA issued at the time). To recap, there is historical evidence suggesting that dredging leads to a bloom of the deadly Prymnesium Parva algae which is toxic to fish. The BA dismisses this evidence as “coincidence”.
Although the BA were forced to scale back their original plans they have gone ahead and dredged. As I write this on 14th April a bloom of toxic algae has indeed occurred, as predicted and fish are dying right now. The first occurrence of dying fish was on 2nd April. The toxic water on Hickling Broad forces fish to flee into boat dykes and 25000 fish were rescued by the Environment Agency team led by Steve Lane. These fish were released into the river at Potter Heigham. The EA advised the broads authority to stop dredging right then but the BA ignored this request. A similar situation has occurred over the last two days and hundreds of thousands of fish have been forced off the broad and into Catfield dyke. The EA team are working round the clock to aerate the water and keep these fish alive. The Environment agency has reacted brilliantly and deserve much credit but how much will this be coasting the taxpayer?? As I write, the BA have still not suspended their work.
These fish deaths have occurred about two miles from the work site and the Broads Authority are claiming that this indicates that it has nothing to do with their work. This shows total ignorance and a lack of understanding of water movement by tides, currents and flow. One only has to look at the colour of the water at the northern end of Hickling broad and the change in colour is obvious, indicating visually that sediment is indeed being carried through the system.
It is arguable that this dredging work is necessary at all, anglers who have visited this area since the late seventies state the water is no more shallow now than it was back then. Even if we take a leap of faith and agree that dredging is necessary, it is universally accepted that there are safer methods of doing the work, suction dredging as opposed to the BA’s antiquated clam bucket and crane. It is also universally accepted that it would be safer to work through the winter months when low water temperatures restrict the growth of photo plankton. Once again the BA has ignored this advice.
We now have a situation where the metaphorical horse has bolted and all we can do is wait to see just how bad the fish kill becomes, we could be on the brink of an environmental disater. In 1969, the fish in the upper Thurne system (the river above Potter Heigham, Hickling Broad, Heigham Sound, Duck Broad, Martham Broads and Horsey Mere) were completely wiped out and it took a decade for the system to recover. No fish means no Otters, no Bittern, no Grebes etc. No wildlife will have a drastic effect on the local tourist industry and the local economy in general.
This in itself is extremely upsetting to those of us that cherish the unique environment of the upper Thurne system; the fishing, the bird life and the scenery. To think that the Broads Authority were warned of the consequences of their actions yet carried on regardless is infuriating. To quote from the BA website; “ The Broads Authority was set up in 1989, with responsibility for conservation, planning, recreation and waterways”. Conservation is first on the list but the last thing prioritised in this instance.
Mr Ruffley I urge you to please do whatever you can, by talking to your colleagues in parliament or the Broads authority directly to; A) Ensure an immediate and permanent ceasing of the dredging work and B) hold those that have been negligent to account.
Wednesday, 11 April 2012
Tea and toast for breakfast then after “Pokemon” had finished Isaac accompanied me for another trip down to the ‘Marsh’. Loading the car I was dismayed to see a heavy frost on the ground and ice on the windscreen, definitely not what we needed.
A few minutes later the car rolled to a stop in the car park, we carried our gear a short distance to one of the easily accessible swims close by. The swim we’d fished last week was occupied by a group of carp anglers, shame as that one had teemed with silver fish. While I tackled up Isaac started to run amok with a bow and arrow he’d managed to sneak into the car. As usual I set up the whip with a float rig and maggots, feeding a few small pellets every now & again. The plan was to catch some livebait then rig Isi’s Pike rod up again but things didn’t pan out that way. I tackled up a Carp/Tench rod, using a leadcore helicopter rig and a balanced boilie on a 12” hooklength. This I cast to an area where lily pads would soon be growing. I hoped it wouldn’t become entangle in any debris but I thought it a risk worth taking as I believed it would be an attractive area for any Tench or Carp moving around.
Two other anglers began noisily setting up in another nearby swim, with the racket they were making I wouldn’t have to worry about the antics of my nine year old disturbing anyone’s peace. Having conquered the surrounding woods and tamed any wild beasts that may have been around Isaac settled into his chair with a cup of tea and began explaining the details of the “Angry Birds” video game.
Time passed, the indicator on the boilie rod didn’t move but to be honest I didn’t expect anything different. However I was surprised that the float wasn’t dipping. Isi was particularly disappointed and was starting to get restless, asking what time we were going home. Glancing around the lake I noticed the Carp anglers opposite were grouped together in a huddle and it didn’t look like a lot was happening over there. The two late arrivals were fishing with poles and I hadn’t seen them catch anything either. Maybe the cold night had done for the fishing?
I left Isaac in charge and had a little wander into the swim next door. Some Alder (I think?) branches, covered in fresh buds were poking through the Norfolk reed and overhanging the water. This little area looked enticing and as I watched I was sure I could detect fishy movements beneath the surface. I fetched the whip, shallowed the rig up a bit and placed the float beneath the branches. Within a couple of minutes the float had dipped a couple of times, although I didn’t manage to hook the culprit this was more action than we’d had in the previous ninety minutes. I called Isaac over and he stood half-heartedly holding the whip, watching the float without confidence. I walked the half dozen paces back to the other rod to pick up his chair and a few other bits and before I returned he was calling “dad!” A fish hooked and lost, a little disappointing but a much needed confidence boost.
I threw a handful of maggots out along with a few pellets and we watched the small float intently, willing it to dip under….It slid away, Isi lifted the whip and….missed it! Back out again, surely we’d get a few more bites now? Yes, the next dip of the float saw Isaac timing his strike better and a tiny Rudd was swung to hand! Confidence, concentration and enthusiasm were all now spot on and a succession of small Rudd were hooked and swung into the hands of my grinning nine year old.
Not all of Isaac’s casts landed in the right area, indeed after one the rig needed to be retrieved from another bankside sapling. At 5 metres the whip is a little too big for him. At times I have to fight the temptation to take the whip from him and put the float in the spot myself. I really have to let him learn for himself which he is keen to do at the moment. He was also keen to unhook his own fish and learnt quickly wiggling the hook out with his fingers and he also got the hang of using the disgorger.
The fish were small but glancing around the lake it seemed Isaac was the only angler catching anything at all. When I pointed this out to him he giggled and said “you haven’t caught any either dad!” I’m not competitive in the slightest (honest) but I tried to wrestle the whip out of his hands to put the record straight. Whenever I held the whip, the swim was dead but as soon as I handed it back and started to tidy away the rest of our gear, Isaac caught another Rudd! Eventually our allotted time was up and with the Tench gear tidied up that left just the whip. I managed to commandeer it for just long enough to catch one solitary Rudd, by which time Isaac had caught a dozen or more. Still no one else on the lake seemed to be catching anything. Our two hours were up and we had a busy day ahead of us, activities with the rest of the family.
As we walked back to the car we passed two suspicious looking lads. Something about their dress and demeanour made me wonder if they were the infamous Eastern Europeans that are causing problems in parts of the country. I said hello and got a grunt in reply which did nothing to ease my suspicions. I loaded the car slowly and kept an eye on them as they walked around the lake. Time was up, I had to leave. An hour or so later I pulled up at the lake with the kids in the car, I couldn’t rely on the other anglers to check these two lads out, I had to do it myself. From the roadside I could see them easily, setting up a bivvy…they were Carp anglers.
Since the river season closed I’ve had those mysterious and elusive Tench at the "Marsh" on my mind. During my first season fishing the lake I learnt a lot and caught a couple however last season I went backwards, forgot what I’d learnt and over-complicated things. I enjoy challenging, interesting fishing and the Marsh certainly fits into this category. I can’t really use traditional Tench methods; the rigs either bury in the silt or small baits like maggots and corn get demolished by the multitudes of silver fish, as do 15mm boilies on occasion! I also may well be fishing for ghosts as Otter predation in my area has been heavy and Tench seem to be the biggest victims, where they were once prolific they are now becoming rarer. I’ve seen an otter on the Marsh but all other evidence is anecdotal, it is however, hard to ignore.
So with all this in mind I have to hedge my bets and fish methods that will give me a chance of catching Carp as well as Tench. That means 15mm boilies and the horribly named chod rig, on one rod at least. If I can catch carp then I have a chance of Tench too. I won’t ignore the float rod however, if I can fish through the hoards of Rudd and roach then maybe I can attract Tench too? It is my favourite method for them after all. A year ago the Marsh was being heavily fished by Carp anglers so I will assume that it will be this year as well. I’m guessing these anglers will be putting lots of bait in so I won’t, I’ll just bait up little & often. A few months from now I’ll know if my plotting & planning has been going in the right direction.
And so to today. An evening spent with friends, indulging in too much food and too much beer meant that a dawn start was always going to be out of the question. I arrived at ‘The Marsh’ at about 1230 and for once had the lake to myself. I knew exactly where I wanted to fish and as I began to unload the car I was tempted to just hump all the gear round to my chosen swim. However, for once I decided to do something sensible and have a little look around before I got started. The first place I stopped was an area I hadn’t fished before and as I stood watching the water I got a good feeling for the swim. I continued along the bank towards my preferred area, one in which I had success in the past, but on arrival it looked OK but not particularly inspiring. As usual there were no signs of fish showing so where should I fish? I decided to retrace my steps to the first swim and straight away that decision felt right.
By 1330 I was settled and fishing with three rods. I dropped a float rig close in beside some emerging lily pads. The hook was baited with red maggots and the area was baited with a couple of balls of the new Hemp/Halibut “Gold” ground bait made by “Lake Wizard.” To the dry mix I added mixed pellets, Maize and maggots. My second rod was a helicopter rig using a 12” braided hooklength and a critically balanced Tutti frutti boilie. This was cast parallel to a bed of Norfolk reeds on my right and the area was baited with a dozen or so boilies. On my third rod I used a chod rig baited with two pieces of fake Maize and this was cast to the edge of an overhanging tree about fifty metres along the bank. Back when I used to do a lot of Carp fishing a cast like this would have been easy for me but nowadays it takes several attempts to get it right due to failing eyesight and lack of practice. I may poke fun at Carpers but some are very skilled anglers making casts like this consistently at far greater distances. Of course some just use bait boats.
I Just about managed to put four pouches of maize on the spot with my crappy old catapult but the grains spread far and wide and I wasn’t happy. For once I was thinking on my feet and mixed a bit more groundbait, added extra maize and sneaked quietly through the undergrowth into a position which enabled me to put four cricket ball sized lumps of groundbait on the spot. That would do now, I felt happy to just leave the chod rig in position for the duration of the session but fish more actively with my other two rods.
It wasn’t long before my maggots were being battered by a succession of Roach and Rudd of a size I‘d be really happy to have in my bucket in the winter. A switch to worm appeared to have slowed the catch rate right down but this was because I‘d managed to snag a large sunken branch which I managed to drag out of the water. Maybe this accidental raking of the swim would increase my chances of a Tench? I added a couple of fresh balls of groundbait and soon the worm was being mauled by silver fish too. The afternoon was grey and still with a bit of annoying drizzle, enough to make me put up my little pop up bivvy. I’ve had this thing for fifteen years or so and it really is a good bit of kit. It was marketed by Relum back then, the weight is about half that of a 50” wavelock brolly and can be erected in seconds. I got a bit of stick from mates when I bought my “Portaloo” but for short sessions it beats a brolly hands down.
The afternoon wore on and still nothing would deter the silver fish; not worm, fake corn or maize, they attempted to eat it all. At least I was catching fish as the other two rods remained motionless. I recast the boilie rod and added another half dozen free boilies then chucked another three large balls of groundbait in the region of my chod rig. That would do, “traps set…” to use a current cliché from the carpy literature. It was now just a question of sitting back, watching the sunset and unhooking silvers from the float rod. In future the sensible thing would be to just embrace the silver fish and fish “through” them, keep feeding and hope to draw the Tench in.
At about 1840 something “carpy” crashed out about 100 metres away. It was out of range but gave me hope that fish were becoming active and maybe I still had a chance? Ten minutes later while I was playing around with my camera the unthinkable happened. My alarm signalled a steady take on the accursed chod rig and I bent into a fish. It didn’t feel a particularly heavy weight which ruled out carp…surely not? After coaxing the fish away from the snags it ran towards me then plodded up and down the margins in front of me. The fish rolled, giving me a flash of green flanks, a Tench!! It was soon in the net, a male and possibly the smallest Tench that inhabits the Marsh but was I bothered? I checked the weight then took a quick photo before returning this cherished fish.
My recast landed bang on target first time(or so I thought). I topped the spot up with three more big balls of groundbait, to expect another fish would be greedy but who knows? By now light was fading, probably the best time of the day. Around 1930 another sizeable fish topped, this time right over my baited area and my confidence soared again. Time passed, darkness fell but I had no more action. At 2030 I began packing up slowly, leaving the chod rig to last but when I came to wind it in I found it snagged tight. My cast was obviously too close to the overhanging tree. I retrieved a straightened hook and left feeling I’d missed a good chance of adding another fish. Still my Tench season was off and running and I’d had a massive confidence boost. This season I’m confident this Tench will be the first of….
Finally I have to sadly report that the Broads Authority are still working in Heigham Sound, they are still ignoring scientific advice and fish are still dying. God only knows what it will take for these morons to see sense. Shame on the Broads Authority, still not fit for purpose.
Sunday, 8 April 2012
Anyone who has read my ramblings over the past couple of years may remember that I have tried to highlight the potential problems of the Broads Authority’s dredging policy. Well it seems the worst fears of anglers may be coming true. http://fishingsgreat.blogspot.co.uk/2010/04/walking-precipice.html
Let me recap for those at the back;
The Broads Authority (an unelected quango) gave itself permission to dredge Heigham Sound through its own, in-house planning committee. This dredging is to appease sailors trying to use craft that are too big and unsuitable for a shallow system. Anglers have always been the poor relations of the wealthy sailing fraternity in the eyes of the BA.
The BA is using antiquated equipment when it is acknowledged by all that there are safer, more efficient ways to do the work.
The data on sediment the BA is quoting comes from minimal field study and is mostly theory produced by students in a classroom at Cranfield University.
Anglers led by John Currie, (also thanks to Steve Roberts, Micky Cox, the Norwich PAC & NDPC), highlighted the potential danger. Historic evidence suggests that disturbed sediment (caused by dredging) “coincides” with blooms of the dangerous algae Prymnesium Parva which, when it dies, releases fish killing toxins. PP outbreaks wiped out the Thurne system in 1969 and in the intervening years other sporadic outbreaks have devastated localised areas of the broads.
John Currie has gathered scientific opinion from around the world which unanimously says “we don’t know enough about Prymnesium Parva, leave it alone, do not dredge”. The BA has ignored overwhelming evidence and the warnings from toll paying anglers. Overseeing all of this is Natural England, a government group of eco-fascists who really should be supporting the views of anglers but sit on the fence because protecting fish is “not within their remit”.
Jump forward to the present. The BA have been dredging for several weeks as part of a farcical “Island recreation” scheme. The water temperatures have steadily risen and all of a sudden we have an outbreak of Prymnesium Parva; Pike, Perch, Roach & Bream are dying right now while you are reading this. Because these deaths have occurred a mile away from the dredging site the BA claim it has nothing to do with their work, which shows they know nothing about tidal flows, currents and undertows. BA’s Dan Hoare claims that Hickling Broad is “poorly flushed” so he’s obviously never been afloat when there’s a decent wind blowing!! This lack of practical experience and ignorance of water movements from the Broads Authority’s “Environment and Design Supervisor” is shocking.
Surely it would be safe to assume that the dredging work would be suspended while an investigation takes place? No! They are carrying on the work regardless. What is more the BA purchased an “impermeable silt curtain” to stop the movement of sediment but they are NOT using it!! Why? Because it “moved and drifted…causing more sediment…”. Put more weight on it you idiots!!!
So there we have it. The Broads Authority has ignored the fears and warnings from anglers and other concerned water users. They've dredged regardless and fish are dying but it’s not their fault. If a business ignored its customers it would go bust pretty quickly. The BA is not fit for purpose and people within its hierarchy should resign. Let us all hope this is just an isolated outbreak in a localised area which is over quickly and not a repeat of 1969.
Please lend your support by emailing one or more of the following people to express your opinion, Thank you.