Friday 23 April 2010

Something old, something new.

Something topical. I have an intense dislike for politics and I absolutely loathe the free loading scumbags that are supposed to represent us in parliament. I cannot believe more people can't see through our political system. Every few years we get leaflets through our doors from over dressed twats that we haven't seen or heard from since the last election. We have a load of overfed, over paid tossers making promises that they have no intention of keeping. We know they won't keep the promises, they know we know but still the charade goes on. Politicians are so busy being seen to do the right thing and say the right words they fail to actually do anything constructive. None have the guts to make brave, bold decisions for fear of alienating a section of potential voters. The only ambition they have is to upset as few people as possible and get re-elected. It doesn't matter who we vote for NOTHING will change. None of the political parties represent me so I won't support them. Vote : “None of the above”. Unfortunately my limited experience of “Angling politics” pretty much mirrors the real thing.

The Angling Trust was formed in January 2009 as an amalgamation of several existing organisations with the aim of uniting Coarse, Game and Sea anglers under one political banner. There is no doubt that this is a good idea and such an organisation was long over do. I support all parts of the Trust's mission statement so I why didn't I join from day one? It all goes back to my dislike and distrust of politicians, at any level. As I said above, they have to be seen to be doing and saying the right things and they are afraid of pissing off one faction or another. At the beginning I didn't believe that the Angling trust supported me as an angler who fishes predominantly for predatory fish. The case in point here is livebaiting. If angling is to unite then the Trust has to come out and support this traditional method of catching Pike, Perch, Trout, Eels, Zander, Catfish and a host of marine fish. Recently the Birmingham Anglers Association imposed a livebait ban on its members without consultation. Here was an opportunity for the Angling Trust to front up, make a statement supporting livebaiting and gain the support of predator anglers. The trust, afraid to upset various factions within angling, chickened out.

Instead of muttering and grumbling to myself I felt the need to express my disappointment to people within the Angling Trust itself so entered into a long email dialogue lasting a couple of weeks. Evidently I wasn't alone in this as eventually I received a reply that promised me that the Angling Trust WILL come out in support of livebaiting within the next week or so. If this doesn't happen I'll make the relevant emails public so people know who the politician making false promises is. Anyway, taking this promise at face value should I join the Angling Trust? Eventually I decided I should, not just because of the livebaiting issue, the decider for me was the Trust's involvement in the Broadland dredging nightmare I wrote about last time. People who are closer to the situation than I, assure me the Trust's involvement is a big help for those of us who want to see this madness stopped.

So yes I've put my money where my mouth is and joined the Angling Trust, for one year at least. I sincerely hope that my opinion of politicians is proved wrong. I hope that I'm not disappointed by the organisation and I'm still a member this time next year, once again time will tell. Anyway, that's more than enough politics for now...

When the traditional fishing season closes the “Jobs” season commences. This period of purgatory includes torturous activities such as decorating, spring cleaning, garden tidying and other forms of masochism that I have been putting off since last June. I'm told there are people in the world who spend their free time doing such things for pleasure...but I don't believe it. Anyway I've kept my promises and 95% of my work is done, so now I am able to think about fishing once again, just in time to save my sanity.

Although I've never been terribly successful when it comes to Tench fishing, last season was a new low as I cannot remember banking a single fish. Most of this was down to my own ineptitude but it wasn't helped by me not being comfortable in my surroundings. Where I fish is as important to me as what I catch and being surrounded by cloned chavs failing to catch carp was uninspiring to say the least. This experience was actually a positive thing which fired me up to find somewhere else to fish this spring and summer. Half way through last winter, while freezing my nuts off waiting for a Pike an idea formed in my mind.

The water in question is one I've fished for Pike a few times but that was years ago and it had slipped off my radar. It occurred to me that this place might well tick the boxes, I know it holds Tench as well as the inevitable Carp and it used to hold good shoals of Bream. The water is around six acres in size, in a hollow and surrounded by trees, visually in the green colours of spring and summer it's a lovely spot. It's a syndicate water so not cheap but I don't mind paying a few quid to have peace and quiet while I'm fishing. That's another thing, the swims are well spaced out so no nosey neighbours. Yes I am an anti social git when fishing! I know what species the lake holds but I'm not too sure of the sizes they go up too. In years gone by the Bream were present in quantity with no reputation for quality, nowadays I have no idea. I asked around and the consensus tells me the Carp are few in number but grow quite large. On the Tench opinion is split, some say the place is full of huge fish, others say they are only small. I simply don't know but look forward to finding out.

So I paid my money and now I'll take my chances. The other evening I went round for a look around and took a lure rod with me, not really for catching Pike (honest!) more for checking depths and finding out a bit about the weed beds and the lake bed. The place is deeper than I remember, lilies seem prevalent close in and the bottom didn't seem as silty as I'd been told. There are beds of Norfolk reeds and fallen trees, all in all lots of character and features, the latter mostly in the margins. I'm already pondering what methods to try and where but more of that in the coming weeks. The banks are very overgrown in places and the vegetation will only get thicker as time passes. It's also very damp and boggy which gives the place a name which I will use on here; “The Marsh”. So far, so good. I like it and look forward to trying to find out a little bit about the Tench population and if the Carp, Bream or anything else pick up my baits then so be it. Watch this space...

Friday 2 April 2010

Walking the Precipice

The River Thurne system in Norfolk is renowned for producing truly huge Pike such as John Goble's monster 45.08 caught in 2009. This reputation goes back decades and the Thurne is arguably the most historic Pike fishery in Great Britain. The Thurne system is unique in many ways, most notably the water quality. Despite being freshwater the Thurne is very slightly saline, enough for Brine shrimps to live thus giving the food chain a boost.

The Thurne system is also an area of outstanding natural beauty, home to many rare species and an internationally renowned haven for migrating birds. As part of the Norfolk Broads the Thurne is also a much loved tourist destination and with wide expanses of water popular with windsurfers and sailors. All of these activities provide a much needed boost for the local economy.

The Broads Authority is the quango charged with managing this unique natural resource and has to balance the interests of all the interested parties. Financially anglers are, and always have been the poor relations compared to the well healed yachting fraternity and the nature facists.
Prymnesium Parva is an algae and like all photo plankton it blooms when conditions are right. However when it dies it releases a toxin that is deadly to fish. Prymnesium needs saline water and a disturbance of the sediment on the river bed also “helps” the algae bloom. The Thurne system has a sad history of Prymnesium blooms and fish kills going back many years.

John Goble   45.08   2009
Turn the clock back to the late 1960's. The Thurne system was clear and rich in weed, a fabulous fishery which held vast shoals of large Bream, big Rudd and Tench. It was also an unbelievable Pike fishery producing big Pike in numbers that have never been equalled. The largest was Peter Hancock's fish of 40lbs 1oz caught in 1967, the first fully authenticated forty pounder ever caught in Great Britain. Shortly afterwards the river authority at the time dredged ditches in the north of the system, “coincidently” Prymnesium Parva reared its head. In 1969 the Thurne system was virtually wiped out as a fishery, people who were around at the time talk of the stench of rotting fish. Although fish of all species were killed in great numbers, Pike in particular were very badly affected and it took more than a decade for the system to recover. Since 1969 Prymnesium has reoccurred sporadically causing more fish kills, often these blooms have“coincided” with dredging taking place around the system. In between the blooms the Thurne has continued to produce huge Pike like no other natural fishery.

Now jump back to the present day, a few people racing yachts in the Heigham Sounds area of the system run aground. Anyone who knows the area conclude they must have strayed from the boat channel (which is clearly marked) because there is plenty of depth here for any sensible craft. Immediately the yachting fraternity call for the channel to be dredged, the tail wags the dog and the Broads Authority, with a bit of spare cash starts making plans to do just that. Not only are the BA intent on dredging, they plan to use the old fashioned crane and clam style bucket which will drop as much sediment as it removes. If dredging must go ahead then the suction method would be less risky but that would cost more money!

At this point the local anglers start to get worried and voice their concern to the Broads Authority. Much credit has to go to the John Currie, regional organiser for the Pike anglers club of Great Britain who has led the campaign to get the Broads Authority to stop and think about what they propose to do. John has contacted universities and biologists around the world from Texas to Australia and the overwhelming opinion is “we don't know enough about Prymnesium, don't touch it”
At a meeting in January 2010 the BA's representative Dan Hoare gave an informative presentation outlining the dredging plans and fielded difficult questions very well but had to admit that he didn't know anything about the risks caused by Prymnesium. The BA doesn't know what will happen and state they will proceed with caution but once a bloom is triggered there is no way of stopping it. They claim they can't use suction dredging as there is nowhere local to dispose of the sediment and moving it elsewhere will cost money.

A month later Natural England's representative Chris was equally articulate but left the people attending the meeting open mouthed. “NE's remit is to protect the bird life NOT the fish.” Even when it was pointed out that some of the protected birds, the Bittern for example, lived on a diet of fish, NE is still not interested in protecting the Bittern will have to starve. The dredging is set to take place in the early summer, warm water temperatures increase the risk of a Prymnesium bloom so if it has to be done why not the winter months? NE say they do not want over wintering wildfowl to be disturbed. Anyone who knows the Heigham Sounds area will tell you there are very few birds in the area during the winter.

At a planning meeting the following week the Broads Authorities plans were put before the Broads Authorities own planning committee and guess what? Yes they were unanimously passed. JC was given three whole minutes to speak and his protests were waved away, those sitting on the committee don't even know what prymnesium is! In short, the top people at the BA, the people making decisions and spending toll payers money do not know as much about Prymnesium as a humble builder from Norwich!

So to summarise we have a government funded body made up of unelected officials who made an application to dredge Heigham Sounds to appease the yachting bods. This application was approved by their own in-house planning committee. Corruption??? They ignore scientific opinion from around the world that is screaming “don't touch it!!!”. They ignore the more environmentally friendly (therefore expensive) methods of doing the work. They ignore the fact that this dredging is likely to trigger an algal bloom that could cause the deaths of millions of fish, and worst case scenario, wipe out an ecosystem and devastate the local economy.

The Broads Authority is a well intentioned organisation gone wrong. Too much bureaucracy, too many people making unsound decisions and trying to justify their salaries. They have a history of not listening to other opinions and just blundering on regardless. If the dredging goes ahead and goes wrong those opposed to it will not keep quiet, those responsible will be called to account.

The fight to stop this madness will not cease and the next opportunity for interested parties to voice their concerns is at the Broads Authority public meeting at Dragonfly House, 2 Gilders Way Norwich. NR3 1UB on Friday 21st May 2010. Should be a lively meeting.