Thursday 24 February 2011

The Broads Threatened.....again!

Last spring I wrote about the madness of the Broads Authority in their plans to dredge parts of the Norfolk Broads. The BA are planning to dredge again this spring and sadly everything I wrote before is relevant once more.
Can I be so bold as to urge anglers to please express their anger to the BA at the contacts below;

My own complaint read as follows;

Dear Sir/ Madam,
After the concerns voiced by anglers over island creation and particularly dredging in Heigham Sound last year I think it is an absolute disgrace that the BA proposes to dredge further. This is an ecological timebomb that has the potential to be disastrous for the Broadland environment. The BA has been informed of the dangers yet carries on in this gung ho fashion regardless. I find it difficult to find the words to express my disgust at this.
Yours faithfully
Michael hastings

Apologies for repeating myself but for once the message is important. I wrote the paragraphs below a year ago yet here we are again.

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.

Wednesday 23 February 2011

Same old....

I typed up something for the blog a few weeks ago and realised while I was doing it that I was bored. The same old stuff; got up early, dreary drive, launch the boat, bit of weather where to move next? If I'm not enjoying writing it then the chances are it will come across to anyone daft enough to read it.

Probably the biggest problem are my self imposed restrictions. Nowadays angling pressure can become so intense, it has to be written in a way that gives little or nothing away, likewise the photos I choose cannot show anything much either. To write it in this way doesn't do justice to the system, the fish or the fishing, so I'm not going to bother. I'll continue to keep a diary purely for my own amusement and I'll occasionally put a few paragraphs up on here, like the ones below.

A nice breeze was rippling the water as I dropped the weights and cast the baits out. The absent grebes in the last spot had set me thinking. If I had no joy here over the next hour I'd go looking for diving birds and hopefully Pike. The cloud had begun to thin and the drizzle was gone. It was turning into a nice day to be out and despite the low temperature I didn't feel at all cold. All I needed was a fish...but where? Where should I make my next move??

My thoughts were interrupted by a ticking bait-runner, a take on a Lamprey! I set the hooks quickly and found myself attached to a nice fish, no monster but big enough to get the rod bent over. She scrapped by the boat but I soon had her in the net. Should I put her on the scales and take a picture? I'd just decided I would when I heard another ticking reel, another take! This time it was the rod baited with a Bluey. With the first fish quickly returned I bent into a second and soon felt the tell tale taps on the rod tip from a small fish. I pumped it to the boat as quickly as possible and soon unhooked and returned it. I got both baits out again and settled back with a cup of tea, deciding it would be a good idea to stay put for an hour.

I swapped texts with Rich, letting him know I'd had a couple and hearing in return that he was struggling. Tea and lunch tasted all the better with a couple of Pike under my belt. Confidence had kicked in, if there were a couple of Pike here, there may well be more. Two Pike within a couple of minutes. Had fish just switched on all over? Would I have caught had I stayed in one place and not moved, or was my spur of the moment move inspired? Sometimes, even when you're catching there are more questions than answers.

Forty five minutes later I was back to planning my next move. I really should do this more often as it seems to be a good way of inducing a take. Once again a bait runner started spinning and a float started skimming the waves! I wound in quickly and this time the rod stayed bent, obviously the best fish of the day. She pulled a bit at the boat but there was no real fight until I netted her, then she went mental. When the foam had cleared off the water I realised this fish was a bit bigger than I'd first thought, nice! The camera did come out this time.

The latest issue of “Pikelines” magazine arrived through the post last week and what a superb read it was too, in fact there wasn't a single feature that I didn't enjoy reading. However there was one article, that despite being a decent read, was spoilt for me by too much naming of waters, but each too their own. The highlight for me was another classic piece by Rob Shallcroft, anecdotal yet educational, an article written from the heart by a passionate angler.

Also featured in 'Pikelines' is a detailed letter by John Watson, reviewing THAT book by Derrick Amies. Watto seems to like the book even less than I do. This follows on from articles written (in self defence)by Graham Booth and Stephen Harper in a recent edition of 'Pike & Predators' magazine, neither was complementary but both were fair in my opinion. This one just won't lie down but the ironic thing about it is, the original horrendous first edition of the book ,which retailed at £35 is now changing hands at more than ten times that to collectors! The mind boggles.

Tuesday 1 February 2011


I took a slow drive listening to news from England's cricketers down under. This was followed by a mixed CD of sounds from my mis-spent youth. As I neared my destination I narrowly missed a lazy Muntjack crossing the road in front of me. Soon I was there and loading up but my departure was slowed by an ignorant individual who jumped in front of me at the slip way then took an age. Usually all is good and sociable here but there's always one...

I was soon afloat and settled for a spot I'd done OK in this time last year. I'd hardly got the mud weights down when I heard the sound of an engine. The boat that had held me up at the slip appeared and began to anchor up close by. Too close in my opinion so I set off again in search of peace and quiet. The area I eventually plumped for, was one I'd caught fish from in the past but not one of my favourites. I put four deadbaits out then settled down to wait . I poured a cup of tea to help wake myself up and smiled. Today I had a plan and it was good to get back out on the water.

I kept twitching baits and covering the water but wasn't really happy in this spot. After an hour the I'd had enough so ventured out into open water, eventually settling into the “stump” where my confidence was boosted by a breeze from the north rippling the water. I spent about ninety minutes here, a little mist was coming and going, as was the wind. I had another short move to an area new to me but this too failed to produce anything of note. My next stop was scheduled to be a favourite bay but when I entered there was a boat in the spot I fancied, yes it was “him” again! Oh well! I'd made up my mind that I would spend a bit of time in a part of the system I rarely fish so decided the time was right, do it now!

On my journey it became apparent that there were lots of anglers about, more than I'd seen all season. I eventually anchored up at a spot that had been very kind to me in the past. I fished a Mackerel and a bluey on the near reedline, chucked a Lamprey into the open water and set a Herring to drift under a float then sat back to enjoy the peace and quiet of my surroundings, only the sounds of bird life to disturb me.

My plan was to stay in this general area so after a couple of hours I pulled up the weights and had a short move, fishing with similar tactics. Rich appeared in the late afternoon, he was late due to spending a bit of time catching bait and kindly donated a couple to my cause. As the light began to fade I had a decision to make; where should I spend the night? I had two choices in mind, one was a spot I'd fished before, the other was totally new to me, I opted for the latter. As this was a new spot for me I spent a bit of time carefully casting a float around to find depths and weed etc. I was settled in just before dark; A mackerel cast towards a point in the reeds, a popped up herring chucked towards the weed in a bay, a bluey and a paternostered livebait fished in open water.

Just after dark a moderate wind blew up from the north, clearing the cloud and allowing the stars to shine out, however the temperature was dropping fast. Rich was tucked into the reeds a couple of hundred yards away but reported an otter was disturbing his swim so was planning a move. I lay back in the boat and vegetated for a while. I felt very tired but tea and sausage sarnies reinvigorated me. I thought about the swim I was fishing and repositioned the baits, covering what I hoped would be ambush points. I really liked this 'new' area and was feeling confident.

Time past and my confidence proved unfounded, by midnight nothing had disturbed any of my baits and I was thoroughly knackered. It was time to wind the rods in and get some kip. As I began to drift off I reflected that day one hadn't gone to plan but I hatched a plan for day two. The conditions might be good for trolling at first light, lets see.

The night passed, I was cold and uncomfortable so slept fitfully. I was wide awake long before dawn so recast fresh baits and woke myself up with a brew. I fished here for an hour then decided it was high time for a move so quietly left the area. A fresh wind had blown up in the early hours so trolling wouldn't work for me today. When settled again I had a slight change of tactics fishing a paternostered livebait upstream and allowed a free rover to cover the swim in front of me. I fished a mackerel and a Bluey on the near weedlines then settled back for breakfast. This was interrupted by a take at long last, something had snaffled the paternostered livebait. I pulled into a fish but felt minimal resistance. A very small Pike was dragged to the boat where it opened it's mouth and spat bait and hooks back at me, the little bugger. Oh well! I spent ninety minutes here then as more boats began appearing, decided it was time to leave.

In mid morning I rendezvoused with Rich again. We anchored up side by side and spent a couple of hours searching the water around us with live and deadbaits. There were lots of Grebes about and we thought maybe we had a chance of a fish but it was not to be. By lunch time we'd both had enough and tidied up. It was great to be back and an enjoyable couple of days but the system had beaten us again.