Take nothing for granted

Adam Fisher looks beyond the fishing here and now.

Most of my mates or family who know of my passion for fishing, just don’t get it.

They think I sit on the bank, wasting time, mainly catching bugger all (although this happens more often than I let on!). They don’t know the real story. The preparation, the anticipation, the sleepless nights, the dawn chorus, the evening rise, watercraft, skipping breakfast, sometimes lunch and even dinner too, just for a slimy fish.

Sadly, similar lack of understanding can happen amongst different types of angler. Many are species specific and don’t know what is involved when trying to catch other fish using unfamiliar techniques.

This is the beauty and the beast of our pastime. As an all-rounder I’d like to think I’m fairly tuned into all disciplines but many coarse anglers may not know that you need to approach a trout with utmost caution. You have to study and work out its feeding behaviour – is it looking up or down, what flies is it eating, has it sensed your presence but instead of bolting has pricked its fins and is just subtly more rigid, trying to blend into its surroundings?

For it to feed again you might have to wait, maybe minutes, maybe hours if it’s a real good one. One simple roll cast into the right spot will usually be enough, not lots of pointless casting through the air and thrashing the water to a foam (don’t worry, I’m guilty of this too!).

In turn, many game anglers may not be familiar with the preparation of a coarse angler. While most game anglers wait until the day, a coarse angler prepares days, weeks, sometimes months in advance.

We are also out there whilst all around us the countryside is dying back through winter. This is when many of our target species are flourishing – chub take on metallic colours I’ve only ever seen on a fresh salmon. Pike take on greens you only see during the summer foliage (whilst trout fishing). Barbel have shades of brown I’ve only ever otherwise seen on a trout. Come whatever time of year, all fish have a period where they are at their best.

There are differences but also a lot of similarities then and after all, we’re all fishermen, all anglers. We all fish the same waters and thanks to schemes like the Fishing Passport, there is no longer a divide between game and coarse anglers’ opportunities to access rivers like the Wye.

This lack of exclusivity also applies when we’re talking about investment in the river’s future and coarse anglers could actually have an edge here. The decline of salmon fishing should be an education to us all; not the taking so many fish in the ‘60s, ‘70s and 80’s, but rather the allowing of the Wye's headwaters (where the salmon spawn) fall into a state of disrepair.

In the salmon heyday everyone thought the good times would never end. Land management practices were allowed to pollute and silt up the small streams. Overgrazing, unlicensed abstraction, acidity problems all contributed to a poorer river system. This was all allowed to happen until it was too late.

So why still the low salmon runs? Well, the nursery may have been fixed and I guess it’s now for science to look further afield and out to sea, but I’ll leave that in the hands of WUF. What we do have though is a coarse fishery that is arguably as good as it ever has been. Ok, there’s still some predation of silvers, but that could just be cyclical. Match reports in Hereford show that we could be the best 50+ peg match venue in the country – some accolade for a “salmon river”!

So what’s my point? Well, complacency is a dangerous thing I think. Yes, nothing lasts forever and when the going’s good you have enjoy it but we have to learn to recognise issues early and deal with them if we are to not repeat the mistakes of the past. This is relevant to all things in life but especially fishing.

The Wye is one of the finest rivers in the country, the best some say, so surely we have to protect what we have inadvertently inherited, as a result of the work to save a migratory game fish.

My point is simple: although we’ve been so committed focussing and measuring success on migratory fish for so long (and we must continue to do so), the benefits have been to the riverine environment as a whole. Coarse anglers now have the chance to sustain this, not to make the mistakes of the past or take things for granted, even to lead by example.

Adam Fisher is a regular contributor to the Passport. He runs Angling Dreams and Fishers, a country store in Ross-on-Wye. Adam is also an angling guide for both coarse and game fish and regularly fishes around the world.