Firstly, I visited a reach of river I helped to restore between 2006-8. The estate in question supported by a team of willing volunteers and the Wild Trout Trust provided advice, funding and many hours of labour to support a programme of narrowing, spawning gravel creation, riparian fencing and placement of large woody debris (LWD). The overall aim was two-fold, to improve the conditions for both resident browns and those that may choose to go on salty excursions. Myself and Tim Jacklin of the Wild Trout Trust were lucky enough to be invited to fish the reach and we were delighted to see what must have been a ten fold increase in brown trout numbers. I was also reliably informed by the keeper that returning sea trout have been observed spawning on newly introduced riffles...The Best News!
Despite a tricky wind I went on to catch what I term a 'Restoration Brownie' of about a 1lb when the wind eventually dropped at dusk. I have caught fish three times as big this season but to me this was my most memorable moment with a rod in 2011. Surely it must be one of the ultimate prizes in fly fishing to catch a fish on a dry fly from a reach that was once on its knees. Many had totally written off this small stream. However, thanks to a small but passionate band of hairy arsed fishers, supported by the Wild Trout Trust, we once again have a viable fishery that can support a thriving population of trout. Most importantly, the river has a much higher profile and others may now think twice before causing damage to this most beautiful and intimate of chalk streams.
That evening we shared a bottle or two with Mark Watson the Manager of the new Norfolk Rivers Trust. This is a very exciting and much needed development in the battle to conserve Norfolk's very special chalk rivers. Mark is a very capable guy and passionate about wild trout and rivers. Having helped to win a few hard fought battles against the authorities in Norfolk I am thrilled to see a new and independent force for good emerging on the scene. Exciting times indeed!
Lastly, I attended a meeting with my old mates at the River Glaven Conservation Group. This bunch of volunteers from the local community have been busy delivering a very exciting and innovative programme of river restoration projects in the sleepy Glaven Valley. I am a huge admirer of the spirit, tenacity and drive of this bunch of 'Good Old Boys' who care so passionately about 'their river'. They remind me of a similar group I am a huge fan of in the North West - The Lune Rivers Trust. The Glaven Group have now completed two major restoration projects involving re-connection of the floodplain, re meandering, LWD and creation of riffles, etc. Amazingly they are now taking on a new challenge to bypass and restore a very old and silted on-line lake plus restoring the relict channel. All this is being led by volunteers with support from experts (like Wild Trout Trust) and various Govt bodies. As an original committee member it was so satisfying to see the group had come of age and now being accepted as a serious conservation partner by The Environment Agency and Natural England.
I cane away feeling re-invigorated and inspired to continue take on the challenges that working on a catchment of 2500 sq km present!
All of this happened on what was supposed to be a family holiday...but once afflicted, this incurable river conservation bug tends to flow through your veins for the rest of your life!