Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Coup de grâce....or catch and release?

I fished a middle Eden beat last night just as the river was fining down after the heavy rains of last weekend. As I was stringing-up a fellow angler arrived. He was a very nice chap who was a regular holidaying angler to the area. He preceded to tell me about a good days fishing on a tributary of the Eden which included a catch of six wild trout. The three largest were 1.5, 1.75 and 2lb+...which for this small stream was a real red letter day. My admiration for the angler came to an abrupt halt when he gleefully went on to tell that he kept the three largest fish.

Now, I'm not a catch and release purist and I do not think it should be a religion. However, the taking of these three wonderful wild trout from this tiny stream seems to be on the excessive side. On such small waters I really do feel that anglers have to exhibit some sort of restraint and that Catch and Release is the only option if consistent quality fishing is to be sustained. As a sportsman I would always want to reserve the right to take a fish for the pot, but only where it is sustainable and certainly not on a small stream.

I feel a wild fish is just too special to be enjoyed
only once!

After this rather disappointing interaction I made my way down to the river and enjoyed a very absorbing two hours on the dry fly with some very tricky wild trout. These fish were fit for purpose and were full of aerial combat tactics and not at all like their lethargic farmed cousins who have grown fat on a diet of unsustainable fish meals!

If you are unsure about catch and Release here are a few basic pointers:
  • Use barbless hooks, or debarb the hook with small pliers or forceps.

  • Use tackle that is strong enough to bring the fish to hand quickly to avoid overtiring the fish. The longer a fish is played, the more lactic acid is built up which in turn threatens the survival of the fish.
  • Do not remove the fish from the water after playing it. It would be like you trying to hold your breath for a few minutes after running a marathon. Fish cannot hold their breath, and so may suffer damage to their gills and respiratory system. Lactic acid build up from playing the fish cannot be metabolised and poisons the fish.
  • Wherever possible use a de-hooker to safely and quickly remove the hook without the need to remove the fish from the water, or even handle the fish. These are innexpensive and stocked by many good tackle shops. Ketchum Release, Orvis, Stonefly etc.

  • Use a net if it is the only way of controlling the fish. Only use a knotless net, cotton mesh or rubber net to avoid damage to the eyes, gills, fins and body.
  • Wet your hands when handling the fish. Dry hand or gloves will remove the protective mucous membrane (slime) that covers the fish, exposing it to waterborne infection and disease.
  • Do not squeeze the fish, do not hold it near the gills or eyes.
  • Gently hold the fish under the belly, facing the current, allowing it to recover until it swims away. This is a good time for a photo opportunity.
  • Congratulate yourself on your contribution to the future of game angling!

Monday, 13 July 2009

This is a job for....... The Bicycle Fundraising Men!

Myself and two good mates, Richard Handley and Mark Warren will be putting ourselves through 5 days of cycling hell by riding 220 miles, ‘Coast to Coast’ over mountains and moors, to raise £5000 to support three education initiatives: Trout in the Classroom; Mayfly in the Classroom; and Eden Rivers Trust’s ‘Rivers in the Classroom’ initiative .

All three initiatives focus on primary and secondary school children who:

•Engage in stream habitat / ecology study.

•Learn to appreciate the value of healthy rivers and streams.

•Begin to foster a conservation ethic.

•Grow to understand ecosystems.

The projects are interdisciplinary and have applications in science, social studies, mathematics, language, the arts and physical education. They are also a lot of fun and it’s a great opportunity for kids to discover the natural word in an outdoor classroom....it’s also a good excuse for a game of Pooh Sticks!

Outdoor education provides a whole range of benefits to kids, including learning about nature and nature-society interactions. It involves them with others, developing new skills, undertaking practical conservation and influencing their values within society.

You can follow our exploits on our website at


and..............please feel free to sponsor us through Justgiving, using this website:


Donating through Justgiving is quick, easy and totally secure. It’s also the most efficient way to sponsor them, as we receive your money faster and, if you’re a UK taxpayer, Justgiving makes sure 25% in Gift Aid, plus a 3% supplement, are added to your donation.

The ride takes place at the end of August and is a daunting prospect with 14 climbs of over 1000ft. Gulp...........I think I'd better get some training in!

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

The Crays

Today we had the pleasure of training 14 volunteers to assist us with our crayfish conservation work. Volunteers are the lifeblood of a small charity like ERT and it was very inspiring to be in the company of a great bunch of conservation enthusiasts. The day comprised a briefing in the classroom and two field visits. The field visits were carefully chosen by ERT staff to give volunteers experience of identifying good crayfish habitat and the correct survey methodology. Over the summer many of these volunteers will be assisting staff with our comprehensive surveying programme. I love being in the company of volunteers and getting so many involved today strengthens our credentials as a grassroots conservation organisation. We are always looking for new volunteers. If you are interested visit our website to see what we are up to. For those of you that care about the future of our precious catchment, there really is only one choice: GET INVOLVED!

Tuesday, 7 July 2009


Last week was a sad one for me and my family as I had to let my faithful black Labrador Harry slip away. He'd been ill for a couple of months and had progressively deteriorated. He's been with me for eleven fantastic years and has seen me through good and bad times, getting married and the birth of my two children. Harry (like most Labradors) had three loves in life fishing, shooting...and food. It was on various fishing trips that Harry was introduced to the 'outdoor life'. I still have great memories of him having a nose-to-nose stand-off with a 29lb pike I caught in Norfolk and watching him jumping around in excitement on the bank as I played specimen barbel on the Hampshire Avon. Our last fishing trip, three weeks ago, was on the Driffield Beck, the cancer was taking it's toll but he still followed me along the bank, and when I paused to cast he laid in the sun and kept a watchful eye on me and my sandwiches!

My one regret is that the clock ran out before I had a chance to get him to the banks of the Eden, which I'm sure he would have loved as I am starting to.

Shooting days were fantastic and although not the steadiest dog in the world he pulled-off some spectacular retrieves including a very special underwater retrieve of a teal on the River Windrush. In the last four years Harry almost single handedly did all of the picking-up and flushing on our small grey partridge shoot in Yorkshire. All our visiting guns were always appreciative of his drive to pick and flush everything. These were special days indeed that will remain vividly etched in my memory for the rest of of my life. We got to the end of last season and I remember saying to him "I reckon we have another season left before you retire". Sadly this wasn't to be and I have lost my best friend before the start of another shooting season - and without him it will feel very empty. I think about him every day and I can't get used to him not being there.

Over eleven years Harry built up quite a reputation and a bulging fan-base. As the news got out lots of my sporting friends rang me. During these emotional conversations we swapped stories about the various 'incident's' Harry had been involved with and we had more than one belly laugh. This was great therapy for me and that is how I will remember him. I know one day we'll both meet again on that great partridge drive in the sky.

Later this summer I will spread his ashes at the Holkham Estate in Norfolk, his favorite walk and coincidentally just happens to be the birthplace of driven shooting. I think he would approved of my choice.

Harry Johnson - (March 1998- June 2009)

Spinning Around

Week before last saw me on the banks of the main Eden at Eden Lacy and Warwick Hall. As is always the case at this time of year things really start to hot-up on dusk through to about 11.30pm. On both occasions this indeed proved to be the case. I enjoyed some wonderful wild sport to spinner patterns catching both grayling and brownies. I also lost two very big browns that took a spinner pattern, spun me around and spat the fly.......frustrating stuff, but it gets you fired-up for a return match. Both beats provide medium / large river wild trout fishing at it's best. You can book in advance for both beats for a reasonable amount. Full details of Eden Lacy are on the Fish Eden website which can be accessed through http://www.edenriverstrust.org.uk/ - and for Warwick Hall visit http://www.warwickhall.org/fishing
I finished my week on a real high with wild brown of 3.5lbs+ from a 'secret river'...but more of that another time!