Tuesday, 23 February 2010

The Hitcher

I've just come off the phone with Ian Maclean of Orvis, who has been telling me about a new wading boot with an EcotraX soul.

Fascinating I hear you groan!

Well, actually I think this could be a very significant development in our fight against the spread of aquatic invasive species or AIS as they are known in the trade! Orvis have developed a soul which has been shown to reduce the risk of the transfer of these most unwelcome of hitchers......
From my previous blogs you will know that I am very concerned that we are under threat from numerous alien invaders such as Himalayan Balsam, Japanese Knotweed, Signal Crayfish and Gyrodactylus Salaris. We should do all we can do to reduce the risk of cross-contamination of these 'once they are here' species. As anglers we have a responsibility to ensure we do not become the vectors of contamination as do other groups like canoeists.

So I am going to go out on a limb and call for the end of felt souled waders in the UK - I feel that they could represent significant threat to the quality of our very special catchments.

There is well documented scientific proof that felt represents a special problem in wading boots. Although many boot parts are capable of trapping and carrying AIS, the difficulties of disinfecting felt make it very different from the rest of the boot parts. While the elimination of any boot part that could trap or transport AIS is beneficial and should be encouraged, the move to eliminate felt is a prudent and appropriate response to the threat it poses.

For once I hope we would not have to do this by legislation and I would hope that the tackle industry can take the lead by simply phasing out felt. Companies like Orvis and Simms are leading the charge on this.

In New Zealand they have banned felt souls to stop the spread of the highly invasive dydimo algae.

Some anglers have questioned this approach.

However, the move to eliminate felt is based on conclusive scientific proof that it represents a special threat. Companies, organisations and agencies are all starting to accept this and the move away from felt will continue to grow. Anglers may not like the change and some will be vocal in their opposition. However, we should all make sure that any argument is based on sound science. The science shows that felt is a special problem and anyone disputing that has nothing to back their claims.

Finally, we must realise that felt is only one part of the problem. There are many other places where invasives can be trapped and transported in our boots and other gear. We must adopt new habits that include careful cleaning after each use. While switching to felt-free waders is a good thing, it is just one step in the process of becoming a clean angler. Any one of us could be the person to carry an invader to a new water and none of us wants to be that person. Inspect, Clean and Dry your gear after each use and you will help to protect the resource that we all depend upon.

Lastly have a look at this video on the Orvis website -


I think it's a great example of a company with a sense of it's environmental responsibilities...they are to be congratulated!

Monday, 15 February 2010


I fished the 'Middle Eden' for a quick couple of hours on Saturday. The river was looking good and it wasn't too cold. Rather than fish my normal spots I decided to have a look around - after struggling I eventually came across a long slow pool of about chest height...that just screamed grayling. The flow was just pushing through nicely to allow me to bump through a ' duo rig' with the heavy nymph (4.2mm Tungsten) on the dropper. I remember saying to myself if there isn't a grayling in this pool ...I'll give up...just at the precise moment when that, oh so satisfying, pull happened. After a short tussle and stunning 15inch+ grayling was caught and released (barbless makes this very easy). "This is it" I said to myself "it will be like shelling peas".........and that's as far as my theory went.....nothing else happened...it started to rain and I went home to a cold beer and a warm fire!

However, I really enjoyed my snatched couple of hours beside the Eden - I was privileged enough to see oyster catchers, snipe and widgeon and teal....best of all I had the place to myself. For those brief two hours, I cleared my mind of the pressures of everyday life and thought about nothing else other than just 'going fishing'. I'd recommend it to anyone.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

So........Just How Good Was The Petteril?

ERT hosted a very special evening last night. We invited around a dozen guests who have fished the Petteril since the Mid-1950's to come and tell us about experiences on this special trout stream.

During the evening we learnt first hand about the truly wonderful river the Petteril once was. I tried to visualise the halcyon days in the 1950's and 60's when a good days dry fly fishing was measured in the scores of fish, across a range of sizes. Even the early season fishing could be very good. One angler Terry Cousins used to fish the river every opening day...dry fly only,with his best pal. They must have been special times. Another fisher Stuart Kinnear described in detail the hatches of flies, which would have given many a southern chalk stream a run for its money. The fishing was highly prized and some of it controlled by the Brakenbrough estate was only available to around a dozen very lucky anglers. But the river was not just the preserve of the privileged few and the fishers of Carlisle had access to some very good quality fishing all the way down to the confluence with the Eden.

Pollution was always a spectre waiting to take it's toll, often involving oil from various sources. However the worst was to come in 1968 when a road tanker containing phenol overturned. Then then fire brigade hosed down the completed load into a beck feeding the Petteril. The result was catastrophic and it would be an event that the river would never recover from......it must have been heart breaking. About this time several infrastructure improvements were taking place (M6 / West Coast Mainline) run-off from these sources contained all manner of nasties. Post-war agriculture was also picking up pace with pollution incidents involving silage and slurry becoming all too common.

In short we had a river that had a suffered a severe body blow through the tanker pollution and every time it tried to recover it would receive another knock out punch through various point source and diffuse pollution incidents.

The river had hit rock bottom and to many the river wasn't worth the effort.

But nature is resilient and slowly but surely trout have gained a toehold back in the river. However this should not be interpreted as a recovery - it's too early for bold statements like that. But we do appear to be witnessing a fragile improvement of some sorts. Anglers are reporting catching adult trout and last year observing good numbers of fry and parr, where once they were absent. To a certain extent this has be observed in our fisheries surveys......but it is way to early to draw any conclusions and we are only one step away from yet another pollution body blow. However things are different this time with the commencement of our Petteril Project and the appointment of our very capable officer Alison Reed. The other exciting development is that last summer we found salmon fry and parr in our electric fishing surveys in the Wreay Woods area.......something that when I first arrived in the job I was told the river has never had and would never support!

So things are getting interesting on the dear old Petteril...a river I am becoming very fond of (I love the underdog) With efforts underway to improve the river through our Petteril Project we are better placed than we have been in many years to try and reverse the fortunes of this once termed 'Jewel in the crown of the Eden'

Terry Cousins came back into our office today to share some more of the entries in his fishing diaries with us. I felt very honored that Terry would choose to share this very personal information with us. What really touched me was that Terry said he had once wept over the state of the river.....I suddenly felt a very real sense of responsibility to the Petteril and it's fishermen. We must make every effort not to let anglers like Terry and Stuart down.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Workshop Update

The planning of our workshop 'Trout Stream Management in the Real World' is coming along very well indeed and we have now confirmed a fantastic line-up of speakers. Hopefully we will be to share new knowledge and exchange information with delegates. In our own small way we may also be able to facilitate a wider process of knowledge transfer to help all those involved in managing our precious wild trout fisheries. Often through a lack of accessible information, fisheries managers (professional and voluntary) can make decisions and adopt practices that can potentially cause wide-ranging and long-term damage to the very resource they are trying to improve. I hope this workshop may challenge some of the traditional thinking and myths surrounding the age old question of 'how do we improve the fishing? ........ hopefully we'll avoid the kind of decision making process these two guys are going through in the cartoon!

See our website for the full listing and on-line booking details.


If you are involved with the management of trout in rivers and streams, habitat restoration or catchment management then this event is really for you! This is not just aimed at professionals and academics but for all of you out there involved in the 'muck and bullets' of trout stream management. We particularly hope that representatives of fishing clubs that are interested in sustainably managing their fisheries will be able to attend. To encourage this we are also able to offer a limited number of funded delegate places for clubs, associations and small charitable trusts. This has been made possible through the generous financial support of APEM Ltd, Institute of Fisheries Management, Environment Agency and Wild Trout Trust. The STREAMS Project, of which the workshop is an output, is funded by the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, for which we are most grateful.

We look forward to seeing you in March!