Thursday, 24 June 2010

Salmon Farming: Our 'Must Win' Campaign

On the way into work this morning it was great to hear Paul Knight from the Salmon & Trout Association raise the impacts of salmon farming up the agenda on prime time Radio Four.

Despite protestations from an 'industry spokesman' I think Paul did a quite brilliant job of getting the key points across in a very understandable and personable style. Paul didn't use any jargon but left listeners in no doubt regarding what is a very desperate situation. I was really delighted that a fishing organisation came across in such a measured and reasoned manner. For so many years this hasn't been the case. If we are to win the 'hearts and minds' of the public this is just the type of strategy we will need. The stakes are high in this debate, but the science is on our side and we must resist the temptation for sensationalism and playground name calling, as has so often happened in the past.

The Atlantic Salmon is one of the most iconic species on the planet. It's migrations are shrouded in mystery and it it sustainably supports ecosytems, food webs, livelihoods and an army of passionate fishermen!

It is this army of passionate fishermen that we need to mobilise and involve in this issue of such wide ranging importance. From a personal point of view I think this is probably one of the most important battles that fishing has to win; if we lose the consequences do not bear thinking about.

My plea is to every fisherman (no matter what their persuasion, coarse, game, sea) to get behind the S&TA and this campaign of international significance. Perhaps this campaign has the potential to 'unify' angling in a way that up until now we have failed to achieve?

But here also lies angling's Achilles heel.......Apathy. So angling (guided by the S&TA) must seize the opportunity to mount an 'en-masse' a campaign targeted at decision makers and the public regarding just how passionately we feel about this issue. If we do not take a untited stand we may just as well switch the lights off and go fish the stock pond.

Make no mistake salmon farming has some powerful and influential friends, some of whom are perhaps closer to angling than you would think. We need to get the groundswell of public opinion behind will be our most powerful weapon in the fight to get salmon farming onto a more sustainable footing.

I do not want to see and end of salmon aquaculture in this country - my aspirations are see a sustainable industry that can support people, the environment and our wonderful migratory fish.

Many people have given up on wild Salmon, but the Pebble Mine Campaign in Bristol Bay, Alaska shows just how powerful a well thought out Grass-Roots campaign can be (see my worth a look links). The pivitol moment in that campaign was the release of the film Red Gold. Anyone who has watched this film cannot have failed to have become very emotional and passionate regarding the need for the stewardship of our precious natural resources. The film has been shown around the world and it has made a huge difference. I have shown it to family,friends and collegues all of whom are non fisher folk...and they get it! They get that salmon migration is one of the great natural wonders of the world and once it is is gone forever.

Our salmon farming campiagn could learn a lot from Trout Unlimied in the States who have superbly co-ordinated the above.

For me this campaign is a place where our hopes and dreams for Atlantic Salmon will live or die.

Lets get behind the S&TA to make sure we achieve the former!

If nothing else sign the S&TA petition to show your support:

Monday, 21 June 2010

Zen and the Art of Fly Fishing!

I have only recently taken to fly tying in the last two seasons. For me it was yet another interest to fill already 'at capacity' cupboards with even more kit!

However over the years I felt something was missing from my fishing. The one component missing was tying imitative fly patterns to match the varying stages of insect life on any given beat and day. Although convenient, shop bought flies are often 'over-dressed' and my personal bug-bear...barbed!

From the start, my strategy has been to...'keep things simple' I have bought good quality materials that fit into a small tool box and spent the absolute minimum on a vice (£11!) I have had some advice from some very good tiers and the owners of Cookshill Flytying, Spiders Plus,Lakeland Flytying and the lads at John Norris. Purchases were made and I set to work...self taught!

To be honest my first few attempts were.......somewhat agricultural. But I just stepped back and simplified things. Some very uncomplicated nymphs were the first to score success on the bank. This was followed by some very, very quick dry flies. tied with a grizzle hackle. The best was to come with a fish well over 4lbs from the Annan to a spinner pattern...again very simple and less than three minutes to tie.

This season I have stepped things up a bit and have started to tie some emergers and some Parachute Adams type patterns. However, if it takes more than 5 minuets to tie, I'm not interested.

We are now well into the 2010 season and this is my first where every fish caught has been on my own flies, including an early season beauty of 3lbs 5oz from the upper river.

Last week I was lucky enough to get out twice on both upper and middle river beats. Despite low water,both of these visits were great fun. But it was the first visit which lasted well into the late evening that was to be my piscatorial 'Zen' moment. I had just managed to catch three fantastic wild trout on a spinner pattern,from a difficult run that necessitated casting off my left shoulder due to heavy foliage behind me.

In the fading light of that summers evening on the banks of a truly wonderful trout river, with the Pennines as my backdrop, I realised there and then that I had finally closed the gap in my personal fly fishing circle.

I felt I had finally made the links between habitat, quarry, technique , fly life and fly tying. It was quite an enlightening moment and one I will savour for the rest of my fishing days. I'm not suggesting I am now some sort of fishing superstar with all the efficiency of a modern trawler.....far from it! However, the increase in my enjoyment and understanding of fly fishing over the last couple of seasons has been nothing short of a revelation to me.

I just hope it lasts for a while!

Thursday, 3 June 2010

How Low Can You Go?

It almost beggars belief that after the winter we have just had that we are now just a few steps away from a drought order being imposed across the North West. United Utilities and the Environment Agency are starting to gear-up in anticipation of a continued lack of meaningful rainfall.

The Eden is low, very low. But despite this there is still some sport to be had for the flyfisher. I have just returned from the lower river this evening where I enjoyed some sport on the dry fly (all tied by my own fair hand!). I did drop two good fish, one was very good. Despite some impressive flylife the fish were reluctant to rise and you had to be quick to cover the odd one that did. If you were millimeter accurate you would get a take. I did see one of my favourite flies on the river today the Yellow May Dun (Heptagenia sulpherea)....I think this is one of our most spectacular upwing flies and I just love it's latin name!
The other big yellow thing on the river was my Labrador (Maximus chaoticus) who has developed an impressive skill in river boulder has to be seen to be believed!

I hope we get some rain soon and that the salmon and sea trout fishing can get going!