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Big Fish Column: Doom and gloom ahead

We are a little over a week away from the start of the 2019 river season and, certainly among my circle of fishing friends, there is very little optimism for the nine months ahead. Indeed, speak to most local river anglers and it is largely tales of doom and gloom that are being told.

River doom and gloom

The pessimism stems from the current state of our smaller local rivers, primarily the River Kennet, but increasingly the River Loddon, both of which, despite the best efforts of local clubs and the Environment Agency, continue to spiral ever downwards in terms of the quality of fishing they afford.

The rot started with the Kennet and it now appears as if the Loddon is following the same terminal path. The big fish are largely missing, mostly it would appear victims of an introduced predator, and the few remaining fish are just not able to spawn and recruit sufficient young fish to maintain the populations.

But, I hear you say, the Environment Agency is introducing barbel reared at their excellent Calverton Fish Farm into our local rivers. Well yes, indeed they are, and an admirable attempt to stem the decline it is too, but it does not address the real reasons for the decline. Throwing young fish into our rivers does not solve the problem of why young fish are not being produced and naturally maintained. The root causes of the decline of our rivers from predation, over abstraction, increased boat traffic, poor land management, siltation, eutrophication, habitat destruction and climate change are not being addressed, or if they are, the results are not being realised.

I think we all appreciate that there is no quick fix to the problems our local rivers are currently facing, it is going to take a long time to reverse the mistakes of the past. But are the authorities responsible for our flowing waters just doing too little too late?

Would us local anglers like to see our money (and via the rod licence, it IS our money) being spent on investigating and correcting the real causes behind why the Kennet and Loddon are no longer producing viable barbel populations, or would we like to see young fish dumped into our waters to (mostly) never be seen again. I think I know the answer to that question!

But not all doom and gloom

Of course it‘s not all doom and gloom on our flowing venues and with the Thames we do at least have one of the best river fisheries in the UK flowing through the heart of the area. Indeed, local beats of the river are amongst the very best of the entire length of the river.

Huge barbel and chub are present and it would be entirely possible for the next British Record of either species to be caught locally. There are great perch to be found throughout the river, from a few ounces to well over 4lb. Locally we also have some great river carp; huge shoals of bream; decent shoals of roach, albeit somewhat patchy; lots of pike, although tending to be mostly small and, perhaps best of all, lots of opportunities to get away from it all on relatively lightly fished banks.

It can be tough to fish at times, and it too has its problems, but at present it‘s undoubtedly the best of the local rivers and it‘s where I shall be looking for most of my river sport this coming season.

Any anglers wishing to report catches may contact me at ian@bigfishtrail.com

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