The Predation Action Group and a Quiet Finish: Tonyâ€™s Specialist Scene
Due to the conditions Tony has to endure a quiet end to the river season - fighting for fishing rather than fighting fish...
I suspect that I was far from alone in looking forward to a concentrated effort on the rivers to see out the end of season, especially following the poor weather for most of the winter that had made fishing the rivers a difficult and sometimes almost impossible prospect and had even managed to put a lid on the stillwaters for an extended period.
However the reality was that circumstances and further rotten weather conditions meant that my March campaign on the rivers eventually dwindled to a single afternoon/early evening chub session a couple of days before the close. A long way short of my earlier ambitious plans to have a whole series of late afternoon/evening sessions, exploring miles of riverbank in the hope of a monster chub or two ending up in the landing net!
Before I was able to get too serious about my personal fishing plans though, there was an important event to attend at the beginning of March. This was something that had been earmarked in the diary for the best part of a year and while there was a very serious element to the occasion, it was also a major social event as well. This was the annual Carpin’ On exhibition and show held over the first weekend in March at the Five Lakes complex in Essex.
Similar to last year, I was going to be manning the Predation Action Group (PAG) stand over the weekend to help raise awareness and support for the aims of the PAG and to also help to raise funds for the important work that the group is doing to collect and summarise scientific information on the impact of predation on our freshwater fisheries with a view to eventually amending the laws to enable better protection for our precious fisheries.
The weekend itself went really well and I was very happy with the increased awareness and support for the PAG. The organisation and setting up of the actual PAG stand and the success of the overall event itself is largely down to the sheer determination and a massive amount of hard work and effort from Philippa (Pip) Dean and her team from Angling Publications. Until you get involved behind the scenes a little bit with events and shows like this it’s difficult to imagine how much work actually goes into the preparation and ongoing organisation to ensure that things go well. Pip and her team deserve a medal for their help with the PAG stand and the overall success of the Carpin’ On weekend over the last few years.
It was noticeable this year that many more people are aware of what the Predation Action Group is all about and what we are trying to do. I would guess that some of this is due to the ever increasing predation problem so many more people are becoming personally impacted. However some of the increased awareness must also be due to the ongoing publicity and media attention that the issues surrounding predation are receiving, certainly the fundraising part of the weekend went very well, with the raffle, donations, wrist band sales and proceeds from the casting competition all helping to raise over £1,000.00 for the PAG fighting fund.
A big thank you must go to Nash and JRC for the very generous donation of a set of carp rods each for the raffle prizes and to the guys at Fox for once again giving us the proceeds from their casting competition. I also have to thank my good friends over on the Nash tackle area for helping to sell the raffle tickets over the two days and to the popular comedian Jim Davidson for his ongoing support and encouragement and the huge plug that he gave the PAG during his talk/presentation at the show on the Sunday
As I’ve already mentioned, the general support for the Predation Action Group and all that we’re trying to do is slowly building momentum. However I’d still like to see much more support and backing coming from the trade to help finance the work that the PAG is doing. Financial support for the PAG will become increasingly important as we get closer to the time when the group’s findings can be presented to the correct authorities and work starts on the processes to bring about the appropriate changes to the laws and regulations that will lead to proper protection for our fisheries.
The PAG is there trying to protect the fish that we all want to catch. Without the fish swimming around in our waters there won’t be any anglers and the angling related industry will also cease to exist. To me it makes perfect sense for the tackle and bait firms to fully back the aims of the PAG and to offer appropriate support whenever possible.
If you, either an individual or part of the fishing industry, are concerned about predation related issues and want to learn more about the Predation Action Group and/or how you can provide your support, please have a look HERE The PAG web site also provides additional contact details and an overview of how donations and support can be provided.
Once the Carpin’ On show was over and done I desperately wanted to get myself out fishing, but locally the conditions continued to be poor at best. As mentioned, I really had my heart set on some chub fishing on the River Ouse, but with the river swollen with dirty floodwater for most of the period leading up to the end of the season, conditions were far from ideal.
The other river option that that I was keen to pursue was trip to the River Kennet to have a couple of days’ dace fishing with John Wilson. John and I have known each other for several years, but have never managed to actually fish together. We’d talked about our mutual enthusiasm for dace fishing on several occasions and had been trying to set up a session together on a stretch of the River Kennet that we’d both fished in the past for well over a year. Busy schedules and necessary changes of plan had prevented us from clearing the required spaces in our diaries, but eventually we were able to make a firm decision on dates, so with less than a fortnight to go before the end of the season we’d got two consecutive days sorted out for our trip.
Just before we were due to book up some overnight accommodation John checked with another friend who he knew also had thoughts about fishing the same stretch to see if he had any up-to-date information that might have been useful to us… and that’s when our plans came undone.
We both knew that the big dace we’d fished for years ago would have died off, but we’d been hopeful that with a few years of neglect and virtually no coarse fish angling having taken place on the stretch in recent years, some big fish would have grown on to replace them. Unfortunately what John learned was that due to certain factors, most likely including cormorant predation, regeneration had failed to take place and there were virtually no silver fish species showing on the stretch at all and no big dace had been seen, never mind caught, for several years. Therefore we had to regretfully cancel our plans. It was a real shame as John is fantastic company whatever the occasion and I’d really been looking forward to the trip.
Hopefully we’ll come up with another good excuse to fish together somewhere else sometime in the future.
With thoughts focused back on the River Ouse and a bit of chub fishing, I was watching the weather forecasts like a hawk and keeping an eye on the river conditions at any available opportunity. Eventually, with time before the season’s end fast running out, but with the river still far from perfect, I managed to organise things so I could have an afternoon and early evening session on the river.
With the water still very coloured and still pushing through quite fast, I’d perhaps have been better off using a boilie based approach with self-hooking style rigs. However I’d previously been planning to roam about over long distances of riverbank with a mobile, liquidised bread/bread-flake based approach (as described HERE in a Specialist Scene article a couple of month’s back) and I had prepared and stored a reasonable quantity of bread based bait in the freezer in accordance with my plans. Therefore, with my session fast approaching and limited opportunity to amend my approach, that’s what I ended up doing.
Taking into account the extra colour and flow in the water, I treated half of my liquidised bread and half of my hookbait slices to a couple of squirts of a strong seafood flavour before setting off. The flavour would be drawn into both the liquidised and sliced bread as it thawed, which would provide a more scented food trail for the chub to home in on if I thought it might be necessary.
On arrival at my chosen stretch of river, I wasn’t at all surprised to find that I was pulling into an otherwise empty car park. However, with the state of the river, rather than having loads of potential swims to move between, I was left wandering about looking for a likely swim or two that might provide a few big chub with a comfortable enough environment that could just encourage them to have a bite to eat.
Out of the entire downstream section of my chosen stretch there were only two swims that I fancied might offer a chance. One was a straight section with a reasonable strip of relatively smooth, steady water running close in off some reeds growing out from the bank downstream of the peg. The other was situated on the outside of a bend where the push of extra water created a section of slack water a little way upstream.
Something told me the straight was the favourite out of the two options and so I started off there with plain liquidised bread pressed quite firmly into the cage feeder and a good sized pinch of bread-flake on the hook.
An hour into the session and I’d had two casts into the first choice swim, one just dropped gently towards the head of the swim and another about a third of the way down. However I had nothing to show for my initial efforts, except for the odd slow pull or ‘plink’ on the tip as bits of crud bumped into the mainline. A quick move to the bend swim and another hour on the plain bread based baits provided a similar result; so things weren’t looking too promising.
With a little bit of freezing drizzle starting to fall I was prompted to move back to the more fancied straight and I attempt to erect the little lightweight brolly that I’ve brought with me with as little fuss as possible before making a cast with the flavoured version of the liquid bread in the feeder and flavoured bread-flake on the hook. 15 minutes after making the cast I’d started to think that a ‘blank’ was pretty much a foregone conclusion when the tip signalled an occurrence.
Normally I find it reasonably easy to distinguish the difference between a weed/rubbish type indication on the tip and the bite from a fish, even when the bites are quite tentative. On this occasion though the movement was a bit like something in between… more of a nudge than a bite. Rather than strike all I ended up doing was being suddenly spurred into a state of full alert, with my right hand hovering over the rod handle.
However nothing further happened and eventually I was left thinking that in hindsight I should have struck at the indication. Perhaps it’s one that the touch-ledgering advocates would have ‘nailed’, but these things are impossible to know for sure and eventually all that was left to do was ponder the possibilities as I re-baited and made another cast in the gathering gloom.
I keep trying touch-ledgering, but I’m not sure that it’s really caught me any more fish and I tend to think that the bites I hit would have been ones that I’d have seen and reacted to on the tip… or that’s what I tell myself anyway. I also lack the discipline in the cold weather and can’t resist tucking my frozen digits into the side pockets of my jacket to warm up, which obviously defeats the object of the exercise.
Anyway, the rest of the session passed by without further incident and finally I had to admit defeat and succumbed to the idea of heading off back to a warm house and some hot food.
The weekend after the start of the close season was the rescheduled Norfolk Carp and Angling Show held at the exhibition halls at the Norfolk Showground. Due to work commitments I hadn’t been able to make the show on the original dates earlier in the year, but after it was cancelled due to snow and rescheduled I was able to attend, which was good news. I was performing part of my Nash/Peg One consultancy duties at the show and spent most of the two days as part of the Peg One team manning the Peg One stand. It’s a show that I really look forward to attending, as my Peg One and Nash colleagues are a great bunch of guys to spend some time with and there’s usually plenty of chances to catch up with some old friends that I haven’t seen for a while.
As it happened, John Wilson had his rig-clinic stand set up just round the other side of a dividing wall, so we were able to do a bit of catching up and gossiping while commiserating ourselves on the dace trip we’d had to cancel only a week or two previously.
One of the other highlights of the show was that I was treated to a sneak preview of the photos of Paul Garner’s massive 19lb 2oz zander that he’d very recently caught from the River Severn just prior to the season ending. Paul is our Peg One brand manager and he’d brought along his i-Pad loaded with a number of pictures of his magnificent fish prior to them appearing in the press. There’s a detailed account and some eye-popping photos of Paul’s catch HERE on the FM website.
So with my latest batch of shows over for the time being and a promise from the weather people that the winter really isn’t going to last all year, it’s finally time to start seriously considering trying to get my bream fishing gear together.
It seems crazy to think that a few years ago, on the back of a really mild winter I had made a start to my ‘spring’ breaming campaign in February, while this year I’m writing this on an Easter Bank Holiday weekend with snow still laying in the garden and my bream rods still gathering dust in a corner of the garage.
Still, it can only get better… can’t it?
Until next time… Happy fishing!
By the Same Author
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- Big Crucian Time: Tonyâ€™s Specialist Scene