I put this in the Barbel section but I feel it might get to a broader audience here and does not just concern Barbel as a species, it does not make easy reading at all
Secretary’s report to 2010 AGM. Upper Thames Fisheries Consultative.
I debated long and hard whether to write a report at all this year. This indecision on my part reflected my pessimism about the future of angling in our area – and with this a strong feeling that my over long tenure as UTFC secretary ought to come to an end. However, in the hope that someone will take over my job I will tell it how I see it.
Sadly, I think we have lost every battle that I really care about.
Personally, I can’t bear to look at the lower Windrush these days. The EA acknowledges that the river loses up to 1/3 of its flow between Witney and the Thames, but says the matter is closed. No further research, let alone action is contemplated. Fly hatches are poor, turbidity is perpetual and the river is infested with signal crayfish. The specimen roach and dace for which the river was famous seem to have disappeared – almost certainly due to cormorant predation – and the river has lost its barbel too. As for grayling in the lower river – they are a distant memory. Higher up the river, remnant populations hang on. Strangely, wild brown trout recruitment is reasonably good, though the outsize trout the river used to produce do not show, probably because the millions of minnows they used to eat aren’t there!
The Evenlode was once my winter “banker”. I could catch lovely roach on almost any day of the year. This too appears to be a thing of the past. Again, turbidity is perpetual. Some friends tell me that they still catch specimen roach, chub and perch, but the EA’s survey results have been very depressing. The gudgeon have gone – and, I think, the minnows too! I attended a presentation by Tom Sherwood of the EA at Ascott u Wychwood on the state of the Evenlode. I think this was a valuable occasion and I would like to see the EA give similar presentations on other West Area rivers, perhaps to this forum.
On my favourite piece of the Cherwell I never saw another angler last winter. That was great as I am notably antisocial, especially when fishing. Unfortunately, other anglers had not deserted the stretch for no reason. The barbel, which were once plentiful, have gone. The chub were for many years never particularly large – a four pounder was a very good fish. Later we saw the chub decline in numbers but pack on weight and even I caught a six pounder. Sadly, the numbers of chub now seem to be thinning out further and as the old big fish die I wonder what will replace them.
I have wonderful memories of Kennet days, fly fishing days at the Wilderness and coarse fishing days at Rainsford and Upper Benyons and many more. Alas on the Kennet as elsewhere the scene is depressing. Even above the canal confluence the river is more turbid than it was and the fly hatches are poor. Below the canal confluence the river is perpetually turbid, infested with signals and the vast shoals of chub, roach and barbel that we once encountered simply don’t exist. I know there is an expensive plan to re-channel part of the middle Kennet at Copse Lock, separating river and canal. I am not a fan! A great deal of money would be spent to bring benefit to 2 estates – the Craven and Sutton estates while the benefit to the rest of the river would be zero. The Italians have a wonderful phrase: “Cathedrals in the desert” – expensive projects that bring little benefit. This re-channelling of the Kennet merits that description. The UTFC (David Reinger and Richard Knowles) continues to attend meetings of the Kennet Fap group. The Kennet has a plethora of groups which meet with the EA. I think we all wonder how real is the progress made.
I can go on and on, but it is too depressing. The barbel have disappeared from the Thames; the Glyme is always the colour of mud; the Coln – once rated alongside the Hampshire chalk streams – has lost its fly – and, where I fish, its ranunculus and grayling too! If there are any bright spots for fishing in this area I can’t see them. In the past year we have had a number of tussles with the EA about flood defence work about which we have not been consulted. David Cameron has said that if he wins the election landowners would have a greater say in flood defence work. That is not an appealing prospect. Whoever wins there must be real doubt that the EA will exist in current form in five years time. Sadly, I am pessimistic that any restructuring will be for the better.
Yes, I am a sad and angry old man. When I became UTFC secretary the fishing in all of our rivers in this area was better than it is now – and that is because our rivers were better fisheries and more diverse ecosystems. Chemical water quality as narrowly defined and measured by the EA (BOD, SS and Ammonia) has not got worse. Indeed it is probably better. However, the impact of phosphates and trace pesticides are much less clear. I strongly suspect, but cannot prove, that invertebrates – the key to the food chain – are very sensitive to both.
What has undoubtedly impacted on our fisheries in the past 20 years is predation. Cormorants, signal crayfish and otters have all had an impact. We know that cormorants ravage silver fish stocks – and can eat quite large fish. We know that signal crayfish hammer slow moving invertebrates. We suspect they also aggravate turbidity problems. Finally, otters eat large fish. They can’t eat eels because there aren’t any and, for whatever reason, poor recruitment means small fish don’t grow to replace the big ones that get eaten.
I would like to end on a positive note, but frankly I can’t. Join the Angling Trust and enjoy what remains of your fishing while you can. I hope our rivers will bounce back, but I am not betting on it.
Sounds like the Upper Thames needs a club to fight the river's corner, rather like the TAC were formed to do are doing from Staines down to the estuary.
Having spoken to several chairmen of clubs that have stretches of the Upper Thames, it seems the clubs are getting fewer members and perhaps slowly dieing.
Whilst keeping their independence, perhaps all the clubs on the Upper should band together so they have a stronger voice to councils and the EA? There'd be an instant membership of many hundreds, maybe thousands.
Ok, the TAC have only been going a year but they already have the model right and the template to follow. 1,000+ members Year 1 and working closely with the EA and numerous good council contacts proves its worth thinking about. For once, the famous angling apathy has been thrown out the window with the TAC and it sounds like that's exactly what the Upper needs.
"TAC were formed to do are doing from Staines down to the estuary"
Please excuse my ignorance, but who are the TAC
Thames Anglers' Conservancy - set up as a pressure group (by amushroom on this forum...and guided by John Hepworth also on this forum) against Thames Water polluting the river with raw sewage. It then evolved into a fishing club doing conservation and fish habitat work on the Lower Thames and its tributaries.
When we at the TAC went to see the EA at head office, they were pleased they had a group they could speak to on Lower Thames matters and said they'd consult with us - they have been true to their word and have consulted and worked with us on issues from fishing platforms, spawning channels, restockings and tributary habitat.
That's why I suggest that the Upper Thames would benefit from all the lads that fish it joining together, just like we did on the Lower. It needs someone like we had with amushroom with a lot of drive to kick it off...that creates momentum and before you know it, you're changing things and making a difference.
Sounds like the Upper Thames needs a club to fight the river's corner,
Steve, the Upper Thames Fisheries Consultative is there to represent all the other clubs in the area, not to be a club itself or need one.
With the lower Thames, there was no consultative hence the old TFCC welcomed the creation of TAC.
Problem with the Middle Thames is that no one was interested in joining or running it and eventually it fell to the TVAA who are an association, but not a consultative. Other clubs won't join the TVAA if they don't want the extra fishing and that's all we primarily exist for. Gives us a headache! If anyone wants to start up a Mid-Thames Consultative, please PM me for details.....
Just thought I would make a point as an outsider. Too many organisations and too many clubs. Thats the big impression I got reading through this. It must be very confusing. Perhaps there should be one body representing the whole of the Thames and all its tributaries.
Perhaps there should be one body representing the whole of the Thames and all its tributaries.
There is, but it's a structure like anything else.
At the top is the Angling Trust and each region, e.g. Thames (or is it South East now ) has it's consultative (used to be the TFCC). Below that the regions are broken down into areas or rivers such as Upper, Middle and Lower Thames and then there's the Thame (not the Thames this time), Colne and the Lee (or Lea) for example who have their own consultatives to which clubs can go and be represented.
Just thought I would make a point as an outsider. Too many organisations and too many clubs.
Fair point. It's a big ole river though for one group. 215 miles and is a completely different river in terms of fish life and habitat if you compare say, its first 50 miles from source to its last 50 miles to the sea.
Though it's no good leaving it to the Angling Trust, seeing as Fish Legal won't represent TAC on the Lower Thames as the catchment area is so big too many cases would come from them alone
Although not curing all ills, I do think the Mid and Upper reaches would gain from a TAC-like approach - sleeves rolled up, waders on and get stuck into improving fish habitat basically....sometimes working shoulder to shoulder with the lads from the EA. The TAC have their hands full on the Lower I would suggest, so it just needs anglers living in the upstream areas to band together and do it.