Attitudes, Opinions and Contradictions
'There are always two sides to every story and then there is the truth.' (Anon)In my view, anything that challenges opinion is healthy and necessary, especially in fishing circles where many attitudes and opinions can be stated or presented in public as fact by anglers who feel the need to push their opinions onto others for various reasons.
We have recently seen some very healthy debate in the angling press concerning the closed season, the issues of live baiting and predator culling. All continue to raise their heads occasionally along with many other issues, all of which have given me cause to review some of my long-held beliefs. You may not be surprised to learn that in the last few months, I have found some of my ideas in many areas of fishing to be in complete contrast with those of others and this has caused me to back track and look at some of the thinking and rationale behind these ideas. I wont bore you with the detail as the purpose of this piece is to make you think about your own views on certain fishing-related matters, but what follows are some of the areas where there are contradictions in the beliefs of anglers which are unfounded or detrimental and need personal review.
Firstly, there is the issue of the current river closed season. I make no apology for the fact that I am for keeping the closed season, although I find the following weaknesses in my reasoning. I'm not for keeping the closed season just because it has always been there, and I do not consider myself a traditional angler by any means. I want to keep it for partly selfish reasons in that the majority of barbel spawn around or at the end of May and I don't want to see people fishing for them at this precious time.
My other concerns are environmental and I believe that the closed season break gives plants and shrubs a chance to recover and blossom through springtime. June 16th, the opening day of a new season, also has a certain charm and excitement about it. These views are typical of the arguments that are being banded around by like-minded people such as myself. But lets look at the first of those arguments.
'The majority of barbel spawn around or at the end of May.' Do they?! What about the barbel that spawn well into June and early July? Can we presume that all barbel anglers will forsake the first few weeks of the fishing season whilst the barbel finish their annual nuptials. I am 95% sure that the barbel in the Upper Thames, where I currently fish, have spawned, but I am no scientist and my assumptions are made on the basis that the fish appear to have moved off the gravel and I can no longer find them in this area. But they are assumptions.
The Thames chub spawned on 16th June, in celebration, of course, of free lunches for the next nine months (I jest). So what do we do about the fact that we cannot protect fish that spawn after 16th June, each year? Extending the closed season is clearly not the answer as in doing so we could end up with no season left in which to fish. We are left with a decision as to whether or not we fish for a species that may or may not have spawned which defeats the object of the closed season's introduction in the first place. The environmental arguments pale into insignificance on many waters where cyclists, bird watchers, ramblers, canoeists, and pleasure boat owners are allowed to disturb banks and spawning grounds, so no clear answer to that one either and I find myself at a loss to find one.
Why is it that pike, zander, eels and to a lesser degree catfish, are all considered a detriment to the pleasure or match anglers fishing by wiping out small silver fish stocks? Some of the arguments I've heard over the years would make you think that we have gone to war against these species, with such hatred directed at their very existence. Nearly all of the arguments for the culling of predators are based on fear, lack of evidence, poor education or prejudice.
In retrospect, let us have a look at the more popular fish and the damage they do to other fish stocks and fisheries. The good old designer carp is one fish that when introduced in inappropriate numbers to satisfy the Sun readers in their bivvies, can literally wipe out the food supply of all other naturally occurring fish such as roach, rudd, perch, tench and bream. They are known to take small fish from time to time as can be borne out by catches on plugs and spinners, yet they are still king of the crop as far as the angling public in general are concerned.
The barbel, prince of the river and my current favourite fish, will at certain times of the year literally gorge themselves on the spawn and fry of other species in addition to taking the occasional small roach, dace, minnow etc. but you will find no flies on them.
The chub - big gob - will travel and one of the growing areas of sport for the lure angler, and not by chance I might add. Billy Perch is one of the most ferocious of predators that harass and hound their victims into exhaustion, yet a more pleasurable site on the end of light tackle you will not find. We all (those of us that are old enough) remember the days of the zander boom on the Fenland drains and the needless slaughter of thousands of zander and pike after the disappearance of the silver fish. The reports in the press sickened me as a child and I still vividly remember the pictures of big black dustbins full of dead zander. What a waste! You cant tell me that the predators were totally responsible for that one when at the same time, the Anglian Water Authority, were drawing water out of the relief system, reducing water levels to such an extent that silver fish spawning areas (reed stems etc) were left high and dry culminating in whole year classes being prevented. Yet, the blame was directed at the predators and Joe Public is given the view that this is a disaster that everyone can play a part in restoring. Kill, Kill, Kill. We all (or most of us) know that nature takes care of itself in these circumstances.
Opinions on bait for various fish, but especially carp and barbel, is one area that constantly raises an eyebrow and plenty of discussion and I find myself forced to rethink this one after several discussions on the Fishingmagic.com Mailing List made me realise I'd fallen into the bait trap. I find that I am arguing with myself frequently over the benefits of HNV baits over standard or natural baits and there is plenty of proof that neither one stands above the other when it comes to trying to prove your case. The majority of record pushing barbel continue to be caught on plain old luncheon meat-type baits and some of the biggest carp continue to fall for lower nutritional value carp baits and particles. I wont labour this one too much other than to add that I will continue to experiment with both, and no bait, no matter how well prepared or constructed, can replace good old fashioned watercraft or skilful angling, both of which I wish I had in very much larger quantities.
Finally, the above are my thoughts and concerns about attitudes, opinions and contradictions in angling. They may not agree with yours, but I paid for them in some way and I am left with the scars to prove ownership. If they create a desire in you to think further about your own views then this article will have proven to be successful.
I always like to remember this old classic; 'There are always two sides to every story and then there is the truth.' (Anon).