I had a call from AT yesterday. It seems that they were struck by the fact they had not had a single report of a good fish from the Wensum for over three years. Their question was, ‘What has happened to this iconic river?’

Well, let it be said that occasional big fish have been caught in the Wensum these last three years, but that the captors kept quiet or reported them to the Angler’s Mail before it collapsed. However, the thrust of the question is a true one. I would think in 1972 that hundreds of noteworthy fish would have been caught already, even though the year is only a few weeks old. Those fifty years ago, there would have been anglers everywhere, and probably plenty of matches too. A two pound roach would not have raised an eyebrow, and a dozen more ounces would have been required to get an angler excited. Huge perch also existed that year… I saw two four pounders get caught in consecutive casts by old maestro Terry Houseago around that time. Today? Half a century on? I doubt if there have been more than half a dozen anglers on the river, outside Norwich city limits, so bad have things become. 

The AT told me that they were going to interview all the usual suspects, from the Environment Agency to the very last of the groups that have sprung up these last few years, all styled to save the river. As far as I am concerned, the only one of these organisations to have made any impact whatsoever was the now-defunct Norfolk Anglers Conservation Association, and that was probably back in the Eighties and Nineties. Since then, an army of fishery “experts” have made an appearance, and sometimes a living, and they have all preached this and that, done bits and bobs, and achieved a total of nothing. 

I don’t want to steal the AT’s thunder, and this is hardly a spoiler alert as you know my answer already. Of course, habitat and water quality are important, as the hundreds of experts claim. Of course, the Wensum could do with less pollution and abstraction, but what it REALLY needs are fish, and fish that are protected. I’m not saying that there is a silver bullet that would make the Wensum an ecological paradise, but there is one that would allow us to catch two pound roach again. The trouble is that while there is data to collect, madcap schemes to pursue, and money to be earned, the experts don’t want to know. The Wensum has been milked for hundreds of projects that have done nothing but keep fishery scientists in work. The worse my dear river becomes, the more money can be wrung from her. 

Angry? Disillusioned? Me? Damned right I am! 

There are still some crackers in the Wensum… but getting fewer by the year
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