John Bailey's Casting Off West

Steve King

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Quite, zero tolerance. The invading American squirrel is as destructive as the invading American crayfish.
Believe it or not, but growing up in the borders of Surrey and London in the 50s and 60s, native red squirrels still had a presence in the woods behind our garden!

Several members of a Facebook group I’m a member of have similar recollections.
 

John Bailey

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Casting Off West. 5.00pm 8/04/2021

A sad day. Once again to the mountains to recce for wild carp, our link with the monks of old. On the long but wonderful morning drive through hill and dale I reflect that perhaps the wildie is a myth, a figment of our desire to cast back to a golden age of tranquility and romance, a time when we could reasonably expect Excalibur to be lifted out just beyond our float one mist-laden dawn.

But on arrival at the lake, looking at the rugged terrain, I think “why not”? Surely this inhospitable fell has not changed in a millennium, so why should its fish stocks be anything but original and as ancient, almost, as the rocks around?

And then I see a dull golden gleam close to the far shore and I hurry round, heart in mouth. Up close, I stumble on what I fear, an almost perfect wild carp, sculptured in death. I am at once immediately affected by this. At almost any other carp lake such a sight would be regrettable, but not the catastrophe it is here. The grandeur of the morning is lost to me, and the drive home a sombre one indeed.
 

John Bailey

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Casting Off West. 10/04/2021

I applied to be put on the waiting list for a charming stillwater hereabouts, but learned yesterday I hadn’t made the cut for this year. I was not surprised, as more people than ever are fishing in these Covid times, but I still felt a stab of disappointment. For many years I have run a couple of syndicate waters in Norfolk, and only recently had to turn a would-be member down. I now know exactly and acutely how he feels, and it is not nice. I like to think that I have always tried to soften the blow of refusal, but from now I will take especial care to offer hope for the future. I guess that is a drawback to a long-distance move like this: you are inevitably the new kid on the block.

Last year in Norfolk, all the talk was of canoes and the damage they were doing. Last night I spent half an hour discussing the exact problem here on the Wye. Because the Wye is so much bigger than the upper Bure, say, it is easy to underestimate the canoe problem, but in the summer and during low water, it is acute. Children and novice paddlers are a particular threat as they simply do not know how to glide over historic, ecologically invaluable gravels.

What to do? We all know the legal rights of the matter, and by and large on upper rivers canoeists don’t have a leg to stand on. Given the attitude of the police, the EA, and authority in general, this is hardly a bother to them. Perhaps the only way is through education? We live in 'The Attenborough Age' when care of nature really is under the microscope. How do we make the decent canoeist realise the appalling harm he or she is doing to an environment they purport to love? Surely there is a consensus that it is good to enjoy our countryside, but not at the cost of destroying it?

I can only repeat this analogy. Blakeney Point in Norfolk is famous for its tern nesting colony. No one would play football there in springtime, and the National Trust would prosecute anyone who did. How come those same people would think it fine to canoe over miles of barbel spawning redds and destroy millions of eggs? There is no difference I can see, apart from the fact that fish have comparatively few champions.

So, Countryfile, The Field, all Wildlife Trusts, everyone with a voice, shouldn’t we be making this message heard?
 

Peter Jacobs

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Casting Off West. 10/04/2021



What to do? We all know the legal rights of the matter, and by and large on upper rivers canoeists don’t have a leg to stand on. Given the attitude of the police, the EA, and authority in general, this is hardly a bother to them.

Actually John, we do NOT know the Law . . . . what we have currently are two (opposing) legal opinions that would have to be tested in the Courts, (and successfully appealed), before we will really and truly know the law . . . . .

It is not a problem for the paddlers because they are simply ignoring the "mutual agreements" that were the first choice of the Angling Trust, and they are relying on the fact that it is an expensive operation to get a legal and binding ruling on this . . . .Education only works on those who have a thirst to be educated, and on this topic the paddlers are just not interested.

Now, who is going to take on the P.R.N. challenge?
 

John Bailey

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Casting Off West. 12.00pm 11/04/2021

I don’t know if you remember the furore recently about the shameful damage done to a beat of the Lugg a few months ago, but it even made the nation’s newspapers and Six O’Clock News. Well, yesterday, Enoka and I decided to go and see for ourselves. We walked, walked, and walked some more, and most of the way simply wallowed in the beauty of an unspoiled valley. Then we came across carnage.

What possesses someone to spend so much time and money on ecological destruction? What on earth can any motive be that demands this level of satisfaction? At the time, I remember the surprising outrage from the authorities, but now I’m reserving my judgement. Yesterday it would appear, from a few smouldering logs, that work might still be taking place.

Does anyone know what has happened here? Is the fury that was expressed then been converted into any meaningful action? Who exactly is taking charge of correcting this damage done?
 

Steve King

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My first wife's parents lived in Moreton Upon Lugg and I fished this beautiful little river many times. It was a great mixed fishery with chub, bream, roach and barbel being my most frequent captures. I tried several times to bag a brownie, but sadly failed!

It's terrible to learn of the damage to the Lugg, but it has all gone very quiet now! Perhaps there is some truth in the farmer's claims that he was authorised by the EA to carry out this destruction?
 
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