I have written here that a few pals and I have both rented a stretch of Wye and begun renovation of the hut there… or I should admit Enoka has done most of that. What a wife! But there are two points I want to make at once. First, Ian Miller (sometimes known as Pingers) emailed me last night to say he is taking three days off work to come West and help with flooring, stoves, furniture, and possibly a bunk bed or two. Secondly, as you are probably sick of hearing, it has been an horrendous year on the Wye for salmon and barbel both. Moreover, the issues facing the Wye are not simply a matter of a drop of rain and a quick natural fix, especially if you are a salmon angler. No, if we want to see the Wye resuscitated we are in for a haul, possibly a long one.
My third point of writing is the important one. Just because the Wye is down, Ian has no intention of kicking her, this river that has given so much pleasure and will again, no doubt. He could have walked away – we all could – but he has no intention of doing that. Abandonment. Desertion. These are not words in his vocabulary when discussing the river, and why should they be? Taking on a river is a marriage. You don’t go into it simply for what you can get out of it for yourself. It’s a partnership built on love, respect, give and take, and team work. The phrase “in sickness and in health” is especially relevant and poignant here. Ian and I have needed the Wye for twenty years: now she needs us.
There are scores of good people who think the same. We are newcomers on the scene compared with stalwarts like Stephen, Seth, Adam, the Geoffs, and recently Stuart, who has blown me away with his diligence and passion. I am of course naming the few, but I hope you can count me, Ian, Ratters, JG and Clarky, the others in our group, amongst the many now. Many of a certain age think in fishing and in life we have had it too easy these past years. It has been all too easy to walk away from a problem and find a quick fix elsewhere. Perhaps I have been been guilty of that, flitting around the world, burning up fossil fuels in a futile search for taimen, mahseer, or whatever that is big and swims, but not now. By ordering that furniture, Pingers has drawn a line in the sand and is building the ramparts. Forget the clichés, we are here to stay!
Back in Norfolk, I have watched the River Wensum suffer from constant decline pretty much all my life, certainly from 1970. I have heard hundreds, if not thousands of experts pontificate about solutions, but barely any of them have actually DONE anything. Back in the day, nigh on a quarter of a century back, the Norfolk Anglers Conservation Association did great stuff improving the Sayer’s Meadow stretch beyond recognition, and more recently the quite brilliant Tim Aldiss has worked miracles on his beat above Norwich. Tim might be eighty, but there has been barely a day when he has not been on the river, working his socks off, these past ten years. Blimey, Tim got it so good Ian had a two pound roach there last autumn (the first out of the river for God knows how long) and I had a seven pound chub. I know the Wye is a different beast, but I still hope to see action there, and not just words, before I am Tim’s age… not long in the big scheme of things!
So, beloved Wye, take heart. There are many out there who love you, and the Environment Agency and Natural Resources Wales should know that we are not going anywhere! In a low key way, resurrecting that hut says it all.