River Taw Fisheries Association AGM

Alex Gibson RTFA Chairman and Simon Evans Wye and Usk Foundation

Members of the River Taw Fisheries Association assembled at High Bullen Hotel on March 17th for their Annual General Meeting an eagerly anticipated date in the Taw angler’s diary. Whilst primarily consisting of salmon and sea trout anglers there is a growing number of enthusiastic trout fishers who share the love of the river and care greatly about its future.

Many of the association members are riparian owners who work together for the overall good of the river within this well run organisation that has over the years contributed a great deal to enhancing the Taw habitat.

The meeting commenced with Chairman Alex Gibson summarizing the past twelve months on the river. The initial good news was that two salmon had been landed from the Taw in the past week. Alec introduced the evening’s guests including the main speaker Simon Evans (Chief Executive) of the Wye and Usk Foundation and Paul Carter our long serving Environment Agency Fisheries officer. Alex also acknowledged the achievements of Roger Furniss of the West Country Rivers Association and the attendance of Adrian Dowding of the West Country Rivers Trust.

I was saddened to learn of the death of Ron Warwick who I met with on several occasions to share his passion for fishing on the Taw. He was for several years my main source of news from the river and could always be relied upon to have up to date catches from the waters edge. I will always remember catching a silver barred spring run salmon from the Hall water on a silver stoat tail tied by Ron’s own hand. Ron was a true gentlemen his enthusiasm for life and fishing an inspiration.

(Above)The late Ron Warwick beside his beloved River Taw

Last years catches were disappointing with provisional catch returns indicating 146 salmon ad 299 sea trout. This was undoubtedly due in part to a lack of water throughout much of the season. The licensed salmon nets took 44 salmon and 55 sea trout from the estuary. Good news is the increasing number of brown trout being caught in the River particularly in the Upper Reaches.

There has at long last been success with the imminent removal of all drift netting from the estuary and its approaches (IFCA Approved subject to ratification). This will eradicate bye-catches of salmon, sea trout and bass. It will also help to protect vulnerable grey mullet populations and make policing the estuary far more straightforward. Salmon seine netting is EA controlled and will continue in June and July, there are three nets fishing, but net limitation order is for one.

The West Country Rivers Trust have carried out important work throughout the Taw to improve habitat with removal of debris dams, walk over surveys, fry surveys, farming advice and the collation of a catchment action plan. There is also the Riverfly Initiative http://www.riverflies.org/rp-riverfly-monitoring-initiative

Paul Carter gave an update on the latest from the Environment Agency with welcome news of additional support of trained enforcement officers to assist in the patrolling of West Country Waters. Paul expressed concerns at the disappointing redd counts experienced last winter.

Simon Evans (Chief Executive) of the Wye and Usk Foundation was the events main speaker and did not disappoint delivering a passionate talk and presentation covering the work of the Wye and Usk Foundation and the many challenges that we face both now and in the future.

Key elements in the talk were the need for all stakeholders to work together for the good of the environment. Habitat improvement is seen as the key with acidification, fish access, abstraction, drought, phosphates and soil wash off all major issues. The Wye and Usk Foundation have made huge efforts to engage with farming interests to address many of these issues. This is all very complex and we must realise that how we live, what we buy, and what we choose to eat has an impact on farming practices. It is clear that there are ways that farming practices can be modified to improve the environment and at the same time increase efficiency. Soil run off being a typical example, the loss of millions of tons of quality topsoil into rivers is clearly damaging to the river environment and a significant loss to the farmer.

The closing section of Simon’s presentation was perhaps the most alarming and covered the issue of Climate change and in particular the impact of temperature change in relation to salmon spawning and fry survival. There is a critical temperature typically 10 degrees C above which salmon do not spawn. In addition to this high water temperature can lead to premature hatching of fry in late winter instead of springtime when there is adequate food for fry growth and survival.

Global warming is of course a contentious subject that not all subscribe to, despite a huge amount of scientific data to support its existence. I personally accept that climate change happens and has always happened the only question is how much has mankind contributed? There is hope that salmon will adapt and that evolution will ensure their survival. This could of course mean that they simply stop inhabiting our local rivers and shift further north?

The presentation was followed by the annual fund raising auction that provides a significant proportion of the associations income. The association thank all who have made generous donations to the auction and all those who took part in the enthusiastic bidding for lots.

Talking around the table over our meal afterwards it was clear that we had all seen a dramatic decline in populations of both sea trout and salmon populations in local rivers within the last thirty years. It was also apparent that there is still a great passion for the future of angling and an almost inexhaustible optimism for each coming season.

For more information on the Wye and Usk Foundation visit: –

www.wyeuskfoundation.org

For more information on the River Taw Fisheries Association visit: –

www.rivertawfisheries.co.uk

The glorious Taw in summer