I CAUGHT A GLIMPSE – A Great Winter Read

I CAUGHT A GLIMPSE – Fishing In North Devon

            I have been privileged to enjoy over forty years fishing North Devon’s varied waters enjoying both success and failure. The places and the many people I have met along the way have greatly enriched the journey and as the years pass I realise that all we ever get is a fleeting glimpse of a period in angling history.

In this book I tell a few of my own stories of North Devon angling along with recollections from others; some from an earlier generation who enjoyed fishing in those good old days.

I have no favourite species of fish just the one I am fishing for at the time and this book reflects this with every discipline of angling represented. From the small crimson spotted trout of tumbling streams to the huge shark that roam the Atlantic Ocean.

Angling is in essence an attempt to reach into a different dimension. Its fascination has for me never ceased and I always believe that the next cast will be the one that connects, that marvellous moment of completed deception. The anglers I have interviewed in writing this book reflect upon past times when they too glimpsed piscatorial events that they enjoyed recalling. Stories of lost fisheries, big fish, record fish of angler’s their attitudes and love of fishing.

I hope that I manage to share and convey the joys of angling in North Devon and provide a glimpse into a century of marvellous fishing.

Just a fleeting glimpse,

Of Memories gone,

A hopeful glimpse of what may come,

When its bitter cold outside its often good to settle down by the fire to read a good book.  ” I Caught A Glimpse” has an array of fishing stories from North Devon with all disciplines catered for if your interested check out this review from Dominic Garnett and the comments from my friend Paul French.

https://dgfishing.co.uk/winter-coarse-fishing-and-new-angling-books-reviewed/?fbclid=IwAR1STJpBKb5FDftACxckmT4Gjl9zb5UknO9M0eyvbEQuhmITPgH2TQLF5As

I received this email from my friend Paul French who took the book on a cruise.

“We’ve recently returned from a cruise to Norway which provided me with ample time to read your book and what a thoroughly good read it was too! The passion you undoubtably have for this pastime of ours is embodied in the words on each and every page. The part mix of autobiographical and part historical is I believe a unique blende and certainly not something I’ve seen attempted elsewhere. It couldn’t have been an easy project to undertake and metaphorically reading between the lines the reader may understandably not appreciate the hours and days of research you have put into it. You’ve smashed it, all round my kind of book. 

All we need now is a Glimpse of the next one”.

https://thelittleegretpress.co.uk/product-category/author/wayne-thomas/

Available from The Little Egret Press or drop me a PM via my Facebook Page or North Devon Angling News.

Otters – A Wider Perspective

The otter below can be seen by appointment at Blakewell Fishery where they are working with the UK Wild Otter Trust.

I visited Blakewell Fishery recently where I met Dave Webb a founder of the UK Wild Otter Trust. It is fair to say that in recent years the otter situation has been contentious in some areas with anglers and otters with their natural predatory instincts causing concern. As an angler I always take delight in catching that rare glimpse of an otter and have some good memories of encounters beside the Rivers Taw and Torridge. The otter population in the South West is I believe far healthier than it was a few years ago but this cannot be said of fish populations in some of our rivers. The European eel population has plummeted in recent years and the eel was one of the otters prime sources of food.

The increase in otter populations has coincided with a decline in some natural habitats whilst at the same time there has been a growth in commercial fisheries providing recreational fishing for anglers. When an otter stumbles upon a well stocked pond it feasts on the expensive fish that are precious commodities for the owner and anglers that fish there. The sensible solution to this is to erect otter proof fences around the lakes. Costly but necessary to protect valuable stocks of prime fish. The more contentious area is on rivers where barbel and other coarse fish are present and otters are blamed for decimating stocks.

I do not have in depth knowledge of the issues or of the nature of otters and can see both the view points of conservationists and anglers and fishery owners who seek to control the otter population.

In my view otters and anglers require healthy rivers and habitats and every effort should be made to address the environmental issues that decimate our rivers. The rivers should maintain a healthy  enough stock of fish for both otter and angler.

I asked Dave if he could share information about wild otters to improve understanding of the issues. He kindly agreed and sent me the following informative and balanced article.

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August 2019

CAPTIVE BREEDING PROGRAM OF THE EURASIAN OTTER (Lutra lutra) & ITS EFFECTS

We have been engaging recently, sometimes quite fiercely but always emotively with the Barbel anglers. Agree or not, the rivers that hold Barbel amongst other fish species have been subject to many factors thus causing a decline in Barbel stocks primarily but also other fish & wildlife. The captive breeding program started by Phillip Wayre of the original Otter Trust in Norfolk did not exacerbate this issue as some believe

The original otter Trust was established in 1971 and during the 1950’s otters were presentthroughout Britain. Despite the banning of chemicals, by the late 70’s the only healthypopulations were to be found in Wales, Northern & South West England. Organochlorines were the main cause for decline as it affected the reproduction systems within the otters. A survey of almost 3,000 one time positive sites for otter presence was re-surveyed and only 170 positive sites were found. Whilst the spraint surveying method is only a geographical indication, it did indicate that otters could be dropping in numbers geographically, so whilst the project had some consultation missing, it did play an important part and helped to shape otter conservation for the future

Whilst there were relatively few actual releases made in the grander scale of things (thought to be 130 from the Otter Trust and a further 49 from the Vincent Wildlife Trust)

The first 3 captive bred otters were released in 1983 to the River Blackwater in Suffolk and by 1996 there had been captive bred releases to Suffolk, Norfolk, Northamptonshire, Rutland, Hampshire, Dorset, Wiltshire, Bedfordshire, Essex, and Cambridgeshire and to the Upper Thames area. The Otter Trust closed in 2006 as it was then proven to be a successful program in terms of otter conservation. One of the issues surrounding the captive releases is that as far as can be seen, there was no thought given to the sustainability of the rivers that they were being released into but this would have proved difficult to assess correctly. Unfortunately, where such rivers are NOT sustainable (and that is approximately 76% of the rivers in the UK at present) and then an apex predator like the otter is returned there, then that can have a devastating impact on the existing fish stocks. The problem, in particularwith Barbel stocks is that there are indeed plenty of large fish that have grown on … butthere is not the smaller fish coming in behind them and this is due to poor water quality, habitat, otters, cormorants and uncontrolled invasive species particularly mink and signal crayfish. Coupled with this, the eel population is known to have diminished by some 90% so UKWOT would most certainly support the banning of commercial eel harvesting as more

eels in rivers can only be good for otters as we are all aware that the Eurasian otter prefers the eel in preference to any other fish species due to its high protein content.

First and foremost, we are an Otter Trust ourselves and are not associated in any way to the original otter trust, but we recognise & acknowledge that there were some important and much needed input & thoughts not put into this program. We cannot say that the captive bred few that were released did not have any impact on fish stocks in rivers orStillwater’s because there was an impact albeit in our view a smaller impact than could have been. During the captive program, otters were still breeding and without doubt the captive program helped to secure that progress in areas that may otherwise have struggled. Was the captive program necessary? Hindsight is a wonderful thing but in our opinion andknowing what we know now I don’t think it would have been needed and that it would havebeen better to let the population regenerate naturally. Of course, they could have held some in captivity ready for a breeding program if at any time the wild population was categorically & scientifically proven to be at an all-time low and by monitoring the actual issue as opposed to the knee jerk reaction that was taken. One thing that irritates me personally, is the lack of importance shown by people in not worrying about how many we do have – how can we actively promote the protection of a species if we don’t know how many exist? Population estimates are done via spraint counting and recording but this tells us nothing apart from the geographical range of the otter, which in itself is important but it does not give us any idea as to numbers

How can we say that the captive breeding program was needed at that time because wedidn’t know numbers then and we don’t know now? Equally, how can we say that it was notneeded then? … it is without doubt that the Eurasian otter population have recolonised naturally, but even given the fact that the population did recover naturally after the banning of organochlorines, it may also have struggled so the captive program did have a place. We still rely on old data and number estimates of 12 – 15,000 …. That was then, and we know that they are now in every county so how can we still rely on that figure which personally I think is very inaccurate. It seems to me that some 40 years later, we are still in denial – that must stop. We are still making mistakes – that must stop. Otter groups AND angling groups need to present to the public as professional organisations to gain support to safeguard angling and otter conservation. Perhaps during the captive breeding program, the technology was not around but what I do firmly believe is that there was without any doubt a serious lack of consultation and impact studies carried out. There should have been full media coverage of the plans, there should have been full consultations with river keepers, beat keepers, and lake owners as their input would have been invaluable.

There should have been ongoing impact studies and pre-release monitoring of the proposed release sites. There should also have been post release monitoring to establish that the welfare of the released otters and the existing populations would not be affected in any detrimental way. Its now easy to sit back and criticise how or what was or should have been done then but we are talking now – otters can, and do cause huge financial and emotional issues for many. We must now learn from the mistakes of the past and work together to improve that. If we are unable to work together, both anglers, fishery owners, Barbel

anglers and otter organisations then we should consider hanging up our otter boots and fishing rods for good because the sport of angling will be lost as would one of the most important species of the UK.

The EA often get blamed for this and as far as I am aware, they were not in favour of a captive program originally. The other thing that is very clear and rightly so, is that the Eurasian otter is here to stay – being one of our native species it rightfully, has a place amongst our wildlife and therefore it is important that anglers understand that a cull will never work and that energy should be channelled into riparian habitat restoration to give the UK back healthy, sustainable rivers that will happily hold plentiful fish stocks, predators and the facility for sport fishing.

REHABILITATIONS OF INJURED/ORPHANED OTTERS

Whilst we know that many would like to see the banning of otter rehabilitation centres, a cull or farmers right to shoot for angling we know realistically that those suggestions are absurd and will never happen and nor should they.

Rather than call for banning the actual rehabs we need to concentrate on regulating the ones that are released after rehabilitation periods. It would be impossible to ask the Government to ban the caring of one species and not the other.

  • Rehabilitations should be logged at point of collection and ongoing care should be recorded to include behavioural traits in that particular animal
  • Proposed release sites during rehab should be monitored and assessed for any potential issues that may impact or prevent the final release
  • There should be a second release site agreed in case the original one gets filled by a transient otter
  • Releases should be recorded and only done providing the area is vacant or to the best of the monitoring process will allow
  • All records and data should be made available to anyone with a vested interest in those releases
  • Any otters taken in for rehab that display any humanised traits, (and some do naturally) should be held in captivity to ensure their welfare (this does already happen but it needs to be regulated)
  • All aspects of collecting, caring and the eventual release program should only be carried out under licence
  • Importantly, any subsequent releases should involve full consultation with any fisheries or river keepers for that specific area. This need not be grid referencespecific but at the very least information given such as “a Female otter is being released on the River Otter within 5 miles of your fishery” This would enable thefishery to prepare should they not have suitable protection in place. This would be more difficult for the Rivers but it is as equally important that they also know of releasesSUMMARY INFORMATION

Some avenues believe that the otters are churning out many cubs …. In reality, otters arenot sexually mature until approximately 2 years of age. The average lifespan of a wild otter is 5 – 6 years old which has been discovered via post mortems carried out at Cardiff University by teeth analysis. As the cubs stay with the Female for approximately 12 to 18 months, it is likely that they only have one litter in their lifetime. Furthermore, they are capable of having 1 – 5 cubs, 3 being the norm of which it is probable that only 1 or 2 will survive.

There were once self-sustaining fish stocks in many of the rivers and it should be noted that it is recognised that this is no longer the case for many of our rivers. Combined with a 76% fiqure of rivers being environmentally unsustainable for fish stocks, other wildlife will suffer if we do not work on improvements. With the contact that UKWOT have with many angling groups and fishermen, it is clear that the success of the otter has not played a hand in this decline but we need to accept that fisheries and rivers will continue to suffer with or without them as an apex predator. We all know and understand that scientific data to support this is important however, it is real and it is happening and being reported by those on the banks. Otter groups need to be supporting this initiative as the otter, relies on fish stocks being sustainable and rivers being healthy – without that, the otter faces a very bleak future as the otter relies on fish stocks being good as part of its dietary requirements

It is further important for all otter groups and supporters to acknowledge that the otter does cause financial and emotional impacts and as such can provide social media sites with a contentious difference of opinions. We should not under any circumstances hide behind old data or denial as this will prove counterproductive for the species in the long run and we try to be transparent and open and supportive of those that suffer predation. Only then will we gain trust to progress and only then will we be able to work together for the future of otter conservation and angling

The UK Wild Otter Trust would not support any action towards a cull, farmers rights, reduction in numbers because the dynamics of otter control is not easy, nor would it be effective. This is why we need to concentrate on the river sustainability to ensure that they will hold all species and predators and then, otters will indeed find that natural balance that is very much required. This will ensure that we have healthy, sustainable rivers full of prime fish and apex predators such as the otter along with a varied list of other wildlife. It is clear to me that this is not just about otters or angling alone, but a bigger picture is paramount to success in the way in which we move forward and the way in which we change peoples perceptions of angling and anglers perception of otters by working together

UKWOT have invested huge amounts of time and effort to work with anglers and fishery owners to reduce predation at their waters. Fencing for stillwaters is still perceived to be an expensive option but it should be seen as part of the business plans. It can be very costly to have fencing installed to protect against otters in particular, but here at UKWOT, we can offer advice on installing fences, the costs, the labour, the best ways to protect and itneedn’t be as expensive as some think. We are happy and committed to visiting as many lakes as we can to provide support and advice and even labour to help where we can. We

make no charge for this as its important to us that both sides work together to make effective change

Dave Webb

UK Wild Otter Trust – Founder
IUCN Otter Specialist Group Member
Otter Predation & Fishery Advisory Group – Senior Board Member
Otter Welfare Advisory Group – Citizen Science/Board Member
IFAW International Fund for Animal Welfare – Conservation in Action Award Winner 2017 Otter Advisor to the Ornamental Aquatics Trade Association

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The views expressed within are solely that of the Author and do not represent the views of

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other organisations

Jeremy Wade – Visit to the Plough Arts Centre

 

Jeremy Wade attended the Plough Arts Centre and delivered a fascinating talk about his fishing exploits around the world and the filming of River Monsters, Mighty Rivers, his latest documentary programme Dark Waters and his new book “How to Think Like a Fish”

He enlightened and inspired the captivated audience explaining the structure of the programmes and how the audience are drawn into the mystery and environment of the natural world. The River Monsters series was to a large extent built around a plot of a murder mystery with Jeremy acting as the detective in search of the perpetrator.

He outlined the importance of big predatory fish as apex predators that live at the top of the food chain. The presence of these fish is an indicator of the general health of the  underwater environment. In many areas these apex predators are decreasing in numbers a fact that raises deep concern for the future.

His knowledge as a fishery biologist certainly shone through with his deep knowledge of fish behaviour.

Observation to detail is certainly a major factor in being a successful angler and television presenter. He conceded that planning is essential in making successful angling film shows but often proves totally useless on the day as plans unravel due to the un-expected.

He discussed the wider value of angling in society and the invaluable work of the Angling Trust in working for conservation.

Jeremy followed the talk  answering a range of questions from the audience with an in depth and considered response that demonstrated a deep understanding of his subject.

The event was hosted by Angling Heritage and River Reads both of which are based in Torrington.

Keith Armishaw of River Reads and Angling Heritage introduces Jeremy Wade

(Below) Jeremy signed copies of his new book for the sixty or so attendees.

After an interval for lunch there was a screening of an episode of Dark-waters that is presently being aired on Sky TV’s Animal Planet.

Jeremy gives the look that says ” wonder who that annoying man is with the camera” !

Note my own book ” I Caught A Glimpse” Is available to Pre-Order at https://thelittleegretpress.co.uk/pre-orders/


Hinkley Threat to Fish Stocks in the Bristol Channel

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The building of Hinkley Point Power Station will undoubtedly have an adverse effect upon the Environment but as with all things there is a bigger picture and I am not qualified to know whether nuclear power is better overall than alternative sources of energy production. The financial cost is undoubtedly enormous. I read in The Times on Saturday how it is predicted that the cooling water intake could kill many thousands of fish each day potentially decimating fish stocks. This is obviously extremely worrying not only from an angling perspective but also from a conservation angle.

In addition to the many species of sea fish within the area there are also migratory fish that pass this point including threatened species including, salmon, shad, lamprey and eels. I am sure that measures can be put in place to minimise the impact on fish but it would seem that cost cutting could sacrifice these measures. The Short term savings could lead to the long term extinction of some species with irreparable damage to the marine eco-system.

Below are links to the EA consultation documents. I urge those who care to take a look and respond.

https://consult.environment-agency.gov.uk/psc/ta5-1ud-nnb-generation-company-hpc-limited-2/supporting_documents/Application%20Variation%20Additional%20Document%20Item%205%20%20TR493%20The%20Effect%20Of%20Not%20Fitting%20An%20AFD%20System%20At%20HPC.pdf?dm_i=3O4M,NBZP,D3ITS,2HHQM,1

https://consult.environment-agency.gov.uk/psc/ta5-1ud-nnb-generation-company-hpc-limited-2/?dm_i=3O4M,NBZP,D3ITS,2HHQM,1

CASTING IN HUGH’S FOOTSTEPS

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“A beautiful Valley, a charming old Inn, and a rugged cove that can provide plenty of sport for the shore angler.” From Sea Fishing in Cornwall” By Hugh Stoker. Angling Times Publication 3’6. Published in1960.

Hugh Stoker was a Sea Angler who wrote several books and a series of guide books on fishing in the West Country. I have the editions relating to North Devon, South Devon and Cornwall and have over the years visited many of the marks mentioned. In some cases, the marks have changed whilst in other cases much seems to have remained the same.

We were due to head off Penzance in search of blue shark but the weather did not play ball and we were forced to seek alternative sport from the shore. We had planned to do a little shore fishing on the Thursday anyway with sharking planned for the Friday.

Lamorna Cove sounded an appealing place and a little research proved encouraging if one ignored the extensive rants about the car parking prices and the company that enforces the rules.

On the way we called into West Cornwall Tackle in Penzance where we were given plenty of useful advice on where we could use our ragworm and a few bits of tackle.

We were pleased to arrive after the three hour jaunt from North Devon and set off enthusiastically along the rugged coastal path, littered with granite boulders and perilous sheer drops to the sea below. After a ten minute walk we arrived at an impressive rock stack and set up our tackles.

I elected to float fish with king ragworm whilst James used soft plastics and Rob ragworm fished on jig heads. James was soon in action with a wrasse of a pound or more and Rob soon followed with a succession of wrasse. Eventually my float plunged beneath the surface and I was briefly connected to a powerful fish that dived for cover with the hook length parting, probably against a sharp granite boulder.

We spent the next couple of hours searching the rocky headland with numerous wrasse succumbing to our baits. Particularly Rob whose jig head tactics seemed to work well.

As evening approached and high water passed, we decided to head back to Penzance for food and to book into our hotel. As we descended into the cove the clear water erupted as sand eel’s scattered as they were pursued by launce and a large bass glimpsed by Rob.

We hurriedly assembled our lure rods commencing a search of the bay. My slim metal lure was soon seized and a hard fighting mackerel was swung onto the old granite quay. Over the next half an hour I added a couple more sizeable mackerel, a small bass and a few small pollock. Rob and James spotted several fish in the clear water at the base of the quay wall and enjoyed hectic sport with colourful wrasse.

The evening sun illuminated the honey coloured granite and the Atlantic gently caressed the rugged shoreline.  Youngsters swam in calm waters of the cove. We didn’t catch anything big but that hour in Lamorna Cove will probably sit high on my list of memories of the year.

James drove the van up through the beautiful valley passing a charming old Inn where patrons were eating and drinking on this warm summer night. I really must visit more of Hugh Stokers old haunts.

ARTIFISHAL – The Road to Extinction is Paved with good intentions

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On August 31st I will be introducing the acclaimed film ARTIFISHAL at the Plough Arts Centre. For details see link below. Profits from the showing will be donated to the River Torridge Fishery Association to promote conservation work on the River Torridge. The event is supported by River Reads specialists in Angling Books and signed editions.

https://www.theploughartscentre.org.uk/event/artifishal

PATAGONIA RELEASES DOCUMENTARY AND LAUNCHES CAMPAIGN TO HIGHLIGHT THE HIGH COST OF FISH HATCHERIES, FISH FARMS AND HUMAN IGNORANCE.

Patagonia has released ARTIFISHAL – an illuminating 80-minute documentary film by Liars & Thieves! that explores the high cost – ecological, financial and cultural – of our mistaken belief that engineered solutions can make up for habitat destruction. The film traces the impact of fish hatcheries and farms, an industry that hinders wild fish recovery, pollutes our rivers and contributes to the problem it claims to solve.

Executive produced by Patagonia founder, Yvon Chouinard and directed/produced by Josh “Bones” Murphy,ARTIFISHAL brings into sharp focus the plight of wild fish due to hatcheries and fish farms. The film takes us inside hatcheries in California, Washington, Oregon and Idaho, where we witness the conditions of factory fish farms as well as the genetically inferior, dumbed-down salmon they churn out in massive numbers. At a wrecked net-pen farm outside of Cyprus Island, WA, nets swing in the tide after more than 240,000 diseased, drugged factory fish escaped into the wild population. In a beautiful fjord near Alta, Norway, the underwater destruction and disease caused by an open-water fish farm are seen firsthand as activists record the devastation. And along the Elwha River in northwest Washington State, we track the return of wild fish after the largest dam removal project in the United States, later learning that after spending 320 million dollars to remove dams and restore wild fish, the river is once again home to hatcheries.

“Humans have always thought of themselves as superior to nature and it’s got us into a lot of trouble. We think we can control nature; we can’t,” notes Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia founder. “Fish farms and open netpens only treat the symptoms and not the causes of the problem. If we value wild salmon, we need to do something now. A life without wild nature and a life without these great, iconic species is an impoverishedlife. If we lose all wild species, we’re going to lose ourselves.”

The European campaign, which runs alongside the launch of the film, Artifishal, is focused on the fish farm industries in Iceland, Norway and Scotland.

The majority of European salmon farms are in Norway and Scotland where they have been wreaking havoc on coastal ecosystems. The planned expansion of the industry into Iceland’s pristine fjords using open netpens is extremely concerning. Governments are not doing enough to ensure that wild salmon and their habitat are protected from the devastating impacts of these farms.

From March 28th, Patagonia is teaming up with NGOs in these key countries to call for a moratorium on new open net salmon farms and a phase out of existing ones as soon as possible.

Open-water fish farms are driving wild fish to extinction around the world. Protect wild fish and the species and communities that depend on them.

A room full of memories – Looe Sharking

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The Cornish town of Looe has a rich history as a fishing port and during the 1940’s and 1950’s the sport of shark fishing in the UK became popular primarily among the wealthy members of British Society or the upper classes. The book, “Shark Angling In Great Britain” by Brigadier J.A.L Caunter documents this early period and is a fascinating read.

My own connection with Looe stems from annual holidays with my parents during the late sixties and seventies. To a large extent this was where my lifelong passion for angling was formulated with many happy hours spent float-fishing for mackerel, garfish and grey mullet.

Each evening the shark fishing boats would return to port with their catches. Back then in less enlightened times virtually all shark were slaughtered and brought back to the weighing station of the Shark Angling Club of Great Britain where their bloated carcasses were hauled aloft in front of masses of tourists. As a young boy I gazed in awe and dreamt of days when I could set sail to do battle with these beasts of the deep.

Looking back the wanton slaughter was misguided and undoubtedly contributed to a steep decline in numbers. Fortunately, all shark caught today are carefully released and their numbers are increasing once again. Shark fishing is an important part of Looe’s history and the recreational fishery is vitally important in supporting Looe as a fishing port as commercial fishing declines due to competition from larger ports and other factors.

The Old Sardine Factory on West Looe harbour front recently opened as a heritage centre and Restaurant. The centre hosts regular events and recently held an evening to bring together members of the shark fishing community and share memories in a memory café style event.

Seeing the advert on their Facebook page I could not resist attending and took the opportunity to have a one night break in my childhood haunt with my wife Pauline. I am so glad we made the effort for we were privileged to meet anglers and skippers from an earlier era. I am sure many memories and friendships were rekindled on that summer night. The vast array of black and white photos on display told of a bygone age that was full of larger than life characters.

The shark fishing of that era was seen as adventure on the high seas. It would be wrong to condemn the practice of those days for many believed that the seas fish stocks were inexhaustible. Today we know this is not true and methods and practice have changed to ensure that these splendid fish can be released after being brought to the boat. Anglers share many of the conservationists concerns regarding the oceans and should work in harmony to ensure both the survival of the shark and the shark angler.

One of the nights highlights was to meet Pat Smith aged 95 who travelled to the event from Leicester and still radiated enthusiasm as she recalled those golden days when she caught a huge porbeagle of 369lb.

Much of the credit for the evening goes to Rachel Bond, Dave Clarke and John McMaster.

Below is the short introduction to the event as delivered by Rachel on the night.Many thanks to Rachel for allowing me to reproduce the manuscript on these pages.

Living timeline – Written by John McMaster and Rachel Bond 

Welcome to the Old Sardine Factory Heritage Centre and welcome to our Sharking Legends event.

This event is all about catching up with old friends, meeting people who you thought you might never meet and sharing stories, pictures and other Sharky stuff.

I already know that many of you are well known to each other but by way of introduction and also to give us an opportunity to thank you all let me just mention a few names.

Sharking is littered with successful lady anglers so its tremendous to be able to welcome Pat Smith who has come all the way from Leicester to be with us tonight. Pat is the last surviving Ladies British record holder for shark which she holds for a magnificent 369lbs Porbeagle, caught out of Looe in 1970.  Pat is one of an elite group of lady anglers, many who like her have held and some still hold British and World records. Names like Hetty Eathorne, Patsy McKim, and Joyce Yallop to name only a few. No ladies list would be complete without our own Looe ladies legend, Daphne Case. Sadly, these ladies are no longer with us but I am pleased to say that Judi Berry, Daphne Cases daughter is with us tonight and has brought along her mothers scrap book which you must find the time to have a look at this evening. 

It’s also great to have Jackie Gould with us tonight who has brought along some of her pictures and I am sure some stories to share with us as well.

Sharking was not just about skippers and anglers as it also brought revenue to many businesses as well. Here in Looe names like the Salutation Inn, the Hannafore Point Hotel, the Portbyhan and the Jolly Sailor and many more welcomed anglers and their families to Looe.  One of the most influential of those businesses was of course Jack Bray & Son. In the early days the cost of sharking fishing tackle put it beyond the reach of many. By hiring fishing tackle for the day, Jack made the sport accessible to many people, which helped tremendously with the growth of the sport and the SACGB.  Jack Brays was a weigh centre and sharking trips could also be arranged via the shop and while sadly, Martin has been unable to make it tonight, Martin has an invaluable wealth of knowledge of the sports history.

And last but certainly not least we have our skippers line up which I can best describe as a, living timeline, with us tonight.

 

We have Alan Dingle who skippered the Lady Betty when Pat caught her record Porbeagle and when Joyce Yallop caught her record Mako. We have John Kitto, and Bill Cowan from Polperro. We have Ernie Curtis and Mally Toms, Ian King from Lyme, Richard Butters, Paul Greenwood and Graham Hannford from Plymouth.

No sharking skipper gathering would be complete without mentioning some of those legendary characters who are no longer with us but the memories of them won’t ever leave us. Skippers like Ivan Chaston, Bonzo, Edgar Williams, Bill and Jack Butters, Bert Dingle Robin Vinnicome, Phil Gould and some many many more.

Then of course we have the “younger skippers”!! Well, I had to call them that to get them to come. We have Murray Collings, Pete Davis, Dave Bond, Phil Dingle, Phil Curtis, Dan Margetts  xxxxxxxx

I would very much like a group photograph of all of you at some point this evening and if any of you would like a copy let me know and I will arrange to send you one.

I would also like to say a couple of last thank yous, firstly to the Shark Club for their assistance in curating this exhibition and loaning us some fascinating items, and secondly to John Mac, John  has been my go to shark expert, exhibition and speech writing consultant, photo mounting expert, coffee provider, and general fountain of all knowledge and has been a huge support to me throughout the lead up to this exhibition, so thank you.

We aim to close the event around 8pm but in the meantime we have cider at the bar, and please do say hello to our volunteers with cameras, who will be trying to capture the event and your wonderful memories and stories for us.

This heritage centre runs on donations, so anything you can give towards us being able to put on events like these would be hugely appreciated. Dave Bond guaranteed me that he and the other skippers would whack a tenner in each…

Finally thanks very much for all your input and I hope you enjoy the event.

Below are a few photos I captured on the night with the kind permission of those displaying the images.

Zenia lands a starring role with Shakespeares fishing heroes

(Above) Zenia with Matt Hayes -Then and Now

Shakespeare Fishing Heroes is a show to celebrate and thank the unsung heroes of the sport that bring so much back into fishing but are also the ones that don’t get the recognition they deserve. When I was asked to be the Presenter of this inspiring show – I couldn’t believe it, to get to meet these Fishing Heroes and tell their powerful stories is an honour I don’t take lightly! We ask all on facebook if they know a Fishing Hero that they want to nominate – to get in touch and share your story! You can contact me via Zenia’s Fishing Adventures Page. We will be airing the next Fishing Heroes video on Matt Hayes Page in the next few weeks, so keep an eye out for it! Time to celebrate fishing and the amazing people we have in this great sport.

Anglers Paradise

Changing times – Time to worry?

Changing times – Time to worry?

When I started sea fishing over forty years ago many of fish we caught were killed to be weighed in at competitions, eaten or buried in the garden. Looking back what anglers did was wrong but we knew no different it was different times and there was little perception that fish stocks were dwindling. There was perhaps still a belief that god provides and that there would always be plenty more fish in the sea.

These are fortunately more enlightened times and most sea anglers practice catch and release keeping just the occasional fish for the table. It is vital that those fish we return to the water have a good chance of survival and I see more and more guidance on how to handle fish. The basics are to treat all fish with respect. Handle as little as possible and support the fish when posing for photos. Consider using circle hooks or barbless when appropriate and consider replacing trebles with singles. When weighing fish always use a purpose made weigh sling or carrier bag for smaller species. Do not dangle fish on the scales.

Coarse anglers have been returning fish to the water for the best part of a century and are in many ways ahead of the game. Weigh slings, unhooking matts and antiseptic ointments are now part of carp anglers standard kit. Rigs used are carefully designed to reduce the risk of tethering any fish that are lost.

Salmon anglers who once retained virtually every fish they caught now have to return close to 100% of the fish they catch. Salmon runs are generally on an alarming downward spiral for a multitude of reasons and it is anglers who are at the forefront of campaigns to protect the future of the species.

Please follow the following guide to good practice when releasing fish:

  • Use barbless hooks. 
  • Use a fine knotless net.
  • Use strong tackle so fish can be played out and netted as quickly as possible.
  • Always net the fish: avoid handling fish and certainly do not pick them up by the tail to weigh or photograph. 
  • Keep the fish in the water all the time: If you want to know the weight, measure the fish in the water and calculate accordingly. If you want to take a photo, do it while the fish is in the water.

Whilst there are those who seek to criticise or even ban angling on morale grounds it is frequently the anglers who are desperately trying to protect fish stocks from over fishing and habitat destruction. Perhaps it is because anglers have a direct interaction with nature by participating that they have a deep passion and love for the environment and the creatures that dwell within. I know that I am perhaps skating on thin ice here but many anglers I know have very a deep love of the countryside and the waters edge. There are of course those who leave litter, mistreat fish and show no respect for the countryside. These are unfortunately a significant minority within society as a whole.

As an angler I feel that I have a close connection with the environment both marine and countryside. Sometimes I question my deep passion for angling but it is this quest for fish that has taken me to some beautiful locations and I have seen many wonders of nature that many only see from their arm chairs on HD screens.

I have witnessed an alarming decline in our countryside in the half a century I have fished and I often fear that I am amongst a generation that has seen the tale end of anglings golden age. And perhaps if we are to believe the climate change protestors earths golden age as well?

Good Friday Trout Fishing

April has to be one of my favourite months to target reservoir trout with that vibrancy of new life all around. Having enjoyed a good day at Wimbleball a few weeks ago I was keen to return and hopeful that with warm temperatures forecast there would be the chance of catching fish on the floating line.

This was to be a short session during the middle of the day with a catch and release ticket. Pauline would enjoy a well deserved rest with a good book whilst I waded out into the cool water. The drive across Exmoor proved to be an enjoyable experience with a stop off at Wheddon Cross to enjoy a Croissant and a hot coffee.

On arrival at Wimbleball it was clear that the holiday season had kicked off with families enjoying the warn sunshine, picnicking, floating about on the lake and generally having fun.

After checking into the ticket office and gleaning information from the catch returns it was time to head off and find a peaceful area of the lake away from the crowds. There is plenty of space at Wimbleball for everyone to do their thing. The information board in the ticket office indicated that some very good trout had been coming out to a variety of flies but that when the sun was out the fish tended to go down and become difficult to tempt.

We parked up past Bessoms Bridge and headed for the shallows where Jeff Pearce and I had enjoyed good sport a couple of weeks back.

I put down the tackle and surveyed the scenery. The lake stretched out before us sunlight twinkling on the ripples whilst a few swallows, swooped past and a butterfly fluttered in the light breeze. It was an idyllic spring day and with a warm sun and light breeze I was confident that the trout would be up in the water despite no signs of fish rising.

I waded out in to the crystal clear water and worked out a length of line to place a team of three flies. On the point a Montana, a buzzer and a Zulu on the droppers. I soon settled into that rhythmic routine of casting and retrieving. Birdsong, the call of toads and the sounds of people enjoying the day drifted across the water. My eyes searched the lake for feeding fish, my chilled fingers retrieving the line in slowly with the expectancy of that pleasing tug through the line.

After ten minutes or so the line pulled delightfully tight and a trout cartwheeled on a tight line before shedding the hook. That connection however brief always gives faith that the tactics will work and allows fishing to continue with conviction. It wasn’t too long before another trout was deceived and this time the barbless hook held firm. The trout was not to be easily subdued and threatened to strip line to the backing on several strong runs. After a couple of minutes the fish was ready for the net. A fin perfect rainbow of between four and five pounds.

As the afternoon approached I was pleased to hear the pleasing sound of trout rising. Several fish could be seen breaking the surface just out of casting range. After losing a couple of fish I eventually connected again and another stunning battle a rainbow of over four pounds was admired.

Pauline was called upon to briefly put down her book and capture the moments.

As the afternoon grew late it was unfortunately time to leave with other engagements looming away from the pleasing shores of this splendid lake. As other anglers passed by we chatted and exchanged notes. Several anglers had also enjoyed success and carried nets of weighty looking rainbows. As we walked back towards the car two anglers were fishing in the bay and one of them had hooked into a fine rainbow and was netting it as we approached. Yet another pristine full tailed rainbow of exactly 5lb was held up for the camera by captor Steve Essery who later informed me that he had finished his day with four fine trout scaling 2lb 4oz, 3lb 8oz and 3lb 10oz. His fishing companion had also enjoyed success ending with his five fish limit bag. He commented that it was great to see the fishery turned around under Mark Underhill’s management.

Wimbleball offers a superb trout fishing experience its not always easy but the fish are full tailed and hard fighting with the catch and release option working well. As the summer approaches it may well be worthwhile taking the option of a boat to cover more water. Summer evenings will I am sure provide some exciting sport from both bank and shore with free rising trout.