|a perfect Avon roach and probably a project offspring|
Roach – a favourite fish for many and certainly for me and though they have suffered declines on many rivers, not least the iconic Hampshire Avon, they are making a comeback, even on this most famous of waterways … and you might ask why?
|Bob's famous catch of two pound Avon roach in 'A Passion for Angling'|
With something as complex as a riverine ecosystem there is never a simple answer to any question. No doubt the dreaded flocks of cormorants have had a devastating effect on the roach population ; the relentless weed cutting probably had a negative impact too. Then there is the general lack of flow compared with the good old days. When first faced with this powerful rush of deep water, anglers would be daunted by the challenge, me included … but once the challenge was faced, the rewards of numerous big roach were there to be won.
In the early ‘80’s I made a film for BBC 2’s legendary series called ‘The World About Us’ on the Hampshire Avon and Longford’s river keeper Tom Williams. I looked at it recently and the thing that struck me most, apart from the numerous fish was the impressive volume of water and weed in the river. The many carriers in the water-meadows had flowing water in them too, providing invaluable nursery areas for young fish, including roach.
The carriers have fallen into disrepair now and the main stream is a sorry remnant of a once fast and lush river and if you add the increasing number of chemicals running off the fields, then it is no wonder that fish populations are suffering, especially with the loss of so much good habitat. There are no doubt many other factors that have contributed to the declines but not to be daunted by the challenges ahead, Trevor Harrop and Budgie Price decided to act instead of just whinging like most of us do.
|stews where the one year olds are grown on - the diggers in the background are digging out the lake where the roach will grow even bigger|
|finished pool slowly filling up with rain water - a future home for breeding yet more roach, paid for by fund raising gigs.|
Their success in creating the Avon Roach Project and raising and releasing tens of thousands of roach into the river has received well deserved acclaim and even more importantly, anglers are beginning to catch roach in places which for many years has been unheard of.
|some of the thousands of mature roach released into the Avon|
Because these places are the very spots where Trev and Budgie have been releasing roach for a number of years, it’s tempting to suggest that these are indeed the fish that they have so painstakingly raised from roach eggs gathered from the river. There will always be doubters of course, those that suggest the increase in roach is just a result of natural recruitment and that all they are doing is feeding the cormorants … but whatever the reason, let’s celebrate that at least some roach are back in the Avon and that catching them is more of an expectation now than a surprise.
|Trev enjoying a few hours doing what we like most of all|
Only last week, Trev and I decided we’d put our skills to the test and see if we could find a true Avon roach. We tried in an area where releases had taken place, just to give ourselves a better chance of course and bingo, we caught the most perfect specimens on traditional trotted bread flake.
|fin perfect Avon roach - only eight ounces but a two pounder one day maybe|
With their lead being followed on several other rivers, the breeding of roach has become a successful way for roach anglers to make a difference and we can be thankful that Trev and Budgie have had the sheer bloody mindedness to rise to the challenge. As they are well aware, nature will never thrive without good habitat in which to live and these last two years or more have seen an increasing number of habitat creation projects undertaken by them with the support of the Environment Agency too and it’s thanks to their relentless hard work that they are slowly transforming a once famous river back to it’s former glory.
|backwater cleared by the Roach Project to provide juveniles with a safe haven|
There are numerous examples from around the world that prove that nature, given half a chance will fight back and we should all be grateful for that and support those who are prepared to make the effort.
If you want to learn more about the project then please visit their website and blog. I made a couple of films for Trev and Budgie about the project, Keith Arthur and Tight Lines have done the same and links to these can be found in the Film Footage flag on their website : http://www.avonroachproject.co.uk/
… and to read and see more, visit their blog : http://www.avonroachproject.blogspot.co.uk/