Monday, 5 March 2018

A MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN

what a cracking stretch of river for a match

At last, a river match for us all to enjoy, the first on WDAC waters since 2011 and what a truly great day it proved to be.

Ten anglers shared in a splendid social occasion and all ten anglers taking part actually caught lots, 55lbs 5ozs of mainly roach to be precise … and all thanks to that club stalwart and river roach champion, Mike Cullen.

He motivated the club and us running water anglers, dealt with all the permissions, pegged the stretch at Bailey’s and sorted the draw.

this was my second choice of swim but Stu D drew it - lucky ...
I knew which of four pegs I’d have liked but needless to say, with my luck at the draw-bag in the past, I didn’t get any of them. I’d never fished a pegged match before but I’d drawn peg 7 in the middle of no-where. It didn’t matter because someone had promoted me on the clubs’  website as a ‘roach fishing legend’ so I was always going to blank – wasn’t I!

However, the river Gods had been very kind, for conditions were as good as we’ll ever get for a match. The water was fining down after a flood, the colour and flow excellent, the weather warm and overcast, the light wind upstream and across. We could control our floats in the middle of the river perfectly, so we had no excuses for blanking, even me.

bagging roach on a previous day - this is the swim that Brian drew - curses!
In spite of being in the ‘wrong’ swim I felt quite confident and after the whistle a ball of ground-bait [with secret additions!] had been lobbed out mid-river. Then first cast with bread punch on the hook, the float buried and a 12oz roach soon slid over the net. Wow, I could hardly believe it, I hadn’t blanked after all and when the float kept on diving under every cast for the next twenty minutes, I thought I was going to bag up big time.
there are some beautiful roach in the stretch

Brian in THE swim - you can just see my spot by the track in the 'wrong' place and Martin in the Roach Bay upstream
I noticed friend and club president Brian on the next swim below giving me jealous glances because he was the one blanking. Then I hooked an even better fish, a one plus roach for sure … but it turned out to be a sea trout, the first I had ever caught from the Stour in thirty-seven years. It went well over a pound but sadly it didn’t count in the match so was reluctantly returned. It would have tasted delicious poached in butter and white wine!

After that my match started to unravel. I was hooking lots of roach but they were getting smaller as well as  falling off. I changed the hook of course, then agonised about whether to add another ball of liquidized … ‘you can’t take it out comes to mind.’ My swim had died and worse still, Brian had started to catch, only small ones at first but then his landing net started to wave about.

Drastic measures were required. I threw another ball of bait, put the rod down to rest the swim and went walk-about. This surprised a few friends because I wasn’t taking the match seriously enough, even though I was eager to treat the day as a social.

I feel there’s more than enough competition in the world without having to compete when indulging in my roach fishing passion and I was surprised how intensely everyone was taking it. No one took their eyes off their floats, all concentrating keenly they were. I was impressed. Frankly, I’d rather help friends catch more fish, even put them in my favourite swims and when it comes to contests, I’ve never been competitive … so long as I win!

Entering into the spirit of the occasion, I tried to distract my competitors by chatting and winding them up when they missed bites. I even took pics of Brian and Stu D because they were in the two best swims and the camera might put a curse on them!

Stu D bagging - I didn't manage to put him off
Much to my surprise, everyone seemed to be using maggots when it looked like a bread day – but what do I know. I even went back to my swim and tried maggots for a while but apart from one or two small roach, my heart wasn’t in it.

Balling in again, I started to concentrate and at two o’clock the bites started coming. I caught plenty, some requiring a landing-net and though several were being bumped or falling off, I was on a roll and thoroughly enjoying myself.

However, below me I could see Brian was catching two to every one of mine and they were bigger. I was being battered by a better angler … but may the best man win.

winner and club president Brian with his splendid bag of roach - nice one!

Brian was indeed the best man and he did win, bagging a splendid net of roach weighing 13lbs 4ozs. Stu D came second with 8lb 12ozs and Stu H our indefatigable Hon. Sec. did particularly well from end peg 1, for he seldom river fishes but landed a level 7lbs and the largest roach of the match, a beautiful pound plusser.
Stu H with another good bag of cracking roach

Stu D came second with a hard earned catch

I scraped together 6lb 2ozs and thoroughly enjoyed the struggle and the camaraderie, for watching a float bury in mid river and landing roach after roach is, in my book, as good as it gets. Even better, everyone was catching and that was very good news.

the club are successfully managing the predation issues
It was clear from the catches that cormorant predation is suppressing the average size of the roach but the fishing is getting better every year, their size is increasing and with cormorant controls now in place and successfully carried out by our Chairman Mike Hirsh and Stu Davison, the future is bright, the future is silver!

winner Brian Heap and organiser Mike Cullen

Everyone really enjoyed the match and with all of us catching lots of roach, we’re hoping that Mike Cullen is up for organising more river matches in the future. Happy days are here again.
a happy gathering of successful anglers

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

CORMORANTS vs. ROACH


bags of big roach would often include two pounders
Those of us who are old enough to have a free bus pass will remember the good old days when our local River Stour was full of big roach, with two pounders a realistic possibility every day and all wildlife flourishing.

cormorants are big birds with big appetites
roach are a favourite prey - these are some of the survivors from cormorant attack
Then in the 1980’s the invasion of non-native cormorants from Europe increased dramatically, the annual total reaching upwards of 23,000 birds every winter. Each cormorant eats about 1lb of fish every day and with roach being one of their favourite meals, our river fisheries were rapidly decimated.
the famous 'Roach Bay' on Wimborne's River Stour with hungry cormorants hunting our fish

the clubs regular match results over ten years charts a decline to zero roach - nothing caught = no matches
big roach are targeted first - this one weighed 1lb12ozs
As a result, some of the passionate roach anglers on our committee recently tackled the problem full on and applied to Natural England to control the birds by scaring or shooting. We were granted a licence to remove three birds and our Chairman scored three bull’s-eyes. 

BANG! - job done ... meaning some more of our native wildlife will survive, including our fish
The removal of just three birds may seem pathetic but as each cormorant eats at least 100lbs of  fish every winter, three dead birds means that at least 300lbs of our roach have been saved to fight another day … and some of the survivors will probably grow on to become the dreamed of two pounders. The fishing is already improving.

logging your sightings means more fish for us to catch
Better still, the club is putting the facts together to enable an Area Based Management Licence to be applied for and that means we will be able to control cormorants on all the club’s waters and remove more of them, a win win situation all round.

But YOU MUST HELP because we won’t be allowed to control more cormorants if you don’t log your sightings on the clubs website. It only takes a couple of minutes and we need EVERYONE TO DO IT, wherever you see a cormorant, anywhere around our club waters. 

they can be difficult to scare when hungry
Armed with the records of sightings, we have the evidence to prove that we have a problem. No one likes killing wildlife but we have a choice, non-native birds or our native wildlife that belongs here. Fewer cormorants means more fish will survive for our herons, grebes, egrets, otters and kingfishers to eat and every member to catch and enjoy ... and it's important to remember that fish are wildlife too and an essential part of a flourishing ecosystem. 

Bravo to all those who are helping to achieve a healthy balance of wildlife on our waters. Happy days are here again.