John Bailey's Roach Obsession Diary

John Bailey

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Roach Obsession Diary. 10am 8/1/2021

Well, it’s been a while since I have felt inspired to write a word! The weather has been foul. Frosts that have lingered in the hollows 'till dark and never looked like lifting. A river running cold as an ice floe under skies of unrelenting grey. Add a cold that has hit me like a hammer from a Siberian hell and you get the picture. But above all, it has been Covid and the latest Lockdown that did for me. When Boris says you can’t fish, not even if your garden has a river running through it, then you are well and truly done for.

However, as we all know, or should know, we are again allowed to fish, with restrictions. The main ones for most of us include no night fishing and the rule that we must fish local, not a problem in my case. And it would appear that once again, it is the Angling Trust we need to thank for this relaxation, that probably would not have happened but for its approaches. The Trust is very proud of itself over this success and rightly. Left to ourselves, we anglers would have muttered, fumed and done nothing. There is a group very close to the Trust which is asking, not unreasonably, why all anglers do not join, especially after this latest show of strength.

In large part I agree. I have written for two years that the Environment Agency is a busted flush, and in no way deserves the payment of our licence fees. If I didn’t feel so grotty I’d list the thousand and one complaints we all have, but you lot know them anyway. Like most of us, I am happy to part with money, providing I see good reason for that, and this is where the Trust comes back into the picture. Does the Trust actually deserve the money that all freshwater anglers now pay to the failing EA? (And I am aware the EA passes on a fair chunk of our money to the AT anyway, but that is not quite the point?)

I know many anglers have reservations about the Trust but let’s examine these as I have shared them and been aware of them for a long time. Don’t forget, I was a Vice Chairman of the Trust’s forerunner, The Anglers’ Conservation Association, during the ill-fated reign of Jane and Bob James, so I know what I am talking about.

So! I think and hope the AT has a lot of good people there at this point in time. I believe Jamie Cook is a better leader than Mark Lloyd, his predecessor, as he is more inclusive, more charismatic, more decisive and less of a committee man. I think Martin Salter has always been angling’s stalwart, and even though he is a politician through and through, I’d trust him to do the right thing. Mostly! However, the doubts I feel I know are shared by the scores of anglers I talk to about this. Are big organisations uncomfortably close to the statutory bodies we dislike and distrust? Is too large a part of income devoted to salaries? Does the Trust try to be all things to all people ? Does it try to do too many things and should it not concentrate on the really vital issues of the day, rather than running fishing competitions, for example?

The timing to discuss these things is right. The Trust is at an all-time high. Lockdown means we have plenty of time to think issues through. Our EA licence fees (taxes?) are almost due again. Covid has forced us to look at ourselves, our lives, our relationships, and where we want to go in the future.

And my fishing!!!!????? I have a (new) Cunning Plan. Watch this space!
 

Peter Jacobs

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"Does the Trust actually deserve the money that all freshwater anglers now pay to the failing EA? (And I am aware the EA passes on a fair chunk of our money to the AT anyway, but that is not quite the point?)"

To be perfectly honest John, I'd say that is the whole point . . . the Trust receive that which has been decided was equitable for their portion of the overall work. The Trust have agreed that amount some time ago.

The fact is that the Trust and the EA each have very discrete functions and in my view neither seem to be; qualified, experienced enough, or sufficiently educated, to take on the other's responsibilities.

That the EA have their problems is unarguable, (personally I'd avoid the Trumpian use of the word "failing") but the solution is not to hive off more in favour of a largely untrained Angling Trust but for government to properly fund the EA with all the resources it truly needs.
 
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John Bailey

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Roach Obsession Diary. 4.30pm 9/1/2021

Just in from baiting. Once again, the hard frost last night never remotely lifted throughout the day. The banks all along were crisp underfoot, the ice in the puddles unbroken by angler, or animal. Even the skies were quiet, apart from the rooks settling in the tall trees. Not a fish showed. It would have been a miracle if one had showed.

I got home to brood on Peter Jacobs' reaction to my questions regarding the EA, the AT, and the relationship between them. Peter, I so welcome your contribution, though to be compared in any degree with President Trump made me sit up! Otherwise, I don’t disagree with a word you say. I guess, like anyone who prizes natural fisheries like we do, we're simply searching for some solution. What we do know is that we have huge problems throughout our river systems, almost universally, and things are very generally getting worse. We resent paying our licence fee, not because of the money, but because we fail to see what is being done with it. Whether we look at big issues or smaller local episodes, the EA appears to let itself, and us, down at every twist and turn. If something is not done to change things around totally, what is the future looking like?

I know this is not my best piece. You do get disheartened. The river I am now baiting barely has a fish in it, a piece of water that is historically famous and, when I was a kid, simply bristled with enormous roach. For twenty years or more I have heard a hundred reasons for the decline, but have yet to see a serious attempt made to reverse it. Apart from my own efforts that I have to keep under the radar, I don’t expect anything whatsoever from the statutory authorities and I have not been disappointed. Giving the EA more money Peter? Is there any guarantee it would not be squandered as haphazardly as the sums they receive now?
 

rubio

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It took me quite a while to feel confident with bread. The most significant advice I ever read was Mr. K Speers, 'My way with bread'. I thought this was going to be an homage to it.
Thank you for sharing your experienced info too. I have great sympathy with JB's current plight. I've had only two fish in last 3 outings. Today not a single tweak nor twitch and nothing rising anywhere.
Maybe the milder air due from tomorrow could change my fortunes.
Good luck all.
 

whitty

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Fishing a water for old times sake rarely ends well,especially when you firmly believe there is a dearth of fish,sadly,sometimes good memories are better than struggling to make unachievable new ones....
 

rubio

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All my fishing is a triumph of hope over expectation!
 

Peter Jacobs

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Regarding the EA and the Angling Trust.

I think it is all too easy to criticise the EA as their problems are usually well publicised whereas their victories seem to be consigned to the shadows (remember good news doesn't sell newspapers)

The EA is a non-departmental public body, established in 1995 and sponsored by the United Kingdom government's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), with responsibilities relating to the protection and enhancement of the environment in England (and until 2013 also Wales).

The Environment Agency's remit covers almost the whole of England, about 13 million hectares of land, 22,000 miles (35,000 km) of river and 3,100 miles (5,000 km) of coastline seawards to the three-mile limit which includes 2 million hectares of coastal waters.

The EA employs over 11,200 personnel where the Agency acts as an operating authority, a regulatory authority and a licence authority.

The EA take a leading role in: Climate Change, Air quality, Land Quality, Water Quality, Water Resources, Fishing, Navigation and Other Marine Activities.

The current budget to cover their activities is over £1.4 billion with only a relatively small percentage coming from the sale of fishing licences.

Given this précis of the Agency's activities I am at a bit of a loss as to see just where the Angling Trust could even begin to attempt to hive off any more than they already have as far as fishing is concerned . . . .

In my view long before any more is sliced off for the Trust then we should see the full results of the National Angling Strategy (2019 to 2024) which is only just over a year old at the time of writing, and must have been fully funded before being published(?) . . .

It should also be noted that a large percentage of the EA's staff are qualified in their relative sciences as opposed to the Angling trust of, albeit enthusiastic, amateurs.

In answer to the direct question of, "more money to the EA Peter"? My answer would be most definitely . . . yes . . .

If I might be permitted a question myself John?

Can you name any other European Country where Fishing is licenced and legally administered by a not-for-profit limited company?
 

markg

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Given the above is there not a case for more individual departments covering things like rivers and lakes, sea and marine fish, air quality etc. Then angling license money could be channeled just into something more relevant like rivers and lakes. I totally agree with the EA is a government body with access to qualified environmental experts and all government resources whereas the Angling Trust is a private organization that is more likely full of well intentioned amateurs with no civic responsibility. I know where I would rather my license money be spent. That's not a diss on the angling trust but horses for courses as they say. I have never understood why a private organization gets my money handed to it without a bye or leave or a say from me in where it goes or how it is spent by said private organization; and nothing of it goes to anything I do or get any benefit from, yet I fund it in part.
 
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John Bailey

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Roach Obsession Diary. 5.30pm 11/1/2021

Let’s have some fishing and give the conservation a rest... for a paragraph or two!!

Well, Cunning Plan Number 2 was this. Considering my Wensum stretch is so low in fish numbers, I began to feel it might be better to go to them, rather than draw them to me. As a result, for the past week, Enoka and I have been walking a mile of water, spraying bread mash here, there and most places as we walked. The idea was to fish with just a rod, loaf, net, pocketful of bits, and fish the entire mile, five minutes each swim. Chub or roach... a fish would simply be great.

We could put off the fishing no longer, and could hardly say no to a day of low cloud, no wind, and temperatures of 8 degrees, way, way above the freeze of the last week. So, work on hold, at 3.00pm we left the cottage, walked down the garden, up the meadow, and began to fish back down towards home. A trout made us jump, a pristine three pounder, perhaps even wild, but far from what we wanted.

Tenth cast in the eighth swim did it for us big time. The tip simply folded round and round in the smoothest, most insistent curve I have ever witnessed on the river. I picked up the rod, handed it to my wife and watched a truly Titanic battle. Hold on girl and she did. Not a roach, boo, but hoorah, a chub of of 7.02. We’re back. The fire is lit, reflecting the glow we feel inside. After weeks of gloom, what a fish, what a silver streak of hope slicing through the gloom.

I’m aware there are more thoughts on the EA/AT debate, for which I thank you. I promise I am mulling these over but, just for now, I think a glass of red is called for. In these times of misery, you take your joy when you can and cherish its every last moment!

DSC_0793.JPG
 

xenon

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Cracking fish John. We all know Walker reckoned the biggest fish of all was a big perch, and we know what he meant by that. However anything above seven pounds and chub look equally freakish, like they had been in some weird nuclear experiment.
 

Keith M

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What a brilliant result and what a beauty of a Chub. Well done to your wife for catching such a large specimen. Makes it all worthwhile (y)

Keith
 

liphook

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Beginners luck:LOL:



Edit : apologies but couldn't help myself
 

john step

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A 7 pound chub is a mighty fish indeed. Congratulations.
I seem to remember reading somewhere that **** Walker never managed a 6lb chub. Things have certainly changed.


Edited. How very strange. The abbreviated form of Richard as in **** Walker is automatically expunged!!!!
 
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John Bailey

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Roach Obsession Diary. 9.00am 12/1/2021

After the euphoria of catching something last night with fins, it is back to earth with the comments of both Peter Jacobs and markg. Let me assure everyone, I do not hate the EA, nor am I in thrall to the AT. All I want is to see something done for wild fish in natural fisheries. I agree with the view that giving the AT more responsibilities is not ideal - after all I complain they spread themselves too thin. So, moving on, what to do?

I have always said that I know, like, and respect individuals within the Fishery Departments of the EA, but that all I have witnessed over the last years is apathy, or obstruction, or a monumental waste of money at every twist and turn. This National Angling Strategy - or whatever it is called - is yet another example of something that is not needed, but will employ a good many people for many years at our expense. If Peter really wants, I’ll put aside an hour or two, and compile a list of how the EA has thrown money to the wind in my region... but I’d rather get on to something more positive.

My role model is Carl Sayer. He is a professor at UCL and a Norfolk farmer’s lad. Ten/fifteen years ago Carl realised that all the crucian carp waters he had loved were no more. On a minimal budget, and involving his students and fellow academics, Carl embarked on a programme of pond restoration and crucian restocking that has transformed the status of crucian carp in the East of England. One man’s drive and vision. A few thousand quid and Bingo, job done. Positive action, conservation as a force for good. No committees. No data collecting. No pilot schemes to deliberate over.

Get out there and in there, and we have our fish back.

Peter wonders if things are done better outside the UK? I had a house in Spain for many years and in Andalusia you needed to take a (difficult) test to get a fishing licence so having one was taken seriously. Like here, the rivers in my area had poaching problems... for a while. Every time I saw an infringement, I’d call the rural police who ALWAYS were on the spot in minutes - yes minutes - confiscating cars and equipment, and putting transgressors in prison, awaiting sentence and fines running into thousands. That largely stopped all illegality on the rivers I fished.

In Slovenia, the clubs are supremely well organised. Fishing tickets are inspected at least once a day. Cormorant control duty is compulsory in some clubs. Wide-ranging restocking programs are in place up and down the valleys I knew well. In short, the work and commitment put in was staggering, and resulted in crystal rivers FULL of fish. I compare both these examples with the treatment of the Wensum outside my window and I weep.

God knows how many bodies are now charged with changing around the future of the Wensum... 7 plus anyway. Committee upon committee. Meeting after meeting. Action - nil. Progress - nil. Peter, it is a mess.
 

liphook

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Angler apathy is rife in the UK. It has spread to the EA, or at least allowed them off the hook so to speak in many areas of active fisheries management. Far easier to sit back, do little and wait for the rewilders and the likes of Rolfe and Sayer to spearhead the plight of species like the crucian? As body they seem far more involved in flood prevention than environmental protection and improvement. Their licensing of large scale polluters is another case in point!
 

Peter Jacobs

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John,

In my working career I spent over 38 years working and living (and doing a lot of fishing) in countries like; Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, France and Germany as well as quite a few years in both Canada and the USA.

In Norway, Sweden and Denmark in particular fishing is controlled by the Government and any pollution incidents are dealt with legally, and severely, by the various government departments, as are all waterway navigation and fishing rights.

I accept that there is a difference between Scandinavian countries (usually far less dependent on manufacturing) than Enlgand. However if they can manage it, then why can't our government do likewise?

In Germany I had to take a test to obtain my licence enabling me to fish there.

In fact Germany is a good comparison being a similar country to the uk, given a larger population of 83 million) and a very similar manufacturing base. Over there fishing is licensed by the various 13 constituent states each following the central government guidelines.

They also manage the habitat in and around the lakes and rivers and no work is allowed without first obtaining a licence from the state that requires full details of any work to be undertaken, and is inspected by the state department before and after the work is undertaken.
To my mind that might be the best option for our own DEFRA.EA to follow . . . . in fact, in many cases anglers seem to complain about the EA when it is DEFRA who they should be complaining to.

I spent 7 years living and working in Paris and also fished a heck of a lot there too.
France is a good point of comparison (for our Angling Trust) as it has a very similar population, 63,340,000 a very similar economy and density of population and in fact has around 1.5 million licensed anglers. Fishing in France is controlled by the Fédération
Nationale de la Pêche en France, (FNPF)

They operate not only the licence system but also regulate for the close season and size limits as well as allowances for night fishing.
I have a property in Provence where in my part it is mostly trout and grayling fishing and the FNPF even regulate the wading season . . . again to my mind this is what I though the embryonic Angling Trust was aiming for . . incorrectly as it transpires . . .

Without going into further detail there are three different models from our European neighbours that clearly show how things can be done, and in similar size and economical model countries.

The points I am trying to make here are that the government have fallen down on this by having DEFRA abdicate responsibilities to the EA who are then underfunded and under staffed. Further, there are better models for the Angling Trust to pursue throughout Europe and Scandinavia.

In many cases I think our complaints go to the EA when they should be aimed higher, at DEFRA and the government.

John, let me say here and now, I have little or nothing against the Angling Trust and I took an active part in the debates here on FM long before the Trust was conceived and well remember the original ideal of not having individual memberships . . . . and only allowing clubs and associations to join.

I was a full member for a few years but now I spend more time fly fishing I have joined the Trout and Salmon Association. That said, I still contribute to Fish Legal voluntarily.

There are many things I'd prefer to see the Trust (and Fish Legal, what a terrible name that is) to concentrate on; for example a full and proper thrust to pursue PRN to its ultimate legal conclusion . . . now that really would be fighting for anglers rights . . . .
 
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John Bailey

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Roach Obsession Diary. 5pm 12/1/2021

Back in after a complete blank has brought us back to earth with a bump. However, the day was brighter, colder and windier than yesterday, and we didn’t fish with the same intensity... ”not on it” as everyone says. We had the farm dog with us, and good as she is and much as we love her, I have no doubt dogs and small rivers simply do not mix. I have seen many times over the years that a 20/30 pound dog rooting around in the reeds makes fish think of one thing. Otters. Get the flip out of here.

Your praise for yesterday’s success has been relished. It has been a testing winter so far on this weird bit of Wensum and a cracking fish of any sort is a godsend, a welcome bolt from the blue. Although my aim is roach, chub are a welcome by-product, and generally the bites of the two species are easy enough to differentiate. If one evening I start experiencing short pulls and knocks and tentative pull-rounds which I am missing, I’ll think roach at once (or crayfish) and go lighter, with a smaller bait and longer tail. I can get back to the farm for my float rod in minutes too, so that is a bonus.

We loved all the comments but xenon was especially on the money. Big chub DO look extraordinary and explaining them away as freaks in a nuclear experiment is spot-on. I remember good friend Adam Ford showing me pictures of Ouse Eights and they were terrifying, slabs of fish. Ours yesterday had an enormous front part to its belly which Enoka did well to cushion but which is in large part hidden as a result. When I put the fish in her hands I could feel crayfish shells crunching beneath the scales... so these frightful bloody creatures do serve some functions of use then.

Thank you all again and we’ll see what tomorrow brings.
 
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