Enjoy Bosnia, Slovenia while you can, anglers

pexels-photo-921913.jpegWe highlighted growing concerns over the spread of Balkan hydropower projects in our News page of TF506, but as always, the voices of those affected hit home far harder than any statistics.

The nuts and bolts are here, the people who must live with them, here.

“Then they finished the war, I don’t have nothing and I start from the bottom…and, I don’t have anything again…”

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Pink strikes a dodgy note with anglers

pexels-photo-366063.jpegOh, the irony. Just a week ago, our latest issue went to bed, including an article on women in fishing.

In my Wading In column (on the newsstands next Wednesday) I asked several women anglers to tell me what they liked and hated about attempts to boost female participation.  The good points varied but on the bad, they were within a whisker of unanimity – tackle and clothing manufacturers short on empathy, and still labouring under the  misapprehension that the use of pink in their products seals the deal avec les femmes…

Leaving me in something of a quandary. Do I tell those behind the XtraTuf Women’s Ankle Deck Boot, or leave them in blissful ignorance?

The acceptable face of flat-earthing

Daffodils and bunnies

Maybe I can be accused of flying in the face of reality, on this day of the vernal equinox, when the sun is directly in line with the Equator and the daylight hours are as long in Perth, Scotland as they are in Perth, Western Australia.

But I don’t care, and unlike the flat-earth fraternity, who are supposedly back in vogue and who have apparently never happened upon a single photo of Earth taken by Apollo astronauts, I have a modicum of hard reality on my side.

For all that I, too, am getting excited about a fresh year of fishing in shirtsleeves, I have known snow in late March. Hell, I’ve known snow in April, when silly mid-ons crouching in five sweaters and a blizzard are almost standard fare among cricket photographers.

The wind remains knife-like and the barbecue area in my garden about as inviting as a wartime trench.

So this is one Luddite stance I continue to take with pride.

To borrow from Jim Royle, first day of spring my a**e.

Kayak convenience may have its limits

Kayak on lake
While
I’ve never done it, I am quite taken with the independence of kayaking. No impatiently waiting for your mate at the jetty; no throwing of lurid shapes as you wait for the starter cord to elicit a response; no being in thrall to fuel levels while fishing the far end of the lake.

But this

Even before I touch or try a folding kayak, there’s a perception issue.

It may be unique to me, but some things in my life must be so utterly dependable, that to discover they are capable of being folded and unfolded lends them an air of domesticity that seems fragile against the backdrop of their usual environment.

Put it this way; I wouldn’t want to fly a foldable airliner, be wired to a foldable defibrillator, or have to fend off intruders with a foldable shotgun.

So it is with my kayak, which I would ideally want to be fashioned from ancient wood, decorated with the original native-American markings and projecting the intermittent whiff of decaying elk. Anything which speaks to durability and numerous satisfied customers: I’ll worry later about getting it into the shed.

Nonetheless, I wish the Coho Folding Kayak makers well, as I would any new enterprise. However many they need to sell before being able to laugh about paranoid land-lubbers in the media, may they do so before the summer’s out.

Trout, pike and the search for balance

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Pic courtesy of ReflectedSerendipity

It’s a common misperception among those on the outside of the magazine industry – “How do you fill all those pages every month?”

On the inside, the question is routinely turned on its head, with “What the hell do we leave out?” being easily the more common question as press day approaches.

The dilemma tormented us once more last month, as my investigation of the hottest potato in Irish angling at present had to be shoe-horned into some 900 words in TF issue 503, out today.

Anyone who’s been asked to précis War & Peace will understand my frustration. Doing justice to an increasingly rancorous dispute over the balance of power within Ireland’s western loughs is likely to call for much more newsprint in the months ahead.

At its heart is a dispute over the viability of trout co-existing alongside pike in these showcase waters. To quote from our article:

“In one corner, trout anglers insist that unchecked pike populations will lead to the demise of brown trout in the loughs. In the other, pike anglers insist that Mother Nature has managed this balancing act for centuries and should be left to get on with it.”

For a summary of the pros and cons, you’ll have to read the article, but I received further input on the debate from two other sources for which there was simply no room on the printed page without diluting what was already there. Taunted By Waters, therefore, steps into the breach.

Firstly, I heard from Conservation Section of Oughterard Anglers [OACS], based on Corrib’s southern shore. They reject any claim that pike are indigenous, explaining that, “Officially under the EU Water Framework Directive pike are still classed as being non-native/non-benign to Irish waters by the IFI [Inland Fisheries Ireland]. The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) still class pike as being invasive to Ireland.

“If pike were native to Ireland they would be found in every watercourse in the country just like brown trout but this is not the case.”

They also reject the notion that pike, however they got there, have acquired any kind of ‘squatters’ rights’ in Irish waters.

“We know from extracts from the book, The angler in Ireland: or An Englishman’s ramble through Connaught and Munster, during the summer of 1833 by S. Belton, that Lough Corrib was ‘infested’ with pike and that trout fishing was extremely poor,” they told me, citing the following extract from the book in support:

“Salmon are taken in Lough Corrib, as also some very large trout; but the Lake, being infested with pike, no great sport can be expected; and few are caught, except by cross-fishing.”

The OACS point out that the Corrib Fisheries Association (CFA) was set up in 1898, with the aim of restoring Lough Corrib as a trout fishery, a project based on pike control and  stream enhancement.

“Within a few years of the CFA establishment, trout fishing dramatically improved,” they said. “Ever since, pike have been culled on the Corrib and trout stocks have flourished in spite of other pressures such as the roach introduction, zebra mussel introduction, lagarosiphon introduction, loss of spawning habitat, climate change etc.

“No scientific evidence has ever been either produced domestically or internationally, which shows that pike have a benign or positive effect on salmonids.”

Instead, they argue, biologist Dr Ron Greer, in his 1995 book Ferox Trout & Arctic Charr, described as “…part of the mythology of the pike anglers’ sub-culture that pike are some kind of ecological balancing act. This is simply not the case in small, shallow charr and trout lakes.”

Greer’s book touched upon another issue that resonates among Irish trout anglers, 22 years on: the unlawful introduction of pike into waters where they previously weren’t.  OACS claim that Ireland’s  Owenriff system, a Corrib tributary and a major salmonid nursery, was “destroyed” when pike were illegally introduced there approximately 10 years ago. This theme also arose in Scotland in the early 2000s.

One man who has gradually come round to the idea of active control of pike numbers is Larry McCarthy, who runs Corrib View Lodge & Angling Services with his wife Michelle.

By-laws introduced in 2007 cut the number of pike to be retained by anglers in Ireland to just one a day, provided it was  less than 50cm in length, and McCarthy believes this led to a key shift in the ecological equilibrium.

“Foreign tourists were taking many pike up until 2007 and many of them just stopped coming over after that,” he explains. “That was a big controlling factor gone and so, while I was all for leaving Nature alone at one point, I believe things have now tilted too much in the pike’s favour.

“I don’t want to see pike eradicated and the argument that trout anglers kill too many fish is valid, but the loughs should be afforded care as a true wild trout fishery. Any way we can protect it, we should follow it.”

The outcome of a review of existing pike control measures by Inland Fisheries Ireland is expected next year. Never have the words ‘watch this space’ been more pertinent…

There’s no ‘sea’ in ‘bass’

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One Brit who won’t be giving up the ‘sea’ word. [pic courtesy of gordonramsaysubmissions]

It’s not really the done thing to name-check one’s competitors but what the hell; credit where it’s due to Fly Fishing & Fly Tying and their letters page contributor David Pilkington, for at least trying to drive a stake through the heart of the redundant phrase “sea bass”, when used on UK soil.

Unlike the USA, the only type of bass we have here is of the marine variety, so the “sea” prefix is unnecessary, although I feel both magazine and their correspondent are wide of the mark when they attribute the usage to political correctness or the power of celebrity chef-driven media.

It happens because Britain, sadly, is increasingly incapable of thinking for itself, let alone analysing its speech. Americans say it, so it must be right, goes the thought process of the average Brit couch potato because, essentially, we are a nation which can be divided into two camps: those who enjoyed Friends, and those who were devoured by it.

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Maybe hunters and fishermen are different…

I’d always thought the hunt bound us together, even if our choice of weapon was so different, but this article on designing your own trophy room, in Sporting Classics Daily, left me scratching my head in my effort to find an angling parallel.

Whatever your view on catch-and-keep fishing, I think you’d concede, at least, that we give our prey a decent burial, be it in the gut or in a taxidermist’s cabinet, designed to recreate the thing in its pomp and natural environment.

But this? As gorgeous as that wood panelling is, I’m struggling to get my head around the idea that there are people out there who line up an elephant in crosshairs while thinking, “…and that’s my pool table sorted…”