Changing Face of River Fishing

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This topic contains 27 replies, has 12 voices, and was last updated by  TF_joffmiester 6 years, 10 months ago.

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  • #47368

    Interesting article on the home page at the moment – where an EA specialist logically explains how (and why) rivers have changed since the 1970s and 80s.

    It doesn’t mention 3 other points which might be material:
    1. changing weather patterns – winters used to be a lot of drizzle which kept rivers nicely up & coloured. WIth storms these days they seem to be either low & clear or over the banks

    2. abstraction – exacerbating low flow & clarity

    3. non-fish predation. Specifically cormorants and otters. Whereas Pike have slow metabolism, mammals and birds need to eat more to live. The article explains why there are reduced populations of small fish – which are then even more vulnerable to these predators.

    It does make quite depressing reading for those hoping for a return to float & silver fish dominated rivers, but I know from experience that there are still plenty of venues where you have a very good chance of a decent catch, even in a pegged down match in the middle of the day.

  • #105038

    TF_caster rob

    I started to read that but lost the will to continue when he implied that only roach thrived when there was effluent in the water and since the rivers became clearer chub and dace have thrived.

    He obviously didn’t fish the rivers in the 70s & 80s but these are the sort of people who end up in charge in organisations like the EA.

  • #143949

    I think that you’re being a trifle harsh. A certain amount of generalisation is required, as different rivers (and stretches) have changed at different times. There is also bound to be some simplification of the message for the audience – not all of us are qualified scientists or engineers!
    However, the general pattern of Roach dominated, through Chub & Dace, on to big fish predominance has been repeated on the Great Ouse, Warks Avon, Trent and Severn in my personal experience alone.

    Perhaps you have an alternative explanation?

  • #143929

    TF_caster rob

    I certainly think there’s an alternative to this rubbish he spouted:

    “CC: Species like chub, dace and barbel could suddenly survive and reproduce in the cleaner water. This process continues today as rivers that only held three or four different fish species in the 1960s now routinely hold up to 15.”

    I can think of about ten species in the Trent at that time off the top of my head, including chub, dace and barbel.

    All the “cleaner” water has done is made the silver fish more vulnerable to predation.

  • #143937


    I think that the article (and your response) demonstrates that the picture is complex (and subject to local circumstances).
    We can’t just blame one thing, such as predation.

    I was hoping to start a debate that would get people thinking about this, but perhaps it’s rather pointless as
    a) I’m not sure that there are any steps that can be taken to change the state of the rivers (given Water Framework Directive and Environmental Stewardship).
    b) we’ve lost too many anglers to be puddle gnomes or to other pursuits

  • #143940

    My opinion is that these days such experts find a situation then look for an excuse for it. On most stretches of most rivers that I know about there is no chronic shortage of fish, either big or small, except where local conditions produce a critical situation, as in regular sewage pollutions.

    The lower-middle Trent produced bags of roach and dace, the former to 1lb and the latter to 12oz, for many anglers last year until the first frost when it was impossible to buy a bite because of water clarity. The Thames is exactly the same. The cormorants haven’t gone away, indeed their numbers have increased, and ‘anglers’ continually seeding rivers with barbel, catfish, carp and zander exacerbate the perceived problem.

    Joe Brennan stood next to me on the Trent at Swarkestone in 1981 and said if there was a poison that would selectively kill barbel he’d introduce it at Alrewas and sort the Trent out in one go. That was his opinion; whether it was valid or not is open to conjecture. It was pre-cormorant issues, that’s for sure, yet he could already see the demise of the upper Trent.

    Blaming predators, especially when that blame is laid by EA people, loses it’s validity for me when one compares adjacent rivers, such as the Wensum and Yare: indeed one is a tributary of the other. Apparently cormorants have eaten all the roach in the Wensum yet the Yare is solid with roach. I accept that the Wensum is shallower and clearer but it is also far less suitable to cormorants due to its winding, weedy nature.

    I think, as anglers, we should accept that things happen in cycles and in my 50+ years experience of the Thames we are at the top of one.

  • #143916

    Hi Keith – I don’t have the same length of experience as yourself (as you well know).

    I might argue from reports that in general there is a lower total biomass of fish, a higher % of larger fish, less even distribution but more species in all the rivers that I fish over the last 30 years.
    On the other hand, my own results show that there are still plenty of fish in rivers – just not at Evesham or Radwell!! So perhaps you are right, and that it’s more the conditions that are often prevalent (clarity, flow) and lack of big matches on other stretches (in the midlands) that have coloured my view?
    There are certainly more viable methods and options than a few years ago – it’s not just wag & mag!

    Historically – if a venue went downhill, the punters would move to another venue where the sport was still good. There are few other options available now.

    My (not so hidden) agenda is to try and get more people back match fishing on rivers, but that is rather forlorn!

    Joe’s opinion from 1981 is one that I’m tempted to share. It is definite that Barbel are a predator, they hoover fish eggs up with relish. Also – the relative decline of samll fish on the lower Avon, Upper Gt Ouse and Upper Trent have coincided with Barbel populations rising.
    However – there are still plenty of roach in some of the most Barbel dominated stretches of the Severn ….. such as Bridgnorth.
    Hmmm – doesn’t the Wensum hold some Barbel?

  • #143950

    The upper Wensum above Norwich does have some barbel but in very restricted areas mostly around the mill pools. Also the fishing in the upper river is rubbish compared to what it was. Years ago it was so full of big roach and chub, even John Wilson could catch them 🙂 🙂

    A 48 peg match on both days the last weekend of the season produced hardly any small fish. A lot of people blanked, some had a few minnows, one person had 6 roach and dace for 12 ounces something which was so rare an occurrence everyone heard about it! The Saturday match was won with 4 chub for over 20lb and the Sunday match was won off the same peg with 4 for 19lb something.

  • #143951

    TF_caster rob

    Keith: just to clarify. I didn’t mean that predation has reduced fish numbers, there’s still plenty of silvers in the river, it’s just that fear of predation prevents them from feeding freely. This is especially the case when the water is clear, as it was most of last season, apart from odd days when they fed well and showed up in numbers.

    I’m having my first trip of the season tomorrow, to Swarkestone!

  • #143953

    after fishing the Trent for 50 years mostly from Clifton to Gunthorpe it appears that it does go in cycles and this in my opinion is not just about predation but many factors Big Roach to 2lb could be caught at a place known locally as Tod hole where raw sewage was pum[ed omtp tje tremt you trotted a stick down along side turds and condoms and caught big fish (and probably one or two other things) when this stopped in the 60s the Roach declined and only small fish mostly Gudgeon would be caught from this area At Wilford where the power stations where situated you could catch bigger fish like Carp and chub it seems that the Carp and chub left this area when the power station swtched off and are now throughout the river allthough the Bream stayed around ? Roach/Dace/Gudgeon from Clifton down to Gunthorpe seemed to decrease when the Chub population exploded and people like Jan Porter started making his name which also seemed to coincide whit the demise of the great John Dean who would tan your arse on the stick but was not a feeder man The Trent now is a strange river few fish around Burton Joyce (quite a few Pike which should indicate fish are there) but on the opposite bank on Viaducts lots of Roach to 12ozs and Dace to 8oz with a shedload of Big Barbel and a good few Bream’skimmes
    Truth is none of us know why and we are just [email protected]’@ing in the wind with what we think is happening for what its worth i think the main problem is

  • #144010

    caster rob: I worked out what you meant. Incidentally I am really glad that you’re going fishing, and to the Trent, again. I sort of recall you saying you’d fished your last because of the parlous state of your river.

    The late Terry Mansbridge was a great pal of mine. He was also the man on the Moran committee who said that: “…shooting 6000 cormorants was a waste of time as they’d be replaced by 6,000 more”. That’s a sentiment currently echoed by Dr Bruno Broughton – and about as nonsensical as theories can get. The point is that Terry had a video of the water under Lea Bridge Road in east London, on the Lea Navigation actually BULGING with roach. It looked like one of the bubblers are Grafham or Rutland and the river was higher than either side of the road. They were there to escape the cormorants, which wouldn’t swim under the bridge. The theory of where fish go in winter is a true one.

  • #144013

    TF_caster rob

    True Keith.

    It got me down last season with the virtually constant water clarity interspersed with short bursts of raging semi-flood conditions.

    Once the 16th got near I bought a licence again but I’m going to pick my days more carefully this time, hopefully.

  • #144016

    Well, how about this: Our rainfall here has been measured in inches rather than mm lately – not that we don’t need it and the grass is at least now green – and the level of the Thames has gone DOWN. I study the EA water level charts and it is possible to see the effect of locks opening and closing, and the river’s not really busy yet!

  • #144018

    I live near the R Gipping which flows through the village. It a small stream really rather than a river and is a chalk stream that has roach, chub, perch pike and a few bream and tench in it lower down. Despite all the rain over the last week in most parts of the country, we have had very little. Yesterday was a glorious day and all the ‘rain’ we had was a little drizzle about 9 pm.

    Needless to say the river is very short of water, absolutely weed choked and as a consequence, gin clear. No chance of fishing it seriously during the summer the same as it has been for the last 10 years or so.

  • #144019

    The Avon at Evesham is full of roach, you just need joker to catch them!

  • #144029

    Early season is always touch and go, but not so on the Trent last thursday and this weekend – South Clifton fished it’s socks off with 40lb of bream were needed for 7th place. Also Laughterton, where 23 anglers weighed over 700lb of bream and skimmers. I had 50lb of chub and dace fishing the stick on the Teme on Sunday, so I’m feeling pretty smug too!

    Visit – the free calendar of open matches on rivers.

  • #144052


    well as it stands the trent is still fishing its socks off and for what reason im just not sure, one of my many trent hero’s believes its due to the lack of rain increasing the water temperature. i cant be sure of that and i am no scientist but something has happened.

    its not just the weights that are astonishing its the fact that everying is feeding that has done me. there are loads of skimmers, roach, perch, dace, eels, barbel and the strangest thing for me is the number of hybrids that have just not been seen for the last 8 – 9 years. we even had a 4lb carp and a 3lb ide make an apperance in the match saturday at laugherton.

    i was putting the results down to the big split tides which those who fish the river will know it improves weights but last nights match was fished on a run off and it still fished really well. although there was a large tide during the day but the colour was running out. i will let you know how saturday goes with a propper run off and what i expect to be a small tide.

    i just hope and prey that this continues.

    just for reference and to give people an idea of how well it is fishing Dean Smith has weighed just shy of 160lb in 4 matches, thats not bad for a natural venue.

  • #144101

    I too believe in cycles, I also hold the belief that Barbel are bad news for Roach in rivers,by the way, a couple of facts about the river Yare that may be of interest, there are a few Barbel already in the match length, Tommy Boulton caught one a few years ago in a match, the Yare was rubbish not so long ago, I recall fishing a match in the late 80s and like most, catching bugger all except for a few Eels, 8lb of em was enough to win the match! the old River Authority visited us and requested we put all the Eels we caught into plastic buckets so they could be examined for mercury poisoning! another fact for you , the Yare is rarely match fished more than about 14 weekends a year all through the summer, so angling pressure is not an issue, the same cannot be said of other famous venues in the past,particulary the Trent, look how Ireland has gone down the tubes too, in short ,where man relentlessly interferes with nature the result is rarely positive.

  • #144118



    the trent is only fished for probably 14 weeks of the year and the sections are constantly moved and have been for as long as i have been fishing the river which is approx 13 years. once we see a frost and the water goes crystal the fish just vanish. the problem with the trent is the clarity IMHO. as soon as we see a bit of colour loads of species feed all over the river. water goes clear and your fishing for a barbel, perch or a few flatties.

    i went out a couple of times this winter when it was on flood (the 1st time i have ever fished it between october & june) and there were a few bites to be had which was pleasing.

  • #144094

    Good debate gents.

    My take on the EA guy’s report similar to many expressed thus far. Credit to the fella for putting his findings in print, but that’s his job after all. There are so many variables not taken account of that it can only be a snapshot of the true situation…but do the powers that be realise this or will it become gospel for future planning policy?

    In the real world where we live and fish, regardless of current problems like predator/prey imbalance (I include humans in the predator category!), eutrophication, habitat quality, localised pollution etc, for anglers to enjoy quality river fishing during daylight hours in the summer months we need two vital elements:
    * Flow
    * Colour

    Without these, you are gonna struggle!

    Alib, Richard & Bob…is it a coincidence that you are enjoying good sport on TIDAL stretches (Trent & Yare) where there is regular flow plus, until the first frosts, a decent tinge of colour regardless of rainfall or outflows?

    I do have a local tidal river, the 100 Foot, but for some dumb reason I never fish the place. Doh! Time to pay a visit methinks…

  • #144100

    Hi Tom, no, it is not a coincidence, it is a common denominator! there are plenty of predators on the tidal Yare though, including humans, for years we match anglers have cast out and hooked “Eel nets” there are some on sluice bend this summer, Eddie Hall was on peg 107 on the opening day midweek match and lost several lots of gear, I was on peg 103 on Saturday and when I plumbed up with a 2 ounce flat lead there was something in the river that felt like a length of heavy rope where I knew the best flow for catching Bream in my peg was, so I was forced to drop it short and could not get the best from my peg, if it was an “Eel net” what else swims into it never to be seen again? angling pressure can come in several forms it seems.

  • #144153

    What a brilliant thread? This is what a fishing Forum is about.I know i am one of many that post on other subjects(Football)from time to time on this site,but i really am pleased to see such topics discussed.
    For what its worth,as my knowledge of fishing our rivers has declined over the years,i have found the same results on the Thames in my area(Staines-Teddington),as you are all experiencing at your local venues.
    Flow and clarity is the be-all and end-all of all River fishing imo.Fish stocks do change from year to year,and preditation(bird/human)has increased in the last decade.
    At the moment fish stocks in the Thames have flourished,and our local matches are beginning to show signs of this fact.Last year small Dace were caught on most stretches,and only last week they showed their growth rate had progressed alarmingly.
    Other species have increased also,as mentioned by you.Last week Terry Molloy took a photo at Kingston Bridge of 40 odd Carp cruising between moored boats..
    It appears we are going through a good period,and apart from the tradgedy that occured at Isleworth(Raw sewage release)we are all hoping this season will be special. 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

  • #144131

    The tidal rivers with colour and flow do seem to be fishing quite well compared with the non tidal stretches. I think that the tidal Trent was a bit of a struggle last year though and the Yare is yet to show the form of the previous few years. Perhaps that shows that even these rivers go through cycles although where 1 1/2lb skimmers come from over winter goodness knows! They were there just not taking baits for years, must have been.

    Just to change the subject a bit, the eel net opposite peg 22 on the Yare was removed by the Broads Authority on Saturday morning whilst I was fishing peg 24 in the match. I subsequently discovered this was after the match organiser had complained to the Broads Authority about it.

    The net was properly licensed and the operator of the net had been contacted by the BA and has agreed not have any nets on the match section during the weekends in future. That is several river users working together for the common good. I don’t suppose that the eel catcher really wants to have a size 12 in his finger when emptying his nets either.

    As a further aside, an otter in an eel net is a dead otter as once in they cannot get out and then drown.

  • #144173

    It’s good to hear of the dace revival in the Thames. The Trent is experiencing one too – there are thousands of them at Nottingham, which is great for early season sport.

  • #144290

    TF_caster rob

    Don’t know if it’s due to the “benfits” of the cleaner water but I have to say that the dace and, especially, the roach I’ve had from the Trent this week have been in absolutely mint condition.

    The roach look almost as good as when they peak in late autumn, nothing like usual early-season fish.

    May be due to the very warm weather in april and perhaps earlier than normal spawning?

  • #144507

    TF_caster rob

    Trent again today.

    About 15lb in 2 and a half hours, mainly roach with a few perch, from Shardlow.

    Total cloud cover helped overcome the low, clear water.

  • #144515

    That’s great news Rob …… I am definitely itching to get back on the Trent soon, it is a proper river.

    I was on the Warks Avon on Saturday ….. very poor. River coloured up with what looked like road run-off from Coventry on the friday night. I gave it four hours for 2 perch, a dace and a roach.

    Sunday on the Great Ouse was better, although the river was painfully low, clear and weedy. Lots of very small dace – could be good in 2 years time. Loads of fish visible in the weedy areas with no pegs. Not many chub now – I was lucky enough to have 2 of only 6 caught in the match. The chublets just don’t seem to grow on any more ….. you catch them up to 2 oz and over 4 lb!!!

  • #144582

    caster rob dead right mate,we fished a match last sunday on the canal from barrow to loughborough the canal at this part runs from the river soar so flows loads of weed and boats but just look at the results all weights were small roach,perch and skimmers

    with two teams pulling out at the last minute we decided to make the summer league a individual match, so everything had to be arranged when had seen how many anglers had turned up and to my surprise we had 32 which did show me that there are anglers out there that still want to fish natural venues [perhaps not team matches] with the canal permanately pegged itdidn’t take me too long to do the organising and we were soon on the bank
    and what a match it turned out to be even with heavy boat traffic the top 4 were only separated by 11oz and the top 8 separated by 1lb6oz everyone enjoyed a fish feast and the average weight of 5lb per angler
    in first place Lee wright of Trentmen enjoyed a sheltered peg out of the sun and weighed in 8lb11oz of small perch,skimmers and roach but lee didn’t have it allhis own way and a couple of lost fish could quite easialy of cost him the match
    2nd Ben holmes trentmen with a weight of 8lb 9oz again all small fish
    3rd Rob perkins trentmen 8lb 6oz
    4th steve hurst Quorn 8lb
    5th pete allwood long eaton 7lb 15oz
    6th Bob greenbury leicester sensas 7lb 13.8oz
    7th Alan wright long eaton 7lb 13oz
    8th jason scrivener trentmen 7 lb 5oz
    1st section pete allwood 7lb 15oz
    2nd section dave petch by double default 6lb 8oz
    3rd section jason scrivener 7lb 5oz
    4th section Bob greenbury 7lb 13.8oz my section i had 6lb 13oz yet again 2nd
    5th section alan wright 7lb 13oz
    6th gary smith 6lb 3oz

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