Anglers urged to fish river stretches or face losing them forever

Anglers are being urged to help save the long-term future of river fishing following claims that the coming season could ‘make or break’ sport on the UK’s premier running water venues.

Numerous factors, including excessive predation, flooding, clearer waters and the continuing popularity of commercial fisheries have combined to make many of the most popular and prolific stretches a shadow of their former selves, forcing anglers to turn their backs on the once cherished venues.

Now some of the biggest clubs in the country are urging fishermen to buy their annual books and day tickets in order for them to continue to secure the future rents of river stretches.

After years of  financial planning to prevent prized leases slipping through their fingers, many club officials fear that it may already be too late to save once popular stretches that have been labelled ‘ financially unsustainable’.

“It breaks my heart to say this, but I really can’t see much of a future in river fishing,” said John Woods, acting Chairman of London Anglers Association, which controls swathes of the Hants Avon, Thames and Great Ouse, among others.

“If someone asked me to put them on a good day’s river fishing in London I’d really struggle to name a stretch where they could expect a few bites. We’re lucky in that we own a lot of our waters ¬ if we rented them we’d have had to give them up by now because they haven’t made any money for five years.” Further north, Yarm Angling Limited controls over five miles of prime fishing on the River Tees in the North East and club officials have revealed that if the quality of fishing continues to deteriorate then it could be forced to give up stretches that it has held since 1885.

“Rivers are going down the pan and it’s happening all over the country,” said Dick Sidgwick, secretary of YAL.

“We’re fast approaching the point where it’s impossible for the club to make these venues work financially. Unless anglers give our waters a go, I fear for the future. I can’t see anglers changing their habits though because they are obsessed with big weights from comfortable, easy commercials - rivers can never compete.” Two clubs that are taking a ‘pro-active approach’ to the river problem are West Midlands-based Birmingham Anglers Association and Kinver Freeliners AC.

Both have taken on new stretches of the River Severn in an attempt to give their members more variety, boost day-ticket sales and provide much needed income.

“River clubs have to diversify and compete with commercials so we have taken on one of only a handful of stretches on the River Severn where you can drive right up to your peg and fish out of the back of your car,” said John Williams, secretary of BAA.

David Turner is the secretary of Nottingham Anglers Association and although his club maintains a stable membership base and boasts some of the best fishing the River Trent, he believes that the ‘golden period’ of river fishing is now over.

“We have to face the facts that rivers across the country aren’t what they used to be and it’s virtually impossible to encourage anglers to fish them,” warned David. “It’s going to get tougher and more river stretches will be lost.”