Two examples in a week paint BW in a poor light British Waterways - the body the Government wants to burn on its ‘bonfire of quangos’ - really doesn’t do itself any favours where angling is concerned. In fact, it’s bloody hard to believe the body isn’t completely anti-fishing.
Sure, we are begrudgingly tolerated on the 2,200 miles of rivers, canals and reservoirs that BW controls but only because we pay to be there. You get the impression that anglers are unwanted lodgers, necessary to foot the bills but not really welcomed.
Take this last week as an example.
Having leased sections of the Staffs and Worcester Canal to allow the recent Individual National to take place, many pegs were rendered unfishable with canoeists, particpating part in an organised event on the same day, ploughing through stretches and destroying sport. Some of those competing quite rightly labelled it as a ‘farce’.
Now, the easy and very convenient target here would be the canoeists themselves.
Anglers are in regular conflict with the paddle-wielding fraternity and many won’t look any further when it comes to playing the blame game. The organisers, the Angling Trust, might also be expected to shoulder some responsibility too.
But for me, it’s BW that yet again is the real culprit here. According to its own website, canoe ‘speed events’ are prohibited unless prior permission is granted and given what ruined the National was clearly some form of race against the clock, I can only assume consent was given ¬ despite the fact the match was taking place at the same time. I wish the Trust luck in its bid for compensation but I have a feeling success may require something approaching a miracle.
Such flagrant disregard for anglers in nothing new, of course.
Just days after this fiasco on the canal, word reached us of yet more proof of BW’s worrying attitude towards fish and fishermen. Only this one was far more sinister.
Toddbrook Reservoir in the Peak District is a BW-owned venue that feeds the Goyt Valley canal network. It contains a modest head of fish, although both chub and roach reach specimen size, and Moss Side Social Angling Society has leased the angling rights on the venue since 1894.
When the decision was made to drain down the reservoir for ‘essential maintenance work’, the club raised concerns about the welfare of their stock and contacted both BW and the Environment Agency. However, before a rescue plan could be drawn up and executed BW inexplicably decided to start releasing the water ahead of schedule, putting the lives of the fish in danger. Only the intervention of the Angling Trust’s legal team, prompted by the club, prevented what would have led to widespread death.
Yes, BW subsequently removed the fish to a safe haven, where they will stay until the reservoir’s renovations have been completed. But any attempt to right a wrong when your hand has been forced is almost meaningless.
So, is BW, a body in control of so much of the UK’s waterways, really anti angling? Or is fishing just so far down its list of priorities it can barely be bothered to acknowledge our existence ¬ except, of course, when it comes to taking rent?
If the Government has its way, that question will be made immaterial. If it is, and BW is abolished in its current form, there won’t be many anglers mourning its demise.