Is this England’s most forward-thinking angling club?

Bright ideas are put into action by this trendsetting outfit that never takes no for an answer...

Is this England's most forward-thinking angling club?

by Angling Times |

From sustainable off-grid toilets to clever use of tech, Windermere, Ambleside and District AA is a fishing club bursting with brilliant ideas. Could its solutions be a blueprint for the smarter, greener fisheries of the future? We spoke to the club manager Nick Butterfield to lift the lid on some of clever things already being done...

Fish-saving solar aerators

Summer oxygen crashes can be lethal for fish stocks. Solar aerators are one possible off-grid solution, but these only tend to turn on in the day, when risks are at their lowest.

“Modern angling doesn’t always help itself,” said Nick. “The demand for bigger fish stocks, combined with global warming, makes risks higher than ever. The EA does what it can in emergencies, but the damage is often done at night and, by the time fish are distressed or dying, it’s often too late.”

WADAA solved this issue across three of its waters with a timer system that comes on from 2am, when oxygen levels are typically at their lowest. When the sun starts to rise at 4am, a charge controller then splits the power between running the blades and recharging the battery. Clever stuff!

Fish-saving solar aerators
Fish-saving solar aerators

Fish havens

For many fisheries predation is a big issue, particularly from cormorants. But what can be done? “There’s little point in throwing more stock into a lake unless the natural balance is right,” said Nick.

On this basis, the club designed a series of floating islands with Environment Agency support. These were built on an inexpensive frame of drainage pipes. Mesh and coir mats were primed with water plants, with metal baskets full of brushes added under the surface to provide ample refuges for fish.

“These have made a massive difference,” said Nick. “Cormorants and goosanders can’t get in. They’re not only brilliant for fry protection, but also make a great spawning medium!” Seed stock from the rod licence-funded fish farm at Calverton gave a further boost, with fish breeding like wildfire using the new cover. “We’ve had stacks of pin fry and, for the first time ever, the lake is full of skimmers, roach and rudd!” said Nick.

Floating islands act as refuges for young fish.
Floating islands act as refuges for young fish.

Taking the p*** out of portaloos?!

One of angling’s ultimate scratched record issues is a lack of toilet facilities, putting off swathes of female and elderly anglers. Hire your own, and you have further issues with cost and waste removal. “I was shocked to learn that one local club was paying £1,500 a year, just to hire a portaloo!” said Nick.

The club’s answer is disarmingly simple. Its compostable loos are basic wooden sheds with £10 waste boxes, housed beneath an MDF toilet seat. Separating solids and liquids is key, with straw bales neutralising the ammonia in urine and killing the smell.

For lighting, simple LED bulbs work on a movement sensor rigged to a car battery. Disabled-friendly and cheap as chips to run, each loo uses three waste compartments that are used in rotation to let things naturally decompose.

Its compostable loos are basic wooden sheds with £10 waste boxes, housed beneath an MDF toilet seat
Its compostable loos are basic wooden sheds with £10 waste boxes, housed beneath an MDF toilet seat

Tech-savvy stuff

If the club’s hands-on fishery improvements weren’t clever enough, its use of technology is even more impressive. Working with Manchester University, it has created 5g-enabled monitoring systems. Submersible probes measure dissolved oxygen and temperature, and automatically record these in graphs. If conditions become critical, warnings are sounded and aerators automatically switch on!

Many happy returns?

Of course, 21st century technology is not all about fishery experts and oxygen readings – it can also be harnessed to give anglers a better experience.

On this basis, the club has made great use of tech by making it a part of the whole recording and results-sharing process.

WADAA’s digital catch return forms work on a simple QR code system. This is cleverly processed into graphs and charts, so members can then see what’s being caught and which venues are on form. This works especially well with trout fishing, but the wider possibilities are huge.

“Giving anglers timely, helpful information is massive,” says Nick.

“It not only helps our members plan their next trip, but also moves people around the fisheries more evenly throughout the seasons.”

Many happy returns?
Many happy returns?

Could your club or fishery use a helping hand?

For angling clubs and fisheries looking for ideas and support, it’s well worth looking out for the Angling Trust’s Fisheries Forums, which take place around the country to offer expert advice.

Meanwhile, rod licence funding can also be applied for via the Fisheries Improvement Programme. See the Angling Trust website for further details:

Read more about Ambleside, Windermere & District Angling Association at:

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