What’s The Catch? column: We can all help protect rivers

ARRT's Ses Wright (right) with a volunteer in the Rother at Shopham Bridge
ARRT's Ses Wright (right) with a volunteer in the Rother at Shopham Bridge

I think nearly everyone who goes fishing have experienced the ups and downs that only river fishing can provide, writes Roger Poole, of Petworth and Bognor Angling Club.

Unlike most ponds and lakes, you are never quite sure which fish may be tempted into your landing net – and there’s nowhere quite like a river to test not only your patience but your ability to catch fish from moving water.

We have two main rivers where we live, the tidal Arun, a fast-moving wide and almost-wild river, and the winding, narrow Rother that joins the Arun at Hardham.

They couldn’t be any different in nature. The Arun runs north-south, the Rother west-east, but sadly both have problems that, unless they are addressed, will eventually lead them to decline in both water quality and, more importantly for anglers, fish.

Four years ago, it was decided that something had to be done if we wanted our rivers and their various tributaries to thrive for the benefit of future generations.

There is a national network of Rivers Trusts, a charity that exists to help keep rivers throughout the country in a better state, which means tackling pollution problems, man-made obstacles that don’t allow the free movement of fish throughout the length of a river and other problems such as water extraction, which can leave rivers almost dry during the summer.

The impact of all this has a dramatic effect on wildlife that rely on a healthy free-flowing river system, a lifeline to our countryside, not only to those whose livelihood depends on it, but to those who enjoy the leisure hours that rivers provide.

So the Arun & Rother Rivers Trust, or ARRT as it’s widely called, was formed. The catchment area is from around Horsham and Petersfield in the north to Littlehampton and Emsworth in the south.

Anyone interested in the actual area can see a more detailed map on the website – www.arrt.org.uk – but the main features are the Arun and Rother together with their numerous tributaries.

As a voluntary charity, ARRT needs the co-operation and support not only of anglers, who are the largest group of people using the rivers for their chosen hobby, but other organisations and trusts who do so much to support the wildlife and environment so precious to us all.

In these days of reduced funding from government, it falls heavily on these trusts to provide expertise and a willingness to help look after the rivers – a job being undertaken with very little financial support.

In the case of ARRT, so far we have undertaken lots of projects and we have a list as long as your arm to get through – but it all costs money.

Some real assistance from business and the community will help improve our lovely rivers, of which less than 17 per cent in this country actually meet the minimum European Union water-quality standards and sadly both the Rother and Arun fail.

On a more cheerful note the recent mild weather brought out an unusually-high number of anglers, especially over the Christmas period.

Good-sized barbel continue to be found in the Rother at Coultershaw as well as chub, who for some reason are growing in population throughout most rivers. Roach, dace and perch are harder to locate.

We have a healthy run of sea trout and get one of these on your line and you will certainly be in for a lively time.

They are quite likely to jump out of the water a bit like a ballistic missile taking off and it’s important not to give them too much of a slack line.

A shake of the head can throw your hook. These sea trout find their way up the Arun and at this time of the year they are fighting fit. Returning any fish to the water is a reward in itself – holding a fish against the flow and, when ready, seeing them disappear so quickly is part of the enjoyment.

If we can equally look after both rivers and fish, then let’s hope future generations can enjoy what every angler likes most about this crazy and loveable pastime.

We have some good clubs in the area and plenty of lakes and ponds plus the Arun and Rother so if you are a newcomer to fishing, have been given some fishing tackle for Christmas or have had rods and reels passed down through the family, find a club and join in.

I will almost guarantee that from the day you catch your first decent fish you will be hooked for life.


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