Why anglers have been waiting for today

Fishing on the River Rother
Fishing on the River Rother

June 16 is a day any coarse fish angler who likes running water has been waiting for since March 15, writes Roger Poole of Petworth and Bognor Angling Club.

This, to many people, sounds a little odd but it’s the opening day when legally we can once again go coarse fishing on our national rivers.

Locally that’s our two main rivers the western Rother and of course the Arun, tidal for most of its length a few miles upstream from Stopham Bridge.

Fishing hasn’t entirely stopped during the traditional close season as both rivers, the Rother mainly, have brown and wild trout which anglers with the appropriate licence have been fly fishing for since April 3. The Arun plays its part, bringingsea trout, and this year it has been exceptional.

The increase in the Rother’s trout population owes a lot to the fact that it has several very important chalk-based feeder streams.

These small tributaries are used by trout as well as coarse fish to spawn in waters clean and full of small insects – invertebrates that live on basin weeds and plants that manage to survive when the main river is in spate.

The adolescent fish enter the main river and populate those areas where they can survive – it’s not such an easy job for fish to survive these days.

With only 17 per cent of our rivers meeting the minimum European Water quality standards, there remains the constant need for everyone, not only anglers, to do their bit to preserve our lovely rivers for future generations.

There’s pollution from several sources and water extraction required for farmers providing food for an ever-growing population.

Fortunately the realisation that something has to be done has not fallen on deaf ears and the Arun & Rother Rivers Trust (ARRT) has been working with the Environment Agency, landowners, farmers, anglers and other partners to find ways to undertake projects that improve matters.

We have in place silt traps to reduce the tonnage that spills into the river. This silt ruins spawning areas for fish, but covers the rivers’ natural food chain. It also builds up around bridges and is often the cause of flooding. Research continues to provide opportunities to reduce the amount of silt clogging the river.

As an angler the need to remove man-made obstacles, some weirs, and to provide fish passages to enable them to travel throughout the river is something I’m keen to support and already the fish population improvement is drawing many anglers back to the rivers. What better time to get those rods, reels and fishing tackle in good working order ready for the new season.

What can we expect and where to fish our rivers?

Well on the Arun, the Petworth & Bognor club have two main stretches. One is upstream from Stopham Bridge, where there are some excellent roach, chub, pike and some very large carp, who have been in residence for many years. Anglers need to get their bait through the numerous small dace and rudd that snatch at lightly-baited hooks. The rewards are well worthwhile and the tidal rise and fall is quite small.

Further downstream at Watersfield, barbel have been caught along with numerous bream that shoal in the Arun. Again there are lots of small roach and dace to keep anglers of all abilities well satisfied.

On the Rother, coarse fishing runs downstream from Coultershaw bridge, a mile or so below Petworth through to a mile-and-a-half below Fittleworth bridge.

This part of the Rother has probably the largest variety of fish, especially chub, barbel, bream, perch and trout. Beginners on the Rother shouldn’t lose faith – it can drive you to distraction until, after a great deal of trial and error, the penny drops and it all comes good.

Don’t despair, the rewards are to be had for those who are patient and pick up a few hints from local Rother enthusiasts.

Full details www.sussexangling.co.uk and good luck.


Read What’s The Catch? by Roger Poole in the Observer and on this website monthly from June to March.

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