A Fishing Match, Car Fire and a Domestic.

Saturday March 26th saw the resumption of the Watchet Angling club match league and I just like state that the club is hale and hearty. A good turn out emerged and as usual banter, insults and wise cracks were a plenty. The winter league for mad and hardy ended three weeks ago and in the end the attendance was meagre. The last two matches had a trivial turnout of just four people. One could just say the spark of competition had deserted and the whole thing fizzled out. But lets not take away the fact regardless of lack of enthusiastic competitiveness that congratulations should not go amiss on Dave Nash the eventual winner.

First on the day (and here I am trying to tempt fate in the nicest possible way) was once again the clubs Mr consistent Steve Warren . Steve pulled out peg 34 which is on the road side and his method was to use pole and hard pellet throughout the match. 52 lb 6 oz was his winning weight.

The winner.

In second place we find Taunton boy Ian Grabham who had a reasonable haul from car park peg 37 of 43 lb 14 oz. Ian kept things simple from what can some times can be a difficult peg by fishing mainly the margins with maggot.

Mr 2nd.

Third place was the well known guy in match fishing circles Robert Dodd. Rarely out of the top five Rob fished peg 26 and managed to put 39 lb 14 oz on the scales. His plan of attack was pole (what else for this guy) and maggot.

Rob the 3rd.

NHS hero Dave Colley obtained 4th from peg 13. Dave alternated between pole in the margins and pellet feeder across to the far side. Bait was maggot and pellet and his weight was 25lb exactly. I must admit he really did look cool in his shades.

4th bloke.

5th spot was occupied by one of the two clubs octogenarians Tony Richards . Tony who had peg 36 the one nearest the hut had in total a weight of 21lb. But this angling veteran took the money for top silvers which came to 10 lb 13 oz. So it’s a big well done to him. What else for Mr Richards but pole and pinkie.

Top silvers guy.

Fishing on peg 28 was laid back fisherman and Ex head bailiff of Bridgwater Angling Association Philip Dodd. Phil employed the method feeder with dead maggot to tempt an all carp net of 17 lb 6oz. Phil was 6th placed.

The clubs other octogenarian Bob Pascoe occupied the 7th place with a bag of 17 lb 5oz from peg 7. Bob managed a silvers haul of 10 lb 2 oz which gained him second spot in the silvers table. Bob fished a lot to his left in the margins with maggot and pole. Bob mixed his fishing by having a good old jolly sing song. Good on yer mate.

The one and only Bob Pascoe.

Nigel Coram in 8th made the best of a below average peg. The culprit concerned was peg 21. But Mr Coram endured and ended up putting on the scales 17 lb 2 oz. Tactics used was pole with paste and maggot. Well done bud from a crap peg.

Mr Coram.

Yours truly was 9th with a weight of 15 lb 15 oz from peg 9. I had two carp on hard pellet with method feeder on the far bank and three carp from the pallet to my right which I caught on sweet corn. Am ruing the fact that I’d hooked four more carp that unfortunately evaded my net. “PANTS”. But it was a pleasurable day and was enhanced by having Bob Pascoe next to me and hearing him having a good old sing song.

Some poor sod.

Alan Jenkins was to my left on peg 11. Good old Alan had a haul of 15 lb 7 oz. This happy go lucky bod used pole with a variety of bait such as maggot, chopped worm and caster. Also used was feeder with pellet. Alan got 10th spot.

Alan Jenkins in action.

In at number 11 was Ian Townsend on not the best of pegs, number 17. But perseverance paid of and Ian managed to obtain double figures with 13 lb 14 oz. Pole fished with meat in the margins was the mainstay of his attempt.

This is Ian weighing in for Eric.

Placed at number 12 was Eric Searle. This formidable carp guru was at odds from the biggest pallet on the lake that of peg 15. This was another out of sorts swim and thus Eric Struggled and just managed to get in to the realms of double figures with 10 lb 14 oz. Pole to the margins with pellet and corn was what was employed by Eric.

Dave Nash the silvers expert couldn’t produce any of his magic which won him the winter league thus slumped to next to last place with a total catch of 5 lb 15 oz. Dave did cheer himself up however by paying me a visit during the match (owing to boredom through lack of bites) and giving me maximum abuse. Peg 32 was Dave’s peg for the match.

Mr Dave Nash, the winner of the winter league.

Poor Alan Bland had a torrid time from peg 19. Our much beloved match secretary could only muster a small weight of 3 lb 4 oz. This earned him a placing rank of 14th. But to be fair the pegs from 15 to 21 were the most unfancied pegs on the lake.

Alan Bland who did not have the best of pegs.

New kid on the block Ian Ricketts had the unwanted stigma of having DNWI next to his name. But it was not a clear cut case of Ian not catching any fish. It was probably more to do with him trying to keep his sanity. Poor Mr Ricketts had drawn peg 30 which is on the road side and backs on to the Big 8 carp lake. Directly behind him was a group of carpers in their bivvy. Add in to the mix a visit from one of the wives/partners who then started to read the riot act in terms of an in-balance of time spend on the bank and time spent at home with the kids and the consumption of a vast quantity of Thatchers Gold. Things got a little bit out of hand with some other carpers allegedly joining in the ruction and taking sides. There was a bit of argy bargy to an extent that some one called the police to report a domestic. Poor Ian was trying to concentrate on his fishing but alas the commotion behind was just to much and probably did what a lot of anglers would of done and packed up.

The results table.
The top 6 silvers anglers.

Just after 2 o’clock a series of loud bangs erupted and disturbed the peace and tranquility of the match. At first I thought the Russians had given up on Ukraine and decided to take Summerhayes instead. From my peg I could see vast solid plumes of black smoke and through the trees a raging fire. It appeared that some one decided to have a rather large bonfire on one of the properties adjoining the fishery. More bangs followed and the black smoke prevailed. Minutes later Pete the owner came around, I duly pointed my finger at him “what have I told you about playing with matches” I said. Pete went on to explain that a car was on fire next to the entrance to the fishery and just wanted to warn people.

At 18 minutes past a fire engine arrived to douse the flames and was present for about 40 minutes. The fire crew were very considerate indeed by just activating their blue flashing lights and not operating the siren. A Ploy as not to frighten the fish.

The match had ended and the weigh in had taken place, most of the tackle had been packed in to the back of cars and vans etc. The results were analysed and as usual at this time excuses and abuses were exchanged. It was during this period of so called reflection, two police officers appeared on the scene. First thoughts by the Watchet gang was they had come to investigate the events of the car fire. But the boys in blue had come to sought out a domestic. If only they had come sooner perhaps Mr Ricketts would of weighed in.

March 14th just gone was a nice sunny day and seeing it was the last day of the River season I decided to take a bike ride to Parchay and from there walk along the north bank pass Bussex Bend up as far the out fall of the river Sowey and Lanacre Rhyne. This is about a mile from Greylake car park. Now people who are regulars to this blog will know that I visit this remote stretch on an ad hoc basis. The last time I fished this stretch I meet a couple of contractors who worked for the EA who told me of a plan to construct a series of islands in the bank. Well construction of one of these proposals has now been been completed. (see video below). So a stretch of a possible match fishing location has now been thwarted. Thanks!

This construction is about a mile from Greylake car park going to wards parchay. More bank taken away from the anglers.

The next match for the Watchet club is at Woodlands lake at Trinity Waters on April 9th.

Until then it’s tights lines to one and all.

Pete C.

The History of Bridgwater Angling Association part 3.

Somerset in common with most of the Southwest has been designated a “clean area” with regard to the problem of pollution. Agriculture prevailed and unlike the heavy populated and industrial areas it was not seriously menaced by the quality of discharge which wreaked so much destruction in waterways. In general this was true, but Somerset has had it moments.

During the war circumstances were exceptional. The priorities were considered sufficient to relax even the standards of precaution applicable at that time. Unfortunately, the excuse “there is a war going on” was used to cover much quite unjustifiable neglect. Fisheries suffered badly and a disaster to the Bridgwater and Taunton canal seemed to fall in to this category. The river Tone must have been involved as well. Through some mismanagement a large quantity of gas liquor from the gas works near Taunton was allowed to enter the Tone and it passed into the canal. Gas liquor by the way is A liquid containing ammonia and ammonium carbonate and sulphid, besides other products, obtained from coal in the manufacture of illuminating gas.

Taunton gas works.

This very deadly pollutant devastated fish life over most of the upper reaches. As far as it was possible to estimate , all stocks were killed down beyond Charlton, and the mortality was very severe to Maunsell. For some reason the Tench seemed particularly vulnerable, and it appeared that they were decimated even to North Newton.

Recovery took place but as it may be expected after destruction of this magnitude, time elapsed before the fishing seemed back to normal. At first the water from Taunton to Durston appeared denuded of fish, but with the passage of time roach began to be seen, but in very isolated shoals. Presumably, the flora and fauna was restored quite rapidly, and food was abundant early on so the limited numbers of roach grew to unprecedented sizes. As already canal anglers of the past have record of specimens of over three pounds in weight. Of course, as the population was fully established the number of exceptional fish declined.

What a nice roach.

It was mainly during these war years that a very grievous and quite tragic decline in the fishing of the river Parrett took place. Previously the Parrett might of been regarded as an anglers paradise. It carried large stocks of fish ; particularly chub and carp unbelievable when compared with present day standards. By 1945 the greater part of this population had disappeared. It is difficult to state the cause precisely, but it seems very certain that it was due to pollutions from Yeovil or perhaps to a lesser extent from the river Isle.

Usually anglers are declined to despair over pollution and its alleviation, so it is a satisfaction to be able to quote an instance of success. Very shortly after the second world war the river Tone was transformed from its deplorable condition to a first class fishing water. The local authorities were prevailed upon to replace the outdated treatment works At Lambrook road with a new plant down the river at Ham. Coincident with this, the Gas board decided to disband the gas works at Taunton, and the industrial discharge came under control. The consequence was that the Tone became, and remained over several years, one of the best fishing venues in the county.

Very unfortunately, however, developments over the years in Taunton have overloaded the treatment works and there have been a decline in the fishing to some extent.

This victory was followed by an attempt to establish salmon fishing in the Tone. It may be correct to say re-establish, because there is ample reason for belief that long ago salmon did run this river. Ova was planted up stream and salmon ladders were built at weirs. The descent of smolts was monitored for several seasons and there may have been some signs of success. But alas the experiment didn’t prove successful. It did appear that salmon did ascend in appreciable number as far as Creech St Michael but failed to pass Taunton.

At one time it was believed that Bridgwater associations waters were to remain serenely and indefinitely free from the above mentioned troubles. In particular ponds were thought to be quite invulnerable, so it may be a matter of interest to note that some time about the first world war or perhaps before then- there seems to have been a very destructive fish loss at Dunwear. It appears to have been brought about by the then prevailing practice of reclaiming clay diggings by silting. A channel was cut to turn tidal water from the river Parrett in to the original south pond (now the car park) Eventually this was filled and became a reed bed. Some contamination must have entered and there was a severe mortality in both the middle and north ponds. Afterwards roach seemed to be absent from these two waters.

Towards the end of the summer of 1922 the Hooper family caused a suprise by catching 3 very large roach from the top of north pond. In 1923 it was evident that they were present in some strength and it was an oportunity for several members to take the much coveted 2 pounders. Probably, this was a factor in the popularity of the pond occuring about then. Regrettably, as time went by, over population took place and only very small fish were caught.

In the late 1950s and in the 1960s there were two separate algae blooms in the north pond. Both were due to enrichment from percolation from a badly polluted ditch. The resulting de -oxidation turned up many fish.

Any sense of security about the associations waters were utterly shattered by the events of 1968. This was an instance where the word ‘disaster’ was wholly justified. First of all a phenomenal thunder storm occurred in the July of that year. It flooded a large part of the Somerset moors just when the cut hay was on the ground. Many square miles of rotting vegetation resulted. Agricultural interests insisted upon drainage, and this brought about a massive and unprecedented mortality of fish. The Parrett, Brue, North and south drains and the West Sedgemoor drain were the principle waters experiencing the slaughter. The total loss was beyond estimate. There was so many dead fish that in places they had to be carried away from human habitation. Very fortunately prompt action by the River Authority in diverting the flow of contaminated water into the Cripps river saved the Huntspill from serious damage.

It appeared at first that the Kings Sedgemoor Drain had escaped, but some 14 days later when other waters were showing distinct signs of clearing, a dam retaining a large amount of pig slurry on a nearby farm collapsed. This resulted in a comparably severe fish kill on all but the top mile of the drain. It was a climax of a shocking episode.

An example of pig slurry discharge.

Previous experience on local water ways tended to give rise to hope of a rapid recovery on the Kings Sedgemoor Drain, but this was dashed by extensive engineering works and widening operations in connection with the construction of the Sowey river. Water levels were kept low over a period of at least 3 years. Weed growth grew profusely and after the water level had been restored to normal the weed remained to be a menace. later there was yet another pollution. This time it was due to the disturbance and removal of silt from a ditch leading from Chedzoy and its being drained off before there was time for settling.

The depreciation in the quality of local fishing, about which there is fairly general agreement, is usually attributed to pollution, but observation strongly suggests that many fish loses are closely related to heavy weed growth. Pollution as it is commonly conceived, consists in the main of sewage and frequently is due to housing developments carried out without appropriate extensions to sewage treatment facilities. Without question villages in the region have grown considerably but it is not clear that there have been many additional discharges into the drain.

During the last 30 years or so weeds have become distressingly more prolific. Previously, the drains and canal presented miles of open water. Now they may be choked with vegetation long before the end of the summer. It may be worth making the observation that this profusion of growth is due to the enrichment of water from the use of artificial fertilizers on the land and in this instance the run off from farms may be suspected.

The other important source of excess nutrition is sewage treated or untreated. (The inclusion of ‘treated or untreated seems very ominous). The masses of weed must soon have areas of die-back and it is likely that deoxygenation resulting is responsible for mortalities otherwise thought due to pollution.

Accumulations of weed are capable of creating various conditions adverse to fish life and the ecology of the water as well as a great disadvantage to fishing. The intense photosynthesis in bright sunlight can cause dangerous fluctuations in dissolved oxygen leading to a condition called ‘gas embolism’ where bubbles of gas are liberated in to the body fluids of the fish. Probably a more likely consequence of the photosynthesis is the production of high levels of alkalinity which are equally fatal. It has been noticed that unexplained disappearances of fish such as that of the quality roach from the B&T canal in 1968, have coincided with upsurges of weed growth.

Another aspect of weed growth problem which may be overlooked is the need for space for fish. If a water is heavily weeded they may tend to leave it. It may be imagined that they are in the weed, but is likely that conditions therein cannot support fish life.

Important also is the fact that the loss of bank space for fishing may be serious for a club dependent upon the sale of tickets to pay for present day rents and boy ain’t this more applicable today than its ever been.

The next match for Watchet Angling is at Summerhayes on longs this coming Saturday the 26th of March.

Tight lines Pete C.