Thursday, 30 March 2017

Roach Releases 2017

There’s no denying it; some years are better than others and despite living this project every minute of every day for the past decade, we still haven’t been able to hit on all the reasons for the fluctuations in our (their) annual fortunes.

This year has been an ‘average’ year for us; though you might disagree when you see the pictures below.

It might be something to do with the winter and spring leading up to spawning of that year and the general health of the spawners at the time maybe….. We could go on about food availability, temperature and a multitude of other contributory factors that followed, but we can already see your eyelids drooping…

Another aspect of living this project is that we are slightly spoilt by our own success, yet extremely self-critical and see the fluctuations as something we might better control – if we were clever enough, or paid more attention – just kidding!

We know that one of our main enemies is our own inflated expectation each year. We always look to improve, but seem to have found our optimum level of success which includes this natural fluctuation and which we have no option but to accept and embrace; or just fret and worry ourselves sick over…. Been there – done that!

We know we hold all the aces, but maybe we are searching for the fifth in the pack that really doesn’t exist – we’ll just keep trying… and searching…

The bottom line is, even an average year for us is a good year for the river in terms of what we give back from what we take.

We do almost the same thing each year, with only very slight adaptations triggered by the demands of the fish, feeding patterns, growth rates and differences, homework, parent evenings; and the continued honing of the greatest asset we were told we would acquire when we started all this… ‘fish-farmers eye’ a kind of sixth sense where we’d recognise potential problems and possible advantages simply perhaps through the smell or look of the water, the changing behaviour of the fish…. Your eyelids are drooping again; so, I’ll stop there. Anyway, we think we have finally acquired this sixth sense, and all this ‘fish-farmers eye’ lark really is indeed one of the greatest assets we have…. And thankfully all fuelled by lots of talk, tea, cake and pies.

What a pair of saddo’s we are…

So, enough of this self-deprecation, and back to the plot… This year we made five deposits of roach; some to the main river and some into protected side streams. Two deposits were made to areas we collect spawn from each year so will help bolster the local population which helps us continue to achieve the success we are seeing signs of throughout the river.

Once again, the EA guys were with us all the way and helped with the netting of the stews and transportation of the fish with all their pumps and pipes and tanks and oxygen and expertise and generosity and willingness to help.

And, at each drop site we were reminded of the fantastic support we have across the board with land owners, river keepers, managers and angling club officials coming along to help and see the fish released.

We are also continuing to get increasing numbers of reports of multiple catches of roach from throughout the river with many up to a dozen fish in a session, with folks telling us how they are once again enjoying their roach fishing on the Avon – who’d have thought eh?

We love it!

It is important to note that the catches are a barometer of our success and not necessarily the reason we do it. It is about wildlife diversity and the reinstatement of an iconic species into an iconic river so they can once again, in partnership or individually, enrich the lives of future generations as they have those of the past.

The rest of the story is told through the captions to the pictures below.

Once again, thank YOU all for your continued support and encouragement.

We are now just getting ready for the spawning board placement in the river, so off we go again…
The first run of the net on the first day in the first stew - Breath held, atmosphere crackling, anticipation off the scale... Jim Allan of the EA was in the middle, on lead-line duty, reassuring us all while, ever-dependable, Dickie and Martin Howell were either side on the float-lines, with Budgie looking on nervously.
When this little lot is revealed, the sighs of relief could inflate a Zeppelin...
Now we really start to enjoy it, especially knowing  that within a few hours all these Avon Roach will be back where they belong, in the river of dreams...
Roach, Roach, Roach and more Roach - Oh, and some huge Gudgeon...
We scoop the roach up and deposit them in barrels while we run the net round again. We use three at a time and if the stew needs third run-round, we get the fish back to the truck and into the oxygenated transportation tank. This is one of many barrels we filled with Avon Roach this time.
We always have a self-indulgent rummage and get some pictures for you guys.
The first cuddle of two of this years' sparklers...
When we first met, this was just a dot on a piece of netting nailed to a plank. It is now an absolute masterpiece.
And the more dots we turn into masterpieces the greater the sense of achievement and satisfaction; and it's by doing what we do that enables us to truly appreciate just how amazing these creatures really are.
Back at the truck, the roach are poured into the transportation tank to be taken to the chosen release site for that day.
Once at the release site they are decanted back into the barrels for yomping to the river.
We scoop a net or two for pictures for the interweb... Trev could make the effort to look a bit happier though. Don't you agree?
We have to get a few roachy close-ups too. After all, it's not often that anyone comes this close to this many Avon Roach in one go. We are very privileged.
We enjoy every second of this, as the fish behave just how we'd hoped they would - even in the dream we had all those years ago. They are fairly 'high' on oxygen and just go bombing off like they know where they are and know where they are going. It's fantastic to see.
The fish are fine so we take the opportunity to get plenty of pictures.
Trev has one last cuddle as he lowers yet another sparkler into the river and freedom for the camera.
The barrels are then emptied directly into the river.
And we are reminded of just how well we have done - not bad for an 'average' year...
No words needed, really. What a shot... Avon Roach Project business doesn't get any better than this for us.
Some of our Avon Roach back where they belong...
A special moment for a special person. Peter, our good friend and project supporter, lowers a net of roach into the river not twenty yards from where the classic catch of ten two pounders was filmed for 'A Passion for Angling' all those years ago. Let's hope that kind of history can one day repeat itself.
Three very happy and relieved boys at the end of another year of roach releases. Jim Allan (left), Budgie (centre) and Trev (right) with the kind of satisfied smiles that last for days.
An increasingly common sight; an Avon Roach taken a few weeks earlier by a friend of ours on trotted breadflake... Nice eh?

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

2016 Annual Fundraiser Doo...

Our annual fundraiser doo was held on Saturday September 24th and I know we say it every year, but WHAT A DOO…

And I know we always labour the old stress and hard work and worry element of organising these events – in fact we do about everything project related - but this year was no different so we’ll be upholding that tradition….. It was an absolute bloody grueller!

However, the way we see it is if we put in the pre-event effort and graft, there is far less chance of anything going wrong on the day when people who come along deserve the very best. And what could be better than a friendly fishing match and a catch-up on the banks of the Avon followed by a fabulous three course meal at a wonderful Country Hotel and a mind-blowing auction of some seventy amazing lots?

Our nerves are in shreds by the time the soup is put in front of us, but by the end of the evening we have lived out one of the highlights of our entire year which is worth every bead of sweat and wrinkle of worry.

We stick to a set, tried and trusted formula each year, which all starts for us way back in June when we send the initial invites out to all the folks on our database, which is shifting and growing each year, then get about writing to tackle dealers and manufacturers, tackle shops, fishing clubs, syndicates, river keepers and friends of the project for donations of auction lots.

We try to stick to the same time each year; enough distance from summer holidays and enough distance from the threat of the first frosts. However, there is always something to clash with no matter what day of the year, but generally we are very lucky.

We have the friendly fishing match spread across the Royalty, Winkton (upper and lower), Severals (upper and lower) and Avon Castle thanks to the generosity of Southern Fisheries, Ringwood and District Anglers Association and Christchurch Angling Club. Unfortunately, the river conditions tend to make for tricky fishing in the clear waters of early autumn, but we still have a good chance of pleasant warm weather and perfect day length.

The match winning trophy is awarded for the best specimen, which this year was decided almost unanimously by the folks in the room, and was for the second consecutive year won with a roach. And we are delighted to be able to add that the catch return sheets and the post-match stories revealed that roach had been caught by a number of anglers from the different venues, some in quite good numbers.

This years’ event was one of the best ever in terms of auction lots and atmosphere, food, banter and the general feel-good factor of the whole day; not that any of the others have been too shabby….

We had sixty-four people attend and some seventy-two auction lots of all kinds of goodies from exclusive guided fishing days and weekends, rods, reels (one made and engraved especially for us), pictures (including an original David Miller oil painting), books, floats, DVD’s and a whole lot more, and we raised just short of £6,500.

These annual fundraisers enable us to operate completely financially unencumbered and even to get creative and inventive in how we are helping the recovery of the Avon Roach. And we never stop learning and trying new things.

It has all now gone way beyond simply growing Avon Roach and all the time we are supported at these events we’ll carry on doing what we do best, and with roach now being seen and caught throughout the river the future is looking bright.

We would like to thank everyone who came along, everyone who donated an auction lot and everyone who raised their hands in the room and made a bid… It enables so much as we continue to reap the rewards for our efforts on the Avon, and continue to set the standard and example for others to follow up and down the country on other rivers.

And, as we said in a recent post on the interweb ‘The real tangible evidence that the Avon Roach are actually making a recovery is one trumpet we are never going to get tired of blowing…. So PLEASE forgive us when we do…’

Match winner Bernard Stebbing collects his well-deserved trophy from Trev.
Is that the emotional face of a proud winner tightly clutching his well-earned trophy? Or is Bernard just pondering where the nearest bottle bank is to recycle it?

Thank you…
Thank you…
Thank you…

Thank you…
Thank you… Get a look at that roach shirt in the foreground – Perfect! We want one…
Thank you…
Thank you…
Thank you…
Trev has one last reassuring chat with Budgie before the auction gets started.
Trev mid-flow helping Roy the auctioneer with the smoothest auction yet.
One of the most precious auction lots of the evening – An ORIGINAL David Miller Oil Painting, donated generously by our great mate and ever dependable ARP supporter David himself.
Another of the gems under the hammer on the evening – A specially made and engraved Centrepin reel…. Just for us.
Trev took quite a lot of grief throughout the auction (needless to say, he dished out his fair share – and every bit as good as he got) and was happy to model one of the less expensive items on the list.
We often collect many of the donated auction lots and we spent a delightful afternoon with our great mate and long-time ARP supporter Chris Yates who never lets us down. We arrived at 1pm and left at 6-30pm having just giggled and nattered all afternoon….. The things we do for this project…
These fundraisers enable so much and our lake was reinstated last year and was left to over-winter. We still have to pinch ourselves sometimes when we consider that we can spot potential and not have to worry about the resources to turn a bright idea into reality….. Which now applies to the entire project… 

Diggers in the mud.
From a bright idea and diggers in the mud to a beautiful and manageable, naturalised lake. We were going to stock it in March 2016 but had some concerns over the health of the fish; being that there was signs of fungus present on some of the fish. So we decided to leave them where they were and quarantine them and treat the fungus. This is all clear now, and has been all summer, so we intend stocking these and others from a number of different stews later in the year when the water temperature drops and is more suitable for fish movement.
As you can see from this image, the willows we cut down to the ankles in the winter fight back at about ten feet of sprouted growth in six months so will need an annual hacking which has been started here….. Another excuse for a big-boys-bonfire…

We have grass-seeded the levelled banks of the lake and between the stews and enjoy (not always) keeping it all as tidy as we can….. There is a shed full of tea and biscuits behind the camera, which helps.

Our manicured stews full of Avon Roach.

Some of our two and a half year olds. These are destined for release next March.
More roach for the river in March.

Meanwhile in an adjacent stew, more roach destined for release into the Avon in March 2017.

These are some of what we have planned for relocation into our lake.

This is what it’s all about. Growing and helping as many Avon Roach as we can…. And, we might moan about the wet and the mud and the mozzies – but what we will never complain about, is the level of support we have not only at our annual fundraiser doo, but now and increasingly from folks throughout the entire country… We are very proud.
With increasing numbers of roach being seen and caught throughout the river and increasing numbers attending our spawning boards each year we are repeatedly reminded that we haven’t wasted our time.
Not only do we now have a history and a credible track record, the river has a bright future.

This little fellow was one of many little roach actually caught in this years’ fundraiser match. What a little sparkler…