Until a few years ago there was a close season on all waters for the coarse fish species but today stillwaters and canals are open. I personally feel the opening of these waters was a mistake. The countryside needed a rest from anglers during this critical time of the year when everything was growing and reproducing. When I protested I was told the majority wanted our stillwaters opened up for year-round fishing. How did the 'powers that be' know? We were never given a vote. I believe money was the main factor. Personally I don't fish for the coarse fish species between March 15th and June 15th both days inclusive though many of my friends do.
Rods Reels and Line
If you haven't done so, now is the time to check over your tackle. All your rod guides should be checked for wear, line quickly gets weakened and chewed up if you have a cracked guide. It's now time to clean all the grime off your rod handles. I use a small amount of liquid washing up soap, with plenty of hot water and use a nail brush for scrubbing the cork handle. It's amazing how quickly the rod handle looks like new. Wipe the screw winch fitting over with some WD-40 then polish the rod with some silicone floor polish.
Reels should be cleaned and grease in the gears should be replaced. Check all screws are tightened where needed, make sure you check the bale arm spring, replace it if needed. You need to replace the line on your reels. Line from last year will have deteriorated. It doesn't last for long as it gets a lot of wear and tear and nicked by rocks and various snags in the water.
Don't just chuck the old line into the rubbish bin. Cut the line into small pieces, then, if possible, burn it, and deposit the waste line in the rubbish bin. Remember most of our rubbish goes to a tip where birds and wild animals often congregate. Nylon line is a KILLER. We must try NOT to leave line hanging from riverside trees, bushes, reeds or rushes. We must make every effort to retrieve lost line. Let's make sure a bird or animal doesn't lose it's life through we anglers being lazy or careless. The life of an animal or bird is far more important than catching another fish.
Before you attempt to go fishing you must have a VALID rod licence for everyone. 12 years of age or over, who fishes for salmon, trout, freshwater fish, or eels in England or Wales you must have an Environment Agency rod fishing licence. All monies collected from rod licence fees by the Environment Agency are invested directly into fisheries activities (enforcement, fish rearing and stocking, fish habitat improvement, monitoring fish abundance, disease detection, research and development, and fish rescues among other activities). 2002/03 Rod licence duties are: Licence Type (a) Non-Migratory Trout and Coarse (b) Salmon & Sea Trout Full (a)£21.00 (b)£60.00 Concessionary (a)£10.50 (b)£30.00 Junior (a)£5.00 (b)£30.00 8-Day (a)£6.50 (b)£16.50 1-Day (a)£2.50 (b)£5.50
Where to fish? Club, Syndicate or Day Ticket water
Before attempting to fish you must have permission to fish your chosen stretch of water. There is very little free freshwater fishing available. Most of the fishing is controlled by angling clubs, syndicates, councils or riparian owners who offer the fishing through a season, monthly, weekly or day permit. Many stillwater fisheries these days are commercially run, usually offering good value for money with safe car parking and toilets. They are usually a place where the kids can fish in safety. Often the fishery will have a cafe on site.
One of the best day ticket fisheries I have had the privilege to fish was on the river Lodden run by Wokingham & District Council. The surrounding countryside was very clean and it was excellent value for money with safe car parking, good clean toilets and excellent fishing. I would give this fishery a ten out of ten. Many of the dog walkers were very responsible by clearing away the mess their dogs made, making it safe for children and adults.
Join A Club
The best advice I can give is, join a club. Your tackle shop should have information on the various clubs in your area. The seasons fees are usually cheaper than buying a day ticket, also you often have a better choice of waters. Many members will offer you help if you're a newcomer and you're helping preserve the fishery for future generations of anglers. Many clubs these days also have a car park where you can park in some safety. At the same time, never leave anything on view. If you keep your rod in a tube make sure when you leave the car that tube is left with its top off. So the prospective thief can see there is nothing in the tube.
Many anglers today with an interest in a single species fish often get together and form a small syndicate. They will rent or lease a stretch of river or stillwater that holds the fish they are interested in catching. They could be a group of anglers who specialise in catching barbel, chub, tench, carp, pike or bream. I have been a member of several syndicates over the years. Membership fees are usually a bit more costly than club fees. These fisheries usually have less litter, a car park with a fitted lock and members usually know one another - and there is often a club hut on site.
Commercial Day Ticket Waters
Many anglers these days never join an angling club preferring to purchase a day ticket for a stillwater or river fishery of their choice. You should have a day ticket fishery nearby. The advantage of stillwater day ticket fisheries is, they are usually fishable for most of the year. The only time you can't fish them, is usually in winter, when the water is iced over. They usually have safe car parking and this is most important these days. It's often fairly safe for the kids, but parents should always check the place out. Stay with your kids for their first couple of days of fishing and ask all the necessary questions. There are usually toilets and no dog walkers.
One book I can recommend is Where To Fish Lancashire Coarse Fisheries by Martin Salisbury Published by Sigma price £6-95. No doubt a similar book has been published for your area. Ask at your local tackle shop. Anglers Mail every week have several pages of fishing reports covering stillwater and river fisheries where you can get a day permit.
Wherever you plan to fish, stay safe and don't leave any type of rubbish. If you see any rubbish please take it home and, help keep your fishery clean. Remember we anglers have a duty to protect the wildlife and birds, always park in a safe place. Never park in front of farm gates, on the inside of bends or any other place that might cause an accident. Always carry your rod licence, club or syndicate card and know the rules of the fishery.
DON'T handle fish with dry cloths or dry hands. Always treat the fish with respect and return them to the water as quickly as possible. There is no excuse for keeping fish in a keep net where they can get distressed and die after being released. This is especially true in warm conditions with high water temperatures which often means a low oxygen content. These are not my findings but fishery scientists. Remember there are always new anglers coming into the sport; girls and boys, men and woman. It's up to all of us to pass on our knowledge freely to these people. We shouldn't be charging to help others learn how to catch fish. We should give our knowledge freely. Let's all help the other angler. If you have any questions just E-mail me.
Have a good season's fishing everyone.