AFA Annual General Meeting Chairman's Report on 2017 season delivered at AGM in January 2018

AFA Annual General Meeting Chairman's Report on 2017 season delivered at AGM in January 2018

Introduction and Thanks

Welcome to the Old School, South Brent and to this evening's meeting. I hope that you enjoyed your fishing in 2017. With luck 2018 will be much better.

Thanks to all of you who have come out this evening to support the meeting. The AGM is an important event in the association's year.

Firstly I would like to thank the committee for all of their hard work throughout the year. It makes my job a lot easier having a committee that is as efficient and hardworking as ours. It helps greatly that each member has one particular job and they do it efficiently and without complaint. Many thanks to all of you. I would like to pay particular thanks to Mike Cooper whose work liaising with the riparian owners is invaluable to me and to the association, he also attends meetings on our behalf and puts our case very forcibly.

Catch Returns

There has been a very poor response this year with just over 50% of members providing returns. Returns are vital to the association in judging fishing effort and the health of fish populations. More importantly the EA use these statistics to judge our management compliance for migratory fish. The river is then graded At Risk, Probably at Risk, Not at risk. This has been running since 2008 and is used to judge our likely compliance at 2021. We are currently graded probably at risk for 2017 and 2021. I shall talk about the possible implications of being classified At Risk later.

Fish catches remain stubbornly low.

Brown Trout:

Numbers were at their lowest since 2006 with 470 caught. Fishing was difficult this year with no-catch days were common. Many nice trout were caught fishing for salmon with trout of 11, 12 and 14 inches caught.

Sea Trout:

Numbers of sea trout caught were the lowest since 2007 (17). On the bright side, the sea trout caught were large in size and there was evidence of a run of peal in October. Some members had a lot of blank nights, others expired nights where fish moved early on but remained uncatchable.

Salmon:

The run started in the late August flood and 3 were caught near Diptford on a private stretch, the largest being 13lbs. Four were caught on the Kerry Downs stretch in September with Dave Brooks having three in one day. There was very little fishing effort for salmon with three or four members doing most of the fishing. Sightings of fish moving through the water were common as were sightings of fish ascending Lydia Falls. The record sightings was by Jon Camp who saw ten fish move in a half hour just above Kerry Downs bridge.

Fishing Effort:

Frustrating as it is to fish day after day with no takes, it is vital to keep up fishing effort. Without fishing effort, numbers of fish caught alone gives a poor insight into the health of the river and may lead to false assumptions by the EA.

The number of fish caught were:

Salmon 8 (100% returned)

Sea Trout 21 ( 81% returned)

Brown Trout 470 ( 100% returned)




Year

Salmon

% Returned

Sea Trout

% Returned

Brown Trout

% Returned

2017

8

100

21

81

470

100

2016

11

72

47

78

727

99.8

2015

7

70

34

88

886

99.9

2014

8

100

90

74

653

99

2013

10

70

229

83

768

100

2012

22

77

73

72

853

99

2011

39

84

56

72

1037

99

2010

52

78

62

56

855

99

2009

16

75

86

60

616

98

2008

19

68

40

75

779

99

2007

15

80

17

35

1007

99

2006

45

66

46

34

359

97

2005

29

 

96

 

436

 

2004

31

 

78

 

446

 

Total

312


975


9892


Av

22


69


706


The Silveridge Conservation Award

goes to Adrian Cross

The Bob Sadler Award

for the largest Brown Trout goes to Dennis Dawes for a fish of 11.5 inches

The Presidents Prize

goes to William Scott with a total of 85

The Jim Coombs Award

for the largest sea trout goes to Stephen Lose with a fish of 26.5 inches estimates at 7.25lbs

The Cedric Potter Trophy

for the largest salmon goes to John Roberts with a fish of 35 inches estimated at 17.5lbs

Sale of Tickets:

561 net was raised from sales at Loddiswell Post Office.

Social Events

Annual Dinner:

Held once again at Avon Mill. This is a very popular event with our riparian owners and other guests and a most convivial evening was had by all. I say this every year but I do wish that more members would make the effort to attend.

Avon Dam Jolly:

A change in date caused the numbers attending this event to diminish. Nevertheless those attending saw lots of fish rising but few being caught - except by Dennis who swept the board yet again.

River Maintenance 2017

General maintenance was carried out in 2017 and Mr Burner repaired the weir at the flats. This year the work parties will take place in February and March. I suspect that most work will take place on the lower water this year. If you can attend work parties please contact Dave Brooks or Jon Camp.

Loss of Water

As many of you will know the Association lost the fishing on the true right bank of the Vooght water this is a great shame as we have now lost effective fishing of Bramble Pool. Fishing on the true left bank still remains. The water is now being rented to Bantham Estate. I would urge members to carefully study their maps so as to avoid conflict with land owners. A particularly sensitive area exists at beehives. To make it plain where beats begin and end, new marker posts will be installed this year at the beginning and end of beats and new beat maps will be issued.

Passport Scheme

The passport scheme has now ended due to the loss of water on the Rake beat

SWRA

I confess that I have attended only two meetings this year due to family commitments and holidays. The main area of concern at the meetings I have attended is the EA's five point plan for improving salmon stocks in rivers. I will attempt a brief summary:

The plan involves:

  1. Improving the marine environment
  2. Reduce exploitation by rods and nets
  3. Remove barriers to migration and enhance habitat
  4. Safeguard suficient flows
  5. Maximise spawning by improving water quality

Number two impacts us the most. The SWRA meeting on the 6th Feb will be discussing what the

outcome for newsmen and anglers will be. I filled in a very detailed questionnaire in September last year on behalf of the AFA. In a nutshell I asked for a ban on estuarine and coastal netting and voluntary catch and release for river anglers. What the outcome will be I will forward to you all after the February 6th Meeting. I do believe, however, that there will great emphasis on catch and release and improvement in the riverine environment.

WRT

The Association is working very closely with the WRT on gravel replacement , electrofishing and improving the riverine environment. As Matt Healey is hear to talk to you later about all of this I shall not dwell on the subject. Given the five point plan for salmon attention to river ecology is going to be an important factor.

Riverfly

As you may know the AFA are part of the Riverfly Partnership. Every month four sites on the river are sampled for eight species of invertebrate. I shall be sending out dates to members to come and carry out the sampling in March. It is a most worthwhile exercise and gives an invaluable insight into the nature of trout food species. The sampling shows that the Avon has a healthy invertebrate population on which fish can feed.

Summary

This has been a somewhat disappointing year in some respects. Catches have been low and fishing has been hard work. It is easy to think that this purely an Avon problem but it is not. It is a problem affecting all the rivers in the south west and indeed in the country as a whole the vast majority of which are seen as 'probably at risk'. So we face many challenges in 2018 some of which will impact us directly. What they will be will be revealed in time. What we must not do is to give up on the river we all love to fish. We must continue to fish, respect the river and not fall into a state of negativity. I wish you all tighter lines this year.

John Roberts January 2018