Avon Fishing Association Chairman’s Report January 2012

 

Communicating with members

Email and the website (http://www.avonfishingassociation.co.uk/) have proved to be a useful way of communicating with members and for the committee to deal with an ever-increasing volume of business.

 

If you have email and didn’t receive an AFA email in 2011 but would like to in 2012 please send your current email address to pkenyon@pkenyon.entadsl.com This will also help us reduce the costs of postage.

 

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2011 was a busy year for the association.  I would like to personally thank the president and committee for all their hard work and support. The committee met three times last year but most of the work is now done via email.

 

There will be an opportunity to discuss several rule changes proposed by the committee later this evening.

 

I am very conscious of the work that Dave Farnworth does on our behalf managing the waiting list and collection of subscriptions. And two of the proposed rule changes are designed to help him in this annual task.

 

I’d like to thank Brian Dent not only for his work as secretary but also for keeping in touch with events on other rivers through attendance at meetings of the South West Rivers Association.

 

I am grateful to the President for sending a letter to all members recommending salmon and sea trout conservation. And I’m pleased to report that we have reached our overall conservation target of a 70% return rate for salmon and sea trout.

 

Tim Reavell hopes to move to Wales later this year to be nearer his family, and has asked to step down as our treasurer. I will greatly miss Tim’s quiet efficiency. In his usual thoughtful way, Tim gave us plenty of time to find a replacement and the committee has asked Patrick Bromley to take over as treasurer.

 

The committee has invited Fred Moser to become a Vice President of the association. Fred has given valuable support to the association both in public and “behind the scenes”. This would also give our president Chris Peach cover at times when he is unable to attend committee meetings and the AGM.

 

Returns for 2011

The numbers of fish caught in 2011 are as follows:

Here are the catches from the last seven years for comparison.

 

Year

Salmon

Sea trout

Brown trout

2011

39

56

1037

2010

52

71

858

2009

16

86

616

2008

19

26

779

2007

15

17

1007

2006

45

46

359

2005

29

96

436

2004

31

78

446

 

There were more brown trout caught on association waters in 2011 than in any other year since 1974 when records began. Anglers reported that about 10% (105) of the brown trout they caught were over 8 inches. The committee has agreed to bring our salmon and sea trout conservation policy to the notice of visitors using weekly, fortnightly and monthly tickets.

 

 

·         The Cedric Potter trophy for the largest salmon was won by John Roberts with a salmon of 8 1/2 lbs.

·         The Jim Coombes trophy for the largest sea trout was won by Dennis Dawes with a fish of 26 inches.

·         The Bob Sadler trophy for the largest brown trout was won by Dave Farnworth with a 17 inch fish.

·         The President’s prize donated by Sir William Peek was won by Paul Edginton  for a combined sea trout and brown trout catch of 248 fish

 

Social event

Once again Paul Edginton organised a very successful annual dinner at the Avon Mill Garden Centre. This proved to be a very popular venue and we hope to use it again in 2012. The purpose of the annual social event is to say “Thank you” to our riparian owners and it is very important to give them an enjoyable night out in pleasant surroundings. But it would be good if more members turned out to support this annual event.

 

Brian Dent and John Roberts are hoping to organise an informal get together for members next year.

 

Westcountry Rivers Trust Angling Passport scheme

 

36 tickets at £12.50 each were sold. This generated £450 income for the association. 

 

The committee has decided that tickets made out to ‘a serving officer’ will not be issued to BRNC next season

 

River maintenance

 

I am grateful to John Roberts for organizing an advisory visit from the Wild Trout Trust in April. The consultant’s report is available on the association’s website. His recommendations have been incorporated into John’s river maintenance work plan.

 

John intends to hold work parties on the following dates:

5th 12th and 19th February and the 4th and 11th March

A plan for this work is available on the AFA website

 

John and Mike Cooper are negotiating with SWW to see if compensation flow can be used to increase the amount of water in the river.

 

Many of you will know Toby Russell who worked with us on rehabilitating Bramble Pool. Toby has moved from the Westcountry Rivers Trust to Trinity Sailing – a non-profit organisation providing sail training and sailing holidays.

He now lives in Kingsbridge and has expressed an interest in joining the association.

The committee has invited Toby to contribute his expertise and labour to the association in return for the use of a season ticket that was previously allocated to BRNC.

This ticket does not convey AFA membership. So he will not have a vote at AGMs or committee meetings.

 

I hope you agree that Toby’s expertise and experience will be a valuable asset for the association

 

 

 

Riparian liaison:

 

I am grateful for all the effort that Mike Cooper puts in to develop and maintain good riparian liaison. He has negotiated with David Miller the owner of Gara Lodge to allow us to fish on the left bank field from the iron bridge below Gara Bridge to Cocks Brook. This stretch is opposite the stretch that we rent from Mr. Jenner on the right bank.

 

In September the committee investigated 478 yards of single bank fishing on the Avon at Didworthy. This was being offered for sale by informal tender through Luscombe Maye. The committee decided not to make an offer.

 

Environment Agency

 

Under the Water Framework Directive (WFD) the Environment Agency has a responsibility to ensure that the Avon achieves ‘good’ ecological status by 2015.

 

Currently the river is classified as having ‘moderate’ ecological status.

 

The EA identified two reasons for the Avon’s failure to achieve good ecological status:

  1. Low pH values as a result of moorland acidification in the upper river, and
  2. Lower than expected numbers of fish in fish surveys

 

According to the EA natural and man-made barriers may be preventing fish from moving around freely or migrating to spawn.

 

In November the Aune Conservation Association organised a meeting with representatives of the EA, SWW, SWRA, South Devon AONB Unit, the ACA and AFA (aka OUTCAA) to discuss the situation.

The EA are very good at attending meetings with “stakeholders” to discuss problems. But as the President remarked, they tend to be NATO events – No Action Talk Only!

 

But the EA’s message was clear. According to them, fish stocks in the river are unacceptably low. The website has further information on this issue.

 

However, it’s worth bearing in mind the Wild Trout Trust’s conclusion that: “The Avon Fishing Association’s waters on the Devon Avon provide an excellent and diverse range of habitat suitable for supporting all life stages of trout, sea trout and salmon. From the sites which were inspected on the day, the catchment appears to be in really good shape, which for a spate river is so often the key to meeting the fisheries full potential.”

 

John Roberts has carried out several surveys of invertebrate life with his students. They show that there is a healthy population of insects in the river.

 

It’s difficult to reconcile this picture of a healthy river habitat with reports of low fish stocks in EA surveys. The committee’s view - which was presented at the meeting - is that EA fish surveys are out of date and fragmentary. The surveys they rely on were conducted between 2004 and 2008 and do not include sites below Cocks Brook. We were told that the EA does not have the money to carry out more extensive fish surveys.

 

Increasingly the Devonshire Avon depends on the goodwill of riparian owners and external not-for-profit organizations to achieve this potential and protect the river against the EA’s lack of resources to maintain, develop and improve the fishery.

 

Hydropower

In last year’s report I mentioned a proposed hydropower development at Gara Mill that would affect our fishing between Curtisknowle weir and Gara Bridge.

 

There has been a national outcry over the way the EA has handled hydropower. The Angling Trust believes that hydropower “could cause serious environmental damage and destroy productive fisheries.”

 

Many of you will have seen the report on hydropower in the recent local BBC programme InsideOut that highlighted the impact of these schemes on salmon and sea trout stocks.

 

In November an application was made to South Hams District Council (SHDC) to install a turbine to generate electricity at Gara Bridge.

 

The committee submitted a long letter of objection. To put it simply, we argued that “If 50% of the water is diverted down the leat during typical average summer flows then the amenity value (from a fisherman’s point of view) of the depleted stretch would be depleted by a similar amount – 50%.” 

 

It came as a bit of a surprise – and a great relief - when in December the EA also objected because “elements of the current design would have a detrimental effect on the River Avon and because the application is not supported by an ecological assessment.” This was a bold step because the EA had already granted an abstraction licence to the applicant.

 

Unfortunately in January 2012 the EA changed it’s tune, and withdrew its objection. The committee has submitted a further letter to SHDC expressing concern about the lack of consistency in the EA’s approach to its statutory obligations. We have also written to the EA asking them to explain why they withdrew their objection. The website has copies of this correspondence.

 

We have not received an explanation from the EA. Therefore, we submitted a letter of complaint to the EA. We await a planning decision from SHDC and a response from the EA to our complaint.

 

Each step in our approach to this problem has been based on advice from William Rundle who is - Fish Legal’s solicitor. And Roger Furniss (who until recently chaired Fish Legal and appeared in the recent TV programme InsideOut).

 

Nevertheless, I think SHDC will approve the planning application. But that will not be the end of the matter as far as Fish Legal is concerned.

 

Fish Legal is better known as the Anglers Cooperative Association. It was set up over 60 years ago to use the law to fight pollution and other damage to the water environment. It has a formidable reputation, unique legal expertise, and a large fighting fund to take legal action against those who damage our rivers.

 

Fish Legal will help us monitor and limit the impact - in the short-, medium- and long-term - of the hydropower plant on the association’s property.

 

Needless to say if this application is successful, the holder of an abstraction licence further down the river might decide to enter the electricity generation game.

 

Financial matters

 

The Treasurer will give you a detailed report later this evening.

 

Tight lines in 2012.

 

 

Paul Kenyon

Chairman, Avon Fishing Association, January 2012

 

New committee members:

Trevor Enion proposed by Dave Farnworth

Patrick Bromley  Treasurer proposed by Tim Reavell