John Eardley still fighting for anglers in Wales

“Ty Newydd”4, Little Moss Lane Scholar Green Stoke-on-Trent ST7 3BL

13th July 2020

By email to: Clare.Pillman@cyfoethnaturiolcymru.gov.uk

All Wales Byelaws – the impact on angling

Dear Clare,

With the lifting of travel restrictions in Wales on 6th July and the prospect of favourable river conditions I prepared myself for my first trip of the season. Of course much of my fishing tackle was no longer legal in Wales and I was faced with the prospect of changing all of the hooks on my lures. Research revealed that hardly any companies state the gape size of their hooks and with such variations in the market place it was something of a lottery to ensure the hooks I purchased were legal. Furthermore the cost of suitable hooks varied between 35p and £1.25 each. Nevertheless I made the necessary changes to a few of my lures

although a huge number of hooks still need to be purchased if the rest of my lures are to be legal in Wales.

I ventured to the Afon Dyfi last Wednesday to find a river in perfect condition for spinning and it was then that the harsh reality of the current situation really hit home when, without exception, I failed to land any of the numerous sea trout that I hooked. It is true that an angler will always lose some of the fish that they hook but when “some” becomes “all” angling becomes something of a pointless exercise. Of course I should not be surprised by the outcome given that no parent would purchase a tricycle for their child, remove two of the wheels and then be puzzled why the child kept falling off.

During the day I spoke to 2 other groups of anglers. The first was a father fishing with his 3 sons. They had fared slightly better than me in that they had at least managed to land one of the fish that they had hooked during the day. The second father and son team had landed 6 sea trout between them, the reason for their success being immediately obvious for they had chosen to disregard the byelaws and were both using treble hooks on their spinners. I wonder which of the 4 youngsters will be keenest to head back to the river.

When the river cleared and I changed to fly fishing I did at least manage to hook and land a fish successfully. However you must realise that not every angler is able to fly fish and for those people life is going to be very difficult indeed, particularly when allied to the restrictions applied to worm fishing.

It is very clear to me that yet another angling technique has been rendered all but ineffective in Wales. To achieve any degree of success in the future the options would appear to be either be prepared to be criminalised for disregarding the byelaws or else fish elsewhere in the UK where a more reasonable approach has been taken to method restrictions. To endure the current restrictions for 10 years is a bleak prospect, particularly when it is recognised that anglers are not the cause of the problem. However I am fully aware of what the intransigent response is likely to be in response to any request for an early review of the byelaws.

There is also a serious implication for the already deeply flawed stock assessments if large numbers of fish that would previouslyhave been landed are now lost and hence fail to be recorded on catch returns. Depressed catches will no doubt be attributed to a lack of fish in the river rather than the impact of method restrictions and result in yet further restrictions on anglers. I note that in the Plan of Action the Provisional Sea Trout Stock Assessment for the Dyfi in 2023 is PaR (Probably at Risk). The numbers of fish I witnessed on Wednesday would indicate that nothing could be further from the truth but then again senior fisheries staff would have to actually visit the river in order to know that.

I realise that my letter is unlikely to elicit any positive response but it would be remiss of me not make you fully aware of the farcical situation that legitimate anglers are now having to endure in Wales. The future is indeed grim and that has nothing at all to do with any shortage of fish in most of the rivers that I am familiar with.

Kind regards

John (Eardley)

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