Anglers can see the wood for the trees - and it’s a good job too

Tree planting by rivers trust volunteers at Coates Castle
Tree planting by rivers trust volunteers at Coates Castle

A dozen volunteers from the South Downs National Park and anglers from Petworth & Bognor Angling Club helped the Arun & Rother Rivers Trust (ARRT) plant 300-plus willow and alder saplings along the Coates Castle stretch of the River Rother, writes Roger Poole of Petworth & Bognor Angling Club.

It’s an area which had, over the years, lost a considerable number of trees through disease or as a result of bank erosion.

The trees were supplied by the Woodland Trust in co-operation with ARRT, the Environment Agency, the landowner and farmers, all of whom recognise the need to replenish trees which are vital to wildlife and the environment.

Sometimes mankind has to step in to give nature a helping hand without disturbing or changing the natural landscape.

For anglers in particular trees have a vital role to play for the welfare of fish. They provide cover from predators such as cormorants but more importantly without shade, river basin plants often die when river levels are at their lowest during the summer months, and it’s those plants where invertebrates live that are the natural food for fish.

Riverside trees also provide shade for cattle who love to congregate near a river so the saplings have to be fenced off while they grow.

Those three months from March 14 to June 15 are purgatory and anxious times, especially on those lovely spring days when all an angler can do is walk along the river, just looking, gazing and hoping the fish are enjoying their reproductive fun...

Roger Poole

The areas chosen are where the combined effect of cattle damaging the banks of a sandy nature has eroded the bank so this restoration will hopefully redress this problem.

Unless there is a risk of flooding it’s quite a good thing to leave fallen trees in the river. Trunks and branches help change the flow of water and are places where the fish hold up.

Chub for instance are found close to and under these obstacles, as are most varieties. When the river is in full flow these resting areas are where the fish lie.

The swirl of water brings food their way – a kind of waterborne supermarket.

For anglers, especially those who prefer rivers, the close season is upon us. Those three months from March 14 to June 15 are purgatory and anxious times, especially on those lovely spring days when all an angler can do is walk along the river, just looking, gazing and hoping the fish are enjoying their reproductive fun that hopefully will provide shoals of little’uns that one day grow into mature and healthy adults.

If you can’t wait to fish or the three months are too much to bear, there are club ponds that remain open throughout the year – see www. sussexangling.co.uk to view the Petworth & Bognor club’s waters but most angling clubs have waters that stay open – apart from rivers, that is.

The close season is respected and adhered to throughout the country.

If, like me you enjoy fly fishing as well coarse, now is the time to try your luck on the Rother and Arun. There won’t be much of a hatch in April or at least until there’s some warmth in the river, but the growing population of trout are there, and the chub and dace take fly. For an ancient angler like me, the advantage of fly fishing is that it’s relatively light tackle compared to what’s needed when coarse fishing. So the close season is not really an excuse not to go fishing.

Perhaps now is the time to clean and sort out your fishing tackle. It’s amazing what you find at the bottom of that bag and a good clean and light oiling of reels, and that wonderful plastic bits-and-pieces box needs sorting out before the opening day.

Landing nets and mats could do with a good airing – leaving them hanging from a tree in all weathers does the trick, but dry them before folding or rolling.

Let’s hope all those young saplings that were planted survive. A lot of hard work and planning went into this project, and in the long run it’s the anglers in particular who will benefit.

Without those volunteers who generously gave up their time coupled with everyone involved, this important restoration just wouldn’t happen, so if you want to get involved or find out more, the ARRT website – www.arrt.org.uk – provides full details... and there’s a ‘donate’ spot if you are feeling generous.

by Roger Poole

Chairman, Petworth & Bognor Angling Club

Read Roger’s What’s the Catch? column in the Observer and on this website monthly. Want to be a Talking Sport columnist? Get in touch with Steve Bone on 01243 534128 or steve.bone@chiobserver.co.uk

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