Now call me a cynic, but if the floods were so bad, why did we ever only see pictures of York and Worcester? Obviously, flooding for the local people is terrible, but methinks the media were having a bit of a slow news week! Unfortunately, the outcome of these floods is likely to be the continued pouring of money into building larger and more elaborate flood defences. Most of which consist of getting the water out to sea as quickly as possible. Get hold of your Local Environmental Action Plan (LEAP) from the Environment Agency and you will see that millions of pounds are already being spent on flood defence, compared to paltry sums for fisheries, recreation and such-like. Unfortunately, we need to build more houses in this country and the poor old flood plains remain amongst the largest areas of undeveloped land. Call me a dreamer if you like, but perhaps after all the media hype it might be market forces which stop houses being built on floodplains. Just ask yourself this question, would you buy a house that spent a month every year under water, which was uninsurable, and was effectively unsaleable?

In terms of the environment, floods are far from disastrous. The energy released by the water as it pours downstream drives the shaping of the river channel. Riffles, the shallow gravely spawning areas of dace, chub and barbel, are formed during floods as huge amounts of clean material are piled up. Bends, weed beds and trees are all demolished by the power of the river. The inundated banks are covered with super fertile silt, replenishing the nutrients used up by plant growth. No, far from being a bad thing, floods are essential for the proper maintenance of our rivers.

As the floodwaters begin to rise the water velocity increases. Yet, close to the bed and sides of the river the current velocity is still relatively low. This is because of the great frictional force between the water and the river bed. Weed beds also break some of the flow, and although they will tend to be flattened as the flow increases they will still provide some protection right up to the point that they are uprooted. In most rivers the slowly rising discharge gives the fish plenty of time to find slacker flows and it is only when there is a sudden change in flow pattern, such as when a weed bed is uprooted, that fish will be caught in the main flow and washed downstream. Larger fish may even stay out in the main current. The rapid decline in velocity close to the river bed will mean that they are quite capable of holding position. Just last week, I watched a couple of river carp jumping clear of the water in a flow that you would have thought would have washed them away for sure. This slowing of the current, as we have seen before, is something that is easy for the angler to neglect.

As the floodwater increases the height of the river also begins to rise. In natural rivers, where the banks slope gently, the rising water will inundate a large amount of extra ground. In these more natural rivers the fish and invertebrates can move up out of the normal channel and avoid the floods by moving sideways out of the river. When the flow begins to subside it is then an easy job for the fish to move back into the main channel. The only problem can be that a lot of fish leave lakes adjoining the river. Carp in particular can be a real pain as they leave lakes in their droves and can be found wallowing in ditches, fields and even peoples living rooms! Am expensive business if they happen to be your carp!


So, although the dramatic stories of man battling the elements might fill the newspapers and give the newsreaders something to talk about, just think why is it such a problem, when in fact we might do better to encourage floods for the sake of our environment.