For some reason I thought I might get to fish the last few days of the fishing season for a change. For the past three years the early morning phone call of "We've 30 stone of smelt, on your way mate" has served to wreck my end of season plans. Still, I cannot complain, for usually I have a degree of flexibility which allows me to do more fishing than your average angler. I can work a 16 hour day and then have the next day off. Sometimes I have to work all though the night and then catch up the sleep with the rods out on my own carp water (there's a pike or two in it!). I make a good living and I am my own boss. Overall I'm pretty content. Unfortunately, from time to time, things happen which upset and annoy me and I'm sure readers will be aware that the Pike Anglers Club's reaction to the Blithfield pike fishing certainly upset me, and as for annoyed, well, red was the main colour I was seeing. Ray Farrell wrote a letter in response to my feature published a while back. It was it said written on the behalf of the PAC committee. I had hoped to have finished with the PAC matter for good a few weeks ago. The committee I so strongly disagree with will be gone in May and it may be possible to open a dialogue with the new group of pike anglers who will run PAC for the next 3 years. Unfortunately Ray Farrell continues to spread disinformation and has in effect called me a liar. Therefore I will have to respond and the reader can decide for themselves which one of us is not telling the truth. It is a fact that most of this issue is black and white, therefore someone is being totally dishonest here.
Firstly though let's look at the March Blithfield fishing. 25 anglers each paid £100 each for three days fishing on this 770 acre reservoir. These 25 anglers paid this money because Blithfield offers the chance of some particularly large pike. The pike control carried out over the past 15 years has probably been a little too successful because the fishing on Blithfield is hard. Fortunately Blithfield Anglers are prepared to listen and I would hope that in the future the fisheries management policy is much more pike friendly. The letter which came through my letter box said the following. "You are asked to return alive all pike over 25lb, but if you are able to retain any others alive these will be collected and subsequently transferred to another water If you are not able to do this please return them alive to our water". The way I read this part of the letter indicates that some progress has been made towards dealing with the pike in a satisfactory manner. Personally, having now fished there for 9 days it is my observation that the pike population is fairly small and removal is no longer required. However Blithfield Anglers run the fishing and it is our duty as pike anglers to work with them and try to convince, rather than mouth off at them from a distance. Confrontation as practised by the Scottish PAC committee is not the way forward in this case.
The first days fishing saw me hurling an unlikely looking bright yellow Little Joe lure out into the reservoir. About fifth cast I had a big boil come up behind the lure just as it reached the edge of the water. That was the sum total of my action for the day! The next day using a Spring Dawg, a repeat performance! The third day I saw the culprit, a twenty pounder as it lazily turned away at the last minute. Later that day Jason Latham had a 24 pounder from the same spot! No more follows after that. I did end up with a 3 pounder on a home made Jerkbait which soon after was lost on a fence! So the cost so far for two pike weighing a total of 16lbs has been £300 plus £80 fuel, plus being thrown out of PAC. Despite that I have enjoyed the fishing even though I now have a badly sprained wrist caused by casting for 3 days! Other anglers did better than me. John Freeman had a 31-08, Brian Ingrams a 33 and a number of other fish of 25 to 27lb were caught. All pike anglers obeyed the rules, there was no cheating because each pike angler knows that the fishing will be lost if the rules are not obeyed. Despite what some people have said, you can obey rules and not be a PAC member. Most of those who fished were not PAC members or had been thrown out. I wonder how well behaved some of the pike anglers were at the PAC Menteith event!
Despite the smelts turning up before the end of the season I did get out on the last day and had two runs. One was small, the other was a beauty of 19-08. I left for work by 10am and felt good about having made the effort to go despite working to half past midnight the day before. The last day of the season is so often mild and breezy and I have memories of so many last days, some good, some fishless. Either way, most have been memorable in one way or another. It saddens me to think that the close season on rivers looks set to be removed. I actually like the way things are, with private enclosed waters able to make their own close seasons if they want them while waters such as rivers with varied ownership are kept closed. Luckily the SSSI status of areas such as the Thurne Broads will probably see them continue to be closed to fishing in the spring. Some waters need a close season to protect the pike from over-fishing.
To return to Ray Farrells letter I think the best way to deal with it is to run through it and point out the errors as briefly as possible.
Firstly PAC were the first to go to the press with their press release. If they had named names it would have been libellous. Once the matter was in the public domain they must have expected a response via the press! At no time prior to the press release being issued did anyone from the PAC contact me. On being told via the press release that I and others should resign I obviously felt that the present PAC committee had lost the plot, to put it mildly. The use of phrases such as "Glory Hunters" was hardly likely to endure the PAC to those they were attacking. There then followed a communication with the PAC which my wife conducted on my behalf. I had by then no wish to speak or communicate with any of them save for one last parting shot! A full explanation of what had happened at Blithfield was published in the press and copies of this sent to the PAC. The fact that they took no notice of any of this indicates that something was terribly wrong at the heart of the PAC.
Nige Williams had asked me if I wished to buy any surplus pike. I said no, but I would do so if there was no other option. By suggesting that this conversation never took place, Ray is in effect calling me a liar. No wonder I have no interest in talking to a man like that! On the day I took sacks for retention of pike, but fortunately for me and my bank balance the pike had already been found a home. As I have said earlier, I do not feel that any pike needed to be removed, however I was prepared to fish under the rules knowing that I would not have to kill any pike on the day. There was never any chance on the day that I would be asked to kill anything. My one mistake was to sign up to the event when the rules stated clearly that all pike under 25lb had to be killed. My only excuse for this is the fact that I had every faith in Nige Williams sorting it out. This is the same faith that the current PAC committee should have had in all of us who fished the event.
As to believing AT when they said they saved the pike. Well I'm sure they believed that they did, but the truth is that it was already organised. Their coverage simply served to reinforce what was already being done!
As far as the trout anglers killing pike is concerned, at the first 3 days fishing I saw one small pike killed and one fish caught by a trout angler was sacked by myself and transferred. I personally have no objection to small pike being killed for the table. If we are to retain livebaiting there must be some give and take! As I said earlier we have now seen a change in the rules, but if a trout angler wanted a 5 pounder for the table I would not attempt to stop him. You have to be sensible about this.
At no time did I say that I would break any of Blithfield Anglers rules. The fact that we were retaining fish meant we did not have to break any rules! No-one attempted to exploit a cull to catch what Ray calls a 'lump'. The door had been opened and we took the chance to fish and work from the inside to improve things for pike fishing. The fact that Menteith pike have been removed sounds like the same situation to me!
I think Ray should stick to his own job, whatever that is, when he starts to quote scientific evidence of trout water pike turning belly up! I have had over 20 years experience of moving trout water pike. Small fish can be successfully relocated provided there is sufficient food available in the recipient venue. Larger fish do not adapt as well but seeing as the largest fish moved was 14lb this was not a problem. A good example was three Blithfield pike moved in the 1980's. these weighed 16, 17 and 19lb. All lived for over 5 years in a new water, reaching weights of 23, 27 and 27lb. It is more difficult to move pike close to spawning as they frequently fail to spawn and have a 50% mortality due to becoming spawnbound. As it happens, no pike were moved in March anyway. Just like the PAC, we would prefer to have the pike returned alive provided there was no longer a pike problem. The priority on a trout water must be to retain good quality trout fishing otherwise the whole thing will collapse and with it the pike fishing!
Moving on to page 4. No-one has given any ultimatums. I have stated a fact that if the PAC did not change from it's present course there would be a need for a more representative democratic alternative. The fact that three ex PAC secretaries and one ex president have written to me concerned with the way the present committee has behaved suggests that something is wrong. Even the PAC's own legal adviser was appalled at the way they had behaved. Luckily the present bunch will go in May and from what I know of the next committee there is every hope that they will put the PAC back on track. There would then be no need for an alternative Pike group.
I contacted all the PAC Regional Organisers and Liaison Officers asking whether they supported the committee or not. How Ray can tell that this backfired is beyond me because I have not published the results of this survey. All the letters are there to be read by anyone who is interested. Though only a third of those asked replied, the response was close to 50:50 which suggests that views are very much split on this issue. As to my judgement being off course, well I am dealing here with views written down on paper that are there for all to see. They indicate that my judgement, though not perfect, is correct in the eyes of many pike anglers.
One of the reasons why few members have left PAC is the fact that I have replied to all letters and phone calls in the same way. "Please do not leave the PAC because it is the committee who are wrong not the organisation". They will be gone soon and personally, good riddance! As to how Ray can tell that 100 new members joined because of the stand PAC took, let's see the proof, Ray?
The rest of Ray's letter is not really worth further comment. I think those who know me know that I have been active in pike fishing to the benefit of pike and pike anglers for a lot longer than Ray and any of his chums. I do not know Ray and he clearly does not know me. However in my dealing with him in print I have come to realise that though his beliefs may be honourable they are not backed up by any grasp of the truth. If I had employed him to act as a promotions manager and press spokesman for the PAC I would have sacked him by now. He simply is not up to the job!
A lot of hard things have been said and written about this matter and I do not usually get personal unless I am attacked. However this has become personal and I have defended myself against what I believe has been the most (actually the only) incompetent PAC committee we have had. Still, only about 6 weeks to go(!) before we can start to put this miserable period for the PAC behind us.
Any future correspondence relating to the above will be published in the "Letters" page. Personally though, I think it's time we all got back to the fishing! Ed.