Many animals feel and show emotion, but human emotion is something else. This thought was uppermost recently when I was listening to some wonderful music, ridiculously emanating from a small plastic box. I cannot even recall what the piece was called, but it stirred me so much emotionally that there were tears in my eyes. Perhaps I fail to understand the emotions of other animals, but I have never seen emotion so strong in animals that they cry, and even when suffering intense physical pain they cry vocally, but do not weep. Sure they have runny eyes at times, and tortoises shed tears I believe, but not for reasons of emotion, or pain.

The human starts his tearful existence at birth, and continues with it, emotionally at least, until death. I can remember several instances as a child when I cried for emotional reasons, and for physical reasons when receiving well-earned punishment, and there have been occasions through adult life when emotion has brought tears to my eyes - or I have cried!

Back in 1974 an old friend and I went in great anticipation to the River Kennet, to fish for barbel. We did not anticipate a catch of monster fish, but rather a day away from hustle and bustle, on the bank side of a beautiful river, where we would catch several hard fighting Kennet barbel. They usually weighed between 3 and 6 lb., but occasionally we caught them heavier, and smaller. It was marvellous fishing. It usually took less than half hour to get the fish either into the swim, or feeding, and bites and fish came regularly. Relating to barbel fishing generally, I think I could say that the fishing was fairly fast. In fact, I remember a friend and I having a fantastic time when we had 32 of our whiskery friends in Just a couple of hours. So, we arrived at the riverside in a happy frame of mind, but upon viewing the river, in my case, the euphoria was immediately transformed, sufficiently for me to use my monthly contribution to 'Angling' magazine, as a means of writing about the trip. Part of that article I would like to quote here

"I stood and looked at this lovely natural bit of the Kennet and bloody nigh cried. The picture I saw did not fuse with the picture in my mind. In my mind I saw the overhanging trees, the ranunculus beds, the bank side foliage, and the birds flitting about - a lovely picture. What I saw in reality was a featureless, currentless, canal. The Authority's dredger had found this lovely wild place!

Gone were the trees; gone were the bushes; gone were the weed beds; gone was the gravel bed; gone were the gravel shallows; gone were the fast runs; gone were a myriad little wild things, and gone were the bloody fish! Vandalic destruction of nature's art." (Unquote.)

It is true that I didn't cry' but I certainly had tears in my eyes over the desecration. My friend's reaction was different - He was very, very, angry!

For years before I had seen similar happenings on another river that I loved - the Dorset Stour, and similarly I penned my distaste for the vandals who turned fast flowing rivers, rivers of bends' and gravels, and unbelievable fishing, into slow flowing canals.

The Dorset Stour gave me glorious angling over many years. Bags of roach, dace, chub, grayling, pike, perch, trout, and a good number of spring salmon. The salmon were of a good size compared to present standards. I only caught six under 16 lb. but a lot over that. Now, I am told, it is no longer recognised by those in authority as a salmon river. That brings tears to my eyes.

The experts can blame cyclic and climatic changes for the deterioration of salmon runs as much as they like, and they can lay the blame at the door of intensive farming, (farming practices encouraged by MAFF) and they can blame over-exploitation at sea, but while I will accept that these problems are great, I do not accept that they are the main reasons for the lack of salmon. One only has to look at our rivers to see the poor state they are in, particularly if one has been around long enough to know what they once like. We will be given figures to show that

our salmon rivers are class 1A (or whatever it is for water of the finest quality) but by what parameters do they produce the figures?

I look into our southern chalk streams today, in low flow conditions, and I hear, ''Isn't it lovely and clear." In fact, most of them are in poor condition. It may be possible to look through to the river bed, but they have lost their sparkle. Yes, literally they do not sparkle any more. When I was young, the waters rippling over shallows, or stirred by winds, would sparkle like diamonds, like a young girl's eyes. Now the sparkle is dulled, misted as age mists eyes, dulled because the surface of the rivers are covered in various minor (?) pollutions. Surface run off containing oils, and similar substances from the rich food fed to the fish in the fish farming industry, are just a couple of the sources of this surface pollution. Everyone knows that oil slicks flatten and dull water surface.

And within the clear waters, if one looks carefully, are suspended solids. They are not enough to do any harm though, or so we are told by Authority and science, but I believe these suspended solids were the primary cause of our problems with salmon in our southern rivers, and will continue to be so for many years. This is a totally different problem from the suspended solids that enter the rivers in great quantity from terrestrial sources, which generally get the blame for the gravels being silted, the silted gravels, of course, being the reason for poor 'recruitment'. (What a horrible word!)

Since the world began, in times of flood, rivers have naturally carried thousands of tons of matter of all sorts, an ingress of silt that has never affected the gravels, which have remained clean for spawning fish. While appreciating that farming practices ('like ploughing to the very edge of the bank), may well increase the input of silt, THIS ONLY HAPPENS DURING HEAVY RAINFALL. When it rains, the river lifts and becomes highly coloured, carrying 'muck', but as we all know, as the river flows decrease, the rivers become clear while still being above normal height, and still flowing strongly. Much of the muck has been washed down to the estuary, much of it has settled out in eddies, and much of it has settled out in the deeper and slower flows of the river. But the gravels have remained clean as the fast flows over them do not allow any silt to settle. As the input of silt in suspension has all gone or settled out as explained, before the flows are low enough for suspended solids to settle on gravel beds or runs, they just don't get dirty. So why am I saying the reason for much of the salmon decline is silted gravels?

What I have just described is the natural process of silt input into rivers, which, and I do not apologise for repeating myself, only happens when we get rain, but in actuality, silt input is not now confined to rainy weather and high flow times. Silt input, or suspended solids input if you like, now happens every day of the year, WHATEVER THE FLOW, and the result is that it settles out, even on the gravels in low flows, of which we get more and more as drought follows drought. In my view, the worst problem that the salmon, and most other river fishes, have ever faced, was the arrival of the fish farming industry with their suspended

solids input. One can add to that, sewage effluent, and other sources of suspended solids input, plus various chemicals and God-knows-what, that are deliberately put into rivers every day of the year, with the full consent of Authority.

Under the old Water Authorities fish farms continually exceeded their consent conditions, with little fear of prosecution, and for 365/6 days of the year, tons of fish farm effluent (we all know a better word for it) was discharged into the rivers. Since the formation of the NRA, now part of the EA, fish farm discharges are of better quality, and most {I hope) are keeping within their consents, but the damage has already been done, the gravels are full of silt (?) and even now, as I look at the riverbed outside my home, onto gravels that were surface cleaned during the lift of water we had in the autumn, they are already being smothered by the legal input of suspended solids from the fish farm upstream. I can clearly see the suspended solids, and smell it at times, even though it is far less than it used to be, but it is still many tons per year, and it still settles out on the gravels. When I see the gravel bed gradually turning black, there are tears in my eyes as I remember what the river used to be.

The argument that it is only a tiny percentage of the whole of the silt input into rivers, does not hold water, (pun intended) as it is happening at the times (low flows, and lack of rain) when there was never any natural silt input, and at these times the rivers cannot accept it.

I find the general attitude to rivers deplorable. For example, the acceptance by Authority, and the public, that rivers are merely waste disposal units. Apart from legal discharges and such, just about everything gets chucked into rivers - I know, I spend a lot of time pulling it out And I also deplore the attitude that rivers are there just to provide water for human needs. Damaging abstraction, and water waste, is disgraceful, although at last the question of waste water is being addressed. A while back, at an open meeting that a Water Authority had instigated, to discuss reasons for the decrease of salmon runs, when abstraction was mentioned, I asked about water loss through faults in the piping system. I was told that it did not matter a jot, as all the losses would eventually get back into the rivers. What about all the wastage through faults in the water systems of huge coastal cities, where any loss ends up in estuary or sea, unless the Authority is suggesting that the lost water flows uphill, back to the source? Water loss means unnecessary abstraction; water wastage means unnecessary abstraction; and what I see of the public in general is that they waste water as if it was limitless, simply because they do not pay more for using more. Millions of gallons of good drinking water is wasted weekly just to clean motor vehicles. Is it really necessary to have a shining car for a few hours before road grime dulls it, at the expense of sparkling rivers?

If something is free, as excessive water use is, people will have no compunction about abusing that use. Meters would make people far more careful, and perhaps realise how to respect the life that flows from the tap. I am glad to see that Water Authorities have now changed their

attitude to water loss within the distribution structure. If they can also be persuaded to install water meters, I am sure that consumption will decrease dramatically, and therefore abstraction. I doubt that it will happen though. Data from the Isle of Wight experiment, where meters were installed, showed that people were so careful with water, once they had to pay for what they used, that the shekels to the Water Authority were less than they obtained under the old rating method of charging. Cynic that I am, I cannot see them rushing to install a system that would probably reduce their income. Only legislation would guarantee the introduction of metering, and although, as I have already said, that I am positive a huge reduction in water consumptlon would be the result, Government, of any persuasion, is too gutless to legislate for anything that might lose votes. They have discussed it of course???

A comment about the cormorant problem: this is difficult to explain to non anglers. As an angler however, I hate to see the damn things diving down and surfacing with good fish in their huge beaks, and I think of the damage that they do with that awful beak to poor fishes that are too large for them to eat Their appearance too, is that of an evil bird. But if we are honest about this, it is a man-made problem. If we had not reduced the coastal fish stocks so drastically - to such an extent that the poor birds had to look elsewhere for sustenance, they would not be ravaging our rivers and stilIwaters.

When I was a young lad, I spent nearly all my spare time wherever there was water. By the Thames, or in it or on it, or by gravel pits and ponds. (f I was not flshing, I was swimming, or sculling, and I was always in trouble for it, as the aunt with whom I lived, considered I should spend more time at more educational pursuits). Despite the many hours spent at the waterside, I cannot remember ever seeing a cormorant in areas that are now full of the things.

When one learns that a basic food source for some birds and fish, sandeels, are netted by the ton, just for fertiliser, and fuel for power stations, one can almost have sympathy with the cormorant.

In this world of ours, that was little changed by man for thousands of years, but has been drastically changed in the last couple of hundred, at an accelerating pace, it would be easy to carry on talking of all the things that man does to affect nature, mostly detrimental, perhaps not through any fault of his own as he is just too successful as a species, but I did say at the beginning of this piece that man has a conscience. That being so, I will cry a river for the world, but there will never be a tear in my eye for the human race.