What is the purpose of an angling club?
For me there are perhaps two:
1. To encourage a greater uptake of the sport through group participation be that competition, fishing events or taster days.
2. Where the fishing requires access to private waters, to increase buying power for fishing rights by grouping together a number of anglers.
Hence a club should be able to make fishing that would otherwise be too expensive for many anglers individually more accessible to the many (and I suppose helps increase uptake of the sport)
Occasionally a club gets this thing wrong in my opinion.
I went home recently, back to the town in Wales that I grew up in, my folks still live there and I went home to spend some time with them and also I took the opportunity to explore the river on which I grew up. I haven't cast a line on this river for probably 18 years. When I say I grew up on the river, I spent almost all of my waking hours away from school on the banks of this river, fished it, fell in it (many times), climbed trees, built dens and generally just existed on it. Isn't it funny how the sorts of things we did when we were kids would today have our parents frowned upon, descended upon by social services or generally lambasted by society? That's a subject for another day perhaps.
The little river in question is relatively nutrient poor, with a head of small wild brown trout and migrant sea trout (or sewin, as they are called on this river) and a few salmon. As a kid I fished it with my Dad, he had permission to fish from the farmer that owned a couple of fields adjacent to the river, or you could buy an annual permit from him for a few quid - 5 to 15 pounds say and you would fish with worm or spinner generally, I seldom saw anybody fly fish as I grew up. You could start to fish at the tidal reaches of the river and work your way miles upstream quite happily. And the river was fished particularly after a spate when there was a good chance of a sewin.
Now the fishing rights are owned by a fishing club. The club in question is based approximately 20miles away and in addition to this stretch has over 12 miles of salmon and sewin fishing on the famous West Wales rivers of the Towy and the Teifi. Most UK game anglers will have heard of these rivers and the membership and day ticket costs are extremely reasonable to access these rivers where each year sewin well in to double figures (and occasionally approaching 20lb) are caught. But to fish 1.5miles of my little river, located well away from these other rivers, it seems a bit at odds.
And for this little bit of river I feel this club has, in my opinion, got it wrong. By acquiring (it is a recent acquisition) this fishing, different in nature to the other fishing they hold, some distance from the rest of the fishing, there is a strong possibility that in the area of this little river they are failing in purpose one. The membership and day ticket price points are correct - if you intend to fish these famous rivers - but it is completely wrong if you purely intend to fish this little river.
It would be really interesting to know how many people fished it since it fell in to angling club control compared to when it was available through local arrangement. The day I visited it felt that it had been largely ignored for a while. Overgrown and litter strewn, my little river didn't look well. I know this club does some habitat improvement and conservation work, I wonder where 1.5 miles of this little river sits on their list of work priorities.
As a rule anglers care for their environment, less anglers can mean less care and also less pairs of eyes watching the water. I found a large segment of gill net, abandoned and tangled now, but evidence that in the absence of others poachers move in.
I fished for a few hours with my Dad, the fishing was slow but it was nice to work upstream, reminiscing about previous fish caught and lost, fishing friends and old times. I think what worries me the most about the whole thing is that Dad and I talked afterwards and wondered how, if we were both 30 years younger, he would have managed to fish the way he used to and how he could have given me the sort of introduction to the sport that set me on my way. That worries me...
The first for a long, long time. The highlight of a difficult day.