Saturday, 12 October 2019

Tenth and Final Annual Fundraiser doo...

All I can say is… ‘WOW! What a doo…’
Our tenth and final annual fundraiser was held on the 5th October and was attended by a record seventy seven guests. Our minds were well and truly blown, and for all the right reasons.
As we mingled and welcomed folks on the evening, we were overwhelmed by an amazing sense of fulfilment as we discovered that many of those who had fished the friendly match throughout the day had actually caught roach from the Avon; the biggest being a whopper of three pounds three ounces. There were also five two pounders taken and loads of pounders plus a million others of all sizes, meaning all kinds of ages from throughout the widely spaced stretches we fished.
It was wonderfully satisfying and quite emotional to be able to deliver my after-dinner update and talk about an Avon full of roach and reflect on where it all started – with Budgie and me, elbows on knees, on a muddy riverbank asking ourselves ‘what can we do?’... as we pondered the fish stock survey showing roach numbers below critical mass and unable to recover unassisted… Then hatching our initial plans to try to grow some roach in a bathtub.
Now we are seeing the river in the best state in terms of its roach for a generation and perhaps on its way back to the ‘glory days’ we all thought had gone forever.
Perhaps the most encouraging signs for us, and indeed the river, are the roach that are showing that are too young to be ours and even more significant is that roach have shown in the fry sampling surveys, proving that what we started is being carried on naturally, which was the whole idea of the project.
The recovery has been steady over the years and enhanced by a few low-flow weedy summers and calm winters; plenty for us anglers to bitch about, but perfect for our roach.
We have achieved a level of success far exceeding our wildest dreams, with healthy roach population densities now throughout the river once again. Larval drift, displacement and natural migration will ensure that even the areas between our deposits we haven’t had access to will benefit from our efforts, albeit slightly more slowly.
We have another two years of roach in the system which will be stocked next March and the March after as they approach their third birthday (and there are thousands of ‘em), and we’ll continue improving the habitat and maintain some of what we have already created.
The evening meal and auction were just as special as the fishing with proper boys grub of steak pie and roast potatoes and an auction table creaking with wonderful lots donated by wonderful folks.
Although this was the last fundraiser gathering, we have provisionally booked the hotel for the same Saturday next year for the Avon Roach Project book launch, the first rough draft of which is almost complete and just needs a winter of fine tuning and honing – probably to secondary school standard - before we commit to paper.
Wish us luck…
Words cannot describe the level of emotion Budgie and I felt on the day and we’d like to thank everyone who attended, and everyone who simply just support our efforts… You are awesome!

A very happy, and surprised, Paul Gurton with his magnificent three pound three ounce match winning roach.
One of an additional five two pounders caught on the day; here with his pristine two pound six ounce beauty is Ewout Smeerdijk – If we think Cornwall or London is a long way to come to support the project, Ewout and his mate Rob come all the way from the Netherlands – their fifth time. I even grizzle about how far it is from Ringwood…
 

A relatively modest pound plusser for Frank Segrave-Daly. One of a multiple catch for Frank and one of many pounders taken on the day.

There was an uncountable number of roach of all sizes caught on the day; a far cry from the early days of the fundraiser where for the first few years roach never featured at all in anglers catches… Oh, how times have changed…

One of the most satisfying facts is that roach were caught from all the venues we fished for the match with this roach taken from the same river but in the next county, miles upstream.

The auction table creaking under the weight of the amazing lots donated by amazing folks… Yes – for an amazing project.

The guests start to arrive and the awesome atmosphere warms up.

One section of the dining room and all eagerly thumbing through the lots list and pondering the depth of pockets.

Us two nervous boys on the left of the top table creaking under the weight of the roast potatoes. The food really was off the scale.

A reminder that although some of the ‘big girls’ put in an appearance in the fishing match, they are also regulars at the spawning boards each year.

Reward for our effort and enabled by the fundraiser, these little one year olds will see their freedom in two years time. If only they knew how much effort we’d invested… Nothing, I guess, compared with the battle they’ll have ahead of them.

A year older, these are just a handful of the thousands of healthy Avon Roach due for release next March.

Hard to imagine that a pair of simple boys like us two would have such an impact on such an iconic fish species in such an iconic river… At the dinner table on the evening, as we stuffed our faces with pie, we pondered some of the more challenging moments, like the time the warmest thing for miles around was the 100w lightbulb illuminating my garage as we filled sections of scaffold bar with cement to sink the spawning boards in the faster sections of river… Oh boy, are you gonna be hearing us bitching about all those moments in the book… Brace yourselves…









 

 
 
 

 

 

 

 

 
 

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