Thursday 30 March 2017

Roach Releases 2017

There’s no denying it; some years are better than others and despite living this project every minute of every day for the past decade, we still haven’t been able to hit on all the reasons for the fluctuations in our (their) annual fortunes.

This year has been an ‘average’ year for us; though you might disagree when you see the pictures below.

It might be something to do with the winter and spring leading up to spawning of that year and the general health of the spawners at the time maybe….. We could go on about food availability, temperature and a multitude of other contributory factors that followed, but we can already see your eyelids drooping…

Another aspect of living this project is that we are slightly spoilt by our own success, yet extremely self-critical and see the fluctuations as something we might better control – if we were clever enough, or paid more attention – just kidding!

We know that one of our main enemies is our own inflated expectation each year. We always look to improve, but seem to have found our optimum level of success which includes this natural fluctuation and which we have no option but to accept and embrace; or just fret and worry ourselves sick over…. Been there – done that!

We know we hold all the aces, but maybe we are searching for the fifth in the pack that really doesn’t exist – we’ll just keep trying… and searching…

The bottom line is, even an average year for us is a good year for the river in terms of what we give back from what we take.

We do almost the same thing each year, with only very slight adaptations triggered by the demands of the fish, feeding patterns, growth rates and differences, homework, parent evenings; and the continued honing of the greatest asset we were told we would acquire when we started all this… ‘fish-farmers eye’ a kind of sixth sense where we’d recognise potential problems and possible advantages simply perhaps through the smell or look of the water, the changing behaviour of the fish…. Your eyelids are drooping again; so, I’ll stop there. Anyway, we think we have finally acquired this sixth sense, and all this ‘fish-farmers eye’ lark really is indeed one of the greatest assets we have…. And thankfully all fuelled by lots of talk, tea, cake and pies.

What a pair of saddo’s we are…

So, enough of this self-deprecation, and back to the plot… This year we made five deposits of roach; some to the main river and some into protected side streams. Two deposits were made to areas we collect spawn from each year so will help bolster the local population which helps us continue to achieve the success we are seeing signs of throughout the river.

Once again, the EA guys were with us all the way and helped with the netting of the stews and transportation of the fish with all their pumps and pipes and tanks and oxygen and expertise and generosity and willingness to help.

And, at each drop site we were reminded of the fantastic support we have across the board with land owners, river keepers, managers and angling club officials coming along to help and see the fish released.

We are also continuing to get increasing numbers of reports of multiple catches of roach from throughout the river with many up to a dozen fish in a session, with folks telling us how they are once again enjoying their roach fishing on the Avon – who’d have thought eh?

We love it!

It is important to note that the catches are a barometer of our success and not necessarily the reason we do it. It is about wildlife diversity and the reinstatement of an iconic species into an iconic river so they can once again, in partnership or individually, enrich the lives of future generations as they have those of the past.

The rest of the story is told through the captions to the pictures below.

Once again, thank YOU all for your continued support and encouragement.

We are now just getting ready for the spawning board placement in the river, so off we go again…
The first run of the net on the first day in the first stew - Breath held, atmosphere crackling, anticipation off the scale... Jim Allan of the EA was in the middle, on lead-line duty, reassuring us all while, ever-dependable, Dickie and Martin Howell were either side on the float-lines, with Budgie looking on nervously.
When this little lot is revealed, the sighs of relief could inflate a Zeppelin...
Now we really start to enjoy it, especially knowing  that within a few hours all these Avon Roach will be back where they belong, in the river of dreams...
Roach, Roach, Roach and more Roach - Oh, and some huge Gudgeon...
We scoop the roach up and deposit them in barrels while we run the net round again. We use three at a time and if the stew needs third run-round, we get the fish back to the truck and into the oxygenated transportation tank. This is one of many barrels we filled with Avon Roach this time.
We always have a self-indulgent rummage and get some pictures for you guys.
The first cuddle of two of this years' sparklers...
When we first met, this was just a dot on a piece of netting nailed to a plank. It is now an absolute masterpiece.
And the more dots we turn into masterpieces the greater the sense of achievement and satisfaction; and it's by doing what we do that enables us to truly appreciate just how amazing these creatures really are.
Back at the truck, the roach are poured into the transportation tank to be taken to the chosen release site for that day.
Once at the release site they are decanted back into the barrels for yomping to the river.
We scoop a net or two for pictures for the interweb... Trev could make the effort to look a bit happier though. Don't you agree?
We have to get a few roachy close-ups too. After all, it's not often that anyone comes this close to this many Avon Roach in one go. We are very privileged.
We enjoy every second of this, as the fish behave just how we'd hoped they would - even in the dream we had all those years ago. They are fairly 'high' on oxygen and just go bombing off like they know where they are and know where they are going. It's fantastic to see.
The fish are fine so we take the opportunity to get plenty of pictures.
Trev has one last cuddle as he lowers yet another sparkler into the river and freedom for the camera.
The barrels are then emptied directly into the river.
And we are reminded of just how well we have done - not bad for an 'average' year...
No words needed, really. What a shot... Avon Roach Project business doesn't get any better than this for us.
Some of our Avon Roach back where they belong...
A special moment for a special person. Peter, our good friend and project supporter, lowers a net of roach into the river not twenty yards from where the classic catch of ten two pounders was filmed for 'A Passion for Angling' all those years ago. Let's hope that kind of history can one day repeat itself.
Three very happy and relieved boys at the end of another year of roach releases. Jim Allan (left), Budgie (centre) and Trev (right) with the kind of satisfied smiles that last for days.
An increasingly common sight; an Avon Roach taken a few weeks earlier by a friend of ours on trotted breadflake... Nice eh?