Anglers put Rother’s water to the test

An angler on the Rother
An angler on the Rother
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One thing leads to another. Knowing a river and where to fish is something only a regular angler learns the hard way, writes Roger Poole of Petworth and Bognor Angling Club.

During one of my visits to the Rother, downstream from Fittleworth Bridge, I met a couple of new members. The sun was high in the sky and they were fishing an open stretch devoid of bank side trees and cover which made casting easy and meant they could sit out in the sun and hopefully catch a few fish – sadly that was not to be, at least from where they were perched on the bank.

We gathered a group of volunteers, including anglers, and following a detailed presentation we set off to a couple of spots on the river to do some hands-on water testing.

I suggested they should consider moving where there were trees and shrub. “Why?” they asked. Well, apart from the fact fish like cover from overhead sun as well as predators there are probably no weeds at the bottom of the river when the water level is low during the summer months.

The hot sun coupled with a sluggish flow means it’s unlikely there’s any bugs, shrimps and larvae, which is what fish feed on. On my way back they had both caught a few fish. Yes there’s certainly weed on the bottom, they told me, so all was well – but it got me thinking.

What is down there? We ought to find out.

Although I do a bit of fly-fishing I mostly target coarse fish. Floats and tackle using bread, worms and other bait are my choice for the Rother so knowing the health of the river’s basin inhabitants seems a good thing to do.

The Salmon & Trout Association established in 2004 what is now known as The Riverfly Partnership – originally this was designed mainly for chalk streams where mayfly populations and caddisflies were in decline.

We are fortunate to have The Arun & Rother Rivers Trust (ARRT) so it was agreed to launch the Rother Riverfly Monitoring Scheme, now one of a network of 100-plus partner organisations, not just for anglers but for everyone involved in the protection and care of our rivers.

The aim is to train volunteers to monitor the water quality by logging on a regular basis from designated sites the pollution sensitive invertebrates. If numbers and varieties suddenly decline, it could indicate pollution. This biological data is monitored by the Environment Agency.

We gathered a group of volunteers, including anglers, and following a detailed presentation we set off to a couple of spots on the river to do some hands-on water testing.

This entailed disturbing the shallows, which swept a variety of bugs into fine mesh nets. These were emptied into shallow dishes, where an amazing variety were identified and logged.

Afterwards everyone was very enthusiastic and prepared to be part of a network of volunteers that will eventually cover the whole length of the river, so a further event is planned for the spring of next year.

All this costs money and it’s the generosity of one of our partners, the Arun & Rother Connections, with support from landowners, the South Downs National Park and the Riverfly Parnership that meant we could launch this very valuable scheme.

This could be the start of something where the community can get involved and if anyone reading this would like to learn more, the Riverfly Partnerships website is www.riverflies.org and should you be interested in becoming a volunteer you can email info@arrt.co.uk or see www.arrt.org.uk

So, as I said, one thing leads to another.

ROGER POOLE

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