Anglers glad to be able to get back to the banks

The River Rother at Fittleworth
The River Rother at Fittleworth

The glorious June 16 has come and gone - when the close season on our country’s rivers comes to an end.

Spawning takes place during the close season and this year it’s running a little late. Visits to the river show quite a lot of young fish and anglers are hoping they survive to increase fish stocks on the Arun and Rother.

By far the biggest threat to fisheries are the ever-growing presence of cormorants. They need to feed to survive and anglers always target them as the number-one enemy - they tend to eat medium-size freshwater fish, and the tiddlers are left alone.

The lack of inshore sea fish because of overfishing a few years ago means the cormorants have come inland to such an extent they pose a big problem throughout the country.

With sea stocks gradually improving, it was hoped they would return to harbours and estuaries but having now established themselves and multiplied in considerable numbers they seem to have established a healthy liking for freshwater fish.

More than 70,000 reported sightings in the past year is the tip of the iceberg and apart from eating the fish they inflict injuries to those too large to eat, leaving the fish vulnerable to disease and death.

The rainfall, cursed by most this spring, is a blessing and is urgently needed to swell the rivers.

The Arun is a challenging tidal river upstream to just beyond Pulborough - it has a good head of most varieties of freshwater fish, and is renowned for its bream: catch one and more will follow.

The Arun has some good roach, a lot more than the Rother, where roach stocks have been in decline for some years.

There are some very big carp in the Arun. On a summer’s day, you can often spot them riding the surface. These big fish take some catching.

Likewise, barbel are now being caught and are growing in size as well as in numbers. The club have a good stretch of the Arun at Watersfield. If you seek calmer waters, visit Stopham Bridge where upstream there are roach, dace, bream and more large carp as well as trout.

Petworth & Bognor Angling Club allow fly fishing on this interesting and varied stretch - it’s quite a new water for them and catch reports would be welcome.

The lovely narrow and winding western Rother is one of the most delightful places to go fishing. Just about every popular species of fish can be found provided you do your homework - ask the regulars who have got to know the river well, and while they won’t tell you the exact swim they fish, they will give you some good advice and bait tips.

During the summer, float fishing will give a lot of fun. Try trotting maggot and bread to entice the river’s chub and dace.

The feeder method close under bankside shrubs will normally catch fish, but you have to find the fish first and fishing an open stretch devoid of trees and bank cover will rarely be successful, so pick your swims carefully and entice the fish with a steady, but constant amount of light offerings - there is little need for heavy ground baiting.

Work will commence this summer at Shopham Bridge near Petworth to build the long awaited riffle, a man-made boulder and gravel river-bed enhancement designed to increase the river’s flow, which allows more oxygen to the water, but also provides shallow spawning areas at the tail end.

In addition, fish refuge and spawning areas will be added both upstream and downstream.

The fish stocks have declined over the years in the lower Rother for a variety of reasons and sadly the loss of so many trees have deprived the fish of cover and hot summer sun has destroyed the natural food chain found on the water basin weeds and plants.

The Arun & Rother Rivers Trust in co-operation with the Environment Agency, the Wild Trout Trust, landowners and farmers are just waiting the final green light before commencing this valuable and necessary undertaking. The fishing club will provide help and volunteers to plant new trees once the work is completed.

Petworth and Bognor Angling Club - see - look forward to a good season as do anglers throughout the area.

They welcome youngsters - dads who take their children for a day’s fishing sow the seeds for a lifelong passion that anglers need to nurture and encourage for future generations.


Bognor Amateur Angling Society held a club boat match.

Results: 1 C Watts 24lb 12oz (18lb 12oz of bream, dog, pout); 2 S Cockaday 17lb 15oz (11lb 7oz of bream, dog, pout); 3 M Barton 16lb (12lb 10oz of skate, dog, pout). Heaviest fish: S Grove, skate 9lb 2oz. 14 people fished, ten weighed in. Total agg weight: 132lb 2oz.