Poaching – conjures up images of wily old men, clever as a foxes and twice as cunning. Bedecked in a long but well worn Barbour, inside pockets nicely flushed out with a brace (or two) of Pheasants/Rabbits/Hares, only taking what they need to put a square meal on the family table back at the little cottage in the forest.
Hold that romantic thought for a moment…
Ok let it go. No don’t let it go, obliterate it from your mind altogether. The poachers I bumped into on the Derwent last week are about as far from that image as you can get.
Kitted out with baseball caps perched on the tops of their heads, baggy track suit bottoms and jumpers. They had what can only be described as beach caster rods with reels that’d pull the next Royal Navy aircraft carrier (when ever that arrives) from dry dock. Attached to the end of what looked to be at least 10lb line was a tiny Mepps spinner.
To top it all off, and to help keep them going whilst trying to out whit both trout and bailiffs alike, they had a carrier bag full of extra strong and extra cheap lager.
Now, always one to give my fellow man the benefit of the doubt, when I came across these two young men I started out with the standard fisherman’s greeting of “Have you had much luck?” the answer I got back was once again part of the usual fisherman’s conversational dance “not really, just started though”.
So, not wishing to hang about I cut to the chase “you do know this is a fly only river don’t you?” said I whilst nodding in the direction of their rods, rods capable of casting an 8oz weight 150 yards into the sea.
“yes, and to fish you’ve got to be members of the Angling Club”
“Yes, are you?”
“We’ve got licences, so yes”
At this point the tone started to get a little more awkward and I could see it only heading one way. Then, to my surprise the quiet one of the two piped up.
“You had much today then?”
“Not really, couple of small ones further upstream, only this big though” holding my two index fingers about 8” inches apart (again, to conform to the usual fisherman’s standards this was around 2” longer than the actual fish I caught).
“Is that it? We thought there were salmon and big trout in here”
Ah ha! My first thought was that they really do have some of that romantic poacher in them – they are looking to put a meal on the table by catching something of a decent size to take home.
My second thought was play on the obvious disappointment and drive home the point about the fish size.
“Oh yes” says I, “and those are quite big for here, if you catch a half pound fish you’ve done exceptionally well, I don’t think most of the fish here would fit the spinner you’ve got in their mouths”.
“Really?” an exchange of looks between the two modern day ‘Danny, the champion of the worlds’ candidates suggested they weren’t as keen to carry on fishing as they had been.
At this point I decided to leave. I made one more point about the fly only and club membership issues, but could see neither were likely to take any notice but looked more than happy to turn things a little nasty.
However, it does make me wonder if a sign at the entrance to the river saying something along the lines of “Derwent AAC members only, Fly fishing only for very-small-wouldn’t feed-your-family-never-mind-swallow-a-spinner-tiny-hard-to-catch brown trout” would help to put off those who haven’t got the same level of patience as us who are happy to spend an evening by the river watching nature do it’s thing whilst (if we’re lucky) catching a few of the best looking, fin perfect, maybe a little on the small size, brown trout around these parts.
In a season of fishing it’s the first time I’ve come across people spinning for our trout.
I can’t say that I’ve seen any Angling Club with fly only water as cheap as the Derwent to become a member of. I’ve certainly not know one as well run, by people who genuinely want the best for the river it’s inhabitants and the nature around it. Lads, why not confine the beach casters to the beach and do the job properly, with a club membership and a fly rod?
(Image from the front cover of “Danny, the champion of the world” by Roald Dahl)