Freshwater fish can he divided into two groups for angling purposes: the game fish such as salmon and trout, which are usually fished for using artificial flies or lures, and the coarse fish which are normally caught on edible baits. The term coarse has never been satisfactorily explained, since these species are neither ‘coarse’ (apart from their eating qualities, and even then it does not apply to all of them), nor are they found in poor, unattractive ‘coarse’ waters. Most of the popular coarse fish are members of the large carp family, known as the cyprinids, and range from the true carp, which can grow very large indeed, to small fish such as the gudgeon and bleak. Other coarse species valued by the angler are the predatory fish such as the pike, perch and zander.
Most waters other than those polluted by industrial effluent are able to hold a head of fish, fast mountain streams and chalkstreams being the haunt of the game fish while the slower lowland rivers are occupied mainly by the coarse species. Inevitably there are many waters where both kinds of fish can be found – chub and trout, for example, often compete for food in the same river.
Naturally the newcomer to angling will ask ‘Where can I go to fish?’ The answer to this depends very much on where he lives. Many countrymen know their local rivers and lakes, and the fish they contain. but the town-dweller may find the search for fishable water more difficult. In such cases he is advised to seek out his local angling club -there certainly will be one – where he will find advice both on the local fishing regulations and on how to get to the best fishable water.
The angler has to take account of the law. All water which is not tidal is owned by someone, and there are water authorities which control it. These bodies are empowered to issue rod licences, and it is essential to obtain one of these before fishing. Some waters are ‘free’ in that permission is not needed to fish them, but never assume that this is the case. A water authority rod licence does not give the holder permission to fish, and a separate permit is usually required. The local tackle dealers may sell water authority licences for the area, and sometimes for adjoining areas: they will also advise on where to get permits for local waters.
The general close season for coarse fishing in Britain is March 15 to June 15 inclusive, but in some areas the season opens on June 1. In other areas there is no close season; fishing is allowed all the year round.
Today’s fishing tackle is universal, and the holidaying angler can pack his gear when going abroad, but he should check on licences and permission, asking at travel agencies for brochures carrying this information. Some memorable angling holidays can be enjoyed abroad, fishing both for familiar species and exciting new species.
There is an unwritten code of conduct for anglers. Apart from respecting the general provisions of the Country Code, all anglers should take particular care to carry away their rubbish with them, and not leave it on the banks. Cattle have been choked to death as a result of eating plastic bags, and have badly cut their mouths on the rusty jagged edges of discarded cans. Some associations prohibit glass bottles on fisheries. broken glass being a clear danger to all. Nylon line should always be taken home and burnt, for many birds have died after trapping their legs on a loop of nylon or swallowing a short section.
Lead shot is now banned on some fisheries, because it has been held responsible for the death of swans which have swallowed it. If you use lead, always remember that it is a poison, and treat it accordingly. Take care never to spill it, and keep it in the non-spillable containers which are sold for the purpose. Better still, use the non-toxic lead substitutes which are now available from good tackle dealers.