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Tom Baird

The Perfect Lake

Running a fishery or club can be difficult, and anglers complaining of low catches and often blanking. Demanding the owners/committee do something to rectify this.

The typical answer is to add more stock to allow anglers to catch. Unfortunately this in most cases makes the situation worse and a very quick downward spiral.

Many fishery traits which are often the basis of poor fishing returns. Fish become stressed if the environment they are situated in, that does not support their needs for healthy growth.

Common stress factors:

  • Poor habitat
  • Lack of suitable spawning substrates
  • Inadequate natural food sources
  • Unsuitable water quality
  • Over stocking
  • Disease and parasites, often as a secondary result of other stress related issues
  • Minimal habitat for predator avoidance
  • Algae dominance

In some cases, if one or more of these elements are not in the right balance, fish will reduce feeding and consequently angler’s catches will reduce. Often the reaction is to stock greater numbers to increase catches, but this is not often effective in a water.

If we look at the stress factors above, a conclusion can be drawn as to what the underlying problems are within the lake and what approach is best to return it to a fishery which is agreeable with anglers.

As primary producers, the plant community are the basis to lake ecosystems, without which, a lake cannot support a healthy fish population. Macrophytes and algae use nutrients entering the lake such as nitrogen and phosphate, to support growth. This growth provides oxygen through photosynthesis, shelter from predators, food and habitat for zooplankton and macroinvertebrates – which in turn are essential food source for fish, bank stabilisation and spawning substrate for certain fish such as Roach. One element not relating to fish, but important to anglers is these plants help to improve the aesthetics of the lake and consequently the angler’s enjoyment. Habitat surveys are a quick and ideal assessment of the lakes ability to support a suitable ecosystem and a plan of this can be drawn up and stark comparisons made with other more diverse lakes.

The picture below shows the various zones and lake depths which plants and subsequently macroinvertebrates and fish can thrive and support healthy growth rates. The various zones will support different communities, all reliant on each other. For example, Tench, will be found in deeper water, utilising the productivity of the lake silt. However, Rudd are surface feeders and will benefit from invertebrates fallen from trees and water lily pad growth such as Nymphaea alba to provide cover for predator avoidance.

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Algae

If lack of macrophyte growth is evident, an algal dominance could potentially cause unwanted problems within the lake. Algal blooms can cause dramatic changes in the chemistry of the lake affecting parameters such as pH, dissolved oxygen, (DO) and ammonia. Without plants to buffer these chemical extremes, fish can become stressed and mortalities are regular occurrences in poorly managed still waters. Water quality sampling is the basis of good fishery management with a fishery owner being better placed to make informed decisions based on known water quality history. Sampling for pH, DO, temperature and ammonia should form the basis of any daily checks, preferably two or three times a day to understand the diurnal changes that occur following increased photosynthesis in the day and respiration of plants and algae at night.

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Predator avoidance

The presence of a variety of habitats and substrates provide fish with the necessary hiding places to avoid being eaten by predators. Like all creatures, fish will become stressed if they are unable to seek sanctuary from those further up the food chain. Within any aquatic environment fish will hide from predators under rocks, within macrophytes or in amongst tree roots to avoid being eaten. If they do not have this protection, not only will the likelihood of being eaten by piscivorous fish, birds and mammals increase, but the stress levels within the fish will be heightened, causing the fish to be easily spooked and be less likely to take an angler’s bait.

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Lack of spawning substrate

All animals have a desire to breed and foster the next generation. If conditions within a lake are not suitable for spawning, i.e. no gravels or suitable macrophytes, not only does the fishery not increase its stock but stress can also be induced. In the case of Carp,the fish can become egg bound, a condition known as dystocia. Within a stable environment the eggs will be absorbed by the females, if there are extremes in temperature or oxygen levels the eggs can build up within the ovaries leading to possible infection. In extreme cases the fish can die. (www.koi4u.co.za)

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Insufficient natural food sources

If the habitat is not there, the invertebrates will at best be sparse and species poor. Within a diverse plant and habitat community the lake will benefit from spring emergence of species such as Common Hawker and Banded Demoiselle, the lake bed will be crawling with the likes of freshwater shrimp and the larva of the marbled sedge. In lakes, one would expect to find blood wormsand water hoglouse, which are more tolerant of poorer water quality and lack of habitat.

This will have a detrimental effect on the fish as the lack of natural food and diversity will impact on fish health. In extreme cases where little or no food is available, fish within the lake rely solely on the input of anglers, which often does not contain all the necessary ingredients for a healthy diet and can be intermittent depending on angler numbers. Biological sampling using fine meshed nets is a useful tool in assessing the taxa within a lake, with the data collected helping to inform the fishery whether natural food stocks are scarce and a possible reason for poor fish weights and catches. A sample of scales from various species could be analysed to ascertain growth rates which would inform whether the fish were putting on suitable growth or whether the fish were stunted due to insufficient dietary requirements.

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Stock levels

Whilst there is no information provided as to stock levels, it is an important consideration when assessing the reasons for the faltering catch numbers. A lake overstocked with small Roach and Rudd can have a detrimental effect on Carp weights and numbers. If there are too many mouths to feed within the lake, larger non piscivorous fish may be unable to forage for sufficient food and see a reduction in the number of desirable fish. At the other end of the scale, too few fish may be present due to uncontrolled loss to predation and/or insufficient fecundity of the water. Stock assessments using, netting and/or electrofishing techniques are probably best placed to give an indication of fish numbers. Which would inform on species composition and aid direction of future management.

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Proposals

Following habitat, biological and fisheries surveys if it is found there is insufficient natural food due to the lack of habitat and uniform depth, the first course of action may be supplementary feeding. This will allow a short-term fix whilst the following measures are instigated.

Habitat creation should be the primary aim. A number of options are available which will benefit fish productivity, welfare and angler’s enjoyment.

  1. Reprofiling banks and lake bed to increase variation of depth, margins and shelving. This will allow marginal, emergent and submerged plants such as water plantain, to take hold and will provide habitat and shelter for fish and invertebrates. Depth variation is also an important factor when attempting to regulate temperature. A shallow mono-depth lake will warm up quickly over a period of dry, warm weather and in a feature less lake may provide the perfect conditions for an algal bloom.
  2. Stabilise banks using materials such as geotextiles and revegetation. These provide the support to reduce erosion whilst providing more natural habitats. Brushwood mattresses are also useful for stabilisation and can act to capture sediments entering the lake. Tree/shrub planting around the lake is also essential in reducing wind erosion and will further support bank stability. Trees also provide shade, habitat and a food source when shedding invertebrates into the lake.
  3. Add interest within the lake. This can be provided with island creation or floating islands and predator avoidance structure. This will add further diversity and interest to the lake and provide refuge for fish to aid predator avoidance.
  • Monitoring should continue to be a vital tool in fisheries management. Continued chemical, biological and habitat assessment will gauge the success of fishery management and guide further improvements.

  • Once all or some of these measures have been carried out it is essential to give the fishery time to adjust. This may take longer than anglers are prepared to wait, but the message should go out to anglers that the long-term aim of supporting a sustainable fishery far out ways a short-term fix. Following a settling period, if catches still remain low, further surveys can be carried out to ascertain stock density and at this point small scale stockings may be sensible fisheries management.

Whenever carrying out stock assessments/stocking it is essential the correct permits are in place for introductions, use of equipment other than rod and line and when supplying fish.

I hope this helps with your fishery, tight lines…….

Categories
Tom Baird

Midweek Blues

Afternoon fellow anglers, I hope you all had a great Christmas and you were happy with the fishy bits you received as presents. So, its that time between Christmas and New Year’s. The Turkey has finally run out and looking forward to a lovely joint of roast beef on New Year’s Day.

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I haven’t been fishing since last Wednesday. I know it has only been a week but it seems much longer and I was getting the itch to go. Last night we agreed it would be a family outing. But I found myself going on my own. Even though I love fishing with the kids and family, it was nice to hit the banks on my own and reflect on a busy and unusual year.

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I was in two minds whether to hit the river or go to a club lake. I thought I would check the river first to see how it was. To my surprise it was quite calm and a steady flow in a certain section. I spoke to some fellow anglers who were already battling the cold and felt it was going to be a good day.

I went up river to a nice spot and started to fish. I hit a nice pocket of Roach and pulled in 17 fish, not bad I thought. I also had a lovely Perch which was a nice treat on red maggots. What I did notice with the Roach, is that some had Black Spot. I thought it would be a good opportunity to explain what Black Spot is and how it ends up on a fish.

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Black Spot is a parasitic flatworm that appear as tiny black spots on the skin, fins and flesh of fish. There is no method of control to eliminate this problem. This organism does little harm to the fish. The main problem related with black-spot is the unsightly appearance it may cause.

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What is remarkable is the life cycle of the parasite which is quite complex. It starts when a fish-eating bird (Great Blue Heron, Kingfisher) eats an infected fish. The black spot or worms are released and grow to sexual maturity in the bird’s intestine.

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The adult worms pass eggs with the bird’s droppings. When the eggs reach water, they hatch into free-swimming organisms which then penetrate snails for further development. Finally, after leaving the snails they burrow into the skin of fish and form a cyst. The fish scales surround the cyst with black pigment that gives the disease its name. If an infected fish is consumed by a bird, the cycle starts again.

I hope you found that interesting or useful. Obviously if the fish is riddled with Black Spot, take as many pictures as possible and report it to the Environment Agency. They should then look to see how serious it is.

Until Next time, Tight Lines…….. Happy New Year…….

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Tom Baird

A change of venue

Its that time of week again when you hear what I have been up to. So, today was planned last week to fish the Chelmer. This was due to the uncertainty of lockdown two and if we were allowed fishing. I wanted to get a river session in before the worst-case scenario happened.

I left home around 06:30 and popped into Tesco to pick up some tiger bread (mmmmm), as the father-in-law was making us a bacon, sausage and egg sandwiches. I then got on the lovely A12 where there had been an accident. Now I hope everyone was ok in the RTC which was northbound and I was going south, but why do people just gawk and not move. This had delayed my fishing so wasn’t happy.

Finally got to my spot on the Chelmer and to my horror, the spots I wanted were taken (1hr 10mins driving, instead of 40 mins). The other anglers looked happy and fair play to them I hope they caught. Time for a new plan. So, called my father-in-law and agreed we should fish our club water. So, back I went another 50 mins in the direction I had just came from. The joy of the A12 lol.

I arrived at our club water, which I thought was going to be busy, as we were waiting for the news if we can fish. Not a single soul was on the lake (wow). After staring into space for a while, I chose a swim and started to set up. The father-in-law arrived and went in the next swim up.

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I knew the water would probably be best for Roach, so float with red mags it was. After a few lovely Roach I decided to fish under a tree to see if anything else was about. Bang straight into the tree and my best float came off. I could have cried; the line was in the tree but the float was heading away from me. I even tried tying spare line around my net to get it back. It was gone, floating in the middle of the lake.

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Set up again it was and after sulking to myself I was back out and catching Roach. Every now and then I would look up and see my float heading further away. It then came to lunch time and the amazing wedge of bread full of all the bad stuff mmmmm yum.

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After eating my lunch, I looked up to reminisce on my float that left me and to my amazement the wind had pushed it to another swim opposite me. What luck, I reeled in and went to retrieve my float. Absolutely made up with getting it back whoop whoop.

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As we fished into the late afternoon the fishing were coming out one after another. It then came to that time when eventually have to pack up. Was a good day, 42 in total, shame it wasn’t a match lol.

Until next time, Tight Lines……

Coming soon the Essex Anglers Species Hunt.

Categories
Tom Baird

Tom & Bailey the Fish off

Hello fellow anglers. It has come to that stage where me and fellow blogger Bailey decided to have a fish off. It had been brewing for a few weeks and a lot of banter had been dished out (mainly from Bailey) lol.

We both agreed on a venue which was Newlands Hall near Chelmsford. We wanted to fish this location as we had heard a lot of different reviews and wanted to check it out for ourselves.

Arrived at the fishery at 0730. It was heavy rain, so thank god I remembered my brolly. I got my tackle together and headed to Moat lake. Had a walk round and decided to set up in swim 30. Swim 29 was also free, but swim 30 is in a nice corner of the lake with reeds and trees over hanging. I would say a fishy spot.

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Put a small bit of ground bait out and went for the Quiver. Had loads of knocks, but my boilies weren’t working so went to the trusted corn and still nothing. At 08:45 Bailey had graced me with his presence, I still had nothing. Maybe this was karma for taking the better swim.

After Bailey had finally set up his contraption of a chair (It was like an air fix kit and I really do believe glue was used at some point), he cast out. Within minutes the boy was in. My face must have been a picture. Within the first hour he must have had 5 Carp.

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So, I did what any angler would do at a time of deprivation. I ordered food. I called the Rig (The tackle shop and Café). I had a Bacon, Sausage, Egg and Mushroom French stick with red & brown. They even deliver to your swim (Heaven). I also ordered the top shot one too, as I’m not bitter about the whole experience.   

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Come 12ish still nothing. I had even used Bailey’s ground bait, corn and the rod. But they weren’t having any of it. I was starting to get a complex about the whole thing really. Maybe Bailey had popped down during the week and netted my swim area.

So, I reeled in and went for a walk around the fishery. On the other side of Moat Lake there was a memorial match on. It was great to see all the guys and girls remembering a fellow angler in this way. Then I had a walk over to Brook Lake and people were catching there, which made me feel even better.

Eventually I braved it and returned to my swim. There he was the Cheshire cat himself. He had done well during the day and he was on the 16th catch of the day. I then decided I cannot blank. I went to my trusted float rod (Mirage John Wilson) and Rovex reel. Put a float set up on and caught 6 Roach. Still a lovely fish, but know desperate times call for desperate measures.

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In all Bailey had 20 lovely Carp all between 3 – 5lbs all common, apart from one lovely mirror. Well done Bailey. You still owe me for the food, just saying lol.

Tight Lines all….

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Tom Baird

Father-In-Law strikes again

Today I went fishing with the Father-In-Law and what a session it was. I was on the river by 05:30 sharp and not a soul to be seen. It was lovely, I love that time in the morning. Just me, the river and the nature around you.

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I had lightly baited the area with ground bait (banana & coconut) mixed with sweetcorn, hempseed and some mussel flavouring with maggots mixed in. Then a few handfuls of mixed maggots to top it off.

Again, a simple float set up, but I have found these Guru floats in my local tackle shop (Clacton Angling) which are amazing. I call them the torpedoes, but have no idea what they’re actually called. They fly through the air and hit the water with such grace. Float sizes are 14mg and 8mg which are just right for the way I fish.

I had nothing, loads of swirls all around my float and area, but nothing on the end of the line. So, the line came back in, I checked the depth and the set up and back out I went. Otter came and said hello, which was nice of them and a few kingfishers. Later my Father-In-Law showed up.

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Once he was fishing, we set about sorting out his new chair. Well it was more like putting up a tent, there were poles everywhere. Once up, he sat on it and slid off towards the water. Inside I was laughing my head off and to be honest on the outside too.

I ended up going to the car and lending him one of my spare chairs. Thank god we sorted that and that I had a spare. As most of you would probably agree Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance (the 6 P’s, always remember them).

Within ten minutes he was in, I was not impressed lol. I felt like I did all the donkey work and he had just swooped into my fish. (Love you really Stan). He had a lovely Gudgeon and then a Roach. The irony is that I set his rod up for him too.

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So, for five hours my amazing Father-In-Law was catching and I had nothing, not a peep. Come 10:15 I was thinking of packing up, as the rain started to come. The cloud was just over me lol. 11:20 came and I was in, thank god for that a Roach. Nothing amazing, but not a blank and then another. Then a golden beauty. Was loving life again.

We had four different species today, which was great to see. So, Gudgeon, Roach, Rudd and Chub. What a morning session. Now getting ready for my next trip on Saturday with the Essex Anglers team, so watch this space. It will be a test of skills and I think my fellow blogger Bailey and I have a little match going on too.

Make sure you check out Tackle Box above, Tight Lines………

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Tom Baird

Fishing the Stour

So, it was an early start today. Was fishing by 05:45 and made the rookie mistake of setting up my rod once I was at my swim. Still a bit dark at that time and took me a bit longer to thread the line through the eyes lol (getting old).

I was in the Colchester area and found a lovely mill pool, it was just the right spot. I used a basic float set up. So, stopper on first followed by my choice of float, a shot either side of the float and then a size 12 hook at the depth I needed and three maggots on the hook and I was out. The mill pool was teaming with life. So much fry around, which was great to see.

The first fish of the day was a tiger (Perch), as I was told it was fin perfect. Such a great fish to start the session off with. Then came some Roach nice sizes too. Then as I was taking a picture of the Roach, out the corner of my eye I felt someone or something watching me. As I turned, I could not believe it. Three otters just staring at me and me at them.

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Now I know there are lots of mixed feelings about this creature and don’t get me wrong I agree with some, but it was amazing to see the two cubs and the mother together. They went in the water and swam to the other side of the pool.

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Now obviously it was nice to see, but it had now messed up my fishing. I was in two minds whether to pack up or hang it out. So, I hung it out and I was glad I did. Whilst waiting for the fish to return, I watched a Kingfisher in the tree next to me and sorted out my tackle box.

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After about an hour they returned, had some more Roach, Perch and a lovely Gudgeon which is my first in Essex. Very happy with that. It was only a short day today and was back home by 11:30. Unpacked my gear and cleaned my net etc. Until next time fellow anglers. Tight Lines.

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Tom Baird

Fishing the Broads

So, last week I was on holiday on the family boat which is moored at Brundall on the River Yare. We are very lucky to have a family boat on the Broads and in a lovely spot. I’m also lucky to have a tolerant wife who allows me to fish every day whilst on holiday. Obviously after family days out etc.

We arrived last Sunday and after unpacking and while the kids were being showered, I had a quick go as the tide was in, so it was nice and deep. Had one Roach which was a good sign of things to come. Then I had to go in like a little school boy to have my shower and bunk down for the night.

On the Monday we went to Mundsley just before Cromer. A lovely beach and miles of golden sand. Well the tide was in and people were sitting on the pathways etc, so we went to a local forest and spent a few hours there. On the way back we popped into Wroxham to pick up some mags. Once back at the boat we were fishing. We had around 10 Roach up to 1lb.

Tuesday, we went into Norwich as the rain was heavy, so we had a game of bowling which was great fun and I even got a strike. Once back at the boat the sun was out and fishing was back on. Whilst sitting there my wife genuinely got excited over fish and pointed under the boat. Wow there were 4 massive Chub just sitting there. I tried everything, mags, bread, sweetcorn and worms. I could see them just look at the lot and turn there nose up at it. Yes, I was very stealthy, but nothing worked. Nice to watch though and the other boat owners must of thought what the hell is that man doing hiding and sneakily looking over the stern of the boat.

Wednesday we were off to the Miniature museum in Wroxham and then met up with an old friend in Potter Heigham. Once fishing again, Harry struck into a nice Roach, as he was brining it in a Pike took advantage of the situation and decided it was his dinner time. So, we nearly had a Roach and a Pike but the Roach came off and the Pike won this time.

Thursday, I did try fishing, but the wind was really bad. Strong gales kept blowing the line into the weeds and I wasn’t in the mood to muck around with tangled line all afternoon. So, the rods came in and we watched a film instead.

Friday we were back on it, after a gruelling trip around Norwich which was quite funny in the end. My wife wanted to try this murder mystery trail, where you download the clues and you have to find who committed the crime. Well after she jumped from clue 5 to clue 11 without realising lol, we called it a day. We had another 13 Roach and 1 Perch which was nice.

Saturday was pouring down all day again, so we went to the Sea Life Centre and looked at fish instead. Showed the Kids some beautiful Mullet, Bass, Dogs and smooth Hounds. Then it came to the Black Tip Sharks and the Turtle in the main area. Sophie and Harry were in awe with it all. Then we met up with my friend and Fishing legend Nick Beardmore and his lovely partner Belle. We had a laugh and a good catch up. Now back at home I wish I was still on the boat trying for them big Chub, but that will be the next fishing trip. 

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Tom Baird

Back on the River

On Saturday I attempted the River Chelmer again near Baddow Road. It’s a nice part of the river and this time my friend Jeff asked if he could bring his god son along to have ago at fishing for the first time. I was in two minds about going Saturday, as I knew the weather wasn’t going to be great and also didn’t want to put any stress on the fish, due to temperature change etc.

But I hand the bug to go fishing, so met Jeff and Josh at 08:00 sharp in the car park and set up the poles for the kids and got them fishing straight away. Well this was Josh’s first-time fishing ever, so wanted him to catch. Also wanted Harry to catch, as he loves this stretch.

Within 5 minutes, Josh was in with a Roach. What a great way to start fishing and catching most people’s first ever fish. Josh was so happy and was loving every second of it. Once Josh was back out fishing again, I set up a float rod for Jeff, as he hasn’t been fresh water fishing for years (now a sea angler).

Whilst I was sorting out my tackle box, as it was all quiet on the western front, Harry caught a lovely roach too. Thank god he wasn’t going to blank; I would have had a 7-year-old turning into teenager mode lol. With that I heard a splash coming from Jeff and Joshes direction. I could see they had caught a Tench, wow what a second fish to ever catch.

As they were bringing it in to the net, you guested it, it came off. The poor look on Josh’s face, he was excited and so sad at the same time. I was even a bit down about it and Harry was too. We explained that the one that gets away, will now be on your list to catch next time. Lesson learnt and back on with the fishing.

The rest of the day went very slowly and could see the kids were getting bored. Then the heavens opened up and any of you fellow anglers who were fishing around the Chelmsford area on Saturday know that it poured down. That’s when we decided to pack up and call it a day.

Josh and Harry were still happy with their catches, and me and Jeff, well we were just wet. Until next time guys. Have a safe one and tight lines.

Categories
Bailey Payne

Under the Chelmer

On the weekends I have been out doing some kayaking down some parts of the Chelmer (Sorry to those Fishing!), I thought I couldn’t have this opportunity without trying to look at some of the Fish, I spent a lot of my time just drifting along looking down in the River trying to spot some Fish, seeing many shoals of Roach along the way, some of a nice size!

Well, I decided to stick in my underwater camera and see what footage I could get of these Fish underwater, and see If I could see anything else lurking in the depths of the Chelmer!

Well, this first video I managed to find a big shoal of small roach and watched them for a while. I found it amazing how they weren’t scared of the kayak or camera at all, and I found it fascinating watching these Fish behave, in-fact I think they used the Kayak as a form of cover and protection.

This next video, the shoal I found wasn’t as big, however I think the Roach looked bigger than the previous shoal, and through the murky water you can see some of the Roach dart around, I think these bigger ones seemed a bit more timid in front of the camera and it was hard to keep the focus on them.

Looking back at this footage, I was really happy I was able to actually get some footage of the Roach in the Chelmer and it is a really positive sign to see so many young Roach and I’m sure there was a few other species mixed in too.