Chalk Stream Talk

I’m glad that my piece on stocked trout yesterday raised an eyebrow or two. In many ways, as was hinted at, this is a far deeper subject than it might appear at face value.

Perhaps the bottom line is that less is more, that a wild trout of two pounds is worth a stocked fish double, treble, even quadruple that weight? Most of us will see the truth in this: the question is how to convince those who do not REALLY “get” fishing in all its aspects. I’m not being elitist here. Those of us who have fished from childhood will see angling very differently from those who have come to it in later life and/or only fish a handful of times a year. Expectations and appreciations alter as life and experience work their magic – one hopes.

The photograph shows me in thrall to the river Glaven, a tiny chalk river in North Norfolk. I was all but raised in its lovely valley, and have seen it go through endless ups and downs. It is now wonderfully looked after by the Combe family, and is a model of river management. The wild brown population is healthy but fragile, and the slightest whiff of pollution is a major set-back here.

In a parallel universe, it would be wonderful if deeply sensitive anglers could flock here to enjoy the wildlife, the scenery, and the challenge of fishing for eight ounce trout in an eight foot wide river. In the real world, will we ever educate the fact that eight ounces of wildness is superior to eight pounds of artificiality… if in fact it is? What about footfall on such a vulnerable habitat? How long before orchids are crushed and banks become eroded? And what about these delicate fish themselves? Even with catch and release, how long before their numbers and condition collapse?

I wish we had answers to Putin, Covid, inflation, stocked trout, and every question that vexes us. What a world that would be.

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