Anglers must be wary of plastic nightmare

We're all aware of the appalling amount of plastic that pollutes our planet, not least of all in the seas.

Even I was shocked recently to watch a film of a turtle sucking in a plastic bag, floating somewhere in the tropics, believing it to be a jellyfish. The consequences are just too horrific to consider.

But we don't have to look this far afield to witness the plastic tragedy of our age. Just last week I was out with Paul on two rivers, stalking chub and, latterly, roach. The day was quite glorious and the river low and clear enough for us to espy the mean, lean, dark shapes of the chub we so wanted. One snaffled two lobs within seconds of them hitting the surface to our combined whoops of joy.

The day wasn't always glorious. Paul, bless him, made a point, and made me ashamed, of picking up every single discarded bottle he came across. They were uniformly plastic, had evidently been used once and then tossed away with casual disregard. Whether they'd been thrown onto the land or into the water matters not, it was on the riverbank that they ended up.

Would you believe that around about the five or six miles he walked that day, Paul unearthed getting on for a 110 plastic bottles. My boot space was half filled with them by the time we'd finished and I'd taken them to the nearest refuse recycling site. Paul had taught me a lesson that I personally am not going to forget. It's the old adage, isn't it? If there's any litter in your swim, yours or not, you pick it up regardless. Blessed as we are here in East Anglia, I guess it's the least any of us can do to maintain the integrity of our banksides.

The Falls at Swanton Morley, have tended to see a lot of me through the summer as I've passed this way and that, up and down the River Wensum.

The fine weather has encouraged endless trippers to enjoy the pretty scenery there. There's been swimming, fishing, barbecues, boating, and just about everything frolicsome that you can imagine. And, day after day, there have been mountains of rubbish left after the merriment has ceased.

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Who are these people? They're evidently strong enough to bring their plastic bags and plastic bottles full with food and drink as the day begins but they are clearly too exhausted to take their litter home again once empty. How can people enjoy the countryside on the one hand and degrade it on the other? Don't the police or the Environment Agency have any powers to remedy such a disgrace? Or are they simply too cash strapped and too thinly spread to worry about a crime committed to the environment alone? Perhaps it's more that a percentage of the population have abandoned standards altogether.

Thank goodness anglers haven't. I attended the Brackley and District Angling Club Open Day the weekend just gone. What a beautiful water they have there, at the very core of the town.

I was there six hours and didn't see a scrap of litter, a hint of graffiti or hear a word of bad language. The anglers were absolutely exemplary in their behaviour and members of the general public followed suit. It was as different to Swanton Morley Falls as it is possible to imagine. Well done Brackley for setting a tone everyone would do well to follow.

I'll end with a story, plastic themed, which still irritates me. For 20 years or more, I have fished the River Cauvery in Southern India. The jungle areas I used to fish are generally fairly plastic-free, apart from bottles washed down in the monsoons. You've only got to stray out of the protected areas, however, to enter a plastic bottle nightmare. The village of Sangam just downstream of us often drowns in the things. Five or six years ago, a plastic bottle magnate, who I knew well, came to fish the camp. This guy makes the vast majority of plastic bottles swigged from throughout Asia and for that reason knew he had something on his conscience.

Over a week or so, my friend and I theorized over the possibility of leasing 40 miles of river and setting up three camps that would employ well over 200 people and protect hundreds of square miles of jungle. This would have been a massive step forward not just for the fish, for the fishing, for the river but for conservation projects worldwide. Our plan was to make the scheme a model for similar projects on every continent.

I loved this concept of a man who had made his fortune out of a massive pollutant putting a fraction of that wealth into saving the planet he, unconsciously, had sullied.

It was all down to the finances in the end. My pal's business partner revealed to me privately that at that time, his after tax take home pay was around six million pounds. A day! The project was priced out at around five hundred thousand pounds to set up and then breaking even thereafter. Finally, it was rejected on cost issues alone.

The parsimony of that man bewilders me to this day. I realized that he was earning in a toilet break what I would take home in a lifetime. In my view, his crime is even worse than those of the Swanton litterers. What does plastic NOT have to answer for!