Christmas to come early on Wensum

Local anglers can prepare for a surprise Christmas gift from the Environment Agency (EA).

The popular Steve Lane in charge of the EA's public fishery bank renovation on our rivers has announced one of the most prolific stretches of the non-tidal River Wensum above Norwich is to be given a face-lift.

'This project has been part of our plans to improve and release more coarse fishing access on our rivers and we are due to start this week,' he said, outlining the plan to Norwich and District Anglers' consultant Tony Gibbons.

The work is a joint effort between the EA and Norwich City Council between the Harford roundabout on the bypass to Wensum Park on one bank and Mile Cross to Sweetbriar Road on the other. Fallen trees currently blocking the water course will be removed, fishing stages will be renovated and made safe to the point where this fine fishing for roach, bream, tench, carp, chub and pike can be fully exploited by pleasure and club match anglers alike – with sufficient space for all-comers in possession of a rod licence with no further charge.

'Anglers have long established rights to fish along these banks,' explained Gibbons. 'This is just another example of how Steve Lane and his men are conscious of anglers' needs on the free waters. City fisher folk can look forward to some great sport on this natural waterway well within walking or cycling distance of their homes.'

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One angler who was delighted with this news was David Harmer, of Woodcock Road, Norwich, who in a letter complaining about the river condition, said: 'The River Wensum through Norwich has become what I would describe as a tip. One of my favourite venues was off Swanton Road adjacent to the recycling plant. Now it has become impenetrable with rotting fallen trees in the river and the banks strewn with rubbish,

'I have caught tench, perch, roach, bream and common carp to 11lb from this area in the past but now the whole area appears to be neglected and infested with rats.'

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He concluded: 'Certainly I look forward to visiting the river again when the work is done.'

Gibbons added: 'A lot of the rubbish along the banks had been blown off the nearby tip, which of course is the source of the rat problem. However, I am confident we're moving in the right direction and anglers can look forward to some top class sport on this final section of the non-tidal River Wensum during the Christmas holiday break.'

Anglers should be aware rats carry the Weils disease bacteria (leptospirosis), which can be washed into the river in their urine. It is therefore imperative anglers cover cuts or abrasions on their hands to avoid what can be a fatal infection.

• The annual subscription to the new Angling Trust is to be raised for individuals from �20 to �25 from 2011 – an increase of 25pc and way above the rate of inflation.

However, a plan to hike club membership fees on a sliding scale by up to 300pc, with almost �1,000 payable by clubs with more than 1,000 members and to nearly �300 for organisations with fewer than 200 members, has been shelved.

Trust chairman Mike Heylin explained: 'We want to speak to more clubs about the impact it would have and we want to make sure we offer the best package on the market.'

And his explanation for the increased individual fee?

'That is due to the increasing workload of our fish legal department. Further revenue is needed to keep this important work going and a percentage of the increase will go towards this,' he added.

Some anglers on internet forums wish to know more about this area of the trust's finances and want to view a proper breakdown of sums spent.

• A Suffolk angler has lifted the East Anglian Pike Championship for a successive second year.

David Todd from Wayne Close, Lowestoft, reeled in two fish scaling 13lb 2oz and 7lb 8oz for an aggregate of 20lb 10oz that earned him the John Farrow Trophy and nearly �300.

As expected a splendid turnout lined up on the Weybread Ocean Pit near Wortwell were greeted by crystal clear conditions and at the end of a chilly seven hour grueller only 10 fish were weighed in.

The double champion got off to a great start with his first fish on the bank within 10 minutes. He waited another hour for his next and that ended his action for the day.

Recalling the technique that brought his second triumph on the banks, the 45-year-old pharmacist said he offered smelt baits close to the margins and caught both fish from a fancied spot by an overhanging tree.

'I think they were the only two fish in my whole swim but I consider myself lucky to have caught those on such a bad day,' he said.

For young George Shipley, 15, from Broome Green near North Elmham, it was a weekend of mixed emotions.

On Sunday his two fish totalling 14lb earned him runner-up cash of �125 and beat his father, fourth with 8lb. The previous day he hoped to retain his British pike youth title in the national final on the Whittlesea Drains, but he failed to catch a fish.

'I was over the moon on Sunday,' he declared, 'But the previous day my name was drawn out of the hat for the youth national prize.'

Stephen Roberts, chairman of the organising Norwich and District Pike Club said this year's attendance was well up on previous years: 'It was hard fishing and few pike were caught but the weather was pleasant,' he said. 'I thank our sponsors Avenue Angling Tackle shops at Norwich and Beccles for the generosity of providing prizes.'

The final round of the Barford League was a formality for the home team, who chalked up their fourth victory of the series.

'I think we have created local angling history by winning every round of the tournament,' said Barford skipper Kevin Ford.

The Barford Saturday open event was won by the fishery record holder Warren Martin (Anglers World) with a runaway 182lb 12oz, while Frank Kilbourne was top of the veterans at Bergh Apton with 128lb 13oz.

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