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Big Fish Column: New Kingfisher pond gives youth a chance

Councillor Graham Pask (Chairman of West Berkshire Council) (L) caught a nice trout, but it was dwarfed by the one landed by sisters Ivy and Alecia De Sousa. Charles Jardine (R) was on hand to assist them all.


This week the Big Fish Column is taking a quick diversion to take a quick look at one of the biggest challenges facing the sport of angling today, and a brilliant local solution that looks like it might just bring part of the answer to it.

Encouraging youngsters to engage with nature conservation and learn about fishing and the wider aquatic environment is challenging. To help address this problem, Sportfish has collaborated with the Environment Agency to create a delightful new pond facility at the Sportfish Game Fishing Centre in Theale, Berkshire.


Kingfisher Pond

The newly–excavated ‘Kingfisher Pond‘ has a natural willow breakwater to prevent erosion and has been planted with a wide range of native aquatic and marginal plants to increase habitat diversity. Stocked with young trout, the facility benefits both youngsters learning to fish and those simply looking to explore the aquatic environment as part of their school curriculum.

Last weekend Sportfish welcomed some 20 youngsters, along with their parents and guardians, also beginners, to explore the underwater world and learn to fish as part of a series of free tuition events.

Starting with a short talk from noted fisherman, broadcaster and artist, Charles Jardine, the participants, both old and young, went on to investigate some of the aquatic invertebrates (bugs!) that live in, on and around our waterways and had an opportunity to ‘tie their own‘ imitations with which to (hopefully) fool a feeding trout later in the day!

A casting lesson with the expert Sportfish instructors followed and after everyone enjoyed a BBQ lunch they teamed up with the instructors again to try and catch a fish from Kingfisher Pond. Thankfully, both the weather and the fish were obliging and everyone caught their first trout, which they either chose to return, or to have one of the Sportfish team clean, fillet and vacuum pack ready for dinner that evening!


The future

I was delighted to participate in a small way myself (I did the cooking!) and I have to say, that as an aquatic scientist by training, I have spent most of my life in and around water and it was a joy to see so many boys and girls – and indeed their mums and dads – engaging with and learning more about the aquatic environment. The delight on the youngsters‘ faces when they caught their first trout was marvellous and I know the Sportfish team look forward to introducing many more to the world of fishing via this wonderful resource, in the future.

This was, of course, only a small local event but the wider angling industry is well aware of the challenge the sport faces and the Angling Trades Association is taking a long, hard look at how it might best be addressed. Given the track record of angling administration I am not hopeful, but at least they are on the case and all anglers need to get behind initiatives.

Locally, watch this space for the next Sportfish event, which will take place in April 2020.


Birds, bats, butterflies and bugs

The creation of Kingfisher Pond at the Game Fishing Centre is the first step in a long–term management project to increase the biodiversity value of around 29 hectares of Englefield Estate land alongside the busy railway corridor between Reading and Newbury.  The project involves replacing low grade trees with a wide variety of native trees, creating a more diverse woodland structure, and planting aquatic plants to encourage more birds, bats, butterflies, bees and bugs.  The scheme will also bring a wealth of new opportunities for the wider community of fishers and local interest groups as well as creating a valuable educational resource for local schools and colleges.

The project is supported by the Trust for Oxfordshire’s Environment with funding from the Network Rail No Net Loss of Biodiversity on the Greater West Programme.

Any anglers wishing to report catches may contact me at ian@bigfishtrail.com


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