Mike Heritage FFF MCI UK

Fly casting and talking fly casting bollox

Wild?, I’m F****** Furious!

I am starting this post without a title yet, when I do give it one it may turn out to be an expletive.

 I’m a pretty laid back sort of bloke, a sort of live and let live sort of person, you do your thing and I’ll do mine and provided we don’t interfere with each other’s pleasure we can co-exist very nicely, thank you.

 Currently there is a debate going on somewhere else that has polarised attitudes to fishing for wild or stocked trout. That ‘somewhere else’ is someone else’s camp fire and I am not going to piss on it. This is my campfire and I can say what I damn well like.

 On the one hand there are (the majority, I think) who are more than happy to have somewhere to fish for trout that have been stocked. Pretty well all reservoirs that cater for fly fishing fall into this category. These can be huge waters and the majority of fish in them are over wintered and have become naturalised to the point of being ‘wild’ to all intents and purposes. Their food is not supplemented, they feed naturally. I don’t have a clue what the stocking density is on reservoirs but lets take a look at what it might be like at somewhere like Bewl Water. Bewl is 770 acres, say we stock at 100 fish per acre, that’s 77,000 fish. Say 25% are lost from predation, illness and poaching (19,250)  and 35,000 are caught and taken, that leaves 22,750 to overwinter and grow on, and who knows how many of these last several seasons before they get caught? Can these fish now be deemed ‘wild’?, I think so. Sure, there are those who will fish areas that stock fish have recently been introduced and fill their boots with easy pickings, not my scene, but it takes all sorts. In fact I don’t fish these places very often because they are catch and kill and I have had my share of catching and killing, I much prefer to catch and release, with the option to take the odd fish to eat if I want to. This does leave us C&R types open to the argument that we now treat fish as a play thing rather than food but Course (bait) anglers have always done it so I don’t see a problem really.

 There are situations where stocking is, at best, questionable. Famous chalk streams like the Test or Itchen are stocked quite heavily so that some rich bugger, out on a corporate day, gets to land a 3lb brownie. OK, they pay a fortune for the privilege (?) but it has ruined the reputation of both rivers, on some stretches. I have fished the Upper Itchen for trout, they weren’t very big, they were quite spooky and, in a lot of places, the challenge was to get the fly on the water in the first place. I have fished the Test as well but only in the winter, for Grayling.

 Now we come to the bit that has made my blood boil.

 There are those that look down their noses at us poor sods who have the audacity to claim that the majority of us that have to fish for stocked fish are really not fly fisher’s at all. No, we are ‘Stockie Bashers’, ‘Fish Mongers’, scum of the earth, basically not fit to lick the boots of a genuine wild fish fly fisher. Well, some of us just aren’t located in a geographically wild trouty sort of place. I would be very surprised if there was a genuine wild trout within 200 miles of me at this moment; so what would be the environmental cost of me jumping into my car and driving those 200 miles to search this poor little fish out?, and, when I caught all 6” of it, driving 200 miles home?. OK, I could now class myself as a genuine fly fisher, but at what cost?.  What if I went the whole hog and jumped on a plane and crossed the World to catch a wild fish. Well, for one thing, in the majority of places, that trout wouldn’t be there in the first place if someone hadn’t put it’s great, great, great, great grand mother there first. Wild?, natural?, yeah, right.

 If I was fortunate enough to live in an area where there was an opportunity to catch wild trout I would jump at it but I would hope that it didn’t make me feel superior to other fly fishers, just luckier.

 To look down your bloody nose at us poor saps who fish stocked waters is to denigrate the likes of Richard Walker, Bob Church, Tom Ivens, Brian Harris, Steve Parton, etc, etc who have contributed so much to fly fishing over the last thirty years or so.

 I think I have done bloody well to get though this rant without one obscene expletive, I can assure you it wasn’t easy. Now, what to call it?.


April 17, 2009 - Posted by | Fly Fishing, Mike Heritage, Uncategorized | , , , , , , ,


  1. There are a very few that thinks it is nice to be important,(they are not real fishermen) but the real fly fishers out there realise that it is far more important to be nice.
    I do not think you are “ranting” as every so often one has to stand up and remind these tiny-minded people that they are in a very small minority and perhaps they should take up golf.
    Having said that I am sure the real golfers out there do not want them either, so perhaps they should just crawl back under their stones.
    I would call it “I go fishing not wishing”.
    I love water whether it is in river form or lake form.

    Comment by Roger Miles | April 17, 2009 | Reply

  2. Hey Mike!

    Phew! Nice post! Hope you’ve calmed down some. I know the discussion you’re on about, and I’ve not got involved.

    These discussions very quickly get polarised, with people using extremes to justify their own arguments. They aren’t really discussions actually, just a bunch of people with their minds already made up on both sides and often (mysteriously) desperate to justify their own fishing.

    It’s always harder to change your views, and it’s always more comforting to tell yourself you are right and look for (sometimes tenuous) evidence that you are.

    Which is a shame, because I’d like to know if it’s possible to have sustainable and easily accessible wild trout fishing in high population density areas. I’d like to know what the environmental impact of trout farms is nowadays.

    Anyhow, back to your post. If I’m understanding you correctly, you (like me)take a pragmatic approach to find the nearest facsimilie to wild fishing that you can, a reasonable distance from home.

    We seem to make a subtle judgement in choosing the places we fish, which involves judging the challenge involved, the quality of surroundings, the quality of fish (not wholly but partly size related?), and the cost/hassle of getting there, and probably loads of other subtle criteria that we aren’t aware of. I guess a lot of these criteria and their mix change over time, and within a season – I know mine have/do.

    I think this is a good approach because

    (a) it deals with the reality of trout fishing in the UK – particularly SE England.
    (b) it keeps in mind an ideal of the sport being rooted in “wildness”. This means you are still bothered about the environment, conserving/restoring wild fish stocks where possible, and respecting the quarry in its being able to live its life out in as natural as way as possible.

    I can live with small “hole in the ground” overstocked rainbow fisheries (just!). I think they probably provide a vital way in to fly fishing for ordinary people like me, as well as revenue for the fly fishing industry.

    My only request is that we keep building an awareness that fishing can offer more; that catching fish is important but happiness doesn’t increase with poundage caught; that wild fish and wild waters are a valuable resource and need protection and encouragement;and that all fish need our respect.

    I’ve caught 2 wild brownies in 3 outings this year and I’m chuffed. Next week I’m hoping I’ll be equally chuffed when I fish with my brother on a big reservoir for stocked rainbows.



    Comment by Will | April 17, 2009 | Reply

  3. Hi Will, yeah, I feel better now I have got it off my chest.

    I understand the argument against stocking. We have somewhere locally that has just opened for trout fishing. At 40 acre’s it would be a nice sized place for me to fish. I went over to see it a couple of weeks before it opened. I had a wander round and never saw a fish, when I commented on that I was told it wasn’t stocked yet. They were going to have a press day and were going to stock it a day or two before!. Now that is stockie bashing to my mind. I can’t believe the ‘press’ guys were going to be overly impressed to be catching trout with no tails or fins. I haven’t seen a review yet but I would be surprised if it was too favourable. Shame really, if it had been thought out there should have been some nice, naturalised fish in there that were worth catching. I will leave it until later in the year to try it.

    What debates like that do is force you to stand in one camp or the other and fight your corner, whereas, in reality, both sides have valid points. I was talking to one ‘name’ a few days ago and he said basically that fishing is fishing, you take it where you can get it. My thoughts exactly.

    Comment by Mike Heritage | April 17, 2009 | Reply

  4. Hi Mike there will unfortunately always be people who look down their noses at others because it does not fit into their personal ideal, just look at the snobbery regarding tackle??

    On another tack, there are wild browns in the Stour, that is if you can afford the annual fee or wait long enough to get into the syndicate that fishes it! but yes they are there along with the stocked fish.


    Comment by Alan Sandom | April 20, 2009 | Reply

  5. hi Mike !

    i understand your feeling about this and have to add that i was saddened and i guess a bit surprised that you took it personally. glad you feel better.
    what could have been an interesting debate was spoiled by the foul humor and intent of the one that started it.
    the animosity came from there and spread out, creating this negative atmosphere.

    the subject of wild vs stocked and the pros and cons of either one is very much conditioned by local customs, past history and what region or country each one of us is in. those conditions will dictate how each one of us feels about it, but unfortunately this aspect was not seriously taken into consideration and the conversation just focused on the UK with opinions coming in from all over the World. although all points of view are of interest i don’t think that it’s in any way possible to reach an agreement on such a large scale.

    it’s very difficult to make the separation of what we desire
    and what is good for nature and the practicalities of it but we all have to live with it and manage it, each one of us in our own way so you’ve nothing to be offended about, as i know you’re on the right side of things.

    sorry for the long drawl mate…

    i’ll be happy to see you again soon in Inverurie. have a great day 🙂

    Comment by marc fauvet | April 23, 2009 | Reply

  6. Hi Marc,

    Part of the frustration was not wanting to post on ‘loops what I was really thinking, Compo did and got banned, I might have been as well if I had let rip. That’s the beauty of your own blog, you can say what you like.

    If you happen to live in an area that abounds with wild fish then I can see fishing for stocked fish is a bit of a come down, but in the UK, fly fishing was popularised, back in the seventies, by a band of fly fishers who specialised in fishing the reserviors that had been stocked. Their contribution to the UK ffing scene and it’s popularity, just cannot be underestimated. They are the ones responsible for the tackle we use today. I have no doubt that they loved their wild days as well, as do I, unfortunately is isn’t for trout, it’s Chub, Grayling and the occassional Asp.

    See you on the Don.

    Comment by Mike Heritage | April 23, 2009 | Reply

  7. Ha! The reason Compagnito got banned was not because of what he said but rather how he said it. If you go back over all of Compagnito’s posts, including a couple we had to move to admin, I think you’ll see that really all he wanted to do was wind people up. I found him quite an unpleasant piece of work actually.

    Great catching up again in Scotland! See you later in the year Mike 🙂

    Cheers, Paul

    Comment by Paul | May 13, 2009 | Reply

  8. Not sure how you distinguish within a print only media between what you say and how you say it, surely the two are indistinguishable.

    I recall putting forward in The Blue Trout section a structured argument aimed against the sneering pretentiousness, you describe above. Unfortunately my superior argument was met with the rattle and dummy approach.

    You get a flavour of that in Paul’s post above. You can judge for yourelves who the “nasty piece of work is”?

    Comment by troutflyrod | June 20, 2010 | Reply

  9. […] June 20, 2010 at 8:35 am · Filed under Uncategorized Some history    https://michaelheritage.wordpress.com/2009/04/17/wild-im-f-furious/#comment-299 […]

    Pingback by Troutflyrod's Blog | June 20, 2010 | Reply

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