Gaynor Barton gets the low down on the local fishing scene
Why do so many people love fishing in Barrow? Well, the answer is easy - the fishing here is excellent! There’s a good variety of fish such as roach, bream. chub, barbel carp and pike swimming around just waiting to be caught by a skillful fisherman. And the local clubs have relatively easy access to all parts of the river within their jurisdiction. You’ve never far to walk with all your heavy fishing tackle from your car to the river itself; this is often not the case.Nor is it an expensive sport if you keep your rods in good condition and use simple bait like maggots and worms. However, even before you thread your first maggot onto a hook you must spend some money. Everyone needs a rod licence and if you are between 12 and 60 they’re £27 a year; between 12 and 16 they fall to £5 and concessions pay £18. You can buy them from any post office or on-line from the Environment Agency.
Once you have your rod licence all you do next is join a club. Two angling clubs and one private organisation are in charge of most of the fishing in Barrow; see the map. The most famous club locally is Quorn Angling Society (QAS) with about 250 members, mostly Leicestershire based. The other is the Leicester and District Amalgamated Society of Anglers always shortened to Leicester Amal.
It only costs £25 a year to be a member of QAS and for this fee you can also fish river-banks controlled by Leicester Amal. When you join QAS you get a sturdy coloured membership card known as a ‘book’ which lists where you can fish in Barrow. When fishing along a bank you may be asked to produce your ‘book’ to prove you have the right to be there. Because of an agreement between QAS and Leicester Amal anyone joining one club also becomes a member of the other so gets two ‘books’, two membership cards, always printed on card of different colours to make each clearly distinguishable. Join one, get one free! Two clubs for less than 50p a week what could be better value?
The private organisation mentioned earlier is Proctor’s Pleasure Park which controls fishing in Proctor’s Lake and on the inside of the loop of the River Soar bordering their caravan park. At Proctor’s a day ticket costs £3 per rod. Day tickets are always available as you insert your three one pound coins into a slot machine just before the entry barrier to Proctor’s Park and out comes the day’s fishing permit, your ‘ticket’. So it’s always easy to find somewhere to fish near our village.
Another reason why Barrow is well known is that The ‘Angling Times’ Soar Valley Winter League Fishing Competition, the biggest Winter League in the country, takes place along the River Soar with several sections in Barrow. It’s on these days that Barrow seems to have cars squashed into hedgerows at insane angles on Barrow Road as fishermen sit at their permitted places, their ‘pegs’, along the section of the river known as Barrow Deeps. The competition involves six matches on six Sundays starting in late October and finishing in mid December with a few ‘gap’ Sundays, when men can actually spend all day with their families, dotted in between.
A distinct lack of harmony
So Barrow is a very good place for fishing but do fishermen have to face any problems here? Yes they do; two problems surface quickly. Boats travelling at speed is the first. There’s a British Waterways’ speed limit of 4mph on all narrow canals such as the Grand Union in Barrow yet it is sometimes (often ?) ignored by boat owners and the wake set up by a craft sailing faster than 4mph can do a lot of damage to a fisherman’s lines as well as harming the canal banks. Considerate skippers actually lessen their speed to 2mph if they see anglers on the tow-paths and if all skippers followed suit, harmony would reign. At present there’s frequently a distinct lack of it! Fishermen feel aggrieved.
The other problem involves taking river fish home for supper. The fish are bony and often, I’ve been assured, taste awful, but just the same some anglers will run off with them. Fishermen usually keep their catch in nets for a few hours, take them out to show them off and take their photos, but before leaving the river bank they let them go. It’s illegal anywhere in England to catch river fish and not return them to the water.
The problem of fish being taken home is being tackled through an educational policy as much as through the legal system as many caught taking fish were discovered to be new immigrants from Poland and Eastern Europe where the concept of catching a fish and throwing it back is completely alien. You throw it back? You crazy? No, you catch a fish and you eat it! Now there are notices on gates in Barrow explaining through use of symbols and in Polish that you can’t take fish home. Roger Marlow told me that two men were fined £700 in 2008 for illegal fishing in the Soar.
If you are out for a walk along the flowing part of the river and you see someone breaking the law, either by fishing in the ‘Closed ‘ season (March 15th to June 15th inclusive) or putting newly caught fish in the back of a car, the number to ring is 0800 807060 - the Environment Agency. They are really keen to know when and where this is happening.
But what about the future? Will fishing hold its own in an increasingly fast paced world? It’s been noticed that fewer children are learning to fish these days, partly because of other, often excitingly electronic, pastimes being available but there’s a second reason too. The amount of paperwork involved in teaching the art of fishing to children has increased massively; the CRB checks, the hoops to be jumped through in transporting youngsters not your own to rivers and once there ensuring that all the health and safety regulations are complied with is off putting to experienced fishermen who might otherwise have given their time in the past. But everyone I talked to believed that fishing will continue for many years to come. After all it’s said that still more people fish on a Saturday than attend football matches.
For reasons lost in the mists of time Quorn Angling Society no longer actually meets in Quorn. Committee meetings are held either at The Navigation Inn or Meadow Farm Marina Clubhouse in Barrow so in spite of there being the village name ‘Quorn’ in the title the club is Barrow based. So if you like the idea of a day by the river get in touch with the Quorn Angling Society (414254 or 414247) where you will be given a hearty welcome and very soon may find yourself leaving a scribbled note “ ‘Gone fishin’ “.
I would very much like to thank Roger Marlow, Alan Snow, Rod Hubbard, Richard Proctor and Bennett’s Angling Store (Mountsorrel) for help in the production of this article.