Allen Valley Angling and Conservation Group

Based mostly along the River East Allen and Coatenhill Reservoir up here in Sparty Lea, the Allen Valley Angling and Conservation (AVAC) group have a very informative website, which keeps the members informed of upcoming events and conservation efforts, and a lively facebook presence as well. The group was established in July, 2011 by local environmentalist and fishing enthusiast Paul Frear.

Indeed, the conservation part of the group’s name is an integral part of their ethos. AVAC members work hard to stabilise the banks of the East Allen with willow weavings, as well as finding time on their fishing forays to rid the banks of the encroaching Himalayan Balsam. But their primary objective is to restore fish habitat and to create a pleasant experience of this fascinating sport, with special emphasis on fly-fishing, for the next generation of fisher folk.

I made the little trek up the road to their pavilion beside the Coatenhill Reservoir, which is a haven for wildlife as well as for fish. As a great buzzard soared on thermals high overhead, and wild ducks and common moorhens paddled in the little lake, I relaxed in the sunshine and looked back up the valley.

According to the AVAC website, you can join today and fish tomorrow, but there are friendly rules to the activity that are convenient enough to follow. The main one seems to be to log your catch before you return it to the reservoir! I was reading of and marvelling at some of the strategies expert fisher folk have used to get the trout in the reservoir to rise to the artificial flies cast their way. Our uncle was an avid fly fisher, but nobody in our family caught the bug. Sitting in the sunshine of this week of ‘Indian summer,’ I rather wished, with the reservoir on our doorstep as it were, that I had! I imagined long sessions missed with our growing children, quietly chatting about life, the universe, and setting things right, while practising our studious casts and recoveries. Maybe now that AVAC is there, it could be an opportunity to engage better with the grands, in a few years?

Mark reminded me of the group’s conservation efforts on the river bank below the Sparty Lea Bridge, so I was keen to see how that wild patch was looking. Very healthy, wild and unspoiled, I thought, as I ambled back up our long track. Lovely and loved, I thought, as I mused on the past-time in terms of grandson engagement. But I know nothing about fishing, and the specialised flick of the fly-fisher’s long rod is probably beyond my stiff old shoulder these days! Come on old man, I thought, don’t be so grumpy!

When I got back home, I looked at the group’s Membership page: for £50 a year I could become a member, and take the grandsons along for a fishing session when I’ve become rather more experienced. Another £54 for a year’s Environment Agency Rod License, since I’m old, and the kids who are under 12 go free (but they must be registered with AVAC to fish with me). Then there’s the fishing gear, the training, and the time. Ah, time is always an issue.

How to fit in the Creative Writing sessions, the final entries of the diary, the normal DIY and gardening chores (especially the renovation of the hot tub for dark sky explorations in the coldest winter nights), the holiday destinations to plan and embark upon. It all builds up, as any retired person knows perfectly well, but maybe next year, when I’ve pursued all the possibilities, and been trained how to fish correctly, I might be tempted. Hmmm, I’d bet the oldest grandson would be too!

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