Today was an unusual start to my weekend, although it is one that I look forward to every year.
Bright and early, I walked along the flood defence at Denton in Gravesend, watching anglers compete for prizes in the 46th Thames Fishery Research Experiment.
I’ve attended every year since 2007 and always find it fascinating. Depending on the weather and tide being good to them, the fishermen net a variety of catches which are individually measured and recorded. It’s an important annual event which provides a helpful snapshot of the river’s health, by revealing the variety of species that can be caught.
The Thames Angling Preservation Society works hard with the Corporation of London to get the right combination of tide and timings for the event. This year there’s been a lot of discussion about the temperature, as well as whether changing tide levels might mean it would be better to stage the experiment a little earlier in the year.
In previous years a frosty northerly wind and fog have made conditions challenging for the participants, bringing local rowers close to the anglers’ lines. Lower-than-expected tides can also expose deep mud, making it harder for anglers to keep their footing.
This year coincided with a police fun day, with the local constabulary’s low-flying helicopter making its presence felt.
Despite earlier-than-expected rain and drizzle that set in, everyone was in good spirits. Seals are often there to spectate, but were absent this year. Some large fish however did turn up to taunt young anglers in the margins of the water. Despite a low overall catch the awards still caused a stir, with Kent and Essex tying for best overall team. The PLA’s team did very well, bagging awards for the best single catch and most biodiverse catch.