Saturday, 23 February 2013

John Currie... a most tenacious chap.

The one & only John Currie ....

It seems as if John Currie works full time to give anglers a voice in Broadland but he finds time to work and fish a bit too.  Even in the mad week before Christmas he’s still found time for a chat with the Pool-siders. Thanks John, here we go…

How long have you been an angler?
I understand you’re not native to Norfolk, where did you grow up and how was the fishing there?

I’m 53 now, first session on the Medway at 7 so 46 years an angler.  I was born in Scotland and moved to Dagenham at age of 6, then moved back to Scotland at 8. We then moved to Brixton aged 9.  Fished the Thames a lot and pits around Cheshunt and Broxbourne. The Medway a bit, Blenheim lake and even Wraysbury.  We used to jump on a train and head for some place we had read about in the papers or heard about from Johnsons tackle shop in Brixton.  My old man was good about taking me and my mates, a different world then, he would leave us out at nights on our own all of us under 16. We got booted off Diana fountain at Hampton court trying to night fish.  Police gave us lift back to station were we slept till first train in morning.  Had great weekends around Goring and Pangbourne.  It felt like paradise to us, getting out of Brixton to real greenery.  We even fished Clapham common just to get our fix. The serpentine seemed pretty good when your that age.  We got kicked off all the royal park lakes, didn’t seem to matter at the time.  One winter we kipped on a boathouse near Pangbourne, one of the crew lit a fire and next thing is we are trying to stop this posh boat house going up in flames.  The house behind must of seen the flames as we heard shouting and torch lights, we decided to leg it for the station.  Really good move as the bobbies were waiting for us there.  We all denied knowledge of any wrong doing and apart from been covered in and stinking of smoke our story was somehow blown!  Next morning saw a group of loving parents reunited with a bunch of Herberts all crying "It weren’t our fault".  All charges were dropped as soon as said loving parents agreed to cover all damages.  I was 13 at the time and my Dad said I needed to learn some discipline. He enrolled me in Fitzroy lodge boxing club.  Now this I liked, we had meets with other clubs or wars.  Repton was always nasty but great fun.  I loved it until I met a lad from Repton who wasn’t a fighter but a boxer.  I managed to catch him a few times but he was class, made me feel useless.  In the third round my old man said I needed to pull something out of the bag and dig deep.  I bided my time, missed him with an upper cut and as he stepped back I kicked him in the nuts!  Dad didn’t speak to me for a week and I never boxed again.  I moved onto things were I could boot people and the star at the time was Bruce Lee.  So started an interest that lasted for 20 years.  I loved to fight, it made me feel alive.  I never was a technician but enjoyed the battle.  I took gradings in 6 different arts and I can’t describe how much it meant to me.  At 36 I suddenly realised I wasn’t enjoying it anymore and stopped.  At 16 I was well known in the Brixton area as someone who enjoyed the healthy rough and tumble.  The inevitable happened and after waking from a coma and a nice knife wound in the back my parents moved to Norfolk..

Norfolk was a shock to me.  Took me a while to get used to the quiet and being out of the speed of a city.  The fishing was the biggest shock, lots of space and not many other anglers.  I had fished the Scottish Lochs with my uncles and loved the vastness of the lochs, but Norfolk had a different feel.  My first few years were spent fishing for anything and everything.  I would like to paint a picture of my incredible angling skills but truth be told you didn’t have to try hard to catch. I had a couple of periods when I left Norfolk and moved back to London for work reasons. Also a long stay in Rhodesia.  I always ended up back mainly for the fishing.  The Lochs had a huge draw on me and I had a couple of dangerous incidents due simply due to being on my own.  I only fish then in company now. 

With all the stuff you’ve got going on, how often do you manage to go fishing? And do you have time for any other hobbies/interests/family?
Why Pike?
Do you fish for other species?

At 27 I realised I was enjoying Piking more than anything and apart from the very rare carp trip, brief chub interest and Perch trip it’s been that way ever since. I manage two to three sessions week in the winter, preferably boat fishing.  I’m lucky enough to live a mile from the River Yare and am placed well for most of Broadland.  Speaking to some mates I realise how lucky I am in being able to pop out and be fishing in under ten minutes, it’s something I have never stopped being grateful for. As I’m self-employed I will stop work to milk the good times, this to me is important.  I read Nev’s list and know some of the hardcore guys, I also know how far they have to travel to catch.  I know how much time they put in to catch and I’m impressed. I often wonder how some of those names would fair with what I have on my doorstep? There is no doubt that Norfolk Piking has gone downhill in many ways for many reasons and this is something myself and others are working on improving..

We can’t ignore the politics & the Heigham Sound dredging in particular. A couple of years ago I attended the meeting at Norwich where Dan Hoare of the BA answered questions.  From what I remember a lot of the proposals anglers put forward that night are finally being implemented by BA.   (e.g.  suction dredging, work in winter, toxin tests etc)  Is if fair to say the BA are finally listening? 

In the meeting you refer to it was suggested cold water dredging was safer, and we gave them some obvious advice about times of tides for times of dredging. All of that was ignored for two years. They agreed to winter dredging because we gave enough information to NE so NE could advise them it was the way to go! We asked for suction dredging they said it was too expensive. Now they are using it, some success in those areas. Im afraid I believe they would use clam shell if they think they would get away with it.  The toxin count wasn’t mentioned at that meeting we were just asking for regular cell counts. What I have discovered since is how we cannot depend on cell counts but need toxin counts.

Could you sum up the situation as things stand now?

We have had massive success with EA and NE who have listened to me and are investigating Prymnesium for the first time in 15 years. We have contributions from them that have enabled us to get a world leading expert on Prym to visit and investigate the problem. We also have a desktop study sponsored by NE and a PHD study on Prym on the Thurne. The most exciting thing is the "John Innes Centres "involvement. They believe they can produce an on-site test kit for toxin in the next 18 months. This would be like a pregnancy test kit, add water and it will show if toxins are present.  At the moment the test for toxin can take a couple of days and cost hundreds of pounds. We envisage this kit will be issued to regular Thurne visitors and boatyard staff. We will then have instant results. Going on from this is my next challenge, a freshwater fish refuge on the system.  One used to exist but was deemed to affect reed beds so was capped. I will argue that saving fish is more important than saving reeds!  JIC also believe it is possible to find the chemical tipping point and negate Pryms upper hand amongst the algaes present on the system. Johannes Hagstrom also believes the system could be bio manipulated to push Prymnesium to a position were fatal blooms would not occur. Whatever happens we are trying and have fantastically gifted people involved. My good friend and at the time fellow PAC ro Steve Roberts was with me when we lost the planning application  for Duck island despite passionate letters from the likes of Steve Harper.  BA bamboozled the planning committee and it was frustrating to hear BAs claims on safety. A couple of years on we are in a good place and BA recently asked to meet with me on how they can get involved. The meeting was a success and I hope they work with me on solving the problems. Steve Roberts is now working so many hours as a carer he moved aside for Micky Cox to take over as RO.  Without either of them things would not be where they are now.  When the dredging issue started I had no end of conversations and e mails telling me I was wasting my time taking the issue on. I would suggest to anyone faced with an issue that could affect Pike to get PAC involved and make the change needed to ensure Pike conservation and protect Pikers.  BA have a legal right to dredge, we will make sure it is carried out as safely as possible.
Another knock on effect from all of this was a tagging project with the EA.  This project was started in answer to Broadland Pikers worries about declining Pike stocks.  We are tagging on two sites and waiting to prove retention rates of the tags.  If as we hope the tags have a long working life the project will roll out onto the rivers. We have tagged over 250 Pike and so far retention rates look good.  The tags are cellophane thin and measure a couple of millimetres long and same again wide. We decided on such small tags to alleviate anglers concerns of number plates on their quarry. We already have some very good data on growth rates etc. This long term project will enable us to sit down with all controlling bodies after a fatal salt surge or perhaps a Prymnesium bloom and work out how to restock the system. It will also give answers to possible restocking because of low Pike numbers. I have also just taken delivery of some DO and conductivity meters from the EA. This follows on from myself and Steve Roberts trying to find how bad a salt surge had affected the Yare, we were basically looking for dead fish.

Are there still things anglers should be wary of?

We explained to EA how useless we felt and told them of our concerns of the lack of data on salt surges. This resulted in another project. We now have a couple of DO meters and a couple of conductivity meters. We will visit any river in Broadland in danger of salt surges and record levels of incursion. This will enable EA to compile a data base and plan possible refuges .The sad fact is we don’t have enough info on how bad some of these surges have been. I and others believe the Yare and Waveney have been very badly affected. Before anyone asks why EA are not doing this, well fisheries staff in Broadland are few and far between.  In a surge they will be out on the rivers raising the curtain at Potter and doing their job. I would rather be involved and contributing rather than depending on them for information. Pikers have so much going against us at the moment we need to help ourselves. We will be getting some basic training in the meters use and away we go, as always Mr Cox is a volunteer for custodian of one of the meters.
One of the things local and visiting anglers can do to help the situation on not only the Thurne but any river drain or lake is to report anything suspicious to the EA. Fish killing or theft or fish dying or in distress.  It is staggering to hear people complain about such and such and when you ask if they reported it they answer no.  It’s especially important on the Thurne so we can react to possible fatal blooms. The sooner we hear of problems we can save fish.  Prymnesium can be devastating in a short period of time EA have proved in the past they can save fish if informed of problems.  Please remember to get an incident number so we can track how the problem is dealt with 0800807060 is EAs number. People have rung me before they ring EA, thanks for the info but please ring them first.

I was really impressed with the way you handled the original meetings particularly as there was a lot of passion involved.  People were able to express themselves strongly but there was never any hint of things getting out of control.  At one of the meetings I managed to attend, I was impressed with Mark Owen of the Angling Trust, has the AT been a big help?

I was impressed with the anglers’ attitude of those that attended that meeting. It was potentially explosive, yet everyone conducted themselves professionally. Mark Owens later involvement and attendance at meetings was impressive. I dare say he could be great in an appeal for funds or some such project but he shines in conflict situations, you want him on your side. I can only speak as I find but I’m an AT member simply because I have witnessed AT in action.

Do you have any fishing heroes, past or present?
What is your favourite type of water?  If you had to choose would you fish Broads or Lochs?
Who is your ideal boat partner?   This could be a mate or a hero, crumpet or all three.

Will have a think about heroes as I don’t think I do! I love the vastness of the lochs and there wild places at times. I also love the intimacy of the broads and there tranquillity, so I couldn’t choose. Steve Roberts is a good boat partner for me as he is easy going, mostly I want to strangle boat partners. The embarrassing thing about it is everyone who knows me just accepts it, when we do tagging or social fish ins I nearly always wangle a boat on my own. I have a huge interest in polar exploration so would share a boat with Shackleton or Amundsen to hear their stories.  The only other person who has survived my company a fair few times in a boat is Julie my partner. She enjoys lure fishing and has become fairly proficient at it.  Because of her hatred of getting cold and for some reason she thinks i get stroppy if she is noisy in the boat her trips with me are few and far between!   I will mention another project with the EA and backed by NDPC ,PAC and Broads Angling Strategy Group, our wheel chair friendly boat. It has been very rewarding at times to take out adults and kids .We have always been flexible who we take out and it has a lot of use from kids who shall we say need escorts from their current addresses! I underestimated how enjoyable the whole thing was going to be. I would like to hear from more people who would like to use the boat escorted or not.

Is there anything you dislike about modern Piking/Pike scene??

As for dislikes of modern Piking, there are a few.  I always like reading Nev’s list but I never meet anyone anymore who has had a good or bad season. Its all I’m on my 50th or one more to do a hundred. To contradict myself it has so many flaws, but I like to keep an eye on it. The guys who have to travel to get to half decent waters, guys that push family ties, the lads who work long hours then fish weekends all have my admiration and there are plenty of them who catch impressive Pike.

We Pikers always seem to be on a knife edge of falling out, anti-livebaiting, some pikers don’t like lure anglers, if you fish chew you’re a glory hunter. We would do well to remember we are all Pikers and a bit of understanding and acceptance to different opinions and techniques might make us all a lot stronger. Pet hates in Broadland are people who leave rods unattended, speeding Pike boats who whoosh past you .People on the bank with all the latest gear costing a fortune and no unhooking mat. They weigh as much as a tin of coke aren’t always needed but why not have it in case? Better stop there as I feel a rant coming on.

 Many of us have enjoyed reading your story of a Scottish 31 as told in ‘Dream Pike’.  Do you still have another ‘Dream Pike’ you’d love to catch one day?

I still have dreams of monster Pike. I fished a loch that was a grueller to get to, 5 hour walk with tackle. First cast I had a trout, third cast made the trip worthwhile but I watched a Pike in stream that fed the loch that would of been a dream to catch. These things keep you going in the lean times. I fished for three days on that loch and caught nowt else. I have been back once for a few small Pike, but the place haunts me.  Steve Roberts and I also have unfinished business on another loch, he hooked the biggest Pike I have ever seen had it boat side and he lost it.  He was quite calm and I went ape shit.  As a bank partner I seem to do well with Mr Cox, we have had some good days together. But I nearly always fish on my own.

Thanks a lot John, really enjoyed this!  If anyone from the BA ever reads it they’ll think twice about getting into a row with you again, come to think of it they’re probably thinking that already!  As a frequent visitor to the Broads can I thank you, Steve, Micky and all in the Norwich club once again on all you continue to do for angling in the area.  Over the years, Pikers have been given a bad press at times but here we have an example of Pike anglers leading the fight on behalf of all anglers and true wildlife lovers.

This interview from John currie, yet again emphasises the tenacity of the man in the face of what was historically a difficult issue to deal with, whereby the relevant authorities are having to now face up to accountability, and culpability.
Besides John, stands Mickey Cox and others, who are slowly changing the mindset of these authorities, and put in selfless amounts of time and effort (even personal funds), for the benefit of pike and angling.

I sincerely hope that those who fish remember these individuals and the bodies that are fighting for our chosen sport, and put their support behind them, be it Pike Angling Club Of Great Britain (PACGB) or the Anglers Trust (AT) and that to unite is to strengthen our cause behind the maligned ignorance of days old. (Editor)