Dougal Ziegler is an angler and environment officer who deals with pollution and water quality on the River Wye in Herefordshire, which for Dougal is “the greatest river of them all”.
For 6 years now I’ve been an Environment Officer, dealing with pollutions and water quality and I’m a very lucky chap. I get paid to look after the River Wye in Herefordshire, to my mind the greatest river of them all.
Fishing has always been in me. As an ankle-biter I was always peering into water and on more than one occasion I had to be saved from impending doom.
It’s the mystery of ‘what is lurking’ that never seems to leave me. As a boy I really, really wanted to go fishing. But no one in the family knew how. So I was left to figure it out for myself. I’d be abandoned by a pond or river with wholly inappropriate tackle- rusty hooks and great coiling lengths of nylon more suitable for shark fishing. And bait? I’d have to find a worm. It took a lifetime, but that first movement of the float! That first huge spikey perch (3 ounces) blew my mind!
These days fishing is a joyous cycle of chasing certain species at certain times of the year. Spring means 4am dawn starts with tench fizzing around a waggler float between lily pads or fly fishing for small stream brown trout. Summer, often a difficult time on the river, I may go and camp by a wooded lake for a few days and try and outwit some ancient, noble carp. Autumn- and now the river fish suddenly find form and it’s hard to ignore those hard fighting barbel on the Wye and Severn. By the time winter arrives I’m really excited by the draw of hungry predators. Cold water means all those bait fish shoal up and some die. Those mighty Wye pike get hungry and fat. Not much can beat that moment when your pike float starts to drift away as deep down below a freshwater crocodile slides off with a whole sardine deadbait.
Fishing has carved my whole life. It’s why I studied Environment Management at Uni. My long suffering Liz calls fishing the F-word. “If he’s not doing the F-word then he’s talking, thinking or reading about it” she says. But all those beautiful places, moments and memories. Who else gets out to a mist shrouded pool for dawn in an unfurling spring? We anglers can feel very smug sometimes- like we know of this amazing secret that our dry friends don’t.
And full circle again my children are keen. My son Zander is now 9 and daughter Flora is 11 and I may have been a bit mean over the years because I’ve tried to make it so they struggle. Like I had to. We stuck to a net and a jar for a long time. In a modern world of bite alarms and self-hooking carp rigs I think it’s easy for children to quickly become blasé about fishing. However the 3 of us (plus Tinca dog) are planning our first night by the pool when the weather warms up a bit.