JOHN EL­LIS: Why the out­look’s bright for Bri­tain’s canals

John El­lis of the Canal & River Trust

Angling Times (UK) - - WELCOME -

THE cam­paign to get more an­glers back on our canals has been a ma­jor suc­cess, and one of the men to thank is John El­lis.

The na­tional fish­eries & an­gling man­ager for the Canal & River Trust has helped put in place sev­eral ini­tia­tives since he first started work­ing with the or­gan­i­sa­tion (for­merly known as Bri­tish Wa­ter­ways) al­most three decades ago.

Now John is de­ter­mined to build on the grow­ing in­ter­est and fur­ther boost the num­ber of an­glers fish­ing their lo­cal canal.

An­gling Times caught up with him to find out more about his vi­sion for the fu­ture.

Q: What do you en­joy most about your job? A: I deal with around 250 dif­fer­ent an­gling clubs, vir­tu­ally all of which are run by ded­i­cated vol­un­teers. With few ex­cep­tions, it’s a plea­sure to deal with fel­low an­glers who care equally pas­sion­ately about the long term fu­ture of the sport and the fish­eries that sup­port it.

I en­joy the chal­lenge of shift­ing the at­ti­tude within the or­gan­i­sa­tion so that trustees, the Ex­ec­u­tive Team and oth­ers fully un­der­stand the ben­e­fits that both fish­eries and an­gling bring to the C&RT.

Q: How does be­ing a keen an­gler help you in your role? A: An aca­demic back­ground in bi­ol­ogy and chem­istry is es­sen­tial to hold­ing a se­nior fish­eries man­age­ment role, but so too is an un­der­stand­ing of the as­pi­ra­tions of an­glers.

It would be hard to have the lat­ter without an ex­ten­sive an­gling back­ground. For sev­eral years I fished at open match level and could hold my own without be­ing good enough to be signed up by a top side. I must have regularly coached 100 or so young an­glers when I was sec­re­tary of the Grind­ley Brook ju­nior an­gling club, many of whom are still fish­ing to this day. I also man­aged the USA team in the 1998 Croa­tia World Cham­pi­onships. I be­lieve all these ex­pe­ri­ences help me to do my job bet­ter.

Q: What do you make of the state of canal an­gling in the UK? A: It has turned a cor­ner af­ter what I would ac­knowl­edge as many years of slow de­cline. We have halted the de­cline in the num­ber of clubs in our net­work and have even added a small num­ber of new club cus­tomers in the past two years.

Fish stocks as a whole are as good as they have ever been, although there are lo­cal is­sues where we have suf­fered pol­lu­tion. We are work­ing hard to re­ju­ve­nate those ar­eas hit.

Q: What is your vi­sion for canals? A: Whether canals can get back to their pre­vi­ous pop­u­lar­ity would de­pend on whether the sport as a whole can halt the de­cline in rod li­cence sales. That will only come about if we all work to­gether for that shared goal.

We launched the Canal Pairs in 2014 and the Ju­nior Canal Champs for match an­glers, worked with Na­tional Fish­ing Month to stage dozens of coach­ing events that at­tracted over 1,000 par­tic­i­pants and also gave away more than 1,000 canal starter kits.

We have also funded coach­ing cour­ses so that more of our clubs can re­cruit new­com­ers.

We are con­fi­dent these ini­tia­tives are mak­ing a huge amount of dif­fer­ence.

Q: How would you con­vince some­one to try fish­ing a canal for the first time? A: If you have never been fish­ing be­fore, canals of­fer a lo­cal op­por­tu­nity, as half the na­tion’s an­glers ac­tu­ally live within five miles of a Trust-owned fish­ery and many can walk to the lo­cal ‘cut’.

It’s also a very cheap place to start fish­ing and it’s any­body’s guess what you are go­ing to catch, with big shoals of roach, bream and perch to go at, and plenty of sur­prises, such as qual­ity carp, tench and pike that can show up at any point.

The likes of Fred Buller, Benny Ashurst, Billy Lane, Rob Hughes and Ivan Marks first learned to fish on a canal.

You have to mas­ter a va­ri­ety of an­gling skills to catch on canals, and al­most all of these are trans­fer­able to other venues. Q: What are the big­gest chal­lenges in your job as fish­eries & an­gling man­ager for the C&RT? A: We only have a small team of four work­ing in this area and when you con­sider just how many fish­eries we have to over­see, it can prove tricky.

Ob­tain­ing fund­ing for the many things that we know still need to be done is also tough. The Trust has to work out how to in­vest lim­ited re­sources, and it can be a chal­lenge to ac­cept that other ar­eas of the char­ity some­times rightly take pri­or­ity.

The fi­nal prob­lem is per­suad­ing club and in­di­vid­ual an­glers that things are very dif­fer­ent now in the Canal & River Trust as op­posed to the Bri­tish Wa­ter­ways era. The out­look is now so much brighter for an­gling, but it is work in progress and def­i­nitely a marathon, rather than a sprint, to prove we re­ally do mean busi­ness.

John back in 1988 on the Shrop­shire Union Canal.

John El­lis: Loves putting a smile back on the faces of Bri­tain’s canal an­glers.

John at­tends many events to pro­mote canal fish­ing.

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