River monsters on the line

By Mark Elson   |   Senior Reporter   |
Wednesday 2nd May 2018 12:15 pm
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A LAVE net fisherman from Drybrook had much bigger prey than Severn salmon to contend with on a recent trip to Thailand.

Nick Johnson, an independent mortgage broker, fly fishes at Soudley Ponds and follows in his father, Terry Johnson’s, footsteps using traditional lave nets in the Severn at Lydney to catch salmon. He recently visited the Krabi Province in Thailand with his partner.

Nick said: “We spent four days at Gillhams Fishing Reserve, which is filled with specimen fish from all around the world. For the first two days I was fishing until about 8pm and I caught nothing, and that was hard-going, but I was targeting difficult fish.

“Eventually I caught an 80lb Siamese carp. There have been specimens recorded at 170lb.

“My real goal was to catch an Arapaima, a fish which is known as a true river monster, and I was lucky enough to catch two. You have to be out very early or very late and use fish bait to catch them.

“I had to wait in the darkness for hours waiting for the Arapaima to start to feed on frogs and small fish. I heard lots of large splashes in the darkness so I knew it was there.

“The mystical and dangerous Arapaima is one of the largest fresh water fish in the world and can grow to over 400lbs and 10 feet in length. They are a difficult fish to catch and very powerful.

“I also caught a beautiful red tailed catfish approx  80lbs. I used a normal rod and line, but much heavier duty than I’d use here in the UK and the fishery has guides who help you bring in fish that you have caught. All fish caught were returned to the water unharmed. It certainly was a bit nerve-racking getting in the water in the darkness with these huge fish and it’s something I wont forget

“I’ve fished around the world and been to New Zealand and Malaysia and it’s great to explore the cultures and scenery.”

From June 1, Nick and a handful of other fisherman will be heading out into the Severn again in pursuit of salmon.

He added: “These days lave net fishing is more about keeping the tradition going for historical reasons as we’re only allowed to keep one fish a year. There are about four of us who go out now and only around 20 to 25 lave net fishermen left in the world.

“I used to go out with my dad, who died this January, and I’ll go out again because I’ve always done it. The Severn is the second most dangerous river in the world after the Amazon, but it’s absolutely beautiful to be out on the river at 5 or 6am. It feels neanderthal.

“Dad was passionate about the River Severn and lave netting and its heritage. Sadly he had not fished for about at least five years. Due to declining health he let his licence elapse - something that I never thought would happen.

“He was quite a well-known character and a good sportsman. He was a Blakeney lad and an ex-Bristol City and Blakeney football player whose goal-scoring record still stands at Blakeney. 

“Dad fished with the Davies - Fennell family from Blakeney and the Harris family from Wollaston.”

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