Some anglers have big egos and the bigger the ego the thinner the eggshell that protects it. One of the teacup storms on Traditionalfisherman forum is a recent example. Trevor Harrop, one of the two anglers who started the Avon Roach Project, an amateur fish hatchery for restocking the Hampshire Avon with roach, joined the forum last week, apparently to take issue with another member who finds his book about the ARP waffly and the project itself largely a waste of effort. Used to being lauded just about everywhere, his self-regard obviously took a bit of a hit.
This blog has already commented on the ARP. The Environment Agency 2005 Avon survey that Harrop cites does not appear to exist; at any rate I’ve never found any link to it on the EA website, although its navigation is notoriously bad. The ARP reproduces a single bar chart that has little meaning without information about how the data were gathered. Certainly there is no reason for a ‘sad sense of empty desperation’. Far from roach being in ‘serious decline’, the full survey data show that the species was doing fine in 2005, better in fact than most subsequent years. This of course assumes that the EA data samples are a reliable guide to fish stocks, but Harrop’s hyperbole has nothing to back it up beyond fishermen’s not entirely trustworthy anecdotes and reference to a mysterious report.
The ARP is not shy about bigging itself up, boasting about ‘ground-breaking techniques’. Collecting fish spawn had been done long before the ARP filled the first tub with roach eggs. Stocking with hatchery fry is now believed ineffective, but I have discussed this elsewhere. What of the mini squabble on TFF, my attention to which was kindly drawn by a spectator? The impetus came from a recent video about roach fishing by Harrop, the titles of which refer modestly to his ‘selfless dedication’, which led to further chat about his book. The heretic who questioned the merits of book and project is an accomplished roach angler himself, an author of two books on the subject, with a good knowledge of the Avon. Cracks in his eggshell very obvious, Harrop launched into a diatribe accusing his critic at some length of jealousy. Quite what there is to be jealous about is unclear. Should any readers want to look at the exchange it is too late. Mark ‘very nice’ Sarul, the administrator, who can’t bear even the mildest disagreement, has taken the posts down. Now all you can read is how wonderful everything is.
What of the book itself? Well I’m not about to buy it. Who wants to read about something that was almost certainly a futile exercise? But I have found an excerpt online. The TFF critic is correct. It is cliché and waffle. Still, that never stopped a fishing book selling a few copies.
The ARP has no evidence to back up its grandiose claims but on the other hand has unlikely to have done any harm, and just possibly some good, especially with work on habitat improvement. Not everyone thinks so and Harrop must be prepared to accept criticism without insulting the critic. Otherwise he is no more than a puffed up ego fed by unjustified lavish praise that he has listened to with too much pleasure.