In the spring of 2007 the first tank was in position and ready to take its interns. We needed to test the facility to see if we could actually raise roach to one year old at Project HQ. One of the early project proposals was that we take spawn from what are regarded as true Avon roach from an Avon fed pool, then raise these and return some to the river and some to the pool to bolster the population we would be cropping. But first we would need to net the pool and have the roach checked for health, species authentication, growth to age, parasites and anything else anyone could accuse us of polluting the Avon with. Unfortunately, we had run out of time to do all this before the roach spawned. In the meantime, however, we had placed ten of our spawning boards around the pool to see if the roach would use them.



We recruited some muscle and netted the pool in late May. We selected a dozen roach and took them the following day, to an obliging, official EA listed and recognised biologist to be checked. After a week or so we received our certificate confirming they were true, healthy, parasite free roach.


Meanwhile, in mid April, we had succeeded in attracting roach to our prototype spawning boards. Not only did this tell us we had a workable design, but it also confirmed where the roach in the pool spawned should egg collection from here need to feature in the future of the project. Either way, it would act as our safety net should obtaining spawn from the river not be viable or achievable. We left this to hatch where it was, as it was pointless taking eggs away if the fish that had laid them were not healthy or true roach.


As the unfortunate mistiming of events meant we were unable to take spawn from the pool, we obtained permission to take some pin-head fry, once species authentication had been established and they had passed their health check. We would simply take them, keep them for one year to test our facility, then return them to the pool. This we did successfully, though not without a few lessons being learnt along the way. Now we had established that they were true healthy roach and that we could get them to spawn on our boards, we were buoyed up enough to get the second tank in place.


Just as Trevor thought that was it, the trout farm owner announced that he had a third tank in the bushes that we could have, and given the success of the spawning boards in the pool and the potential of the project, and the fact that we had an offer of a thousand quid’s worth of tank for fifty, he was swayed. All he needed to do was remove his old compost heap and distribute it around the garden and into the hedge at the end. He swears to this day that he moved seven tonnes of it. More like a few bin liners though. Pretty soon the third tank was in position and all three were covered with half shade and half clear fine netting. This serves two purposes. One is the obvious, while the other is to prevent the colonisation, by air, of the sinister little predator, the Greater Water Boatman. It also prevents damsel flies and other predatory insect from using it to raise their own young at the fatal expense of ours.

These voracious predators fly in and help themselves to anything that moves and is deemed edible, often eating prey larger than themselves. They stay until the food source runs out and then leave. Imagine the joy they must have felt on landing in our tanks and seeing enough food to last generations. They simply sidle up to a young roach, grab it and sink a long proboscis called a stylet into it, then suck out the innards of the helpless little fish. Despite this, we managed to return a good percentage of two inch roach to the pool.


And this is what it’s all about. The Hampshire Avon in all her finery. The perfect spot for broad flanked, red finned roach to roll and prime in the gathering dusk. To contemplate once renowned stretches such as this without them is simply unthinkable.