Who’s River Is It Anyway?

As a regular Trent angler I never cease to be amazed by the behaviour of some of my fellow piscators and their presumption of entitlement. Nor can I understand what gives them the right to think they can invent a set of so-called rules of etiquette to suit their own selfish ends at your expense.

What am I on about?


I’m not talking about the guy who surreptitiously sneaks down when the fishery is deserted and hides out of the way so no one will notice. No, it’s worse than that. Poaching is too kind a word. This is blatantly ignoring the law. Imagine a bunch of gypsies pitching up their caravans on next door’s garden, hopping over the fence to steal your vegetables and then swear at you for objecting. 


No, it’s even worse than that.

Imagine you’ve decided to dig a few spuds for dinner and these gypsies telling you to, ‘F&%£ off, we’re here first, go and find some other f&%£ing vegetables!’

Or you fancy having a lazy day on your deck chair but their kids are running round your garden, bombing you with a football and preventing you from chilling out.

Wouldn’t be happy, would you?

Well what’s the difference when you’ve joined a club, paid your dues, followed all the membership rules, but someone on the far bank, 50, 60, maybe even 80 yards away across the Trent, decides he’s going to hurl a whacking great feeder into your swim? What’s all that about? 

He don’t care if he has a crack-off and you are killed by 5ozs of lead attached to his feeder. No, you are irrelevant. You are in the way of him catching a fish. From YOUR swim!

Bivvy City

I appreciate this is a bit parochial, though arguably relevant to several other large rivers. You might wish to argue differently on a piddle like the Loddon, the Teme even, or the many other streams and rivulets. No, this absolutely affects BIG rivers where bivvying, pods, vertical carp rods, baitrunner reels, 15lb line, bite alarms, boilies and massive, heavy feeders has become the norm.

Unfortunately it has become quite the thing to do when you want to fish in a particular swim on the Trent to purchase an often cheaper ticket for the opposite bank and hurl great feeders all the way over the river into it! What’s that about? Why not buy a day ticket or club book for the bank opposite and fish there with a 1oz lead?


Thing is, there are rules. There is Law. I’m not talking unwritten rules or some fantasy code of conduct invented by the poachers. I’m talking the law of the land. One that’s enforceable in a court of law.

The general rule is that a person who owns land abutting a river or lake is presumed to own one-half of the bed of that river or lake (or the whole of the bed if land on both or all sides is owned). In other words, you own the fishing rights up to the mid-point of the river. The fishing beyond half way belongs to the landowner opposite, it’s only all yours if you own both banks. You can’t sell a day ticket to a bloke on your land and give him permission to fish on the far side if you only own the near bank.


So, let’s agree something once and for all. If you are fishing past half way and you don’t have a ticket for the opposite bank then you are breaking the law. If someone turns up on the opposite bank and has a permit to fish there then he has every right to do so. You have not. You are the one who’s poaching, the one who’s breaking the rules of etiquette and indeed the law of the land, so quit complaining and get over it. You are out of order. It’s not first come, first served. You are poaching the other guys fishery. Gentlemanly conduct doesn’t come into it.


And when was it ever good manners to abuse someone who is perfectly within his rights when you are absolutely not?

The practise of casting right across a river crops up regularly on social media and numerous fishing forums usually with the perpetrators moaning a bucketful about folk turning up and choosing to fish directly opposite them. ‘It’s ungentlemanly,’ They say, ‘If it happened to me I’d have a word and if he didn’t move I’d go round and give him a good kicking.’, ‘I’d already put loads of bait in that cost me a fortune’, ‘I’d be casting straight at him with a heavy lead until he moved’, etc, etc, etc.

Frankly it’s a disgrace that the perpetrators are seemingly blind to. And then they’ll go on Facebook and have the audacity to talk about gentlemanly conduct. You honestly couldn’t make it up!

My favourite comment is, ‘Well, no-one ever fishes there, do they?’

Well of course they don’t, you idiot! It ain’t bloody safe to when dangerous missiles are being hurled across the river in that direction.


Sorry, but IF we wish to talk etiquette, gentlemanly conduct and moral behaviour then it’s time we had some official guidelines that reflect the law of the land and are encouraged by all. It’s all fine and dandy for the Barbel Society and the Angling Trust to promote a Safe Handling Code for the fish, how about some safety for the angler? How about they promote the law as it exists today. How about they take a stand against those who selfishly try to catch barbel from the far side of rivers where they know they are poaching and are deliberately making it difficult for sensible anglers to fish safely?

And then promote that message through clubs, through a media campaign and through their own memberships who ain’t exactly backwards at coming forwards when they have something to moan about.

Handling Code

Handling Code

Failing that, let’s have the EA and Operation Traverse involved. Let’s have proper compliance with the law enforced and if you’re caught, you’re nicked. That’d resolve the problem.

To back up this piece I’m more than happy to highlight several examples of areas where I know for certain there is a recognised problem, several have been discussed openly on social media recently and indeed some are from my own personal experience. They are far from conclusive. It’s a common and growing problem that didn’t exist 30 years ago when both banks of the river were lined at weekends.

So here goes:

  1. Tidal Trent: Cromwell. Ashfield Angling (opposite the low numbers below Collingham Weir). Day ticket anglers casting across the river.
  2. Tidal Trent. Carlton. Ashfield Angling, formerly CEMEX. Opposite the Collingham members only stretch. I once had someone casting a feeder closer to my bank than where I was running through a stick float! I also had someone contact me through this site, explain he fished opposite where I was fishing and ask how he could get to fish where I was catching. My response was, ‘Then cast a bit shorter!’
  3. Tidal Trent. Carlton. Ranmoor Piscatorials. Day ticket anglers casting across from Collingham.
  4. Non-tidal. Crankley Point towards railway viaduct. Nottingham Piscatorial Society. Day ticket anglers casting over from the popular A1 Pits pegs have made this a no-go, unsafe area for NPS members.
  5. Non-tidal. Kelham Hall. Nottingham Piscatorial Society stretch. Day ticket anglers casting right over to the trees and snags on the NPS side. Anglers fishing on the NPS water have been threatened and abused.

I’m sure Trent regulars will easily be able to add to this list and I’d welcome them to do so in the comments section below. What is most noticeable is that in all but one of the examples I’ve cited, the stretches where anglers insist on chucking the full width of the river are day ticket waters. Indeed I’ve never yet heard of a day ticket angler complaining about being subjected to such practises.

Anyway, let me close with a thought from a book I wrote almost 25 years ago called the Complete Book Of Legering. In the trouble-shooting section I showed the answer to trailing lines from tackle-strewn snags. Not that I’d encourage this but it is the ultimate solution to anyone who casts into your swim…


Works a treat. Your opponent will simply get a sudden drop-back and then wonder why the hell he’s cracked-off! 

17 thoughts on “Who’s River Is It Anyway?

  1. And one wonders why fishing on the Trent isn’t popular anymore apart from the new generation weekend Carbellers !!!!

  2. with the greatest respect you are wrong.the laws you mention only apply to non tidal rivers.unfortunately on tidal rivers you only have rights of access to the bank not riparian or fishing rights.

  3. Bob, the people who are breaking the law have probably only been fishing for a few years, I could not imagine anyone who has been a life long angler stooping so low. Getting them to have a conscience is probably asking too much, but I must say that the bomb with Stanley blades is a very good answer to the snap offs, and is probably the best punishment they could receive. Well done for bring the whole issue to fellow anglers attention.

  4. Therefore leaving baited hooks free on the river bed??!!!! Are you for real????? Cannot believe you have posted this, giving people the idea a casting and dragging exposed Stanley blades through rivers. I’m sure now we’re in 2016 if stray lines were a problem a completely safe way to cut these could be made easily. Excuse the abuse but your an idiot for posting this. It’s a way of getting over a personal problem and is just putting fish in danger. Poor poor form!!!!!

    • Many, many thousands of feeders, leads and rigs are lost on snags in our rivers up and down the country each season. Enough to keep an industry of tackle makers in business. THOUSANDS! Probably hundreds of thousands over the past five decades. And in all this time how many times have you ever landed a fish trailing one? Weird that, isn’t it?

      Or maybe you’ve just invented a problem that doesn’t actually exist just to suit your purpose.

      The truth is, unless you stick to fishing a float set well off the bottom you will inevitable lose rigs and feeders, and you’ll happily take that same risk next time out, and the next time, and on every time you go fishing. You accept that you will lose tackle because you make a choice to use tackle that is not strong enough to pull the snags out of the river. So, do you really care? Or are you just kidding yourself that you’re stood on the high moral ground here? Because it ain’t fooling me.

      And on a river like the Trent, for that’s what we’re talking about here, the further you cast the more likely you are to get snagged. That stands to reason, doesn’t it? Logic that cannot be denied. You might believe there are no snags in front of you but the fact is, you can’t see the river bed 50 yards away and chances are there’s a snag out there somewhere in almost every single swim.

      And what about the tales of lost fish that Facebook and the like is full of. ‘Lost one at 2am this morning. Couldn’t stop it. Broke me off.’ How many times you heard that chestnut? But you, of course, never lose a fish, never leave a rig in a snag, never leave a baited hook in the river because, I’m guessing here, you must be the special one, Peter Perfect, never ever happens, eh?

      Well, you may believe that.

      I also suspect your experience of legering on rivers does not stretch back to the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s when this book relates to (published in the 90’s) before the carbelling boom proliferated. If it did you wouldn’t ever suggest that trailing lines have never existed.

      And then you say ‘a completely safe way to cut trailing lines could be made easily’. Okay then. Tell us how it’s done better than this. Tell us how you are going to cut lines without a sharp blade of some description, from the bank when the snag can be 50 yards away. Lasers?

      And as for anyone else who might suggest retrieving this bit of kit is in some way dangerous to fish, are you bonkers? You don’t retrieve a feeder or lead along the bottom, you reel it across the surface! And if you seriously believe a fish lies stationary in the current whilst a taught line is drawn over it, which it must do for the gizmo to touch it, you’ve not watched the underwater footage of fish in the Barbel Days and Ways series when they merely brush a fishing line. Can’t and won’t happen. If it did then lure anglers would be snagging barbel, bream and chub all day long, which surprisingly they never do.

  5. I fish the Ashfield stretch at Cromwell just below the wier Bob and at times it is a complete nightmare. The Collingham anglers at times do not just cast right across the river but light fires, leave piles of litter, don’t use unhooking mats, take fish away by the carrier bag load, go shopping for a couple of hours leaving their rods in etc etc etc. Despite the fish you can catch in the Trent I am thinking of letting my Ashfield book go because of it. Rant over. I enjoy your website Bob.

    • Used to fish there myself but it wasn’t exactly a restful place at night. I used to get woken up so often by alarms of the anglers opposite who never seemed to understand what a volume control was for and took forever to get out of their sleeping bags to hit a run. Not everyone is an idiot but I witnessed some pretty poor angling and fish care on that side, not to mention fires, drinking and possibly drug taking, party central, but whilst ever they’re there they are nowhere else which I suppose is a blessing.

  6. Bob ,when does last chance of catching fish on trent end ,is owston ferry or further down.

    • There are certainly coarse fish at Owston, I’ve been told of fish being caught from the slack just above the railway bridge at Keadby by but whether the river can be fished safely from the bank is a whole different matter.

  7. Hi all. Just come across this thread and need to comment myself. What has fishing come to. Gone are the good old days, I fish the Trent regular started back in the 70s before the barbel boom, carp were more prolific those days. The river has cleaned up even more and the barbel have thrived, lovely it’s great to see.
    Now the negatives, the finesse of angling has disappeared, all I see now is alarms, 3 lb tc rods pointing skyward, 6 oz of lead and a boilie or pellet.
    Kids brainwashed into thinking fishing is a boilie and an alarm.
    Hardly any pegs available on the river due to social media and clubs stitching up stretches.
    People taking to boats to enable them to fish the private stretches and get away from the crowd.
    Ban the camping holiday, ban alarms, ban boilies, ban bivvies, ban the broomsticks 3 lb tc rods, balanced tackle allowed only.
    Give the fish a chance, I don’t just mean tackle wise, I mean in its environment, these hard fished areas and we all know them are only going to get busier with the popularity of the so called carbelling
    We all know angling pressure reduces catch rates and pressure on the scale we see on certain stretches of the river is not good for the welfare of our fish.
    Clubs need to control this pressure by controlling angler numbers to give the fish a chance.
    Will clubs or the environment agency do this or will they just keep taking the money.
    If things don’t improve I personally will be calling it a day after this year, how sad is that after a life time of angling, you may ask why give it up, simple reason is to get away from the crowds.
    Oh ban weed as well, I’m sick to death of smelling it!!!!!!!

  8. Hi , I have only just started fishing a few weeks ago aged 57. I was invited by my brother a good and serious fisherman along to a carp lake in deepest darkest Lincolnshire with my £9.99 rod and reel inc a float and line purchased from a high street retailer on a whim !! just for some possible fun . When presented to my brother for critical assessment he replied ” great if your a 5 year old ” , So we paid our £6 each and i sat and waited for a bite , all of twenty minutes later a 8lb common carp landed , My brother was still getting set up to his total dismay !!! . Do i buy a better rod and reel ? or one of those pole thingy”s with knicker elastic hanging out end , very odd ?. Mike .

  9. Hi Mike. Y.ou do what floats your boat mate., I can remember when fishing was magical. When I say magical, one rod one reel a box of bits, off I went as a child in the early 80s, river don salmon pastures, dam flask catching roach and trout, river rivelin catching Rudd, Sheffield canal.catchng anything I could, Worksop canal catching roach, woodsetts pond catching tench, crooks valley pond catching perch roach and my mate had a lovely tench. Commercials, what were they? A rod for every species and size what’s all that about? Ground bait for every species? Hooks to suit every size of fish lip, lines to suit every shade of water. Who is having who here. Cast a line, hook a bait and enjoy the tranquility if you can get it. If you catch something it’s a lovely bonus, just like you did. A rod and line catches fish, gimics and the perfect bait catch anglers. You put any bait in front of a feeding fish and hey presto. Easy. As you proved.
    Enjoy and don’t be sucked in.

  10. I’ll be honest Bob, I do sometimes fish from opposite bank of trent below gunthorpe wier. I do this to try and get into an area where there’s no disturbance from me clonking around on the river bank. That said I have a members ticket for that side anyway but if someone came and decided they wanted to fish there from that side of the bank, then yes I would move mine out the way as its the right thing to do.

  11. I fish the Trent at Carlton ferry just opposite the old windmill, and had pay for my day ticket. 20 mins later some dick on the opposite bank which is a members bank started shouting that i couldn’t fish there because his club owned everything you see, i just called him a idiot and told him your club only owns that bank and that Collingham ran the bank i was on, and the guy just wouldn’t shut up. Then he set up 20 yards down stream and started chucking his feeder up stream toward me. karma’s a bitch and 20 mins later a load of low flying geese dragged his rods in and the goose ended up tangeled up on my side so i just untangled the goose which was unhurt. I said to the guy as i cut the line ,”do you want your gear back” he’s said ” o please mate and, i’m sorry for being a twat” i just let go of the line and told him they “you might get lucky , they might wash up on cleethorpes beach you prick”. Moral of the story is don’t piss people off and think you’re being a big hard man when they are trying to relax . He lost over £500 of rods and reels that day.
    I think he learn’t his lesson.