VOLUME 28, ISSUE 03. September 2021

It's literally a case of "down tools" at the moment with all these Covid restrictions!!! Unless you're in a LGA incorporating the sea or some water. As they say, every picture tells a story!!!


Next Members Monthly Meeting

Our next Members Monthly Meeting will be held as a Zoom Meeting, due to the current Covid Lockdown, on Monday the 13th September 2021 kicking off at 7:00PM.

Please view further down the Flyrodder for further details.


Next Members Monthly Fly Tying 

The Monthly Fly Tying Meeting has been cancelled until further notice until the current lockdown situation is reversed and we are allowed to meet again.

See further details below under the Fly Tying segment.


President's Report

Denis Hill on the Snowy River.

Dear {Contact_First_Name},

It’s a strange, strange world living with the Covid Pandemic. Eventually NSW will open back, hopefully all our members and families will have been able to access a vaccine and emerge unscathed from the worst of the pandemic. In the meantime, we continue to keep planning for the future and just pushing those plans out as the Covid shutdown pushes out. We missed the Skills weekend, then thought we may have managed a weekend in Wallerawang in September, that’s gone. There is still a hope we can do our Annual Geehi / Long Plain trip in the second half of November, and I would encourage you to consider booking for that trip as the most you can be out of pocket is $6 for booking for a week – consider it a donation to National Parks if we can’t go.

As we wait to get out and fish again, we are keeping up our monthly Zoom Club meetings and in addition will hopefully be able to bring you a part two of David Wilson’s introduction to fly tying – Part One was a wonderful tour through the evolution of fly tying equipment with the end result that we all knew not just what to buy, but also why! I have heard from a number of our members that they have taken up fly tying in lockdown and from our existing tyers that they are churning out flies to cover the next several years, so stay tuned for part two from David and Phil Burton. While there are plenty of fly patterns you can copy from YouTube they don’t come with the tips and insights that David and Phil can give you.

We have closed Membership renewals for this year with 149 members, a little down from our peak through last year but a healthy number that will ensure there will always be someone free to fish with you when we can hit the water again. Until then stay safe and reach out to your fellow club members or any of the Committee if you aren’t feeling all that chipper or would just like to chat on too quite a day.

Hope to see you on Zoom soon.

Denis Hill



From the Editor

Gavin at Smith's Lake with a nice bream.

Well, there isn't too much to add at this time, as things are very quiet with the current restrictions in place.

I'm always looking for any snippets of information to be included in that section of the Flyrodder. Anything that you might see that could be of interest to the club members, please forward them through to me. As you will see Bob Hart is a regular contributor and Harry Melkonian has just shared an interesting snippet. Thank you very much gentlemen.

Hopefully the December Flyrodder will be packed with trip reports covering the camping trips to Geehi and the Long Plain area of the Snowy's. Can't wait to get there. 

Don't miss our club member and fly tying guru Dave Wilson's discussion/presentation at our September meeting on Monday night. Dave gave a wonderful presentation of the history of fly tying last month, and the sequel promises to be even better; if that's at all possible. Dave will be chatting about the "tricks & tips", to tying flies. I'm sure that he will also have some stories up his sleeve.

On that note it's back to my fly tying and rod refurbishing activities to be ready for the next trips. But before that, now that my knee is recovered from an arthroscopy, I can get out on the kayak on upper Middle Harbour and off the rocks at Long Reef. I know I live in the Northern Beaches LGA! 

Gavin van der Wagen


0411 877 546



Last Monthly Meeting and Guest Speaker Report

Simon Gawesworth with a lovely Steelhead.

Our August Members monthly meeting guest speaker was the world renowned Sage Ambassador Simon Gawesworth. Simon is a Master Spey Caster, amongst his many other fly fishing skills. 

Our Club Member Justin Duggan conducted a wonderful interview with Simon, who covered many aspects of his fly fishing experiences and history, providing a wonderful insight into Simon's past work with RIO and his new role with the parent company, Far Bank Enterprises Inc, who own Sage Fly Fishing, Redington and RIO Products. 

You can view the complete interview in our Members Private Library on YouTube, plus previous meeting presentations.

These club meeting guest speaker presentations can be viewed on our members private library on YouTube. To view them please click on the following link:


So it's well worth your while to join the monthly meetings.


Next Monthly Meeting and Guest Speaker

Dave Wilson at our last "live" Monthly FlyTying Meeting

Our next Monthly Members Club meeting will be held as a ZOOM Meeting, due to the latest Covid Lockdown, on Monday the 13th September 2021 kicking off at 7:00PM. Please click on the following link to log into the the meeting.

Our club fly tying Guru, Dave Wilson, will be leading the discussion with Phil Burton with interactions from other members along the way.

This is a follow up to last months presentation by Dave where he provided a fascinating account of the history of fly tying, from way back, and how it's progressed to the current day.

This sequel will cover the "Tips and Tricks" of Fly Tying and promises to be another Blockbuster. So don't miss it!! Though if you do it will all be recorded and be available to Members on the Club YouTube Library.



Denis Hill is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: FlyRodders Monthly  Zoom Meeting
Time: Sep 13, 2021 07:00 PM Canberra, Melbourne, Sydney

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 829 9827 2888
Passcode: 653756


Denis Hill


For the meeting our format will be that we will hold the normal meeting covering what is happening around the traps, fishing reports and any other business.

Then Dave and Phil will have their discussion on Fly Tying as described earlier.

This presentation will then be uploaded to our Club Members YouTube Video Library.

To access this library, please click on the following link:


You will also be able to view all the previous meeting presentations that we have recorded, and view at your leisure.

Our Meeting is normally held on the 2nd Monday of each month, unless it is a public holiday; in which case it will be delayed a week. 

Looking forward to catching up at the meeting, one day.


New Members

We had no new member join the club in August 2021.

We encourage new members to join in on the many activities that we run as this is a good way to meet other club members and also to improve your fly fishing skills and most importantly to have a great time.

Looking forward to meeting you at our Monthly Members Meetings and at events throughout the coming year.


Last Months Casting Practice Report


It seems that this column is becoming less about actual club casting practice days and more about what you might be better off doing from home base. I speak of the continuing lockdown of course, although I still manage to do my hour’s worth of casting practice in compliance with the rules. Not sure whether to call it ‘exertion’, such as to relieve me from wearing a mask, so I do keep the mask on. If I am exerting myself in casting practice, I’m probably doing something wrong.  September looks as if normal club casting will still be out of reach, but potentially very small group activity might be on the cards as has been foreshadowed. With the numbers still going the wrong way, even if things loosen up a bit, I am reluctant to organise anything which might expose members and their families to Delta, so keep doing your own private practice. 

I hope some of you have managed to put in some constructive, or simply pleasurable, casting time in the park or on water. I look forward to hearing about any casting improvements you’ve made. Or, almost as good, insights which will lead to better things once you find the keys to any shortcomings you’ve identified. 

Here’s one for the curious: 

If you quickly swish the rod around without a line out, or do the same without making a cast (hold the line to the cork grip), you get a swooshing sound, right? When you cast, do you get the same sound? Do you get the sound on every cast, at every distance, or only some? 

What if your cast doesn’t swish? Could you make one that does? 

Is the sound of the rod swishing in a cast a bad thing? 

Here’s an exercise: 
(i) Make a firm, powerful overhead cast to 40 or 45 feet. Make it sound swishy. 
(ii) Go harder until it does swish! Keep false casting, back and forward.
(iii) Ease off the power and speed a bit more every couple of casts. Find the tempo, timing and power to make the cast without any sound from the rod. 
(iv) Keep dropping off the power and speed bit by bit. When the cast begins to fail, step it up again, but not as fast as before. 
(v) Find the right amount of power and tempo to make the cast comfortably. 
(vii) Try it with different weight/length/action rods and, of course, different lengths of line. 

Some possible outcomes for you: 

(A) My normal casts were swishy initially, but I backed off as suggested and then had no problem making a quiet cast. (After dozens of practices at various distances for all my casts, that is!)
(B) I found it OK, but so foreign to me that I’ll stick with my current style because I’m used to the swishing. At least I can put the cast to the fish. 
(C) The exercise worked fine, but I normally never swish anyway. Maybe sometimes into the wind. (D) I get it, but I still swish sometimes when I’m trying not to. 
(E) I can’t stop the swishing when I change my rod from medium action to fast action. Or vice versa.  I want to fix this. 
(F) I cannot stop swishing at all. On any cast. No matter what I try. When I slow down to the rod being quiet, the line falls to the ground. 

If you can relate to any of the above outcomes, your experiment was a success. 

Where to with this? A, B, C and D should be fairly happy about things at a personal level. E and F are  stuck and don’t know why. They need to find answers. 

I would say to all of the casters who try this exercise and come to some fair dinkum conclusions, you are truly on a casting journey because you are interested beyond merely casting to fish. I hope you come to the next casting practice so we can workshop it all, together. Or, anything else you want to practice. 

After last month’s casting report, I had a call from a member who wanted to know what PULD stands for. He saw that in the links to last month’s Casting Practice notice in the Flyrodder. It’s the first of the casts in the Fly Fishers International Inc Bronze skill level known properly as the Pick Up and Lay Down. Sorry for the abbreviation. Its fully set out in the FFI pages on Casting Skills Challenge. If you want to know how to do it, go to:


Regards and I hope club practice can resume soon. 

David Caddies


Club Monthly Casting Practice - Details and Event Schedule. (Suspended for the time being.)

The Casting Practice Meeting scheduled for 12 September 2021 is Cancelled due to the current COVID Lockdown situation. 


Members are all welcome to join in with each other to practice casting at this club event. It is held monthly, on a Sunday morning at Timbrell Park, Five Dock. See future scheduled dates listed below.

Currently, we are constrained by the NSW Covid lockdown, so email messages will be sent around to all members to keep you informed of the latest. 


David Caddies organises the sessions and will be there to make you welcome and give you something useful to practice on. Or, bring your own practice drills to do and to share. You do need to be a club member, but you don’t need to register. Just turn up. Bring your favourite rod and line – that’s all you need. A leader of 7’6” - 8’ is sufficient, but not too light. Say 8-10 pound tippet. ( ie 3X, 2X or 1X if you speak in X’s).
Maybe you should bring your least favourite rod and/ or line and finally get to grips with it!

A feature of the sessions is that we can use the Fly Fishers International Casting Skills Program as ideas for what skills we should be trying to improve. For those interested, we conduct coaching and evaluation in the various levels of the Program. Yes, you too could become a Gold Star!  Have a look at the details on the website below to see what it’s all about. Note, however, that the program is being re written extensively and should be finalised by the end of August. It still will have 3 levels: Bronze, Silver and Gold. 


There is no obligation do this program and we moistly do other types of practice at the moment, rather than just training on the skills in the FFI program. Have a look at these links below to see my summary of what the new levels require (ie Bronze and Silver).

Table of FFI Draft Bronze Challenge Tasks

Table of FFI Draft Silver Challenge Tasks


Members who want to practice fly casting; members who need time out of the house or who just want to stand around in the sunshine gasbagging with other members, members who don’t get to go to club events as often as they would like and members who want to see whether casting practice is something they might want to do, never having previously considered the idea of practising to go fishing. Just don’t try explaining it to a non-flyfisher. 

The practice program is either well- favoured or is a complete dud, because most people keep on coming back every month if they can. There’s a good vibe to it.  Luckily there is always a pretty wise crowd in attendance, all eager to give, and take advice, so you’ll find plenty of inspiration just by being there. These sessions are valuable for any level of fly fishing experience; whether you are a beginner, intermediate or experienced you will take some skill improvement idea or drill away with you to practice on.  

We also encourage new members to attend as this is a great way to get involved in the club’s activities. Five Dock is hopefully not too far from your home, given the size of Sydney, plus it’s an opportunity to meet other members. More than a few fishing trips have been hatched and executed among the members who meet up at casting practice. 


We usually start at 8am, focussing on the more basic elements of casting. At 9am, when most members arrive, we switch to other skills practices. Any good practice session starts with the basics, so don't feel constrained by thinking you are at some, or no, level of expertise or other - just get into it all!

VENUE: Timbrell Park, Henley Marine Drive, Five Dock. Go to the western end, just past LIvvi’s coffee kiosk and kids’ playground area on Henley Marine Drive. Opposite where Ingham Avenue intersects with Henley Marine Drive. 
TIME:   8 am for specific casting basics (all welcome). 
            9 am for usual practice session (all welcome).

SUNDAY DATES FOR THE REMAINDER OF 2021 (Suspended for now!)

12 September

10 October

14 November

12 December

So come and give it a try, as there is so much to be gained  by attending these sessions. And they are Free!!!


Last Months Fly Tying Meeting Report

Dave Wilson conducted a wonderful fly tying discussion, covering the breadth of fly tying from way back to the current time. His fly tying room was full of umpteen fly tying vises and other memorabilia; just a museum.

His discussion presentation can be viewed on the Club's Private Video Library on YouTube. 

To view Dave's discussion, please click on the following link:



Next Monthly Fly Tying Meeting

The September Fly Tying Meeting has been replaced by Dave Wilson's Fly Tying Discussion at our Members Monthly Meeting on 13 September 2021. See further details in our meeting segment earlier in this Flyrodder.


Geehi and Long Plain Camping Trip in November

Geehi 19th - 26th Nov

Long Plain 27th Nov - 4th Dec.

The Event 

The Club has for quite a few years held a two-week camping trip in the Snowy Mountains. One week in the National Park Geehi Flats Campground followed by a week in the National Park Long Plain Campground. Members are welcome to camp for one night through to the full 14 nights. As you may be aware pre Covid there was no cost for camping in our National Parks other than the park access fee, with the advent of Covid national Parks introduced a booking process for camp sites and with it a $6 per booking fee. So, if you would like to join us on this event the first thing you should do is book on the National Parks website for the nights you are going to attend as the camp sites can book out. 

Please note however that National Parks will only allow you to book 90 days in advance so get online to book for Geehi on the 22nd August and on the 28th August for Long Plain.  

With a booking fee of $6 per booking you haven't got a lot to lose so if you are interested please read the attached document which provides additional details regarding the trip and then jump on the National Parks website and book.

 I also ask that you also book on the Event Section of the Club’s website, we have no limits on attendees or costs for this event, the reason we ask you to book is simply so that we can keep members appraised of who is attending and when, and you can thus co-ordinate travel and fishing plans – also we can keep an eye out for you knowing when you should arrive.

Hopefully this trip can be part of our celebration of Covid lessening its grip on our lives.


Your Committee


Buy, Sell and Swap

There is no Buy Sell, Swap this month as Its a Zoom Meeting.


Sydney Fly Rodders Facebook Pages

We run two SFRC pages, one is our public page and it posts events and activities of the club. It also shares posts from other pages like CAS, DPI on things relevant to the places and areas that we fish.

I post some fly tying every now and then and share links to events I find that might be of interest to followers. This page is a little like our Web page, it showcases the club to attract members and provides details of club events. It has about 450 people following the page and any post will be seen by between 180 and 240 people.

We added another page. This is reserved for members only and cannot be seen by anyone outside of the group. You will need to send a request to join. Any member can post on this page and it is a great opportunity for members to put up a post or two about anything fly fishing. I would like to encourage members to use this page to post fishing reports or photos of flies that you tied. Being connected to other members you can ask for some casting or gear advice, or organise a short trip when you suddenly have some spare time.

There are also hundreds of other groups; bream on fly, carp on fly, bass, trout....areas like alpine trout, Sydney Kayak Fishing....fly tying groups, buy sell swap fly gear pages and individuals like Aussie Flyfisher, Sydney Flyfishing to check out. 

Phil Burton


Sydney Flyrodders Instagram Page

The Sydney Fly Rodders are now on Instagram. Many thanks to our Member Maddie Chew Lee, who offered to set us up and apply her significant experience with marketing and communications in particular within the social media space. 

Please follow the site and add your comments, and lets grow this platform for the club. It will also attract new members to the club.

Below is a snapshot of the site. We aim to sync (in particular look and feel) the Instagram account with our Facebook account and also our new Website, which I talk more about in the preceding section.


Sydney Fly Rodders WhatsApp Group

We have an Exclusive Group on WhatsApp for our Members, which is a great way to communicate informally and to share ideas, seek advice and also to plan and seek interest for impromptu/planned fishing trips.

I can highly recommend this to members. We have arranged a number of trips now from a weekends bass fishing through to a casual and social Sunday morning or afternoons fishing at Narrabeen Lake or Hen & Chickens Bay etc. And there could even be a BBQ thrown in for a social get together afterwards. This will happen on most if not all occasions.

Should you wish to be included in this group, then please email me to request your inclusion, quoting your mobile number which is required to link you into the Group. You will need to download the WhatsApp first if you haven't already done so.

Please contact me for inclusion.

Gavin van der Wagen

Editor, Flyrodder



Snippets of Information

Fishing Under Threat from NSW Animal Welfare Reform

provided by Bob Hart

NSW recreational fishers are encouraged to make last-minute submissions to a NSW Department of Primary Industries discussion paper that could affect how we are allowed to fish in the future.

The NSW government says it is "modernising and streamlining animal welfare laws" and are inviting the public to have their say.

The NSW DPI Animal Welfare Reform – Discussion Paper outlines detailed policy proposals for the new legislation and explains their intended effect.

Currently, the paper confirms that the updated legislation does not affect the lawful activity of fishing (see Proposal 3) and provides clarity that using a live fish, cephalopod or decapod crustacean as bait is not an offence (see Proposal 8).

The Recreational Fishing Alliance of NSW (RFA) says the process is "fundamentally sound and many of its proposals deserve public support. But fishers must provide submissions to reinforce the relevant proposals (Proposal 3 and 8)."

But the RFA warns that recreational fishing is under increasing pressure from extremist animal rights groups eager to ban the use of live bait when fishing, via their members’ submissions.

NSW Legislative Council member Emma Hurst (Animal Justice Party) said in March this year, “Fish feel pain, they are self-aware, they remember, they build relationships and exhibit emotional responses. Deliberately inflicting pain and suffering on these sentient animals can not be ignored - especially when the fishing industry kills more individual animals than any other form of animal slaughter.”

A statement based on results of studies of marginal scientific merit.

You can have your say before 3 September 2021 by filling out an online survey.

Alternatively, submissions can be emailed to 
or posted to:
Department of Primary Industries
c/o Animal Welfare
Locked Bag 21
Orange NSW 2800

Voluntary Trout Moratorium in Colorado

Today, I read a fascinating story in the Christian Science Monitor about the success of voluntary trout fishing moratorium in Colorado to relieve stress on trout caused by drought

Here is a link to the story:


Makes me proud of trout fishers

Harry Melkonian


Caught a Tagged Trout?

Anglers fishing for trout can help NSW DPI - Fisheries find out more about trout survival and growth rates in a number of impoundments. If you’re lucky enough to catch a tagged trout, let them know the details online at www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/taggedrecapture.

Anglers who report details of their tagged catch will receive a lure as a reward for their help.

Tagged trout – as part of DPI’s tag recapture program – can be found in Ben Chifley Dam, Blowering Dam, Carcoar Dam, Dumaresq Dam, Khancoban Dam, Lake Lyall, Lake Wallace, Malpas Dam, Oberon Dam, Thompsons Creek Dam and Wyangala Dam.

NSW DPI says, anglers should keep an eye out for our new signs that are being installed at the various impoundments over the coming months.

DPI's RAP Program Wants Your Fish Frames!

If you are taking snapper home this winter, why not donate the filleted frames to DPI’s Research Angler Program?  

Along with reds, there are seven other eligible RAP frame donation species - mulloway, kingfish, dusky flathead, bluespot flathead, pearl perch, Spanish mackerel and spotted mackerel.  You don’t need to donate a trophy-sized specimen - the frame from any legal sized fish from the above list will provide our researchers with valuable data. As well as playing a key role in a cool fisheries research program, you’ll receive an entry into a monthly draw for each frame donated along with a certificate with your fish’s age.  

If you’re interested in learning more, including the location of your closest drop-off points, go to DPI’s website and search ‘NSW Research Angler Newsletter drop off locations’ 

Simrad App

The latest Simrad App debuted this week and includes a premium offering complete with new mapping features, advanced functionality and mirroring and control of Simrad multi-functional displays from your smartphone or tablet. It is available on both the Apple Store for iOS and Google Play for Android.

The app is free to download and offers a rich experience that includes free up-to-date nautical charts from C-MAP, personal waypoints, routes and tracks, latest marine weather, personalization and much more. The app also allows you to register your Simrad device(s) ensuring you have the latest software, manuals, information and product tips, as well as the ability to synchronize your waypoints and routes. The premium version has additional functionalities including stand-alone navigation.

The premium version of the Simrad App offers global charts and offline maps, High-Resolution Bathymetry Charts, Automatic Identification System (AIS), Simrad Community Traffic, 5-day weather overlay along route and 5-day weather overlay, GPS navigation data and line, track recording plus custom depth shading. The full complement of weather data is provided in both versions including wind data, sea state, tides and currents, water temperature and much more. The Simrad App also features detailed fishing information for anglers and sport fishing enthusiasts.

The C-MAP charts on the app are carefully designed to highlight what is most important at any given time during your boating experience, maintaining accuracy and a clean, uncluttered view. Charts are powered by data from official hydrographic offices and continuously updated and augmented from thousands of data sources to enrich data near shore or offshore to provide clarity for your routing, whether that’s a short trip across the bay or longer voyage on the open water.

For more information: www.simrad-yachting.com

Pragmatism over Politicking 

In a victory for the pragmatic politicking which seems to have replaced sound policy decision making in much of the country these days, NSW Environment Minster Matt Kean had to knock over his own pick Malcolm Turnbull as chair of the Net Zero Emissions and Clean Energy Board before he’d even started. Did Turnbull lack qualifications for the role? Not at all. But he’s seen as anti-coal mining and with an Upper Hunter byelection looming the good old Coalition political pragmatism prevailed.

Rewind to the last NSW state election. Batemans Marine Park had areas reopened to rec fishing without any consultation, even with its own advisory board. Science based? No way. Rec fishing vote based. Now NSW is reported to be developing a “network management plan” for the state’s marine parks. Kean, as minister jointly responsible for the parks, looks to be caught again. Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall will no doubt push for further erosion of protection.

Despite being a signatory to the Global Ocean Alliance, where over 50 countries have committed to protecting over 30 per cent of the world’s oceans by the end of the decade, as it’s done with climate change initiatives Australia plays an interesting game. Most of Australia’s marine protected area (MPA) network still allows for commercial fishing in at least some zones and rec fishing in several more. In fact, 75 per cent of our MPAs only get “partial” protection, which is hard to understand every time we see a pro net full of fish hauled up on a beach in an MPA. Our open water MPAs still allow bottom trawling in some zones. As well as being destructive of seafloor residents and habitats, bottom trawling is also a significant contributor to Co2 release into the oceans. It stirs up the seafloor, which if undisturbed acts as a natural carbon sink.

Currently only 7 per cent of the world’s ocean areas are protected, so much action is needed if 30 per cent is to be achieved by 2030. I’ve thought in the past that seemingly arbitrary 30 per cent total protection targets might have been overkill and have written pieces over the years in support of a “horses for courses” approach, based on both critical habitat protection and multi-use zones rather than blanket targets. But given the state of many of the world’s fish species, including a number in “world’s best fisheries management practices” Australia, now I’m not so sure. Combine that with political rather than scientific decision making on these matters, then I’m really worried.

So, if the weight of evidence suggests that 30 per cent is the necessary target for the protection of our oceans and their residents, and that means excluding commercial fishing completely from these areas, then maybe we rec fishers need to be excluded too. But please, some genuine consultation on which areas are selected, not pragmatic electoral based decision making by pork-barrelling politicians, be they Coalition, Labor or self-interested independents.

Provided by Bob Hart

Fish Facts: Hood Study Raises Questions

A RECENT laboratory study by a Canadian research group which was published in the peer reviewed scientific journal Fisheries Research in June 2021 has set the cat amongst the pigeons (or more accurately, the barras amongst the baitfish?) when it comes to the long running “fish pain debate”.

The paper entitled “Hook retention but not hooking injury is associated with behavioural differences in Bluegill” found fish that were hooked then unhooked under controlled laboratory conditions did not significantly differ in their behaviour compared to control fish which were not hooked at all. Only fish which were allowed to retain hooks showed any significant change in their behaviour, which included attempts to dislodge the hook against the walls of the experimental chamber, a lower likelihood of leaving a refuge and reduced exploratory behaviour for those which did so. These results indicate that bluegill are resilient to tissue damage from minor hooking injuries to the mouth, and that reported behavioural impairments in fish after release can be explained by the scientifically well known physiological changes from the fight, landing, and/or subsequent handling and air exposure, and now also hook retention.

These results are also consistent with previous work done by Norwegian researchers on Atlantic cod in a 2014 paper entitled “Physiological and behavioural responses to noxious stimuli in the Atlantic Cod (Gadus morhua)”. In that study, they found that besides head shaking (presumably to try to remove the hook), Atlantic cod embedded with hooks in the laboratory exhibited no significant behavioural or physiological differences compared to control fish injected with saline. This makes sense, as inserting a hook is similar to inserting a needle (but without the saline injection). Results which are replicable and consistent between disparate research groups are a fundamental cornerstone of good quality science, as anyone who has read up on the recent “replication crisis” in many fields of science can attest.

However, in contrast to the bluegill study, Atlantic cod exposed to presumed noxious (supposedly painful) acetic acid injection treatments in the 2014 study displayed reduced use of shelter, while hook retained bluegill in the latest study exhibited increased use of shelter, which has also been previously observed in hook retained fishes in the wild in several studies. These inconsistencies between fish behaviour in different studies suggest the behavioural criteria some research groups have been using to “prove pain” in fishes may be species and/or context specific, bringing their scientific validity into serious question. Indeed, when there are no significant differences in the behaviour of fish which have been damaged by hooking compared to control fish injected with saline, and notable inconsistencies in the behavioural criteria being used to allege pain occurs in fish, the whole “fish feel pain” thesis starts to look very wobbly from a scientific perspective.

The authors of the bluegill study (including myself) point out that these discrepancies highlight the need for more studies of this topic by a wider group of researchers. However, in the 7 years since the Atlantic cod study found that hooking was not painful “possibly reflecting a resiliency to tissue damage in the mouth area related to the tough nature of the Atlantic cod diet”, it’s interesting that it is seldom cited (read: ignored completely), by the “pro fish pain” lobby which are now attacking various fisheries and aquaculture practices in unprecedented fashion. Perhaps these studies are an inconvenient truth for some, but they exist, and assertions by the pro fish pain groups that “scientific concensus” has been attained on this topic are complete nonsense.

As an aside, if you were wondering where these claims for concensus come from, they are actually based on a random assemblage of unreviewed letters submitted to a publication called “Animal Sentience”, a forum which was established by animal rights interests to publish opinion on animal rights matters. Hardly a balanced and informed forum for determining “scientific concensus”! The facts are: claims that are now widespread on the internet and in various publications that “fish pain” experiments with acetic acid are somehow relevant to angling are simply not supported by the available data. In all the various experiments where fish exposed to acetic acid injections allegedly showed behavioural signs of “pain” (behaviours which have mostly not been proven replicable by other research groups), the control fish injected with saline behaved normally. We now have two separate studies showing that inserting a hook is similar to inserting a needle and injecting saline, thus the logical conclusion is angling is the equivalent of the control in the various acetic acid studies. This means those same acetic acid studies back up the bluegill and Atlantic cod studies and actually demonstrate that trauma due to hooking whilst angling is not painful to fish! What a contrast to the “angling is painful” messages which now pervade the internet and we are hearing more and more of each day.

Various animal rights interest groups (and some scientists) are adamant that fish are highly intelligent and emotional sentient beings with surprising mental capabilities. As a sceptical scientist and keen student, I examined several of the studies being used to back up these claims. Scientists study numerous aspects of fish behaviour, but as an example I was intrigued by a study published in 2014 that generated claims in the media that fish can count as well as dolphins, monkeys and a one year old child. The headline result of this often quoted study “Extensive training extends numerical abilities of guppies” was that guppies could count to 4. However, reading the actual study found that this ability was achieved only by a tiny number of fish (5 out of 8) after intensive training, and the researchers discarded many other fish which could not meet the grade before the trial even started because they “could not accustom to the procedure”. This shows a large tendancy towards experimental artefact, bias and exaggeration of the results of this experiment. The actual evidence is certainly at odds with the headline claims that “fish are as smart as your toddler”. Instead, these results show that fish can learn, which of course is certainly not a new finding, yet the hype remains and is actively promulgated by activist groups.

This tendancy to hype and “spin” the results of studies of marginal scientific merit has increased markedly in recent years, as has the emergence of activist “documentaries” like the recent Seaspiracy show on Netflix, which was widely critiqued because it contained so many falsehoods in its ultimate aim to serve its director’s vegan activist agenda. Indeed, Seaspiracy and other activist campaigns of similar ilk by animal rights groups masquerading as animal welfare advocates would be better described as docudramas, or most accurately, pure docufiction designed to be amplified by social media to drive their activist agendas. A recent article “Misinformation in and about science” explores how hype, hyperbole and publication bias are rife in the modern world, and the recent fish pain and fish cognition literature is a classic example of exactly that. Policy makers who these days seem all too willing to jump on bandwagons where the quality of the scientific basis for decision making is neglected, need to take heed. More careful and considered science based management approaches are needed for the various aquatic animal welfare issues that occur in fisheries and aquaculture. Remember that good science is usually slow science – it takes time to sort things out properly.

For a 2014 overview of the fish pain debate, see: onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/faf.12010

Provided by Bob Hart

CSIRO: East Australian Current Warming, could cause increase in inland rain Events.

THE East Australian Current (EAC) is considered to be one of the primary drivers of climate along the East Coast.

Recently, results from a three week cruise by the CSIRO's ocean research vessel, RV Investigator, show that it's warming and that could cause an increase in inland rain events.

Chief scientist on board Dr Christopher Chapman told ABC news more data is needed to paint a clearer picture of how the EAC is affecting the environment, not just in the ocean but also on the Australian mainland.

"A lot of the water that evaporates and eventually gets rained over the landmass actually comes from the EAC," Chapman said.

"The warmer the water is, the more readily that water will evaporate and end up as clouds and eventually rain, so we could be seeing some interesting shifts in the climate.

This warming has already seen species of tropical fish moving into southern waters, feeding on kelp and sea grass as they go. Off the Sydney coast, there are now corals growing next to kelp beds.

The EAC can be as wide as 100 kilometres and as deep as 1.5 kilometres and can carry 40 million cubic metres of water per second. It flows from the coral reefs of northern Queensland to the Tasmanian kelp forests.

As well as tropical species now being transported to NSW, temperate species are crossing Bass Straight with the current and establishing populations in Tasmania. The EAC also provides nursery grounds for the larval stages of small pelagic species such as mackerel and herring in its offshore eddies.

provided by Bob Hart 

The EAC provides nursery grounds for the larval stages of many fish species