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The Plastic Problem – Part 2

The Plastic Problem – Part 2

Ron Taylor asks us all to consider our use of plastics when fly fishing, identifying a new scheme aimed to reduce the amount of discarded monofilament…

Assessing the response to my first article on this issue it is obvious that there is general agreement that we have a problem with plastic in fly fishing and secondly that there is a will to do something about it. Recognising we have a problem is the first step to solving any addiction and similar to the alcoholic or the compulsive gambler we fly fishers have developed an addiction, to plastic. Those who read the first article have clearly accepted that we have this affliction and we need to change to reduce and eventually eradicate reliance on a substance that causes massive damage to our environment. I am very aware that my insignificant protestations are unlikely to bring about the necessary revolution to see our sport at the forefront of a huge cultural change. Neither do I expect or want fly anglers to be at the forefront of that change, nor should they be, but I do want us all to be contributing and acting responsibly. A cultural change it will have to be because I believe our society has become addicted to the use of plastic. I submitted my first article to another magazine publisher before I sent it to Andy the editor of Today’s FlyFisher, sorry Andy, and the response I got was this is a government issue Ron I am not going to publish this. The reason I mention that is because the size of the task in convincing people to change is made clear by that response, yes I can see there is a problem but not my problem. Well it is our problem and all of us, no matter how little we fly fish can play a part in reducing plastic use and reducing the risk to future generations no matter how small.

The Anglers National Line Recycling Scheme

The presence of plastic in our rivers, reservoirs and lakes is not the fault of plastic it is the responsibility of the people who discarded it. No matter how much I would prefer it to be otherwise some of those people are fly fishers. That has to be the case as attending fly fishing only waters I have found left on the ground numerous lengths of tippet which have clearly reached the end of their useful life and just been discarded in the margins, the reeds or bushes. No one would do that if they had seen the disturbing result of a water bird getting it caught round its legs, wing or neck. Fluorocarbon, copolymer, nylon or any other leader material can and does kill. This is a very simple matter to solve by placing used tippet material into a receptacle in your vest and taking it home to be cut up into one inch lengths and placed in the refuse bin. I have a small bag made of material, which is sealed with a Velcro strip and all my discarded line goes in it for disposal later. There are also more sophisticated gadgets on the market designed to prevent line being discarded so there is no excuse for finding the stuff lying about. Monofilament can be disposed of for recycling through a relatively new body set up in 2016 styled The Anglers National Line Recycling Scheme. Line can be posted direct or deposited in bins based at fisheries or in fishing shops. The scheme’s useful website intends to keep everyone up to date on future developments for not only the disposal of monofilament but fly lines and other types of line.

Wrap your unwanted leaders around your fingers and then cut up into small one inch pieces. This will massively reduce its impact on wildlife.
Wrap your unwanted leaders around your fingers and then cut up into small one inch pieces. This will massively reduce its impact on wildlife.

Fly Fishing Plastic

We are well into a new year and I have received copies of the spring editions of my fly fishing magazines and a number of the 2019 manufactures catalogues to seduce me into spending my money on the latest gear. They were all wrapped in plastic leaving me with the unwanted problem of what to do with it; these wrappers soon mount up! I am sure this is another plastics issue that could be easily solved, use paper, use a product which is biodegradable but stop using single use plastic and dumping it on your readers expecting them to clear up after you. I was seduced and bought some new fly lines for the new season and ended up with a clutch of plastic spools with the job of deciding how I safely dispose of them, this must be avoidable. I bought some Mill End lines at the British Fly Fair, which were presented in small plastic bags but without spools, which made little difference, and the bags could so easily have been paper.

Should we be using paper envelopes?
Should we be using paper envelopes?
It’s time to think about single use plastic in fly fishing?
It’s time to think about single use plastic in fly fishing?

Safe destruction is clearly a priority for the major manufacturers of single use plastic, which was obvious to me after an interview with the Public Relations Officer of one of the leading manufacturers in Europe. That company already has systems in place to destroy plastic safely and effectively so it must only be a matter of time before we become used to disposing of our plastic waste in an ecologically safe manner. In the mean time it is essential that we all become aware of the steps we can take to minimise the pollution by reducing our use of plastic and disposing of it responsibly.

A Return To Natural Materials?

When I took up fly fishing a considerable number of years ago I started to tie my own flies and the substances I used were virtually all natural. I used feathers, down, fur, animal hair and silk all of which were easy to safely dispose of when the flies were damaged after use. Now the majority of materials being used for the job are synthetic and in fact plastics exacerbating the problem. I think it is ironic that fly anglers who are custodians of the waterside are continually casting plastic into the rivers and lakes. Perhaps you might think that this is a minimal issue but just think how many flies you have and multiply that by all the fly anglers in the country who have similar numbers in their fly boxes. The answer to this is simple, let’s all return to natural materials, I suspect our catch returns will hardly be affected but we will have contributed in a small way to alleviating the problem.

Is it time to go back to producing flies with just natural materials?
Is it time to go back to producing flies with just natural materials?

While I am thinking about the flies I own, I buy more than I tie and nearly every time I go to the large suppliers or to the country fairs I am helpfully presented with a little plastic container with a little plastic lid to put my selection in as I search out what I regard as the deadly patterns. I think this should stop as a paper envelope or a card tray would do the job adequately and not leave me with the problem of what to do with these receptacles when the flies are transferred to my fly boxes when I get home (Photograph). All the tackle manufacturers of every type, the mail order vendors, the shop proprietors and the magazines have a leading role to play in improving the current state of affairs, but so do we. I urge everyone connected with the sport to think about the plastic we use and make an effort to reduce it, however small that change may be it will help.

Ron Taylor

Over fifty years have elapsed since Ron first cast a fly and he remains as fascinated by the sport now, as he became then. A retired Solicitor, UKCC Level 2 Game Angling Instructor and a former contributor to Total Fly Fisher magazine. Ron has fly fished all over the world from Alaska to the Amazon, Vancouver Island to South Africa and Alberta to Australia and his home club Macclesfield Fly Fishers in Cheshire.

For more information on The Anglers National Line Recycling Scheme go to www.anglers-nlrs.co.uk

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