Game ends and fishing begins

February marks the end of the shooting season and oh joy it's time to get the rods out. In days gone by gentlemen’s leisure time consisted solely for the purpose of hunting, fishing and shooting and when the sun was too high in the middle of summer the only other decent thing to do was pull on a pair of white flannels, hitched up  with the aid of one's school tie, and do battle on the village green. There can be no finer day out though than one wielding a long stick with fly and line attached, and I shall be doing all in my power to frighten fish from lakes, rivers and streams the length and breadth of the country. However I shall be making a bit of time available for some crayfish and elver fishing. Both require separate licenses and are only available by postal application to the Environment Agency. The postal applications with respect to the elver licenses is an effort to end the practise of licenses being issued in the name of Donald Duck and Yogi Bear and bring some legitimacy and respectability to the fishery. The season runs from the 15th February until the 25th May and Richard and I will both be fishing for elvers to use in our Tanks in Schools scheme as part of our eel restocking programme.

We are now officially the only fish processor or smokery in the UK to have attained the “Sustainable Eel Standard”. The not so good news is that sustainable fish of a commercial size for us to process will not be available until April-May time.

At the moment we are busy drawing up a list of schools who want to take part in our Tanks in Schools Scheme. Now in its 3rd year, we will be siting 50 tanks around the country as part of a restocking scheme we are conducting with help from the Environment Agency. Any chefs keen to get involved or know of a school that may be interested in the scheme, do not hesitate to give me a call. Jason Holland, the fish industry's leading journalist has written an in depth article about the eels survival which can be accessed from the following link www.worldfishing.net/comment-and-analysis101/analysis/new-hope-for-eel.

Alex James (ex Blur bass guitarist) and The Sun newspaper’s food columnist has plunged food reporting to new depths. His latest scoop covered the extraordinary success of the high street’s big 3 snack and meal providers - McDonald's, Greggs and KFC. James made no attempt to ask the odd awkward or difficult question and as he watched the sausage meat being squirted along pastry laid out on a table 1 kilometre long, didn’t he just once think to ask what exactly goes into a 65p Greggs sausage roll. I used to quite enjoy Alex James’ column when he was writing his “rural diary” in The Independent some years ago, although it was full of irrelevances like what to do on coming face to face with a bull, the joy of planting then picking the fruit from your own cherry trees, his dog’s escape next door to have its evil way with Lady Bamford’s lurcher, the column had a sort of innocence and naivety that becomes all too apparent when asking someone to do a proper food reporting job.

We are very pleased with the reaction we have had from those of you that have tried samples of our seaweed salmon cure. The Seaweed Cure and our new Welsh range of smoked products will be launched on the 1st March (St David’s Day).

This month both factories passed the new 2012 BRC accreditation with a grade A pass. This is a standard that is constantly being refined and necessitates that we have two full time employees dedicated to implementing and policing our procedures and practices. Economic conditions and the rigours involved in the audit may mean that this year some companies will decide that they can no longer afford the standard.

Sadly the London wholesale fish trade lost one of its great characters just before Christmas. Smyly of South Bank Seafoods who had been retired for a number of years, passed away. I remember with fondness many sessions in Tom and Guy’s La Bouffe restaurant on Battersea Rise, which doubled up in the afternoons as Smyly's office. Our thoughts are with Rose and Eleanor.

Any chefs who fancy a factory visit and would like to see the process and what goes into making some of our products do give us a call; it's an invaluable experience for us as well to get your reaction and feedback. A warm welcome awaits. There is also the opportunity for chefs who fancy experiencing a night's elver fishing, or alternatively there is Dai and Horace’s alternative fly fishing academy, not guaranteed to catch anything but lots of fun.

Dai Francis