GAME anglers in North Yorkshire, Cumbria and north Lancashire have spent an anxious weekend on high alert after a terror attack by animal rights extremists at a trout fishery by the River Lune near Lancaster.
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Several families - including two women - were beaten and had fishing tackle smashed at the fishery near Caton, which specialises in teaching young children fly-fishing techniques. Later, the attack was condemned by the Countryside Alliance as being "not about animal rights but about hating people."
The drought has made this was one of worst years ever for game fisheries on rivers that drain into the Irish Sea, the Ribble in North Yorkshire, the Lune, which rises near Shap in Cumbria, and the Kent, which passes through Kendal on its way to Morecambe Bay. Last week's rain, however, promised the best fishing so far.
Ten years ago, a group of old age pensioners fishing the Kent were savagely beaten by extremists returning from sabotaging a hunt. Now that hunting has been banned, they last week turned their attentions to a grouse shoot near Bentham, North Yorks, and launched the attack on anglers after being driven from the shoot by police.
A busload of self-proclaimed "sabs" - saboteurs - some 35 strong, some of them wearing masks, made the attack, sending shock waves through northern angling groups for the heavy rains of last week had brought the bought decent fishing for salmon and sea trout: until now, migratory fish have been trapped in the estuaries.
But if this attack is the start of a new campaign against fly-fishing, it will cause great concern amongst anglers. Hunt saboteurs were often out-numbered in their battles against riders and hunt servants and their protests, although noisy, rarely resulted in extreme physical injury. But fishing is a solitary sport and there are fears that lone fishermen could face serious injury - even drowning.