Griff Rhys Jones wades into battle with anglers

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The Independent Online

TV funnyman Griff Rhys Jones has waded into battle with Britain's fisherman after declaring open season to "disturb" anglers.

Followers of the pastime condemned the comments saying they had a right to peace when they were at the riverside.

Jones, who is presenting a BBC series about British rivers in which he canoes along hidden waterways, was encouraging people to enjoy greater access to the water.

He initially upset anglers with comments in an interview for BBC Countryfile magazine published this week. Jones stuck his oar in again today to clarify his points.

"I was told rather rudely that fishermen were disturbed by canoes. The point is that canoes disturb neither fish nor fishermen, and if a man gently paddling a canoe down a river is a 'disturbance', then long live that disturbance.

"In the article which has caused this apparent stir, I clearly say that access should not be allowed on some areas of river - 'we don't want canoes churning up the salmon beds of the Wye'."

Mark Lloyd, chief executive of Angling Trust, had been upset by the initial comments. He said: "We take great exception to Griff Rhys Jones' calls for canoeists to cause disturbance to anglers and to trespass."

He added that fishermen contributed £3.5 billion annually towards the British economy with 25 million pounds of that on licences. "They have a legal right to go fishing in peace," he added.

In the magazine interview Jones said: "I've met a lot of fisherman and decided that we should disturb as many as possible. What we all need to remember is that the river isn't there for a few, but for the many. Rivers have been a forgotten world for far too long."

He added today: "I am a supporter of all angling associations and thoroughly respect the rights of fishermen to peacefully fish on riverbanks, but I am also a great supporter of canoeists and want to see as much access to the rivers of England and Wales as is readily available in Scotland and much of the rest of the world."