Lave netting is an ancient traditional method of salmon fishing first recorded on the Severn Estuary in the 1700s, but almost certainly predating this time.
The hand-held net is ‘Y’ shaped and the frame folds for ease of transport. Three types of wood are used in its construction, pine for the “head board” (yoke ), willow for the "rimes" (arms) and ash for the "rock staff " (handle). The net within the frame is hand knitted.
The method of fishing involves wading out into the estuary at low tide to traditional fishing spots and “cowering” (standing quietly), waiting for a fish to hit the net, or also looking for the “loom” (wake) of a fish, then trying to intercept the fish before it reaches deep water .
Lave netting was just one traditional method of fishing for salmon on the estuary. Others included Putchers, stop boats, seine nets, tuck nets and gill nets. All of these methods have been closed down at present, except the lave nets at Black Rock, near Portskewett, Monmouthshire.
This particular fishery has survived by embracing change. It has become what many believe to be a "model heritage fishery", agreeing to a strict salmon limit and also with others promoting this ancient fishery as a tourism and heritage site, building a net house at its base (which overlooks the fishing grounds ) and inviting the public to watch the fishing during the season from the picnic site at Black rock, which gives panoramic views of the estuary .
With the protection of this agreement the fishery has thrived and attracted youngsters into it, giving it a new lease of life.
The fishery over the past several years has achieved many things, appearing on TV and radio, exhibiting at the national museum and the Eisteddfod, and featuring in many books and tourism magazines, things unheard of in the past.
But perhaps the greatest achievement of these fishermen and the fishery has been to prove that a traditional salmon fishery can exist in a sustainable way in the 21st century.
Black Rock Lave Net Fishermen's Association
For more information about the Black Rock Lave Net Heritage Fishery visit www.blackrocklavenets.co.uk