30 June 2006

    A thought struck me yesterday.  It's all very well posting up pictures of the hatchery, but they make little sense without some understanding of how the hatchery will (hopefully) work.  It's all based on giving nature a helping hand and working with the instincts of the fish.  Bransgyll beck is blessed with a constant supply of spring fed water but its substrate is mostly boulders and large cobbles with few patches of gravel suitable for spawning trout.

  What we are doing is creating artificial spawning channels that will have a gravel substrate in which the fish can construct redds free from risk of flood.  When the ova hatch and develop to swim up fry stage they will drop down the channels, some entering the beck and then eventually onto the main river.  Some will drop into the large pond via the feeder pipe where they will grow on to a size suitable for stocking the upper river and its tributary becks.  We plan to start the process by creating artificial redds in the first year seeded with fertilised ova taken from native stock in the river.  The whole concept is designed to be as natural and self sustaining as possible with minimal human interference.  Even feeding the fry in the ponds will be as natural as possible. We plan to use fly boards, adapting the ideas developed by Frank Sawyer on the Wiltshire Avon over 60 years ago.

That's the plan.  We will see if it works.

Conditions here today are great for tourists but dour for fishing.  It's bright, warm and sunny with no breeze and little cloud cover.  The rain promised for Saturday seems to have vanished from the forecast so there is no immediate prospect of the river levels rising.  There was a very good rise again last evening at New Inn at about 9.45.

The Ribble Catchment Conservation Trust are visiting the Hatchery site today to see what we are up to and explore the possibility of replicating the work elsewhere on the river.


29 June 2006

    It's one of those “great to be alive” days here this morning.  Not too hot, but with bright sunshine, high fluffy cloud and a light breeze.  Just the day for tempting the Tarn rainbows with something orange.  The Thursday boys have just gone through Newhouses so we will see how they get on later today.  The river is pretty low now but rain is forecast for Saturday so, fingers crossed.

No new developments on the VHS front since the flurry of activity on Monday.  I now have a potential source of fish, but from Galloway so I intend leaving things just a little longer in the hope that Washburn is given the all clear soon and we can stock from closer to home.

A member has just returned from the west of Scotland with tales of wild weather and even wilder trout including the fish of a lifetime.  I look forward eagerly to the pictures of this monster.

Off now to check on the Hatchery and see how the spawning channels are taking shape.


28 June 2006

    Isn't it wonderful when your predictions are proved right?  Coming back up from Settle yesterday afternoon I stopped the waggon by New Inn bridge to talk to a friend and we both stood and watched whilst the long pool above the bridge positively boiled with rising fish.  A large hatch of olives seemed to be the cause of the feeding frenzy but it was difficult to see if these were emerging duns or spent.  Judging by the actions of the fish it was probably spent drifting down on the current.

It's a moist morning here at Horton.  No real rain but low hill mist and very little wind.  Signs are that it will brighten up later to give a day much like yesterday so I will try and get a better study of this afternoon's rise if we get one.

One of my regular correspondents sent me a link to an incredibly useful web site devoted to monitoring water and riverine habitat.  Here I have at last found the answers to questions about water quality monitoring and bio-survey sampling that will enable me to do this rather than engage an expert.  It's  the US Environmental Protection Agency site and contains a complete monitoring manual written in refreshingly simple language.  Some things the Yanks do better than us.  Where is the EA equivalent?


27 June 2006

    There appears to be rather better news on the VHS front.  There was a flurry of postings on efishbusiness yesterday including a press release from DEFRA that seems to indicate some potential relaxing of the movement restrictions. First round of testing has proved negative at all sites and CEFAS have advised DEFRA that certain live movements to, from and within the affected area may be considered.  Also it would seem that the Designated Area is also under review and it may be possible to reduce and redefine the area under restriction.  Positive stuff but let's see what it means in practise.

The Hatchery continues to make good progress and work has started on the supply and drainage channels now that the ponds are complete all bar concreting the floors.  Pictures later today.

A bright but rather cloudy day here at Horton with a very light easterly breeze and tons of midges.  Its fairly warm and likely to be a good hatching afternoon.  Water levels in the river are dropping quickly again and some rain later in the week would be welcome.


26 June 2006

    Just a short update this morning.  I don't want to bang on indefinitely about VHS and the possible duration of restrictions but at Broughton yesterday I dropped by the Salmon & Trout Association tent and on the Kilnsey Trout Farm stand was a short notice about VHS and the restrictions they are currently trading under.  From this it's clear that they believe that they will be unable to sell live stock for two to four years.  No one from Kilnsey was at the stand so I could get no further explanation but the STA members present thought that there would be no live movements out of the control area until 2010.  We do need clarification.

Conditions here are interesting.  We have a very strong east wind which seems to be abating.  It's cool with thick, high cloud but fairly bright.  Water conditions are reasonable.  The river has dropped off considerably but the runs are still well covered.


25 June 2006

    A misty, moisty morning after some quite heavy rain in the night that will have lifted the river a bit since it was dropping off again quickly yesterday.  Just a light north easterly breeze at present to keep the clouds moving along.

It seems that I may have been unduly pessimistic about  the duration of the current VHS control orders as the EA are adamant that restrictions on live movements out of the area will be in force for nothing like the 4 years that CEFAS seemed to infer in their presentation at York.  But watch this space!

Off to Broughton Game Show today to watch the casting competition and see what news there is from other fisheries in the dales.


24 June 2006

    It's really good to see the river back to some semblance of order after such a long drought.  It was certainly offering good sport yesterday and a report from a regular corespondent records that fish were taking well on dry fly up at Selside.  It's surprising how quickly life in the river recovers after what would seem to be pretty dire conditions.  The same correspondent was astonished to find thousands of tiny fish above Selside.

By coincidence and during a break from the day job yesterday, I turned to David Marsden's wonderful history of the Horton hatcheries as I recalled a piece about river conditions back in the 19th century.  Sure enough I found the following from “Red Spinner” (William Senior) who wrote in “The Field” in July 1887 about a visit to the MAA waters at Horton: I had a conversation with a clerical member who recounted his experience of the river which is so low that stones are covered in slime and trout too sick and dispirited to rise.  I decline to fish and wonder what can become of trout at times like these.”  one hundred and twenty years later I know just what he means.

It's overcast and showery here at present but should clear later.  Water levels are dropping but still good on the runs and riffles as well as the pools.


23 June 2006

    Sorry this is late, its been all go here this morning.  We have a river again!  After the rain that fell yesterday levels are well up and water is flowing under both arches of New Inn bridge.  It's a bit coloured at present but should be perfect by late this morning.

It's still overcast and cool here but the strong winds have subsided and it looks as if it will brighten up later. 

No more news on the VHS front but CEFAS will not finish testing wild stock until mid July so any day could bring fresh discovery's.  The grayling found with VHS this week showed no clinical signs of the disease so the only way of determining the extent of the infection in wild stock is by laboratory analysis which takes time.

Finding suitable stock for the Tarn is proving immensely difficult as most of the rainbow breeders in the north are located in the control order area but I will keep trying.


22 June 2006

    I think that the conditions here at Horton this morning can be summed up in one word – foul!  It's cold, wet and windy (very) and I would rate the chances of raising a trout on a dry fly today as about as high as this blog winning the next Booker prize.  Still, tomorrow is another day and the forecast is reasonable. 

A conversation with a member recently returned from France who has close links with the world of fisheries officialdom suggests that the age of joined up government is yet to dawn in DEFRA.  It would seem that the EA are blissfully ignorant of the extent and long term implications of VHS and were not aware that live fish movements out of the control area were likely to be banned for the next 4 years.  It's to these official bodies that we as fisheries managers look for advice to protect our waters and at present we are not getting anything like a satisfactory service.

Work on the hatchery has slowed because of the weather but the main works should still be completed on time.  More on this later.