31 August 2006

    It's a very damp and rather dismal morning with the cloud base so low that the opposite side of the valley is invisible from Newhouses.  Still, the wind has backed to the south west so it's considerably warmer than of late and this may produce a rise on both the Tarn and the river later today.  Since we had a lot of rain in the night the river is now pretty full, not in spate yet, but still rising slowly.

Alan Maden emailed me yesterday in response to my reference to Mr Sutcliffe.  Alan tells me that this past benefactor is still alive and living near him.  Sorry I couldn't email back Alan , but for the past 24 hours I have been able to collect mail but not send it.  Something for the network wizards at Langtoft to sort out, or maybe not.

In searching for something else yesterday I came across a website devoted to campaigning against the proposed erection of a barrage on the lower Ribble.  I will collect more info on this and report back, but this may have severe implications for migratory salmonids in the river.  It seems that someone involved in the campaign has found this blog as they reported in some detail my earlier postings about the pollution at Gridleton.

Again the Telegraph turned to matters fishy at the weekend with a report on the devastating impact that escaped farmed salmon (1 million!) are having on the wild population off the north west of Scotland.  It seems that farmed salmon come from a distinct gene pool and these escapees out compete with the wild stock which may be causing a dramatic decline in the native stock.  The same research has concluded that the introduction into our rivers of brown trout from farmed stock will have the same impact on the native population.  This is what the Wild Trout Trust have been saying for some time. The evidence from fisheries such as Haddon Hall where restocking has been stopped and habitat improvement has taken place shows that there can be a dramatic increase in native stock mitigating any need to introduce fish.

Scant evidence here at Horton suggests that enforced non stocking this year due to the impact of VHS may have encouraged young native trout into lies that would otherwise have been denied to them.  Self sustainability and natural stocking has to be the future I think.


30 August 2006

    It's a rather grey and gloomy start to the day here in the valley.  The brisk north westerly is making it feel much colder than it really is and there is the scent of rain in the air.  Still, the river is in cracking form now: running strong and clear and giving some fine sporting fishing.  There seems to be plenty of young, healthy wild trout from at least Selside down to the bottom of the beat at Helwith Bridge which bodes well for next season.

I knew that I could count on David to explain those weirs.  He rang me last evening and told me how they had been built, or at least extensively repaired, in the 1930's.  The work was paid for by a chap called Sutcliffe who was the then president of the Club and carried out by local farmers.  There were 7 weirs in all with the top one sited at Austin pool.  These were substantial affairs reinforced with angle irons and capped with slate to enable the river to glide over in spate.  They produced some fine pools, ideal for upstream fishing.  They seem to have fallen into disrepair during the late 1960's and some have now been replaced with gabions above Newhouses.  The remains of these weirs still help to create fishable pools and from time to time I fill the bigger gaps with boulders but they really require extensive work to restore them to former glory.

I was mildly chastised for not posting up a picture of Abel Heywood the prime mover in the formation of the MAA.  I have remedied this and you can find a drawing of this redoubtable character in the History folder.


29 August 2006

    It's a morning of blustery showers blown along by a stiff and rather chilly north west wind.  The whole effect is more April than August, but as I write this I can see patches of blue appearing over the hills to the north.  So it might not be so bad later.

In searching through the material in the Horton History Group archive yesterday, looking for suitable stuff to take to the Horton show on Saturday, I came across a poor photocopy of a photograph taken in the 1940's by the then vicar.  This shows the river at Newhouses and what's noticeable is the number of weirs then present on this stretch.  There seem to be far more than now and all appear to be in good nick creating a series of cataracts with good pools between them.  The water levels seem highish but with no strong flow suggesting that these were average conditions and a seemingly much better fishing water than we get now.  What intrigues me is how these weirs were kept in repair.  This must have been during the time that Walter Pollard was keeper.  did he maintain these structures or did the club have working parties?  I suspect that this is one for David Marsden's unfailing memory.

Do come along to Horton show on Saturday.  It's not the biggest in the dales by any means but is well worth an afternoon's excursion to soak up a bit of dales culture.  These little shows will only survive if we support them.


28 August 2006

    Just a quick update on conditions here this morning for members planning to fish this week.  We had a lot of rain in the night accompanied by a pretty good thunderstorm over Settle in the late evening.  At one stage the rain was falling in stair rods and it continued to rain fairly hard most of the night.  As a consequence the river is now well up again, but since we have a brightish morning with broken cloud and some sun the colour should drop off the water during the day.


27 August 2006

    We had a lot of rain in the night here in the valley and the sky holds the promise of more today despite the occasional sunny break.  There's a light north westerly breeze that's keeping the temperature down and is making it feel rather autumnal.  Water levels in the river have risen a bit and it should be fishable in all the choice spots but it may be hard to induce a rise in these conditions.

I had a phone call from Fred Bateman a long standing member of the MAA that set me thinking.  He plans to bring his grandson up for a days fishing this week and was ruminating on how important it is to get youngsters out into the open air and develop in them an appreciation of the countryside and the wild life that inhabits it.  As Fred said, they are the future protectors of our environment and you can't start too early to awaken their enjoyment and understanding of nature.  What better way than to wander the banks of a secluded and beautiful river like the Ribble with a rod, building knowledge of what lives where and why, what the fish feed on at what month of the year.  Fishing, especially game fishing, provides the warp and weft that stitches together a profound understanding of the interactions of a riverine environment.  Much better than classroom learning as it blends together so many skills and so much knowledge coupled with a deep respect for the trout we seek.

So, for those members who don't often use the guest privileges you have why not make it a resolution for next season to introduce at least one young member of your family to what may become a lifetime passion and learning.  It could be the most valuable pound you ever invest.


26 August 2006

   Morning all.  It's bright but much cloudier her this morning with no breeze and lots of midges.  There is rain forecast which will be welcome as the river is dropping off quite quickly and there was just a low flow coming over Settle weir yesterday afternoon.

I have another picture to add the the gallery of founding fathers of the MAA.  David Marsden has sent me a cartoon drawn by Baxter of George S Wooley the first treasurer and you can find this in the History file.

I am about to book the Crown for the October Hot Pot Supper so watch this space for further details of this not to be missed annual event and put the date in your diary.


25 August 2006

    It's another bright and sunny morning here at Horton but there's a definite nip in the air now.  Still, this only serves to make it feel fresh and clean and it's a real delight to be up and about early to appreciate this.

Alan Maden called yesterday and reports that the river at Selside is fishing well.  Apart from the fish caught and returned (all three quarters to a pound) he saw plenty of young trout in the pools below the footbridge.  This is great news and combined with reports from Cragg hill on Wednesday suggests that the wild trout population has suffered no real detrimental effect from the prolonged drought.  Keep the reports coming so that we can build up a more comprehensive picture of wild fish stocks.

Alan also reported good fishing on his trip to Scourie and Wester Ross despite Loch Stack rising three feet overnight.  This made retrieving the boat the following morning an interesting exercise.  The amount of rain needed to cause this large loch to rise so far so quickly is mind boggling.  We could do with a share of that water at the Tarn.  Sam Wood is still managing to get the boat out of the boat house.  I think he must be hitching it to one of Geoff Davidson's cows since the boat house is virtually dry.

I have applied for grant money from the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust to cover the cost of materials to fence Cam Beck.  If Successful this will enable us to protect this vital spawning habitat from stock damage and provide a refuge for introducing fry raised at the hatchery when it's up and running.  I'll keep you posted.

I almost forgot.  David Marsden sent me a drawing of Abel Heywood, following my reference to him yesterday.  Abel was a driving force in the founding of the MAA back in 1878 and the Association's first secretary.  I will format the picture and post it later today in the History folder


24 August 2006

    Well it's certainly a week of contrasting weather.  After the gloom and damp of yesterday comes a gloriously bright and sunny morning with barely a cloud in a cornflower blue sky.  Just a hint of breeze as I finished milking and a hint of Autumn to come with a slight bight in the air.

There is good news for those members who delight in fishing the river.  Conditions are still good and news reaches me that fish are taking well down at Parson's Pool.  Talking to two members yesterday afternoon who had fished up the pool in the morning revealed a catch of 7 between them, 6 young wild brownies at about half a pound and an old stockie that must have over wintered.  The first fish was caught with the first cast of the day.  All these fish appeared to be in good condition which suggests that the prolonged drought has had no seriously detrimental impact on the wild fish stocks in the lower river at least.  It will be good to get some reports from Selside and above to see how the upper river has fared by comparison as there was much less water up there.

I wrote a couple of days ago about the actions of the sabs at Caton on the 12th of August and I see that there is another lengthy article in the DT about this.  Clive Aslet who is the Editor at Large of Country Life has written an essay under the title “Fishermen are firmly in the sights of hunt saboteurs: will Labour decide to protect them?”  His assessment of the political environment is that with well over 3 million course fishermen, many in traditional Labour constituencies the pressure on the Government to do something to protect their interests will be hard to resist.  But, we live at a time when young people are encouraged to regard every opinion as valid no matter how extreme and violently expressed.  Educators have not made Britain's long tradition of common decency and tolerance seem so compelling.

My own take on this is that we can't leave it to the politicians.  We need to mobilise ourselves to protect our sport.  We have a tremendous story to tell about conservation and care for our riverine environments and we need to be robust in telling it and telling it repeatedly until it sinks into the subconscious of the general public.  The huntsmen left it far too late to try to mobilise public opinion we must not do likewise.  The MAA was founded on strong guiding principles of conservation and improvement.  Abel Haywood himself was anxious that the Association should not be regarded as a bunch of fish killers.  These principles are the foundation of our constitution 130 years later and we should be proud.

Next week is national fishing week let's see how much of a ripple this creates in the media pool. I suspect, very little.  Next year must be different.