31 December 2006

Firstly, a very happy New Year to you all and it won't be long now before lines are first wetted in the 2007 season here on the Ribble.  It's been surprisingly dry this past fortnight, almost unprecedented for Yorkshire in December.  But, the lack of sun and any drying wind has meant that the ground is still pretty sodden so the heavy rain of the past 48 hours has quickly brought the river into spate.  Everywhere is alive with the sound of running water, even my front porch.  Yet another job for when the weather warms up a bit.

It's been a great week for unexpected visits and new contacts.  It was really good to see two members of the MAA Council who dropped by for a chat.  The next Council meeting should be a lively and productive one and a great chance to set out our plans for the new season.

Yesterday brought yet another of those contacts out of the blue prompted by this blog and our presence on the world wide web.  I had an email from Raif Killips who is editor of an on-line magazine for fly fishers called Fly Fishers' Republic.  This provides anglers with a resource and guide to conservation and restoration work around the world and is an absorbing read.  Find it at www.flyfishersrepublic.com.  Raif has close links with our friends at the Wild Trout Trust and has very kindly offered to publish an article about our conservation projects in the magazine.  This is something we will discuss at the next Council meeting, but it does offer a very good way of publicising the efforts that the MAA are making to be good stewards of the Ribble, its fish and the fishery.

I am becoming increasingly convinced that remote cameras at the Tarn and the hatchery are possible at a reasonable cost.  It would be fascinating to be able to see how these sites are used by wildlife when humans are absent and what impact this use has on the fishery.  I suspect that, like most wildlife monitoring, one will inevitably get hours of absolutely sod all punctuated by short bursts of the unexpected.  Still, it would be fun to find out and possibly quite informative.

Next posting will be late next Sunday as I'm off to miss a few more clay's.

Happy New Year


24 December 2006

You can tell that it's the season of goodwill when someone unexpectedly offers gifts out of the blue.  Father Christmas arrived early for the Manchester Angler's in the guise of the Wild Trout Trust.  I got an email from the WTT projects officer asking if we had any habitat projects in planning that they might support.  I duly replied with details of the work we have planned for Cam Beck and on Wednesday last week got a further email offering to pay for all the tools and equipment we might need plus a further substantial sum to assist with the cost of training for our habitat survey and professional advice on constructing the flood gate at Nanny Carr.  A brilliant start to the festive season and warmest thanks to the Trust and their generous sponsors. 

It's now turned cold and dry after a dismally wet autumn.  Much fog last week and I thought that a wander up to Dale Mire (known locally as Drain Mires) to see if the trout were spawning was long over due.  No trout, but a few other species were noted.  The tally for the morning was:

    Duck – 4
    Swans – 2
    Golden eye – 6
    Snipe – 1
    Sheep – Lots and complaining bitterly about the fog
    Cormorants – 2 (2 too many)
    People – None (perfect)

So, pretty quiet and a really uplifting wander in conditions where the landscape was bathed in a soft white glow.  A photographers dream.

An email arrived yesterday that might interest some.  The Farming and Wildlife Advisory group have arranged a training day on the subject of Managing Watercourses for Wild Trout.  This will take place on 24 May next year presented by Simon Johnson of the Wild Trout Trust in conjunction with the Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust and will be held at Bolton Abbey on the Wharfe.  I will post up further details when I get them, but in the past these FWAG events have proved immensely informative and worthwhile and as they are free they are great value for money.

Finally, a slight departure from the fishing slant but did you see a programme on Channel 4 on Thursday about a 16th Century banquet? This was held at Haddon Hall in Derbyshire on the river Wye and featured a short clip on fly fishing for trout using equipment and techniques current at the time.  No trout were caught but it was interesting to see just how little things have changed in some respects over the past 400 years.  Also interesting was the fact that Haddon is the fishery managed by Warren Slaney who first got me hooked on wild trout habitat restoration and who has been so influential in shaping the way in which the MAA plans to manage its waters in future.

Merry Christmas and I hope that Santa brings all those indispensable fishing gizmo's that will make such a difference to your catches next season.


18 December 2006

Well, another week closer to the new season and Christmas is almost upon us.  What a week!  I think the river must get lonely if I don't visit it regularly as on Thursday it made a valiant attempt to visit me at home.  Those of you who know Newhouses will realise the effort involved here for whilst we are only about 200 yards from the water we are at least 15 feet above normal water levels.  Most of the meadow below the house was under water and its population of soggy sheep spent a worried night penned onto the high ground at the north of their field.  It all went down pretty quickly but it's the highest I have ever seen the river in winter.

The river has been too high these past few days to make trout redd spotting a practical activity, but it's clear and bright today and the forecast for the week is much more of the same so a trip up to Dale Mire is in order for tomorrow.

I had a very full and helpful reply from Danny Hughes at Lancaster University about remote water monitoring.  It may just be feasible to run a remote camera from home to monitor predators at the Tarn and this may have application for the Hatchery when it's up and running.  More on this when I have time to explore costs and practicality in more detail.

Members will wish to know that the next MAA newsletter will be out early in the New Year.  This will include arrangements for the AGM as well as updates on all current activities as well as stocking plans for the new season.  The AGM will be at Kearsley again, but ideas are welcome for an alternative venue in future years with less background noise.

I thought I would try out the new eye clay pigeon shooting yesterday and was pleasantly surprised to be able to see even fast, low clays that were totally invisible before.  So, it's off the Conistone shooting ground with the Pen y Ghent Gun Club after Christmas for more practise and some lessons.  Then, hopefully, I can give up membership of the clay pigeon preservation trust.

I will try to get one more posting in before Christmas but in the meantime have a festive Christmas and prosperous and troutfull New Year.


11 December 2006

Thanks for your comments Will.  The Sparsholt course runs twice a year and the next one is on 27 – 28 January 2007 so that may already be full.  The one after that is likely to be next November.  Best of luck.

By the way, we had a phenomenal amount of rain last night and the river is now in monumental spate and well over the banks at New Inn.  I fear for the trout redds which won't stand the buffeting that this water is giving them.  Still, it's relatively early in the spawning season so hopefully not too much lasting damage will be done.  Its clear and bright now so I will take a wander up to Dale Mire later on (work permitting) and see how the redds are up there.


10 December 2006

As a child, my mother frequently warned me always to be careful what I wished for as there was always a chance I would get my wish.  I should have remembered these maternal warnings when wishing for rain last summer as that wish seems to have been met with a vengeance this autumn.  This past week has been miserable with barely a dry hour.  Often the wet has been accompanied by fierce winds and most of the local sheep have adopted a permanent expression of sheer damp gloom.

This week coming promises to be little better so I'm taking no bets on a white Christmas.

On a more positive note today's Telegraph carries a review of a new book by Charles Rangeley – Wilson  who I have mentioned before.  This is an expansion of his recent TV series on fishing and despite a rather lukewarm review by Tom Fort promises to be an absorbing read as Charles is renowned for his ability to convey the sheer enjoyment of angling through his excellent prose.  What Tom questions is not the quality of the writing or the interest to be garnered from each page by why there's a need to go to such far flung places as the Amazon or Bhutan to pursue fish inconclusively when much better sport can be had in Hampshire or Dorset (a southerner, clearly).  Still, “The Reluctant Angler” is something to add last minute to the Christmas list.

I came across an article published in the  New Scientist back in October about the Ribble.  It seems that a grid of smart river sensors that monitor water depth and flow and can predict impending flooding are being installed on the river in the Dales.  It reports that network could give locals and government decision makers earlier warning of rising trouble.  Two of thirteen sensor nodes have so far been installed  along a kilometre stretch of the river locally and the rest of the network should be in place by the end of this year.

The final network will contain three kinds of sensor node.  Eleven will measure pressure from below the waterline in order to determine depth.  The other two will monitor the speed of river flow – one using ultrasound underwater, and the other using web cams to track objects and ripples moving along the surface.  Each node is smaller than a human fist  and powered by batteries and solar panels.  Each is also accompanied by a computer unit about the size of a packet of chewing gum, which contains a processor about as powerful as those found in a modern mobile phone.

The sensors communicate with each other and a base station through Wi-Fi and Bluetooth antennas and will be monitored by Lancaster University.

It doesn't take much imagination to think how useful this network could be to local anglers.  The sensors will give us information about the water level and flow in real time and from this we can deduce the ideal conditions to fish.  The web cams may also record the passing of fish and enable us to monitor the movement of salmon and sea trout up river on their spawning runs.  I shall try to find out more.

It's now time to don the wetsuit and go and check the livestock.  See you next week for a Christmas special.


A late update on the above info about river monitoring.  The installation is at Cow Bridge near Long Preston and you can actually see a video clip of the river here taken by the web-cam on 26 November if you go to this link http://www.comp.lancs.ac.uk/computing/users/hughesdr/projects/river.wmv . It opens in windows media player.  Now, if only we could do that!


3 December 2006

It's been a quiet week here in the valley.  Much less rain than of late up to today and the ground was starting to dry nicely.  That's all changed with a pretty fierce storm ripping through Horton as I write this and the hills are once again waterlogged.

I did the monthly check on water quality during the week and it's nice to report that both the Tarn and river are showing the sort of conditions that one would expect at this late season.  All, that is, except the oxygen readings which still give a negative reading all the way up the river and in the Tarn.  Odd.

It's not often that you get someone offering to give you money but that's pretty much what happened this week when i got an email from the Wild Trout Trust asking if we had any conservation projects underway that would benefit from their assistance.  They can offer both practical help and financial support and  I have replied setting out our plans for taking forward the actions that the WTT recommended in the report that they prepared for us last year and have just heard that they are keen to learn more.  I'll keep you posted on this.

Our native brown trout should be spawning very soon if it's not too warm so I plan to walk the becks this week to monitor activity on the breeding front.  In the past the key spawning date on the upper Ribble was 12 December so it will interesting to see if the rise in global temperature and this mild autumn has had any impact.

I wrote to thank the team at Sparsholt College for providing such a worthwhile course on Fisheries management that I attended last month.  I had a very nice reply from the unit leader who will be in York over the new year.  If our free time coincides we plan to meet here so that I can show him round the fishery.  Yet another source of really useful advice.

Time to brave the elements and check on livestock so more next week.