29 March 2007

Well, that's almost it then.  We had another great day at Cam Beck yesterday and the 500 meter fence is finished.  What the students and their tutors have achieved is quite remarkable and has exceeded all my expectations.  Don Gamble of the YDMT seem impressed also and had no hesitation in signing off the work.  I have now sent off the claim form and payment should be just a formality.  There are still a few trees to plant and some gates, including the water gate to put in, but I have a student joining me for 4 days work experience spread over 4 weeks after Easter and together we should get all the remaining tidying up completed by the end of April.

It's all been hugely enjoyable working with such a fine bunch of youngsters and I have written to the College Principal to bring the work to his attention and offer our thanks for all the hard work that the students ad staff of the College have put into the project.

Now we can monitor the changes that take place here and begin to assess over time whether it was all worthwhile in terms of raising fish population and generally improving the habitat of the area.

I promised some time ago to write an article about all this for Flyfishers Republic so must now sit down and put something together for publication in June.

Further good news is that we have had a fair bit of rain here today so the river will have come up a bit by tomorrow.  Some beats were beginning to look a little threadbare after this dry spell so fishing should now be reasonable over the weekend. 

Finally we have arranged to plant the large tree slips donated by Gavin P down at Turn Dub on Monday.  It was arranged for today, but Gavin had to be elsewhere.

More on Sunday then back to a daily posting.


27 March 2007

It's another glorious spring morning here in the valley.  A bit of a nip in the air but the sun is out, the sky is blue and the curlews are calling up and down the river.  Speaking of which, it's pretty low at present, fishable but starting to look a bit bare on the stony riffles.

This spell of good weather has enabled me to move on apace with the tree planting at Cam Beck and I now have about 120 in place on both banks of the beck.  It was a delight working up there yesterday.  The air was full of the sounds of oyster catchers and curlews and over the hill behind the beck squadrons of tewits (lapwings) were staging an aerial display.  About 3pm there must have been a hatch of fly as the water in Nanny Carr's was literally peppered with risings.  These were all fry or salmon smolts as frequently they leaped from the water and looked to be about 1.5 to 2 inches long.  This went on for about half an hour as I watched in fascination.  It just goes to show how important this place is for the health of fish in our river.

I am mightily impressed with the work that the students did last Wednesday.  They managed to get in the post and rail fence down to the edge of the beck.  This is all in a highly compacted gravel bank and it must have been an absolute sod to dig the post holes.  But, the finished job looks very good and will hopefully withstand the severe floods that sweep this bank.

A day off today, then back up to the site tomorrow to get a few more trees planted and meet Don Gamble from YDMT for an inspection and approval of the work so that we can claim the grant money.  Most work should be finished by tomorrow afternoon.  Then it's just a wrestle with the water gate, make a couple of access gates and a 50 yard stretch of fence to complete on the far bank of the  river.  A team will come up after Easter to do this so we can then sit back and monitor the effect (if any) these improvements bring.

See you soon.


25 March 2007

Yes, I know I said I would post an update on Friday, but having been in London all week things here got a bit busy.  Still, it's good to be back in the land of sanity after the madness of London especially as the weather is pretty benign at the moment.  The morning has dawned clear and sunny with a stiff easterly wind just to liven things up a bit.  The river is in good form.  A bit on the low side but well worth a try for early trout on the beats that are sheltered from the cold wind.

We stocked the Tarn last Saturday and put in 200 super looking fish that shot off like little rockets.  These were mostly between 1.5 & 1.75 lb and the fittest looking trout we have had from Washburn Valley.  We also stocked a few larger fish to about 3lb just to give a bit of variety.  I am hopeful that these feisty brownies will fight well and provide a worthwhile challenge for our Tarn fishers.

I now have 75 very large trees ready to go into the buffer zone at Turn Dub.  These are a mix of hawthorn, rowan and ash and should very quickly grow up to provide some good cover at this rather exposed spot.  Thanks again to Gavin P for his generous donation.  He now has a smaller 'carbon footprint'.

I'm off up to Cam Beck shortly to see what the students did on Wednesday in my absence and to plant a few more trees from the 150 we have left to go in here.

This Wednesday we have a visit from the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust who provided much of the funding for this project.  They are coming to inspect the work, hopefully sign it off and give me the claim form so that we can get access to the grant money they have provided.  If anyone fancies a trip up to Horton on Wednesday to meet their projects officer we should all be on site at Cam Beck at about 10.30.

From 1 April I intend to start a daily report on this blog, pretty much as I did last season.  The aim is to keep members informed about conditions on the fishery and any issues that could affect the quality of fishing you might expect on arrival at Horton.

See you all soon.


18 March 2007

The weather here over the past 24 hours has been truly appalling.  Yesterday it started fine but deteriorated quickly to give us rain in the afternoon then towards evening along came a north westerly gale just to liven things up a bit.  It was a pretty rough night and the river this morning is very high and coloured.  We still have a strong wind but now it's blowing along snow showers interspersed with brighter, sunny patches.  So all in all not a great day to wet a line anywhere along the river.

Better news comes from the school where the trout fry are looking very fit and well.  The tank now holds some 200 very lively and active young trout which are about half an inch long.  They have a refuge in the shape of an old tree root and immediately take cover in this if disturbed.  By standing still, quiet and patient by the tank you can coax them out and watch as they hunt round the tank in a tight shoal.  A marked contrast to their future behaviour when they seem to detest the sight of each other.  The children are very proud of their fish and are looking forward to putting them into the beck later in the spring.

I had planned to plant a few more trees later today but we will have to see how the weather develops.  It's a bit exposed up by Cam Beck with little or no shelter and I don't really fancy freezing to death in a blizzard for the sake of conservation.

I'm away most of this week so will catch up on news on Friday.


16 March 2007

Circumstances conspired to prevent me from doing the planned posting on Wednesday and I was out all day yesterday so here is a slightly belated update.

The fencing at Nanny Cars is rapidly reaching completion with only 50 meters remaining on the east bank and a further 50 meters on the west bank to do. This latter work is in addition to the original plan and will stop stock from the neighbouring farm from crossing the river to the protected buffer strip we have created.  I met the landowner concerned on Wednesday and he was immediately enthusiastic about the job.  Money for this can be diverted from the WTT grant and the College are looking for a further two days work so all is set to complete this final piece of the jigsaw.

It's amazing how one can work in such a remote spot yet still not get done all that was planned due to interruptions.  I only got in 25 trees instead of the projected 40 due to the need to stop and chat to farmers etc.  I now plan to go up to the site on Sunday and try to get in a further 30 trees just to keep on top of the job.

News reaches me that the trout fry in the school are thriving with only one corpse seen since the eggs hatched.  This is remarkable and testament to the care that the children have taken with this project.  I am going into the school later today to take a look so will report more on Sunday.

Yesterday was the first day of the new river season and it seemed not a bad day with just a little rain in the afternoon and water levels low but fishable.  It's a lot brighter here this morning with only a light westerly breeze, but the outlook for early next week promises a cold snap with a strong chance of snow.  Just what we don't want at  the beginning of lambing.

For all duffers out there comes good news from the south.  May flies have been spotted already on the Hampshire Test at least 2 months early. What the Hampshire trout will make of this early feast is any ones guess but it's a reflection of the extremely mild winter we have just had and an indicator that we may need to revise the patterns we traditionally use to match the monthly hatch.

Next posting is on Sunday.


11 March 2007

Spring is definitely on its way here in the valley.  The curlews are calling and we have large flocks of oyster catchers around the Tarn.  The evenings now offer one of the miracles of nature as immense flocks of starlings  imitate billowing smoke  across the landscape.  These birds are alleged to be becoming rare but this spring is giving us one of the best displays I can ever remember.

We were planning to stock the Tarn yesterday but owing to a breakdown on the delivery truck this will now be done next Saturday.  Still plenty of time for the fish to acclimatise to life in the wild before fishing starts on 1 April.  The hut door is now finished and we have also replaced the door to the boathouse so members will no longer need the physique of Charles Atlas to get in.

The new boat oars should be with me by Tuesday again in good time for the new season.  They need adapting to fit the captive rowlocks but this has already been arranged.

Up at Nanny Carr's we should have the bulk of the fence erected by the end of Wednesday.  Again on Wednesday I an meeting the farmer who owns the bank opposite where we are working with the aim of seeking his approval to close the existing wall gap to make the new buffer area completely stock proof.  It's now a race to get all the trees planted before the end of the month and the job finished and signed off. 
The YDMT are visiting the site on 28 March to see how we have got on and arrange for the payment of the grant that they so generously offered to us.  Getting this money into the club's bank account will be a relief and a recognition of a successful first phase of the project.  We can then concentrate on longer term monitoring of the site to assess just how well the work contributes to the improvement of habitat here and the lifting of trout stocks.

Look out for a further update on Wednesday.


7 March 2007

Things are starting to pick up here now that we approach the start of the river season on 15 March so I thought that I would begin to make more regular postings.  I plan to do a daily blog from the start of the season just to keep everyone up to date with conditions on the fishery and the way the weather is set each morning. 

First off, there was a full page of fishing related articles in the Telegraph on Sunday.  A big article about the Private Members Bill on opening up all waterways to canoeists that's going through its stages in Parliament at present.  This Bill stands little chance of becoming law as it will probably be talked out by the government front bench or one of the opposition back Beecher's who have well attuned antennae for this sort of rubbish.  But we do need to watch this one as no doubt the canoe lobby will be back if the Bill falls.

Secondly, a waste disposal company in the south of England has applied to the EA for a licence to discharge treated sewage via a pipeline into the headwaters of the Hampshire Avon and Test.  They reckon that this discharge will be beneficial as it will help to maintain good flows during the summer months and enable the water companies to continue abstracting from the aquifers without prejudicing the health of the rivers.  Understandably there is mounting opposition to this plan not least from some pretty influential members of the chalk stream angling clubs some of whom either own or run the country so we shall have to see how far this proposal runs.  Again, be warned, nowhere is sacrosanct.  Not even somewhere as remote as the upper Ribble.

I have just returned from a day with the College up at Nanny Carrs where we are now well on the way to completing the fence as far as the flat field 200 yards above Cam Beck.  This is truly atrocious ground and despite it being a fine and sunny day the fence line now looks like the aftermath of the battle of Ypres.  I spent the day setting trees and now have the flat area below Cam Beck planted up.  Next week I will start on the high bank downstream which I plan to plant with a mix of bird cherry, rowan, sessile oak and hawthorn. 

Keeping with things arboreal, Gavin P, a new member, has very kindly donated 75 mixed trees to the club and also offered to help plant them.  My plan is to use these to create cover around the confluence of Turn Dub and the main river, inside the fence that the RCCT put up a couple of years ago.  If members can think of other beats on the river or side becks that could do with a few trees just email or ring me.

Members who fish the Tarn regularly from the boat will be pleased to learn that I have found a new set of oars to replace the broken set.  These will be adapted to fit the captive rowlocks by Brian S and should be in place for the start of the Tarn season on 1 April.

Next posting is planned for Sunday, but there is much happening so I may be back before then.


4 March 2007

Just back from the working party at the Tarn and just in time to miss some really appalling weather that's sweeping up the valley.  It's now raining hard driven on by a fierce southerly gale and, surprisingly, given the wind direction, it's freezing cold.  Still, we had a very successful stint this morning with a large group of enthusiastic members and got the hut ready for the new season.  There is now a new door to the hut which slides at the touch of a finger, the boat is clean and the seats varnished, the accumulated goose crap has been removed from the boathouse and all is clean and tidy.  The hut door just needs a few finishing touches to make it completely weather resistant and the next job is to replace the boathouse door which has bowed almost as badly as the hut door.  Michael and I will tackle that before the beginning of April.

Friday saw a fairly good gathering at the MAA AGM.  Business was conducted quickly, the fantastic buffet was consumed and we then had an inspiring presentation from Alan M about fishing in the remoter parts of Scotland and the Western Isles.  The places he showed us looked idyllic.  You really don't need to go abroad to find some truly wild and unspoilt landscapes.  But the midges could be a problem.

The fencing project continues to go well.  We are now across Cam Beck and working up the difficult ground towards the stepping stones.  The land here is really evil and seems to be composed of clay with boulders that makes driving in posts a real challenge.  The students are coping with this really well despite its frustrations.  Hopefully we should have the wire up all the way to the finish of this poor ground by the end of this coming Wednesday and can then finish the project off by running the fence up the next pasture which seems to be on better ground.  The trees should arrive this week so I can amuse myself by planting up the areas we have already fenced.

Not long now before the river season opens on 15 March and it will be interesting to see how well the early season fishing is after this mild winter and such a hot dry summer.  There looks to be a good few fish about but time will tell.