30 April 2007

Anyone coming up to Horton yesterday would have found the village full to bursting with runners and supporters all here for the 2007 3Peaks race.  This seemed to be a great success.  The weather and underfoot conditions were ideal.  There was plenty of sun and a light breeze to keep runners cool on this gruelling marathon.  A very fast time was recorded by the winner who came home in just a little over 2 hours 45 minutes.  Just stop and think about that for a moment and compare it to last week end's London Marathon, but remember that these runners have not only done 26 miles but have also climbed and descended three of the highest fells in Yorkshire.  Some feat.

Of course all this recent fine weather is taking its toll again on the river which is falling back fast now and will not give good fishing again until we get another soaking.  Looking at the forecast for this week leaves me with the view that conditions will continue to deteriorate at least until next week end.  So it's back to watering the garden and trying to scare the increasing number of herons off the best pools.

My plan is to get well on with the final length of fence at Camm Beck tomorrow.  We should have far less trouble crossing both the beck and the river than we had last Tuesday.  Just as well since we need to carry all the material and equipment up to the site from the dump at Camm Beck.

I would really welcome the reactions of members who fish at Selside to what we have done here.  It's ultimately for the benefit of the club, it's members and their fishing experience so it would be nice to know how members regard what has been accomplished.


28 April 2007

There is a very good article in this weeks Craven Herald about the Trout in the Classroom project that Horton Primary School have been running since before Christmas.  Regular readers will know that I have been keeping a close watch on this exiting initiative which was funded by the EA, organised by the RCCT and supplied by Jet Set.  The results have so far exceeded all expectations and about 200 fry are almost ready to go into the becks around Horton.  Everyone seems highly delighted with the outcome especially the children who are now much more aware of the importance of the becks and the river that are such a vital part of the Horton environment. 

It's an important element too of our own efforts to manage the river in a more sustainable and environmentally friendly way, encouraging nature to work in her own way to bring about improvements rather than aggressive interference to maintain high levels of fish population.  I know that progress towards a good level of natural fish recruitment will be a little slower than shipping in well grown trout but the long term benefits in terms of lower costs, fitter and better fish, and an all round healthier river as well as a few more sand eels to feed our northern puffins will be well worth the patience.

Don't be surprised if, in future, a youngster comes up to you whilst you are fishing the river and asks you how his or her fish are doing.  You should be able to point out a super wild brownie just poised to take your next cast.

Turning to the weather conditions, it's still pretty windy but gusty rather than a steady gale.  Otherwise it's fine and sunny with high cloud and the promise of a warm dry day.  The river is dropping quite quickly now, but should offer reasonable fishing on the deeper pools and runs.

Remember there is no posting tomorrow as I'm helping to get over 600 blithering idiots round the 3 Peaks circuit in under 3 hours.


27 April 2007

I was working in Bradford (lovely) all day yesterday so had little chance to visit the river or talk to the usual Thursday brigade, but I could see from the train that the river was looking good all the way from Horton to Settle with plenty of water on the runs and quite a good flow going over Settle weir.  It still looked in fine form yesterday evening so should hold up well for the weekend.

There is a nasty, stiff south westerly breeze blowing up the valley this morning that will make casting on some exposed beats a bit of a challenge.  Still, it's fine and sunny with a smear of high cloud to diffuse the light so if it warms up a little this afternoon fishing should be rewarding.

Mike H emailed me a couple of days ago about a club matter and told me about the beautiful brownie that his mate Steve B had from the Tarn last Thursday.  It went back so is still there for anyone who wishes to try for this long term Tarn resident.  Clearly some fish do overwinter here and seem to thrive since this fish must have more than doubled its weight since it went in.  What we don't know is when that was, certainly not last year as we stocked no browns in 2006 and will not do so this year.

Mike's email also prompts me to remind members about the manic wagtails at the Tarn parking area.  There are three of the blighters now active in the guano business.  So if you do park by the Tarn pasture gate remember to bring either socks or plastic bags and cover your door mirrors if you don't want to spend the next few days carving bird guano off your car doors.

More inspiration tomorrow, but probably no posting on Sunday as I'm parking cars at the 3 Peaks race from about 7.30am.


26 April 2007

My trawl through that excellent book by Pat O'Reilly – Matching the Hatch suggests that the hatch I saw at Camm beck on Tuesday afternoon consisted of March Browns though I'm willing to be corrected.  These were dun coloured flies with mottled wings and a distinct stripe to the body.  Pat tells us that the March Brown is a fly of the fast flowing northern and western rivers with stony beds……their distribution is often patchy and for some obscure reason they are rarely encountered on small tributary streams and becks.  So I'm fairly confident about this one.

Fishing today should be very rewarding.  We have a fine day with some sun, a little scattered cloud, it's warm and there is very little wind.  Add to that a river running moderately high and just off the colour and the prospects could not be better.  I know that Peter M is planning to fish up at Selside this morning so I will be interested to hear what luck he has.  Anyone else planning to fish here before the weekend is warned to be careful of the stiles that we put in.  These still need hand holds fixing and the barbs taken off the top wire.  You have been warned!


25 April 2007

The really good news this morning is that we have a stonkingly good river again.  It's running very high and coloured at present after the heavy rain that fell last night but should drop and clear today as the sun is now shining and the clouds are breaking nicely.  Conditions should be just right tomorrow if we get no more rain.

We had a good day up at Camm Beck yesterday once we managed to get across the beck in the high water conditions.  It's the first time since we started the project back in February that the beck has been high enough to make crossing it a challenge.  The access gate is now hung, the fence at the top end is secure and strained and the wall ends have been repaired.  Next week should see progress on the far bank fencing and then it's just the water gate to install.  I had hoped to get in the posts that will support this during yesterday's stint but the water was simply to high to make this possible. 

A quick peer into the tubex protecting the trees we planted shows that most are now in leaf and seem to be growing well.  I did have some concerns that the prolonged dry spell would prevent most from taking but so far my fears seem to be unfounded.  I should hate to think that the hours I have spent planting the things had been wasted.

Talking to Steve Hatton on Monday has convinced me that the best way to protect the banks at the confluence is with stakes and woven branches.  The RCCT have had great success with this technique lower down the Ribble and banks protected in this way do seem to withstand severe flooding pretty well.  So we will experiment.

There was quite a fly hatch yesterday in the damp, warm weather.  I'm not sure what these were, but they seemed to be large upwinged flies about half an inch long and a dull brown colour with little by way of distinguishing markings.  I really must bone up on river flies especially the early season ones.

Off now to dig out the etymology books and become a riverfly expert!


24 April 2007

I had a visit yesterday from Neil Handy the local EA fisheries Officer and Steve Hatton of the Ribble Catchment Conservation Trust.  They dropped by to bring me up to date with news of the Hatchery, the School trout fry and all the work that the RCCT have been doing and plan to do in the coming months.  The fry are thriving, so much so that Neil has already put 50 into the lower end of Brants Ghyll to make room for the remaining 150 in the classroom tank.  So far there have been virtually no deaths which is a remarkable level of survival and one which we can only hope to emulate when we get the hatchery up and running in the next couple of years. 

News on this is good too with work scheduled to resume in the next few weeks.  We will start by replacing much of the cement render that was put up last year and cracked in the severe drought and heat of last summer.  Then it's a case of finishing the off line spawning channels and installing the pipework ready to flood both tanks and allow everything to settle down prior to stocking in 2008.

The Yorkshire Post were at the School yesterday to do an article on the fish tank and take pictures so I'll look out for the article when it publishes.

Less welcome news comes from the Wild Trout Trust who emailed me yesterday to tell me that the open day scheduled for 24 May at Bolton Abbey has been cancelled.  I know not why, but it must be something fairly catastrophic as this was to be a fairly major event run in conjunction with the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group and the Institute of Fisheries Management.   This is a shame as the theme for the day was to have been the management of spate rivers a subject of critical importance here at Horton.

Rather better news comes from the river.  we had quite a lot of rain yesterday and it's raining on and off this morning so the river is beginning to creep back up to fishable levels again without severe flood or becoming too coloured.  The Tarn is also benefiting from the rain with noticeably better pH and ORP readings.  There have been one or two blank days for members here which can only be due to the weather as there are still plenty of fish remaining from the March stocking.  We will try again to put some larger fish in when we next stock on 5 May.  These will hopefully include some up to 5lb which will add a bit of spice to the fishing.

I'm off now to carry on with work up at Camm Beck.  The plan today is to finish off the access gate now that I have the correct bolts, complete the fence at the top end, sort out the stiles and sink the posts for the water gate.  Next week we should erect the fence on the far bank and then its a case of hanging the water gate and reinforcing the bank around the Camm Beck confluence.


23 April 2007

Well, at long last it rained most of yesterday.  Not heavy rain, but it was persistent and quite drenching so everywhere is looking green and fresh this morning and my veg plot looks a great deal healthier.  The river has even started to rise a bit and since we are due more rain today fishing later this week should be more rewarding than it has been for the past month.

I was reading Stuart Croft's excellent article on caddisflies in Salmo Trutta last evening. Stuart's contention is that anglers here in the UK have paid far too little regard to these important riverflies and really should give them a higher importance especially up here on our northern rain fed rivers where they predominate.  Stuart is engaged on a study to record and classify this varied species with a view to establishing which of the many Trichoptera are of most interest to anglers.  He published an article in Fly Fishing and Fly Tying magazine last year asking fishermen to send him examples of the caddisflies that they find on rivers across the UK.  The response has been rewarding and Stuart is currently classifying the collections sent in and will publish results shortly.  In the meantime he still needs more examples from still waters such as our Tarn and from rivers like the Ribble where the caddisfly is so well represented so members  are encouraged to send him what they find here once the flies get going in June.  You can contact Stuart at Pennine@troutburn.freeserve.co.uk or 4 Stottercliffe Road Penistone Sheffield.

Who knows, this study may well open up a whole new range of killer flies that our Ribble trout will find irresistible.

More tomorrow.


22 April 2007

It's a dull and slightly damp start here this morning but still relatively warm and windless.  I don't know if it's a sign of climate change or just one of those occasional seasonal aberrations, but I saw a pair of swallows yesterday down by the river and there are at least two more by the Tarn.  These arrivals from Africa are at least a month ahead of schedule up here.  I know that we have had a mild winter and an unusually dry and warm spring, but I am here to notice it.  How do these migrants thousands of miles away know what conditions are like in North Yorkshire and that they will be suitable for feeding and nesting when they get here?  Strange.  There is much in nature that we truly don't understand and the best we can offer are wild guesses and speculation.  It's the same with our more permanent avian residents.  I have watched with some apprehension two pairs of rooks busy building nests in my giant sycamore.  These nests are as high as the twiggy ends of the branches will support the considerable weight of the nest.  They began back in early March and usually we get severe gales at least until mid April which would have destroyed the nests.  But this year no gales.  How did they know?  It's the same with the new heronry at Low Birkwith.  The nests are high in the fir trees there and vulnerable to strong winds yet the herons seemed to know that this year the winter gales had ceased.

No doubt they sometimes get it wrong and nests are destroyed,  but animals have this uncanny knack of predicting the weather weeks in advance that we can only marvel at.  I guess that fish also may have this talent but I have not observed any clear evidence of how they might respond to predicted conditions in the river.  Thoughts on a postcard to…..


21 April 2007

It's a cloudy but bright start here with virtually no breeze and a little warmer than yesterday which felt quite chill in the morning.  The forecast is for showers over the next few days, but we will just have to wait and see what we get.  The river is desperate for a lift now and is looking quite mucky in places.  A good flood would work wonders in freshening everything up.

I have lost track a bit with the fry that the School are raising and have not been in to see them since Easter.  I will try to drop into the School next week when passing and report back on progress.

I settled down with Salmo Trutta last evening and it really is a thumping good read with its usual mix of articles on conservation, river life and reports on fishing in remote places.  The main theme of this edition seems to be the importance of fly life for the general health of river catchments and the important role that anglers can perform in monitoring the presence of key species.  Most angling journals regularly carry articles about our river flies and often these include anecdotal evidence that the presence of flies is declining compared to 20 or 30 years ago.  What seems to be lacking is a systematic approach to surveying and monitoring fly or bug life on our waters.  There is a group organised by the Natural History Museum called Buglife which is attempting to rectify this with the assistance of angling clubs up and down the country.  They have been arranging training events for anglers who wish to develop their skills in identifying and classifying the bug life that they find on their rivers.  The only problem is that these courses are expensive.

Some of you will know that we have been fortunate in securing a grant from the WTT to pay for a similar training event which will take place on 15 May here at Horton.  Places are extremely limited so a very small group of long standing members was invited to attend and evaluate the course.  We will learn how to sample life in the river, identify and classify what we find, understand the messages that this information provides about the health of the Ribble and what we might do to nurture and improve it for the future well being of our wild trout and our salmon smolts.

If this course is judged to be successful we will look at ways in which other members might benefit in future, perhaps by running further events.  I will come back to this after the course has taken place.

See you tomorrow.


20 April 2007

It's a damp start here in the valley, not enough to lift the river but sufficient to wet the ground and freshen up my veg plot.  Still, it's the first rain we have had for about three weeks.  Almost unprecedented up here in the pennines in spring.

I was flipping through Salmo Trutta last evening marking off the articles to be read with relish when time permits (preferably with a glass of malt ready to hand) and I came across a series of articles celebrating 10 years of the remarkable achievements of the Wild Trout Trust.  The estimable Charles Rangeley Wilson (he of the Accidental Fisherman – recently on TV) was the driving force in the early years along with Mike Weaver whose inspiring book on fishing in wild places I am reading at the moment.  There were others, of course, including Richard Slocock who retires from the Chairman's seat this year, but it was Charles who really set the Trust going in that tin hut in Scotland and secured the first sponsorship deals with SAGE and Famous Grouse that enabled the WTT to begin its vital work.  Regrettably Famous Grouse caught the 'cool' bug a little later and went of in search of a more 'yoof – full' (to quote Charles) image where grouse were to be hugged and not shot.  A shame as Grouse is probably my favourite 'cooking' scotch.

Ten years on and the long list of conservation projects completed that will give our wild trout a tomorrow are impressive, but largely un-recognised by the world at large.  Catchments from the Dart in Devon (my home river) to the Scottish Tweed have all benefited and now we can add the little Ribble to that illustrious list.  We should not be ashamed about telling anyone who will listen – and those who won't – about these achievements.  This is real conservation, getting in there, getting muddy, making a real difference.  Some projects are small, what's 500 yards of fencing and 300 trees on 12 miles of river?  But in the grand scheme of things these all add up and can be built on year by year.  All the anti's can do is posture, beat up women and issue 'press statements'.  Trout don't thrive on press releases but they do respond to improved habitat.  As Churchill famously said let's keep 'buggering on'.

See you tomorrow.