31 May 2007

I've said it before, but it really does bear repeating, the only reliable theory about fishing is that there is no theory.  This was brought home strongly by an email I got yesterday about one member's successful foray to the river in the morning.  He fished up Parkers Pool and got 6 fish.  Most around the 8 inch mark, but one was close to 1lb.  These were all wild fish so likely to be fussy about what they took.  The real point here is the fly he used. My spy tells me that our member was “fishing  upstream with a  Snipe and Purple Variant. Instead of a Pearsalls
silk body he used the wrapping from Cadbury's Mini Roll packet which gave the fly
a lovely glint. Must try it myself sometime.”

It just goes to show that you don't need to follow the teachings of the purists to be successful.  Experimentation can work wonders.  In fact reading the accounts of those who have fished here in times past including Ransome it would seem that our Horton fish like their curiosity aroused by something unusual. So maybe we should have a competition for the most successful fly dressed with the most novel materials.  I await your entries.

It's not a bad morning just now.  We have a smattering of high fluffy cloud, some sunshine, no wind and a reasonable temperature.  All we lack is a good head of water.  Still, the river is not down to its boots yet so there should be good fishing on the pools and weirs.


30 May 2007

It's started clear bright and sunny with no wind this morning, but as I write this it seems to be clouding up a bit.  Mostly high fluffy stuff at present, but there are some darker and heavier clouds to the west where the weather is coming from. We may get rain later which will do the river good since levels have dropped off a lot in the past week. 

I am working my way through Goddard's bank side guide to riverflys and Harris's entomology trying to get a clear mental picture of the myriad of ephemerids, olives and stoneflys we are likely to encounter in our monitoring work.  These books are helpful, but they do tend to dwell on the adult stages of the various families whereas we will be looking at the nymphal stages which are just as complex to untangle from each other.  I guess this is something that will come easiest with experience and practical work on the live creatures rather than too much reading or studying of pictures and diagrams.  All we need now are the nets and we can start work on the first survey.  I am a little irritated about the nets.  The company supplying them seem to have a rather cavalier attitude to customer care and so far have failed to respond to either email or telephone requests for information about the status of our order.  I will try again later today as it's now well over a week since the order was placed, no news and no goods.


29 May 2007

All a bit of a rush this morning as I'm off to Halifax in just a moment, but time for an update on conditions which are good today.  It's bright with high cloud and little wind, a good deal warmer and we had a good drop of rain last night so the levels have come up a bit.  Rather than blather on I thought that you might like to see Gavin's first impressions of the river . So with his permission here it is.


After meeting you at the
boat house I wandered down to the river and fished my way up to Selside as I
worked up the river levels where very low but on my way upstream I managed to
take 4 very health wild browns of which I have enclosed a couple of pictures.
These fish where all in fighting fit condition and caught in the pools with a
little bit more water in them or in the steamy runs. There were no visible
signs of any fish and I could not spot any fish feeding considering how low the
river was.

As I progressed up to the
wooden bridge down stream of Selside I disturbed a mink in the river that
disappeared into the undergrowth on the far bank this was about 50 yards below
the bridge. As I reached the bridge and was just stood watching for any sign of
fish rising up the steamy wooded part of the river by the stream as it flowed
into the river a second mink jumped into the river and disappeared upstream. I
fished up under the trees with a pair of nymphs and took one more small fish up
this steamy stretch in more of a bugging style due to the undergrowth.

I walked up to the pool at
the top of the trees and sat on the high bank by the slow pool at the top of
what I think is the Selside stretch and as I sat eating a sandwich and drinking
my coffee I could hear a noise in the undergrowth slightly up stream and as I
crept up to it the largest mink I have ever seen came to meet me when he saw me
he jumped into the river and across to the other side where he sat by the river
edge under the trees where I managed to photograph him a copy I have enclosed
and circled to indicate where he his you can clearly make him out.

Quiet an eventful day up at
Selside I had a further fish on a gold head PT nymph fished on a duo style
under a dry and later hooked a large fish which ran me straight into the tree
branches on the other side and shook the hook this spooked the pool. As I was
leaving I decided to look at the spot the mink was as I got there was the
remains of a large trout minus its head this fish must have gone at least
18″ the mink had just been enjoying diner by the looks of it. I the walked
back down to the car and found a fish rising as Cam
beck joins the river this took a black klinkhammer on the first cast.

This fish was the best of
the day at around 12″ tried to photo this but the battery was dead.

But to conclude a very
enjoyable day difficult at times with the gusting wind and me using only 3
weight tackle but for my first outing on what was a very clear and low river I
cannot wait for my next trip. One more thing on many of the enclosed areas
sheep had manage to get into the fenced of area with one Ewe taking exception
to me getting between her and her lamb and deciding she ought to teach me a
lesson but I was a bit quicker than her and got out of the way.

I thought you would want to
know as I would think 3 mink in a short stretch could cause problems with fish
stocks and as an after thought your minnow are very partial to godheads PTN I
took around 20 or 30 of the little beast on this first outing



28 May 2007

It's damn cold here this morning mainly because the wind has backed to the north.  Thankfully it's not blowing as strongly as yesterday but it's still grey and rather depressing weather.  We had not a drop of the promised rain yesterday.  Odd as clearly it was pretty wet in Leeds much to England's frustration.  The West Indies must be blessing the Yorkshire weather.

I have just read a fascinating email from Gavin P who fished the river for the first time on Friday.  Despite the low water he had some success, but he also reports a problem in a precocious family of mink by the footbridge at Selside.  I will have a chat with Marma who farms here and hates mink and see if together we can sort this problem quickly.  I have asked Gavin if I can post his email on this blog and if he agrees I will include it in tomorrows posting.

I am putting together a page on riverfly for the MAA website so if any member who attended the training day has a picture that captures either the group at work or shows what we caught I would like to include that on the page.

Since the river is quite low now I plan to take a wander up from New Inn later today and collect the accumulated plastic rubbish that is decorating the bank side trees.  I will take a pair of loppers with me and do a bit of trimming on the weir pools.

Finally, I have a suspicion that the swans on the Tarn are having a second attempt at nesting.  The pen seems to be spending a lot of time pulling material out into the reed bed.  Whether they get as far as egg laying remains to be seen since it's getting a bit late in the season now, but if she does lay then I may try putting a temporary fence to the landward side of the nest to see if that will deter the fox that took the last clutch.


27 May 2007

It escaped my notice but yesterday was a significant anniversary. I began writing this blog on 26 May 2006 so we had our first birthday yesterday.  I should have organised a celebratory competition or something, but as my family will attest to remembering birthdays is not my strong point.  However, this is the longest period in my life that I have ever kept a diary and looking back over the past year shows just how much happens on this rather quiet fishery.  I don't propose to do a retrospective, but I do seem to have begun writing the Blog at a fairly significant moment.  The day after my first post we were hit by the VHS outbreak that effectively stopped all movements of live fish for most of the season.  That event proved a catalyst for change in the way we manage the river and prompted renewed vigour in finding ways to make this a sustainable and viable wild fishery.  We have achieved much, but there is plenty more to do and I intend to put together a long term plan for discussion by Council that will ensure that we don't lose momentum.

I had an email from my regular correspondent David M yesterday which mused about the creation of the Tarn.  The earliest record he has is from Whittaker dated 1805.  We know that the wall pre dates the Tarn, but it's not clear whether this is an enclosure wall or a more ancient boundary.  Ariel photos show that the wall is on the line of what appears to be a monastic boundary since there is evidence of it running almost straight as far as Birkwith.  Anyone interested should look at the following link http://www.flashearth.com/?lat=54.149083&lon=-2.299168&z=17.2&r=0&src=msa

It started damp and grey this morning but seems to be brightening a bit now,  We have a light north east breeze which is keeping the temperature down, but helping to keep the clouds moving on.


26 May 2007

I spent a jolly hour or so fitting the mounts for the fish finder to the boat yesterday.  This went surprisingly well considering that I decided to experiment with a demountable arrangement and a fitting at the front of the boat away from the anchor mount.  This means that the whole assembly can be quickly and easily set up and taken down leaving just two short bolts protruding from the front gunwale so that there is nothing that will interfere with casting from the boat when the sonar is not fitted.  I tried out a run down the Tarn and the display shows a surprisingly good picture of both the profile of the bed and the composition of the substrate. 

I will press gang the lad into providing the motive power (plying the oars) so that I can concentrate on producing a contour map of the bed across the width of the water which may help to show the holes where the fish are lying or overwinter.

The sieves for our riverfly monitoring programme turned up yesterday.  Despite being very much cheaper than the recommended product they are excellent pieces of engineering and I can see no obvious difference between them and the expensive version.  They should last a number of lifetimes.  Keeping with the riverfly issue, I talked to the local EA biologist yesterday who turned out to be very enthusiastic about our planned monitoring work and asked for the data we produced on our training day and future monitoring results.  It seems that they have almost no data for bug life on the upper Ribble so our work will be breaking new ground for them.

It's not a bad day here so far.  We have about 50% cloud cover, some sun, a light breeze and a reasonable level of water on the river.  It's due to go pear shaped tomorrow with strong wind and heavy rain so today may offer the best of the bank holiday fishing.


25 May 2007

We had a great afternoon yesterday over at Barden Bridge on the river Wharfe.  This was an event organised by the Association of Rivers Trusts and FWAG looking at the management of spate rivers.  There was a good crowd of about 30 people who walked the river bank with a group of knowledgeable and interesting speakers who took us through the usual issues related to the care and maintenance of dynamic, fast flowing rivers.

We kicked off with a context setting talk by the Bolton Abbey Estate manager who told us about the management strategy adopted by the Estate for the care of both the grouse moors and fishery.  We then moved on to look at some practical examples of river management including bank protection, buffer fencing and tree planting. All fairly familiar stuff, but reassuring in that our own work appears just as competent and well founded as that done by professional staff here.  We talked about predator control and learnt that the Estate has a serious cormorant problem which is kept in check simply by the pressure of human presence.  The highlight for me was the final session where Mark the River Keeper gave us a practical demonstration of bank side riverfly monitoring using exactly the techniques we had learnt last Tuesday.  This revealed a small number of stoneflies a few olives and a single Turkey Brown which I was pleased to find I could identify.  By comparison our river here at Horton is teeming with life, the main difference being our vastly superior population of Heptagenia species. I made a valuable contact in Mark and we have agreed to meet again to look at sharing experience and information about our respective waters.  All in all a very worthwhile and well spent afternoon.

I got an email from Peter M last evening reporting Sammy W's catch on the Tarn.  This is interesting for two reasons.  Firstly Sammy caught a 2.75lb rainbow with an old artificial fly in its mouth.  This suggests that the Tarn fish are not made hook shy by being caught and returned.  A concern that some members have expressed.  Secondly he landed a 4lb rainbow which must have over wintered at least once to attain that weight.  This fish had two stone loaches in its mouth and possibly another partly digested in its stomach. So the Tarn will support a certain number of overwintering fish probably feeding on the loaches and crayfish, the problem is that we don't know how many it will support.  I intend to do a sample survey of both the bed and the weed to see if we can establish what invertebrate and other life is in the Tarn.

Finally, before you all nod off, conditions here this morning are pretty good.  We had a fair amount of rain yesterday so the river is just fishable.  It's overcast, warm and still this morning with the promise of some sun later.  Look out for heavy rain on Sunday and Monday which should push the river level up considerably by mid week.


24 May 2007

Despite the promising forecast its dawned grey and damp today.  It's warm with little or no wind so fishing should be reasonable for those happy to risk a soaking from the fine murk that's falling steadily.

Otherwise there is little to report apart from the fact that I have rigged up a jig to take the transducer for the fish finder which will allow me to fix it to the boat without drilling the hull.  I plan to test this out over the weekend and try to map the bed of the Tarn so watch out for a report of success or failure.

I'm off to Bolton Abbey later this morning for the Spate Rivers event which should be fun.  I will post up a full report tomorrow.


23 May 2007

It cleared up yesterday to give us a bright and sunny afternoon so the river continues to fall off.  It's still good on the pools, but the runs are now getting a little too low for good fishing.  It's cloudy this morning with just a hint of damp in the air.  The forecast suggests that it will fair up later so I guess we will have to wait until Friday for any appreciable rain.

As I mentioned some days ago there is an open day at Bolton Abbey tomorrow at 1.30 sponsored by FWAG and the Rivers Trusts.  This promises to be an informative and useful event with its focus on Managing Spate Rivers.  I will be there and will keep a watch out for other members who plan to make the trip to Wharfedale.

An article in the paper yesterday caught my eye.  For some years now there has been a debate about the impact on fish of synthetic female hormones from the contraceptive pill, but little conclusive proof has been forthcoming that these hormones do affect the sex of fish and their ability to breed.  Now a team of scientists in Canada have shown that even at concentrations of parts per trillion this synthetic oestrogen causes catastrophic collapse in fish populations.  Working at a remote lake in Canada this team have laced the water with minute traces of this pollutant and studied the effects on the native fathead minnows.  What they found was a very rapid change in the feminisation of male fish and an equal rise in the inability of females to produce eggs.  The outcome was a near total collapse in the population of fathead minnow present.  The study also showed similar but less profound effects in the population of lake trout.

The slightly better news is that these synthetic oestrogens are rapidly dispersed in turbulent river water and are also not very persistent in the environment.  However whilst they do persist they can have a rapid and profound impact on fish breeding.

Be warned and be careful with your next glass of tap water!  Better to stick to beer where the water has been boiled unless you fancy yourself in a size 36B cup.


22 May 2007

I need to be in Settle in half an hour so just an update on conditions here at Horton this morning.  Its dawned damp and drear after a bright, sunny day yesterday.  There is very little wind, but the murk looks to be set in for the next few hours.  Any rain will be welcome as the river is dropping off quite quickly and could do with a top up.

I think the duck murderer has been found.  Brian S dropped by last evening to return his guest ticket and reported a live foxes earth just downstream of Turn Dub.  He saw the tail end of a vixen retreating hurriedly into this hole and I have no doubt that this is the fox that has been barking on the river for the past few weeks.  Once the cubs are away we will need to attend to this problem.