23 July 2007

It tuned out to be quite a pleasant day yesterday, in fact so much so that Mrs F and I walked up from Helwith Bridge to Dale Head to survey Long Lane for the Parish Council.  The problem here is 4×4 off roaders and trail bikers who wish to see Long Lane registered as a BOAT (byway open to all traffic).  For anyone who knows it this track is a tranquil green lane that presents a wonderful view of Pen y Ghent as you get towards Dale Head and provides a classic route up its eastern flank.  It's heavily used as part of the Pennine Way and provides a super Sunday walk.  What we were looking for was evidence as to why this route should remain a bridle way and not be trashed by the off road brigade.  Its tranquillity so close to the main Horton road and the village itself is really the telling point and Sheila now has to write a submission to the National Park which can be considered at the forthcoming Public Enquiry.  Fingers crossed.

Mike H had a good morning on the Tarn and stopped by to show me the 4lb plus rainbow he caught during the late morning session after the sun came out.  A really nice fish, a bit ragged on the tail fin, but in very good condition.

Crayfish Paul stopped by in the evening after setting the canary trap up at Ling Gill and putting 14 traps in the Tarn ready for the crayfish monitoring programme this morning.  We can now only wait and see whether the trap at Ling Gill returns a positive or negative response for plague.  We are taking a group of 15 students to the Tarn this morning to check the traps and record the contents.  Again fingers crossed that our population of these endangered crustaceans are still thriving at Horton.

I will report what we find tomorrow.


22 July 2007

I'm just back from a quick visit to the Tarn to check on the cygnets, the water quality and take the fishing returns for last week.  All looks good with both cygnets alive and growing well, water quality very good and catches well up since we stocked on Tuesday.

A couple of members beat me to it this morning and were already out in the boat looking for an elusive rise on what is so far a still, overcast and rather gloomy morning.  No sign of the promised sun yet, but at least it's not raining (yet).

I came across an article yesterday about a international course fishing championship which is being televised.  Now, I may be fairly ignorant when it comes to course fish, but it's never really struck me as the most absorbing of spectator sports yet the picture shows a gallery of what must be hundreds of people busy watching a small group of fishermen anxiously watching worms drowning.  Where do we go from here? perhaps televised national synchronised meditation or formation day dreaming competitions?


21 July 2001

Guess what?  It's raining here at Horton.  Not the monsoon that has left much of the midlands looking like a Vietnamese paddy field but a steady irritating drizzle that seems to get through everything given time and leaves you feeling like a damp sponge.

I hope it improves during the week as I'm off to the CLA Game Fair at Harewood House on either Friday or Sunday depending on which day looks as if it might be less damp.  This is one of the largest country sports events in the world and is well worth a visit.  I was immensely impressed with the organisation when it was last at Harewood a few years ago.  The signposting to the event is exemplary, parking is easy and even if you don't have an advanced ticket, the gates seem to work very efficiently to get people in quickly.

And once in the show ground you need at least a day to work round everything that there is to see and do.  The fishing village alone will take a morning or more to do justice with all the big equipment makers represented as well as organisations such as the Wild Trout Trust and Salmon & Trout Association.  To cap it all you can win prizes with your casting technique (or maybe not if you cast like me).

The whole event is a celebration of the rural way of life which is increasingly under threat from a Government that's indifferent to rural issues and an urban population which regards the countryside as some sort of glorified theme park.

So take yourself along at the weekend and experience the very best that the English sporting countryside has to offer.

We had the Horton School end of term barbecue last evening which was a pretty soggy affair, but after the fist bottle of Chablis the rain no longer seems quite so wet, good food and good company soon warm the spirit.  It's quite uplifting to see just how easily Horton folk adapt any event to accommodate even the worst weather and I spent a good half hour talking to Neil Handy about the hatchery under a leaking umbrella that blew inside out at least twice.  Up here weather just seems to be something that happens in the background whilst you concentrate on having a great time.


20 July 2007

We have a return to overcast and slightly damp conditions here this morning with copious quantities of midge just to add a bit of spice.

It seems that river fishing was a bit of a challenge yesterday made no easier by a small furry audience.  Peter M emailed me to say that he fished down by Penny Bridge in the morning and got 2 fine wild fish in fairly coloured water.  Whilst so engaged he heard a loud splash and turned expecting to see a salmon.  What he saw instead gives me the job for the day as two mink sat on the bank watching him with some interest. Eventually they crossed the river and disappeared down stream possibly joined by a third.  I will set a trap near the bridge and see if I can remove these predators.

Later, Peter went up to Selside and fished dry and wet fly in combinations of patterns but saw not a sign of a fish.  A bit worrying this since we have spent so much time, money and effort in trying to raise the wild trout population here.  Maybe the conditions just weren't right or, as Peter says, someone needs to teach him how to fish the river here.  I doubt that it's the latter as he is a thoughtful, experienced and astute fisherman.


19 July 2007

    Here is Neil putting the first young brown trout into the rearing pond at Horton for 60 years.  There were about 40 fish in all, most around 2 inches and we will now just have to be patient as we wait to see how they get on.  It will be fascinating and not a little worrying as we wait to see if any wild fish find the channel this winter and successfully spawn.  Only time and a great deal of patience will tell if this project is going to be the success that it deserves to be.

The children came up to watch and asked a lot of very perceptive and intelligent questions. They really do seem to have become attached to their young fish and were fascinated by the thought that they may grow on to be over a foot long simply feeding on flies and other invertebrates.

The plan is to set the hatching tank up in the School again this winter since the children had so much enjoyment and success in rearing their first brood of young trout.  It all bodes well for a healthy future for our wild brown trout.

It's not a bad morning so far with some sun and quite a bit of scattered high cloud.  It's warm with a very light breeze and there is still plenty of water on the river so our usual Thursday contingent should have a rewarding day.


18 July 2007

It looks as if we shall have  a mixed bag sort of a day.  It started bright and sunny, but there is a lot of threatening cloud about and heavy showers are forecast.  It's warm and there is very little wind so between the showers fishing should be good on a river that was replenished with a good drop of rain in the night.

I'm off down to the hatchery in a moment to help Neil introduce the School fry to the new tank.  The older children at the School are coming up to watch and this will be quite an event as these are the first fish to go in here for 60 years.  More on this and perhaps some pictures tomorrow.

We stocked the Tarn yesterday with 200 very fit looking rainbows.  All these fish were between 1.5 and 2 lb with a hand full of bigger brutes at about 3.5 lb just to add a bit of spice to the fishing.  They swam off well and seemed to get the idea of feeding themselves quite quickly as the surface of the Tarn soon became peppered with rises.  It will be interesting to see what impact these new fish have on success rates over the next few days.


17 July 2007

I took the sampling net down to the hatchery yesterday lunchtime and did a very quick foot square kick sample in the gravel in the new spawning channel.  The results are encouraging and show a good population of bugs already established.  Above the tank inlets I found 5+ Heptagenia, 10+ Baetidae and a lonely Gammarid as well as a lot of midge larvae.  Below the tank the results were lower, but the amount of silt in the gravel increases on the lower length of the channel and I suspect that if this were flushed out the results would improve over time. 

Of course, any bugs found in the substrate above the tanks is also likely to be present in the tanks themselves so there should be plenty of food available for the growing fry when we introduce them later this week.

I had a call from Crayfish Paul last evening who tells me that he is running his annual crayfish course at Malham next week.  The plan is to set traps in the Tarn on Sunday ready for the students when they come up on Tuesday.  There will be a repeat of the course later in the week so we should have students up at the Tarn again on Thursday morning checking the traps and recording the number and health of our native crayfish.  This annual check is invaluable in helping us to monitor this vital population of white clawed crayfish which are now becoming so scarce elsewhere in England.

Talking of creatures becoming scarce, I read yesterday that the Scots are very worried about their east coast salmon population.  It would seem that the numbers of fish entering the great salmon waters of the Tweed, Spey and Tay are well down this year despite very good water on all these rivers.  The concern is that overfishing out at sea is having a dramatic effect on the grilse which should now be making their way back to spawn for the first time.  This contrasts with experience on this west flowing river which seems to be doing fairly well salmon wise at present.  We had a pretty good end of season last year despite not having any water for most of the summer and conditions this year could not be better.  Plenty of salmon have been seen lower down the Ribble and Neil is certain that there are a good number of fish already up at Horton.  When the water clears a bit I must go salmon spotting again.


16 July 2007

Well, we didn't get the violent storms and the deluge yesterday that the forecast promised.  What we did get was a strong north west wind and a fairly steady drizzle that has kept up the level on the river, but not brought it into spate.  It's still a bit coloured this morning , but will clear during the day as it's fairly settled and bright here this morning with just a gentle north east breeze.  It's a good deal warmer than of late so we might even see a fly hatch this afternoon.

We spent a very enlightening hour with Neil at the Hatchery after lunch yesterday.  He is abuzz with ideas about how we might use the place and very keen to get things going quickly since the high water has brought in a lot of bug life to the spawning gravels and the two tanks.  He plans to put the remaining fry from the school into the main tank during this week and I will give him a hand as the plan is to take the children up to the site to watch.  This really is a most impressive piece of work that Neil has brought into being.  Even if only one or two fish find their way up into the spawning channel then the potential for increased wild fish numbers is huge.  Given that a mature trout will lay up to 8 thousand eggs if only 10% of these survive to swim up stage then we have increased the population by 800 fish and given that most of these fry will wash down into the tank where they can feed on free from predation then a very high percentage of this 800 should make it through to adulthood. 

The plan is to make up some covers using permeable membrane that's commonly used for ground cover. This will allow some light and air through but keep out most UV that causes algae build up and deter feathered and furred predators.  We only need to cover part of the tank to provide a refuge and can use the spare scaffold poles that are currently taking up space behind the boathouse at the Tarn.

All this is very much an experiment as we don't really know how the site will perform, whether the fish will find the channel or whether the tanks can sustain a growing population of fish without artificial feeding.  The aim is to interfere here as little as possible and allow a natural cycle to develop where fish come into the channel to spawn, fry wash down into the main tank and are then free to either grow on in the tank or drop out of the outlet into the main beck. 

It will be great fun experimenting, watching and learning over the next few years.  There is no other facility like it in the country and what is done here will be unique and will teach us much about creating a self sustaining fishery.

Of course, there is also the crayfish side of the project and the plan here again is to put a few adults in at the back end of this summer to see how they respond to the new habitat.  As for re-stocking the river, Paul Bradley is planning to set some canary traps at the foot of Ling Gill and then test the occupants for evidence of plague.  If he gets a negative result then plans can be made to begin placing a few native crayfish at suitable sites up and down the river.

By pure chance all this comes exactly 60 years since the last fish were taken from the old MAA hatchery in 1947 and I think that our founding fathers who invested so much in the site would be fascinated and pleased by what is now being done.


15 July 2007

What a smashing morning.  It's warm, still and the high smear of cloud is giving us plenty of diffused sunshine.  The conditions here for fishing are near perfect with plenty of clear water on the river and some good rises on the Tarn.  I'm just back from the usual early Sunday foray to the Tarn and the good news is that both cygnets are doing well and seem to have cottoned on pretty quickly that the presence of an upright ape descendant often means food.  They came scuttling across the water as I arrived by the hut closely followed by a very attentive cob showing off by running on the water.

The forecast for later is pretty dismal with the threat of heavy rain and localised thunder storms.  I hope these keep off until we have been down to the hatchery this afternoon as there is very little shelter on Brants Gill.  It will be interesting to find out what specific plans Neil has for bringing both the hatchery and crayfish refuge into operation.  It all looks impressive with the off line spawning channel flowing strongly over a clean gravel bed and the tanks looking clear and well filled.  The area could do with a bit of tarting up to level out some of the spoil heaps and clear up around the tanks so if Neil is OK with this I may have a crack at a general tidy up later this week weather permitting.

I'll report back tomorrow.


14 July 2007

Two words sum up the conditions here this morning – wet & windy.  It's rained all night and the river is now bank full and running dark so fishing is really not an option this morning.

We were due to stock the Tarn today, but I have just rung the farm and postponed delivery until early next week as there is a very good chance that the pick up will bog down in Tarn pasture given the sodden state of the ground after so much rain.  The fish are ready, all around the 2lb mark, so we will get them put in as soon as conditions permit.  Who would think that you would have to postpone a July stocking due to the wet?  Still, its the way this summer(?) has gone.

The Secretary and I are due to meet Neil H at the hatchery tomorrow to discuss plans for stocking the pond with fry and to talk about fitting anti predator covers if these become necessary.  The one good outcome from this incredibly wet summer is the good flushing that the hatchery has had which will remove the toxins from the concrete.  The plan is to introduce some of the remaining fry from the School tank and see how they get on.

Of course I didn't manage to get any riverfly sampling done yesterday, it was far too wet and by mid afternoon the river was too high to safely wade with the net.  I am determined to do a sample this coming week and Tuesday currently looks to be a brighter day so that will be my aim.