Well here we are, the last day of the season for river salmon and Tarn trout. True to form, after a lovely sunny day it clouded up and came on to rain at about 4pm yesterday. We had less rain in the night that previously, but the river still looks in good nick for a final fling. The club Shaman benefited from his manipulation of the weather with two fine salmon on Monday.
I have already seen a couple of members flying through Newhouses on their way up to the Tarn so no doubt we shall be fairly busy today making the most of this final opportunity before rods and lines are packed away and thoughts turn to plans for next season.
Gavin P emailed me yesterday to say that the trees for our planting schemes this autumn have been ordered and will be with me around the 24th of November. If any member would like a few hours helping to plant these saplings then just ring or email me. It's not hard work, you just open a slit and literally throw the bare rooted whip into the slit and close it with your boot. The mature saplings will take a bit more digging in, but nine of these will hardly break a sweat and just think of the offset in your carbon footprint!
There was a review of travelling fly rods in Sunday's Telegraph which I will summarise tomorrow before I move to a weekly diary starting on Sunday.
I'm not too sure at present what the weather holds for today. It looks showery with a fairly full cloud cover drifting on a westerly breeze. There are occasional blue breaks though so it might fair up later.
You know, when I wrote last week about the delights of Autumn little did I realise that the club had its own shaman with the power to shape the weather here at Horton. If I had known this I would have summoned his services much earlier this summer and certainly invoked his powers to lift the drought last year. As I said last week, on reading my ode Alan M immediately emailed me to ruefully reflect that whilst the Autumn was indeed a good one what we really wanted was a lot of overnight rain before the close of the season. I don't know to which rain God Alan pays homage but strange to relate that since Sunday overnight rain is exactly what we have had here – consistently! For the past 3 days we have had bright, sunny mornings and early afternoons with the cloud building by late pm to produce rain just as it turns dark. It did so last evening so that the river remains in good shape and certainly fit for salmon fishing.
I think we owe a debt of gratitude to Alan for his remarkable intervention. I only hope that he can get up here to enjoy the fruits of his labours.
As you can tell from the above it's another stunning morning here with plenty of sun, blue sky and virtually no wind. I haven't been to look at the river yet but my guess is that the rain we had last night which had stopped by the early hours will have lifted the level a bit without putting too much colour into the water.
I have just got back from an early morning visit to the Tarn. It looked stunning in the early sunshine and it's so good to see both cygnets still thriving and now almost as big as their parents. There is a light westerly breeze rippling the water so not much sign of surface feeding trout. A quick check of catch returns for last week shows that the fish are still taking well and Geoff B got a big brownie yesterday. I do wonder just how many times this big brown trout has been caught now or whether there is more than one lurking in the depths of the Tarn. I haven't stocked brownies for a couple of years so clearly some fish do manage to overwinter here.
We had a fair drop of rain again last night so the river is bank full this morning and whilst it's still coloured it does seem to be dropping back. This should give good enough water for the last three days of the season to make a trip to Horton worthwhile for those who want a last shot at a salmon. Geoff was going to try his luck yesterday afternoon on a falling river. I haven't heard yet how he got on.
We seem to be set for a fair day with plenty of sun and a scattering of cloud drifting slowly on a westerly breeze. The forecast here for the next couple of days looks good so not a bad end to the season.
After a thoroughly wet, windy and miserable night I can now see just a glimmer of blue in the northern sky as I sit here typing this at 8.30. The upside of the rain is that the river is currently rising and might provide some reasonable salmon fishing later in the day when the colour drops out and the flow begins to fall off. The stiff north west wind is also moderating fast and should be just a gentle breeze in a couple of hours. (I hope!)
It's good to see so many of our new members fishing regularly. As I was walking back from the Tarn yesterday pondering the problem of how to round up a dozen gimmers that had broken through the lane side wall at Cow Pasture I met Edward M on his way to try the Tarn. It was a misty, still and deathly quiet morning with nothing moving in the water so it will be interesting to see how he got on when I check the returns later this morning. As for the gimmers, after being driven up the lane towards Birkwith by a van they were shoved back where they came from.
Why is it that after spending an extra hour in bed on account of the clocks going back last night I wake up feeling like I slept with someones foot in my mouth? It happens every year and even going to bed an hour later to compensate seems to make little difference. Perhaps I should just get up an hour earlier and gradually adjust by rising 10 minutes later every day until I catch up.
It's what might be best described as a soft morning here at Horton. We had a little rain in the night, too little to improve the fishing prospects, but enough to make everything soggy. Just the sort of weather that a goat might well choose to avoid by staying in a dry goat house, but goats being goats that's too straightforward. My lead nanny has decided that now would be a good time to start looking for billy goats so is roaming the croft, getting wet, shouting and generally being a damned nuisance. Milking time becomes a battle of subterfuge and a question of who can outwit who. We start with an eyeball to eyeball confrontation whilst we both size up the prevailing level of intelligence and will. Then we begin with a sudden jink to the right or left and a rapid trot off down the croft with frequent looks over the shoulder to see if I am following. I have learnt over the years not to participate in this part of the proceedings, but to wait for the game to become all a bit of a bore then to approach steadily and with a wide flanking movement as if I am making for the sheep sitting off to the right.
Then we move into the end game which can involve a repeat of stage one if we are feeling particularly capricious or a victory for human ingenuity involving either a cornering in the croft, trapping in the goat yard or a quiet slip of the hand under the collar.
Whichever, the outcome is always the same, a rapid gallop towards the milking stand in the barn as if it's me that has been buggering about and it's all about time we got on with the job. The final act in this performance (repeated every three weeks throughout the winter, folks!) is a careful scrutiny of the barn for the billy goat that must be hidden there somewhere.
There must be a psychologists explanation why humans find it a challenge to try to outwit dumb animals. I remember long, long ago seeing girls doing it at disco's, it remains the basis of all country sports and we males never quite seem to get the full hang of it.
It's a rather quiet end to the season. The lack of rain this autumn has meant that fewer members have travelled to Horton this back end to fish for salmon and the number of visits to the Tarn have dropped considerably over the past few weeks. It all makes for a quiet life, but leaves me wondering often just what to say in this diary when I sit down at the keyboard after checking emails each morning. One good bit of news that I can report is that Chris S has agreed that we can plant a few trees below Cragghill and will clear this with the Phil and Steven. I can now get on and order these from our benefactor.
It has been suggested that we put a few native trees in at the bottom end of the Tarn to replace or at least disguise the Christmas trees that look a bit incongruous in this landscape. Given that the ground here is almost permanently wet a few alder and willow should do well and provide a better mix of habitat than we have at present. Who know what the deciduous cover might encourage to colonise this corner. The fence that keeps the sheep out of this area needs a bit of attention, but that's a job easily attended to over the winter.
We plan to meet here on 10 November to draw up a comprehensive map of the fishery, name all the runs and pools and identify all features of importance to members such as hazards, parking places and access points. This work has been a long time in gestation and it will be interesting to see just how many arguments there are about names of pools. Of course, not all the recognisable features on the river have known names and the plan is to find suitable names for some of these which may well pass down into posterity.
This meeting will be a good opportunity to identify and agree all those little maintenance jobs that need doing, but somehow never get completed. The closed season will be a good time to get some of them done. If any member has spotted a job that needs my attention please do phone or email me and let me know. (stiles down by Penny Bridge have been on my list for months and will be done before next season).
My ode to autumn yesterday clearly touched a raw nerve in some quarters as I had an email lamenting the lack of water in the river over the past few weeks and wishing for nightly rain. Well, it's pretty dull and overcast here this morning, but it looks showery rather than the prelude to a deluge. Sorry.
It's not often that crayfish make it into the pages of the national press even battered and served with chips, but there was a short article in the Telegraph on Tuesday about how police in Stuttgart had to round up a cluster of crayfish that had escaped from an Asian food shop in the City and scuttled down the street. It just goes to prove that these crustaceans are brighter than they look. If anyone sees a posse of whiteclaws legging it down Newhouses lane please let me know.
The same paper reports that we are in for a severe winter. It seems that migratory swans (Bewicks) are arriving in Britain early this year which suggests that weather conditions in arctic Russia are unseasonably cold at present and we are in line to get some very low temperatures and some snow. In fact the long range forecast for Horton gives snow showers on Saturday week. Makes a change from the tropical conditions we experienced last winter and will help to keep Blue tongue disease out of the north of England. We do sometimes get transitory Bewicks on the Tarn so keep a watch out for them.
The rather saccharine programme on the BBC about British wildlife is a bit 'cuddly bunny' (especially the presenter). However, next Wednesdays programme is about fresh water life and the trailers seem to indicate that it will feature aquatic invertebrates with some stunning shots of cased caddis so it may well be worth watching.
I'm off now to administer to this stinking cold that my young nephew gave me at the weekend. It's the first one all year – thanks Alex!
Sorry about the late posting this morning. For my sins I am Chairman of the association that supplies broadband Internet access by wireless connection to this remote community. Since yesterday the network north of Newhouses has been out of action due to a fault where our radio system meets the BT exchange. So far nothing we have tried has worked to fix the problem and I was busy this morning attempting once again to get the problem sorted. The miracles of modern technology!
The forecast was right about yesterday. By mid morning we had a glorious sunny day with a cloudless blue sky and we have a repeat performance this morning. The river is now very low and probably unsuited to salmon fishing even at the most likely spots. A shame as judging by the evidence from the Foss there are plenty of fish up here.
The autumn colours this year are amongst the best that I can ever remember with the valley awash with golds and reds and looking a real picture in the strong sunlight. We also seem to have a bumper crop of robins in the garden. These have taken to lining up on the fence by the goatyard waiting for me to scatter corn for the hens in the morning. I was clearing leaves yesterday and had to stop frequently to avoid stepping on one precocious individual which found the grass under the fallen leaves irresistible.
Isn't autumn a wonderful time of year?
I knew that i could count on you lot out there to solve my fungus conundrum. David m emailed me within a few minutes yesterday to provide the answer to identifying the 'yellow fingers'. The culprit is clavaria fusiformis and you can see for yourselves what this looks like by following this link Fusiformis.
I was talking to a local historian late last week who asked me if I had ever spotted any evidence of the two mills that are reputed to have operated at Horton from about the 12th Century onwards. Apart from the obvious evidence of the house called Mill Dam alongside Brants Gill I have to confess that I have not seen any sign of structures etc whist walking the river or becks. Ariel photographs do show some earth works that look suspiciously like an oblong structure alongside a wheel pit down by the river directly opposite Brants Gill and we have photo's that show what looks like a mill structure on Brants Gill itself. This is now buried under a garage by Mill Dam and has been used in living memory as a water powered electricity generating plant with a wheel that came from Helwith Bridge. I can recall no reference to any mill in any of the old club records. So the mystery continues.
It's dull and overcast this morning, but the forecast suggests that it will brighten later. It's not so cold as it has been probably due to the heavy cloud cover and we have no breeze to stir the mist that's hanging in the valley and cloaking the fells.
I was in Halifax all day yesterday so have little to report on the fishery this morning other than that the river is now quite low and unlikely to rise much this week.
As I walked down across Tarn pasture to the Tarn yesterday morning I was struck by the number and variety of mushrooms growing here. The most striking is a variety that i don't recall seeing before, but is growing this year in some profusion. It looks like a bunch of bright yellow fingers reaching up out of the sward about a couple of inches high and each 'finger' about 1/4 inch across. I can't find this in any of my books so if anyone has any bright ideas as to what it is I would love to know.
My plan today is to get hold of Chris S who owns the land at Cragghill and get his permission to do some tree planting this autumn within the buffer strip down towards Studfold. Just the occasional specimen tree to provide a bit of habitat variation on the open banks here. Incidentally when I was up at Turn Dub on Saturday I noticed that there are a few young trees beginning to show that we haven't planted. It would seem that keeping the sheep off this area is allowing stuff that has been grazed back to start to find its potential. Just like the bluebells at Nanny Carr that appeared this spring within the buffer strip.