24 February 2008

Well, all good things must come to an end eventually I suppose.  The long spell of fine, high pressure weather finally broke on Thursday bringing gales and heavy rain.  The river has been either bank full or in full spate since then which has meant that my willing volunteer has been unable to safely carry out the invertebrate check so far.  The plan is to do this on Tuesday which is forecast to be fine.  we shall see.

It's only three weeks now to the start of the new trouting season and the date I have set aside to stock the Tarn.  I'm still waiting for S30 approval from the EA so a phone call may be in order by mid week if nothing arrives in the post by then.  I suspect that the delay is due to the EA wishing to do a health check on the fish at Washburn.  If so, that's all to the good as we can then be sure that we are introducing neither diseased stock or alien crayfish stock into this pristine water.

I am still devouring books which do help significantly to reduce the sense of frustration my current immobility induces.  Laurence Catlow is a fishing writer I would strongly recommend to anyone who fishes Yorkshire freestone rivers.  Laurence is (was?) a classics master at Sedbergh School and is a passionate trout fisher on the Eden, Wharfe and Wenning.  He writes fluently and with a real countryman's observation about the practise and philosophy of fishing and is a critical reader of other fishing authors.  He is not afraid to express strong opinion both about his approach to fishing and the style of the writers that he reads.  He makes no excuse for killing fish and argues persuasively why this remains a valid practise in this conservation minded age.  Laurence regards trout as a treasure to be prized and enjoyed both visually and epicurially. He reveals a lot about himself in his writing and I wondered just how much I would enjoy his company on the banks of the river.  My conclusion? His honesty and humility is refreshing, he has a real passion for good company and stimulating conversation and is unafraid to speak his mind.  He would be a good companion in the flesh as he is on the printed page.

Otherwise it's been further books by John Gierach and James Babb and the striking contrast between the pursuit of salmonids on the extensive American public waters and our own tightly owned private fisheries.  I am coming to the view that public ownership is fine so long as you also have dedicated professional public bodies to preserve and conserve the waters.  This does seem to vary from State to State.  Our private waters do tend to encourage a more controlled approach to both fishing impact and fish preservation, but we too have some way to go before we can claim that all game fisheries owners have the long term survival of their fish uppermost in their planning.


16 February 2008

This spell of fine, sunny weather continues unabated with no firm end in sight.  It was bitterly cold last night, down to 20 degrees by the car thermometer as we drove home from drinks with friends in the village.  The stars were crystal clear like tiny jewels sparkling in the deep velvet blackness of the sky.  What a privilege it is not to be blighted by street or other ambient light and to be able to witness such a stunning spectacle.

We had a thoroughly enjoyable evening made more so by he presence of another guest who is well known nationally and locally and who fly fishes the Ribble lower down.  we talked for a long time about the way we now manage the fishery here at Horton, the benefits of a wild trout stream and the way in which nature can be encouraged by a little judicious river management.  He was already contemplating approaching his club with the suggestion that they either significantly reduce stocking non native trout or cease stocking altogether and devote their resources and energies to habitat improvement and restoration.  I hope my words encouraged him to take up this challenge and I am putting him in touch with others who can also demonstrate the real benefits of creating a truly wild fishing water.  We will keep in touch and see how things develop.

I am still devouring books since I can't get to the river.  These are mainly on the theme of why we fish rather than how to fish (which is probably what I really need to study) and they do illustrate quite starkly the different philosophies that angling writers take to the water.  I will say more on this theme later when I have finished the two books I am currently reading, but these writings really do make you stop and think about the sport and why it takes such a hold, almost to the point of obsession, with some.  One thought that really puzzles me is why there are relatively few female fly fishers and so few female writers about fishing.  It's a sport that one would imagine should be as appealing to women as to men since it requires patience, skill, artistic acumen, sensitivity, tact and passion yet women are largely absent from our trout streams.  Perhaps we should have a 'take your daughter fishing' day and begin to redress the balance.

As you know, I have been monitoring our riverfly populations here at Horton over the past few months and normally do a check around the 20th of the month.  It would be really good if we could maintain this record whilst I am hors de combat and if any member wishes to volunteer to spend a couple of hours  in warm sunshine on a sparkling river doing the kick sample for February at New Inn and Turn Dub I would be deeply in your debt.  I will supply all the equipment and am perfectly capable of doing a Long John Silver impression on the river bank at New Inn to help identify what the net procures.  Do ring or email me or post a comment on this blog if you would like to help.


10 February 2008

Spring arrived at Horton yesterday along with the MAA Council, the Bury Blond Bombshell, Neil Handy and a tree planting contingent.

I will explain. Under a glorious blue sky and remarkably warm sunshine the MAA Council met in the Crown Hotel to reflect on the season gone and plan for the AGM and season to come.  This was a highly constructive and productive meeting from which I departed with a strong sense that the club is energised, healthy and has a strong sense of how best to promote the interests of both its members and their fishing assets.

Throughout the Council meeting the Bury Blond Bombshell who accompanied Alan M lay on the floor eating cheese and contributing the occasional 'woof' when discussion became over intense.  We cleared a lot of issues which will be reported at the AGM so I would encourage all MAA members to come along to the Lower Buck on 7 March to hear the latest news. 

Neil outlined his plans for increasing the stock of sea trout in the upper river and these were wholeheartedly supported by Council.  Neil also told us that the trout eggs in the tank at Horton school had hatched and he was hopeful that the resulting fry would be added to the breeding stock in the river later in the year. 

Thanks as always to Sandra and her team for accommodating us at the pub and providing coffee.

After the meeting some of us stood outside the Crown by the river wall watching a steady hatch of large stone fly and olives which was encouraging some early season fish activity.  The Bury Blond bombshell arrived and proved himself a true fisherman's dog by rising to take and eat a particularly large stone fly that happened to flit past his nose.  It was a perfect rise and take.  Maybe the best that Alan will see all season!

The other great news is that all the trees have been planted down by Cragghill.  Gavin P came up yesterday to collect them and my trailer and spent all day planting the best part of 300 mixed native saplings between the Tay bridge and the Pipe Pool.  He was helped later by the Hon Sec and a prospective member (we can hardly turn down his application now!) and I am deeply indebted to them all for this act of unselfish kindness.  We are also deeply grateful to Philip Sutcliffe for allowing us free access to his land and for giving his consent for the planting.  These trees will make a significant difference to the way this reach of the river fishes by providing a wind break, cover for the fish and protection for the riverfly that populate here.

The most remarkable news of the day came when Gavin returned the trailer.  He told me that he had been turning over stones in an idle moment and had come across a small crayfish which he is certain is a white clawed native.  Now, no crayfish have been seen in this river for at least 5 years so this may well indicate that a small population has survived the plague and is repopulating the river.  I have emailed Crayfish Paul with the news and await his reaction.

My leg continues to heal and as the pain recedes it becomes increasingly frustrating not to be able to get out on the river and tackle the numerous jobs that need doing before the start of the season.  I was bitterly disappointed not to be able to be involved with the tree planting yesterday, but patience will bring speedier healing than trying to rush things.

See you next week.


3 February 2008

About the only merit I can honestly discern from my current enforced idleness is the time I have to just sit and read.  I have become a devourer of books finishing four in the past ten days.  I have been fortunate.  When Alan M came to see me in hospital last Sunday he brought with him an arm full of fishing books, mainly by American authors which I had not previously heard of.  These have been life savers.  Their vivid and very different descriptions of fly fishing on rivers vastly different to the Ribble have conjured images that take my mind well beyond the confines of the hospital ward, of my sitting room and help to relieve the sense of claustrophobia induced by my incapacity.

I started with two books by John Gierach who writes with a style that sparkles with his humour and enthusiasm.  He has a light touch well suited to lifting the spirits when the discomfort and helplessness of ones situation begins to crowd in.  His descriptions of both fishing and the wider environment of the American Mid West are evocative yet seem strange when viewed from the context of our heavily regulated, tightly managed and jealously guarded English fisheries.  One gets a sense of the immensity of the Mid West landscape, the freedom of extensive public fishing as well as their lack of safeguard that are one of the benefits of our more elitist history of fishery ownership.

Next came James Babb.  Slightly heavier and more philosophical in style, but he too evokes the spirit of truly wild trout fishing on rivers that seem vast by comparison to our own trout streams.  He paints pictures with words in a style that is a joy to read and draws you into his obsessions and observations. 

Finally, Thomas McGuane is a deeply philosophical and very American writer in the style of Steinbeck or Hemmingway, a more challenging read where you really need to stop and reflect on what he is saying and consider its impact.  Again he has the knack of summoning images from the page, but these are darker and more subtle, shaped by a deep and abiding passion for fly fishing in the most challenging of conditions and circumstances.

I would strongly recommend these authors to all of you who have the time to sit and read. If you just want to dip in then chose Geirach for a more absorbing few hours that will really make you think about why you fish then pick up McGuane.  For a good, solid holiday read chose Babb.