29 April 2008

I have been unobservant.  As many of you will know it's been a few years now since we stocked the Tarn with brown trout.  Experience showed that these fish did less well than their rainbow cousins and actually reduced the catch rate for a good few days after they were put in.  Yet it seems that some continue to thrive in the deeper parts of the Tarn and are growing to quite respectable proportions.  It's always nice to see persistence rewarded and I am delighted to see (rather belatedly) that Quin K, one of the real regulars on both river and Tarn caught a 2lb 8oz brownie at the Tarn last Tuesday.  Congratulations Quin your success is well earned.

More good news.  The annual journal of the Wild Trout Trust thudded onto my doormat yesterday morning.  This is packed full of goodies which I will come back to over the next few days as I get to grips with reading them.  Of particular note is a series of articles and scientific papers on the effect of stocking on wild trout populations.  There is much anecdotal evidence about the impact of stocking, but so far little real research has been done.  That's changed with the results of a study funded by the WTT and it delivers some helpful conclusions.  More on this later. 

Also included is an article on riverfly monitoring which is timely given that we will be doing our 6 monthly intensive check in a couple of weeks time.  There is also a lot of lighter reading with stories about fishing for trout in unlikely and exotic parts of the world.

Finally,  It's even stopped raining and we have a sunny, warm and windless morning with the river in good water, just dropping back off a moderate flood.  So the fishing prospects for the Tuesday boys should be good.  Let's see if you can repeat last Tuesday's performance Quin.


28 April 2008

Weather wise it's a repeat performance of yesterday morning with light rain and very little wind.  It's warm and the sky seems to be lightening up a bit so maybe it will clear later in the day.  I hope so as I really want to get a new roof on the hen house which is currently sitting on the roof rack of the Nissan.  It does nothing for the aerodynamics of what is already a mobile house brick and the diesel consumption on the way back from collecting it in Halifax yesterday was not good.

Here is a reminder to members that Thursday sees the start of the guest fishing season and it would be good to see a few more prospective members being given an intro to the fishery this year.  In particular the club is keen to encourage youngsters to take up fly fishing so do try to winkle out the younger members of your family, get them away from the computer and out into the fresh air at Horton.

It's always best if you phone me the evening before you plan to bring a guest as then I can have a ticket made out and ready for you.  It saves you hanging about and ensures that I am around to issue the ticket.  Remember also that I now have the salmon tags you will need if you plan to fish for salmon this season.  You may not intend to take any fish, but the tag in your pocket may prove useful if you have to kill a badly hooked fish.


27 April 2008

As I stood on New Inn bridge yesterday watching the olives hatching and the trout snatching them I got to pondering the changing seasons here that bring these marvels and I thought how much our rural lives are marked out by the natural calendar.  There is the call of the first curlew and plover in late winter, the arrival of the swallows in spring, the hatching of the duck and swans and the myriad of other natural events that mark out the turning of the years. 

But above all here spring is determined by the arrival of new lambs.  It's always a source of wonder to me that a creature that spends so much of it's life quietly contemplating life, the universe and everything can have such capacity for energetic play in the first few weeks of its life.  Sheep are great thinkers.  They don't do much with the thoughts mind you, but they spend so long just sitting thinking that most world problems could be solved by sheep if they could summon up the energy to be bothered.

Lambs are a different matter entirely.  They act rather than think and there is a pattern to their actions that seems to be repeated down the generations even though there is no apparent contact between the lambs of one generation and another.

Below my kitchen window are two large pastures running down to the river.  These fields are divided by a wall at right angles to the river and early each April David brings his ewes and twin lambs down to these fields.  Within a few days, year after year, the lambs begin the same game.  We call it the Lamb Derby since it involves virtually every lamb in the field forming a gang and charging en mass along the wall towards the river.  At the bend in the wall the mob screeches to a halt, turns and charges back up towards the house. Each event is celebrated by a great deal of jumping about, almost like teenagers punching the air in celebration. Eventually the smarter characters work out that if you hang back a bit just before the turn you can be in front on the charge back and win the race.

It's the same game every year without fail, but the ewes are not involved so it must be some natural instinct that encourages crop after crop of lambs to play the same game.

It's good fishing weather this morning, warm and cloudy with very light spring rain and no wind at all.  If you don't mind a bit of damp the results should be rewarding on both tarn and river.


26 April 2008

Well, despite the dire forecast that threatened heavy rain it's been a dry and partly sunny day here for the International Mountain race.  I have just got back home at 4.30pm after spending since 8am this morning parking nigh on a thousand cars on New Inn flats and I'm knackered!

I took a break at about 11am and spent half an hour watching a steady hatch of olives just above New Inn bridge.  This brought on a good rise of trout all nervously feeding on the hatching fly.  The takes were snatched, no casual, lazy sipping.  This is a busy spot by the bridge and the fish are always very wary.

The swallows were out in force hawking flies over the water, but the kingfisher who often fishes here in the evening did not show.

The race itself seems to have been a great success with some good if not record times set in ideal conditions by a field of some of the best mountain runners in the world.  I have never heard so many varied languages in Horton; Russian, Slovak, German, French as well as north American accents.  Everything seems to have gone like clockwork which just goes to show if you want something done properly get a team of Tykes to do it!


25 April 2008

I was up at the Tarn late yesterday afternoon and the peace was perfect.  The swans were tucked down on their nest and the cob only bothered to raise his head to see who it was.  I stood for some time watching a curlew circling Tarn pasture, wheeling in the still air and emitting the call that's so evocative of the Dales.  A flight of oystercatchers went over piping as they went towards the river and there were trout heading and tailing out by the north bank.

I replaced the old sign by the bent metal stile with something that looks as if the place is cared for and we mean business and I put a new bottle of gas in the hut since the days are still cold enough to warrant the stove being lit.

The register suggests that fishing yesterday was not easy with most takes happening in the last hour before the Thursday mob left.  But the fish that were taken were worth the wait.  I suspect that the heavy rain that fell during the morning delayed the fish coming on to feed.

Do remember that unless you are coming up to watch the fell race tomorrow Horton village is a place best avoided.  The roads between Ribblehead and Birkwith will be busy with folk going to or from the race and there will be in excess of 2000 people invading the village during the day.  The Tarn will be peaceful as usual as will the river north of Newhouses, but fishing between Horton and Helwith Bridge is likely to be a spectator sport.

I am on car parking duty from dawn  tomorrow morning and by the river just keeping an eye on things so no posting until tomorrow afternoon.

Do take a look at Warren Slaney's blog entry for yesterday.  It just shows that the law when effectively applied can be used to deter poachers although I doubt if Settle police would be as co-operative as their counterparts in Buxton.


24 April 2008

The rain that fell yesterday morning didn't amount to much and by mid day the sun was out giving us a very pleasant afternoon. So, the river is still pretty low, but should rise as we have another wet start this morning with plenty of rain forecast for the next few days.

I took the opportunity of the fine weather to put up the new signs down at the football field.  There is now a notice by the metal stile over the upstream wall which tells all and sundry that this is not a public footpath.  I also fixed a Private fishing notice just downstream from New Inn bridge.  This is invisible from the road, but in full view to anyone on the river bank itself.

Making these signs I thought would be the task of a few moments.  Wrong!  There is clearly an art to effective stencilling and it took me umpteen attempts to get something that looked in any way presentable and not a like a dogs breakfast.  I now have it cracked.  Clearly the trick is to stipple on the paint using an almost dry brush.  Too much paint results in most of it creeping under the stencil so you just end up with an amorphous blob.  Fortunately aluminium is a very forgiving medium and it's very easy to wipe off the results of incompetence.

I had a very interesting note from a regular correspondent in response to the fishery maps I posted up a couple of days ago.  Here is the gist of some of it.

“You must be aware that in the 50s the river was diverted considerably at
Studfold. There were two or three really big deep pools with a good potential
for salmon. The diversion started about where you have put the name Hunt and
finished where you call it the pipe pool. From then on to what was called Crag
Hill Pool was called East Wind Reach for obvious reasons. Before it was dredged
out the bottom was mainly of slates and very dangerous to wade on the other hand
the built up wall to the north and the slates gave good cover for many large
fish. There was another huge deep pool about where the bridge went over the
river at Crag Hill. The dredging continued until just below the tay bridge. It
levelled out the river bed all the way from just above the Penny Bridge right up
to the Tay Bridge with the exception of the pool at the bottom of East Wind
Reach which we managed to plead for. The rivers board used a caterpillar dredger
and it could run along this length of river bed which it levelled. In these works
nearly all the fish were killed and their habitats were destroyed. For several
years it was a waste of time fishing that length. Nature of course heals and now
I expect very few people remember the devastation caused years ago.”

Fascinating stuff.  I had not realised that the river was dredged to quite this extent.  I know that it was diverted away from the main road to alleviate flooding problems, but the extent of the engineering work is a surprise.


23 April 2008

Welcome to a grey and gloomy St George's Day.  The wind, what little there is of it, is now in the west and its just started to rain which is a good thing as the river could do with a lift.

I think I have regained my stamina after a marathon RFCA meeting at Clitheroe last night (3 hours!). I won't go into detail about all the issues that were raised and debated as you will lose the will to live, but there were a few decisions taken that are of interest to us up here at the top of the river. 

Neil Handy's presentation on the assisted recruitment of sea trout won unanimous backing once we got over a diversion into the issues surrounding stocking the river with diploid or triploid trout.  It seems that the EA have adopted a policy that will mean the end of restocking with diploids after 2015.  This generated a lot of heat with some members of the view that the absence of stocked sexually entire fish will impact adversely on future sea trout stocks. 

Let's face it, the MAA has been stocking the river with farm bred diploid trout for 60 years and in that time must have put in well over 60,000 fish.  If these were migrating to sea we would be up to our ears in sea trout by now.  We know from experiments with fish marking that few if any stocked fish survive winter floods.  They don't seem to disperse downstream in large numbers they just vanish. So for me the argument about diploid or triploid is sterile.  The real debate should be about whether clubs should stock at all with imported fish.

The catch returns we produce show that without stocking for the past two seasons we are nearly back to catch numbers similar to when we were putting in 6 or 7 hundred fish annually.  And all these fish are now wild fish.

Neil now plans to go ahead with his sea trout breeding scheme which
will involve setting up a hatching tank at the old hatchery later this

We have an opportunity!  An opportunity to discover more about the distribution of our wild trout.  The RCCT have a pot of money to undertake electrofishing training for clubs on the Ribble and they are very keen that some sampling be done on the upper river.  I am writing to Council about setting this in place so watch this space.

The good news for all members who fish for salmon is that I now have a supply of salmon tags and the authorisation from the EA to issue these to members.  You will recall that there is now a voluntary scheme which the club has signed up to which limits each member to take only two salmon in any one season.  Any fish taken MUST be tagged.  Any member requiring their two tags should contact me.

We also spent quite a while discussing the problem of poaching on the lower river around Clitheroe and we now have a simplified system for reporting all such incidents to the police and EA.  There may well be a credit card sized information sheet for fishermen available soon.  Again, watch this space.

Finally, a move away from the meeting and back to the river where Brian T had a good day yesterday with two fine fish caught at Parker's Wood and a 1.5 lb brownie landed near Horton.


22 April 2008

I spent an absorbing hour or so up at Turn Dub yesterday doing an invertebrate check at this site for the first time since December.  You may recall that my plan was to sample here in mid January the day after I bust my leg so I haven't managed to get to this site since.

The good news is that all is healthy.  I got a very good haul of BWO as well as the usual big catch of heptagenia.  I was really pleased to see the abundance of other species less common at New Inn.  Gammerids were well represented and stonefy turned up in all the samples.  In fact the overall results probably under represent the true picture of the food species available to our trout here as I sampled right across the river including the unpromising back eddys and almost dry margins.  If the samples had all been taken from the fast flowing runs where the fish are feeding then the results can be multiplied at least four times and results for stoneflies, gammerids and caddis possibly more as they were plentiful in the fast flowing deep water.

The full results are attached in an excel file.  As usual, just click on the paperclip below.

The Tarn seems to be fishing well now and a check of the returns posted in the hut shows a ratio of visits to catches well up to normal despite the difficult weather. 

Speaking of which it's a rather cloudy morning with a light easterly breeze which again feels a little warmer than it did last week. Given the number of BWO nymphs in the river at present there should be a good hatch later today in sheltered spots.

I took the opportunity to have  a quick look at the trees we put in last year at Turn Dub and am pleased to say that most if not all seem to have survived the winter floods and are now beginning to break into bud.  It will not be too many years before we have some good shelter and cover on this run.

I am planning on attending the RFCA meeting at Clitheroe tonight so more on this tomorrow.


21 April 2008

It's really not too bad a morning here in the valley.  The wind is still in the east (what a surprise), but it has moderated somewhat and it feels appreciably warmer.  There is a fair bit of cloud cover giving a rather diffused light that should be good for fishing.  The river is quite low now, but still in good water and running clear and clean.

Some hardy souls did brave the rather arctic winds at the Tarn over the weekend and the fish responded quite well so it looks as if the dire experience of the first couple of weeks is now behind us (touch wood).

The good news this morning is that I had an email yesterday telling me to release the map of the fishery that we have spent some weeks in preparing.  I have incorporated all the amendments received and tidied up both maps a bit.  It now goes to the Hon Sec for eventual distribution, but I will leave a few copies in the hut and I have posted a copy on the secure area of this  blog for members to download.  If you can't access the secure area just email me and I will set up access.

There are three files, a word document which is the covering notice which contains a few handy hints and 2 jpeg files which are the maps covering the fishery above and below Horton.  You can of course blow up the jpegs to whatever size best suits your eyesight and print them off in sections.

Do tell me if you find the maps useful or not and what additional info we should include in future issues.

By the way, Warren Slaney has restarted his excellent blog which includes some super video recordings of feeding trout on the Wye and Lathkill rivers as well as osprey and much else.  Just click on the 'Waterlines' link to the right.