20 April 2008

Guess what?  It's still cold and windy her this morning.  There seems to be no respite from the east wind that has been blowing now for nigh on a week.  It's most unusual to get such a persistent wind against the normal prevailing conditions and whilst it's remained fairly dry the constant cold is beginning to sap ones sense of humour.  Still, a little humour was restored last night by the school quiz which was very well supported and enjoyable.  The Newhouses team finished joint fourth and should have been higher but for a few stupid lapses of memory.  There were two MAA members present apart from me and I spent a good while talking to one about spreading the gospel of sustainable wild fisheries to other waters that he fishes a little lower on the Ribble.

It was also a chance to see the fish tank in the school for the first time this year and it now contains a good number of health looking brown trout fry about half an inch long with yolk sack fully absorbed so they should now all survive ready to go into the beck and hatchery pond later in the spring.

I received yesterday all the papers for the next Ribble Fisheries Consultative meeting which takes place at Clitheroe on 22 April.  It looks like a very full agenda with a number of important issues to be debated.  Neil Handy is making a presentation to the meeting about his sea trout project which he has already discussed with us.  I will report back on anything of general interest arising from the meeting later in the week.

The plan for the day is to prepare and put up the new signs around the fishery by New Inn and the football field ready for the invasion that takes place next Saturday.  Already there have been large numbers of runners practising this gruelling mountain marathon.  The forecast for next weekend is not promising (rain) so conditions may well prevent record times.


19 April 2008

I picked up the Craven Herald yesterday and a headline on the back page reads “Angling hit by some unsettled weather”  You don't say!  John Preston, correspondent, tells us that fishing throughout Craven has not been at its best this past four weeks and many anglers have been kept away by the bitter east winds and snow.  Despite this some success has been had and the Secretary of the Skipton AA caught a fine 18 inch, 2lb brownie (but he was using ledgered lob-worm, beyond the pale on MAA waters!).

Compared to this, catches on the upper Ribble have been pretty good, perhaps nothing to compare with the big fish at Skipton on the Aire, but some fine brownies nonetheless that have overwintered well.

All the kit to make up the new signs for the fishery has now arrived so I will get busy preparing these ready to put them up later today or tomorrow.  If this wind moderates a bit I will also try to get the riverfly check done at Turn Dub as the river is just about perfect for this just now.

The weather this morning is as per usual, bright and sunny, but a bitterly cold and blustery north east wind that makes working outside far from pleasant.  Standing still fishing for any time today will be a test of stamina and constitution.  I wish you well.


18 April 2008

It's a grey and gloomy start to the day after a pretty wet evening yesterday.  The east wind is still blowing strongly and the river is full, but not in flood.  Not a great day so far for fishing either the Tarn or the river, but things may pick up later.

I wrote a few days ago about the pheasant that has taken up residence in my garden.  He still puts in an occasional appearance and has migrated to the small area at the back of the house where he ferrets around under the bird table clearing up spilt grain and peanuts.  I managed to get him to pose for a picture the other day just before a hail shower sent him scurrying for cover.

He does brighten up a dismal day.

I will see how the weather goes this morning before deciding whether or not to do a riverfly check at Turn Dub.  The river will need to drop a bit to make this safe and I don't much fancy messing around in cold water with this east wind wicking all the body warmth away.  We will see.


17 April 2008

I'm a little late with this today because of a broadband glitch first thing this morning.  All seems to be flying along now, but it's amazing how frustrating it is to be thrown out of routine by something so inconsequential and something we didn't even know we needed 15 years ago.

I decided to test the leg yesterday and did a riverfly check at New Inn.  This is the first check I have done since January and I was keen to keep some semblance of continuity going to provide  a bench mark for future years.  No surprises turned up.  A disappointing number of gammerid (none), but I never get many at this location.  The good gammerid location is Turn Dub which I will sample tomorrow weather permitting.  What did turn up this time was a large number of very small snail shells both flat and turret together with a number of tiny bivalve shells.  Otherwise it was the usual haul of Heptagenia and BWO.  Under the mud bank upstream from the bridge I got three very large dragon fly larvae, nasty looking brutes with fearsome mandibles.  I have posted up the excel file with all the results so that you can read for yourself online or download the file to your own hard drive.  Just click on the paperclip below.

Its quite a nice day so far with broken cloud and a touch of sun.  It's rather spoilt by a bitterly cold east wind though which will upset the Thursday brigade on the Tarn.

Fred B called by yesterday afternoon after a good morning on both Tarn and river.  He seemed very pleased with two beautiful rainbows that looked almost wild with clean, white piped fins and a smooth sleek profile.  I suspect that these are overwintered fish as they are slightly smaller than the March stockies.  He also got a very pretty wild brownie on the river above Parker's Wood so there is now evidence of wild fish throughout the lower beats.  Good news.


16 April 2008

It's another brightish start with less frost than yesterday and little or no wind. Mind you, it could all go pear shaped later as it has done most of the past week.  We had some pretty hefty hail showers yesterday afternoon and quite a lot of rain fell towards evening which has lifted the river somewhat.

I had n email from Ian W following up his conversation with me on Monday. 

Further to yesterday:- The digestive tracts of two of the tarn fish I retained contained a lot of snails plus an equal amount of small stones. I can't make up my mind as to whether the stones were swallowed by accident or purposely to grind up the said crustaceans thereby making the digestion of somewhat easier.

   Also I had about an hour and a half on the river where I hooked and lost two fish, the first of which (location to remain secret, I'm coming back for this one! ) would  probably have been my best “brownie” from the fishery since we stopped stocking.A guesstimate of around one and a half pounds would do it justice methinks.”

So, it does seem as though the benefits of not stocking are now beginning to show in larger wild brownies as well as a a progressively improving recruitment.

I came across an article in a caving magazine yesterday which illustrates the precociousness of mink.  It would seem that a cave diver was exploring a system in the upper Nidd valley and had completed the traverse of a flooded passage and emerged into air space in a chamber.  Whist he sat collecting his thoughts and prepared for the next flooded section he heard a sharp hiss from the corner of the chamber.  He turned his diving light towards it and was rewarded with a pretty ferocious hiss so decided that discretion was the better part of valour and quickly began his dive.  On his return to the chamber later he saw and heard nothing so assumed that whatever it was that he had disturbed had departed.,

He talked about this to a friend who happened to be a naturalist and he played him recordings of the sounds made by the most likely culprit.  They concluded that this was probably a dog mink which are known to actively explore any dark places and interesting holes.  It also shows just how long these creatures can hold their breath and how well adapted they are to a life by water.

So next time you see or hear a mink by the river just think yourself lucky that you're not incarcerated in a confined space with one with only 4mil of neoprene  for protection.


15 April 2008

It's another bright, frosty and cold morning here in the valley with virtually no wind and a bit of sunshine breaking through.

It was a bit changeable yesterday.  A few sunny spells mixed with plenty of blustery hail showers and a stiffening wind in the early afternoon.  Then towards evening the sky cleared and we had a real taste of spring.

Despite the weather at least one intrepid member came up to fish.  Ian W dropped by late morning to tell me about a scene he had just witnessed at the Tarn. He struggled a bit to get his first fish then switched to the boat and fished in towards the north shore where he suddenly got into a shoal and landed 5 fish in quick order.  Whilst so engaged he saw what he thinks was a peregrine being mobbed by a gang of crows.  What was unusual about this was the tactic adopted by this gang which Ian describes as like a Zulu impey where one individual chases hard after the prey whilst his fellows conserve their energy waiting to take up the chase when the leader tires.  This went on for some while until the peregrine got fed up and left.

What's also clear from Ian's experience yesterday is that the fish are still shoaled up and until they regain confidence and disperse it's going to be a case of finding the shoal to get the best of the fishing.  Still, Simon does seem to be doing a good job as there has been no sighting of the cormorants for some days now and by all accounts fishing at the Tarn is improving immeasurably.

Geoff B rang last evening to confirm this and to congratulate Simon on such a good job.  He and Graham B were up on Sunday and their assessment is that the Tarn is now a completely different experience compared to the lack of action a couple of weeks ago.  They also had some success on the river with Graham getting a good bag around Cragghill and Geoff a very big fish out of what we now call Sutcliffes, the reach between Kingfisher Pool and the Pipe Pool.

So things are on the up and i am a happy bunny!


14 April 2008

In defiance of the forecast we had a reasonable spring like day yesterday with some sun, little wind and a general warmth to the air.  The first chance for weeks to get out into the garden and begin the task of clearing up after the winter and set some veg seeds ready for the summer.  I spent a long time raking up the vast quantity of discarded nest material dropped by the crows.  I ended up with enough to build nests for the entire crow population of Horton and warmed proceedings still further with a nice bonfire.  This performance was watched with great interest by my new best friend.  For the past few days a male pheasant has been living in and around my goat croft, occasionally venturing into the bottom garden and the garden at the back of the house.  He seems to like the company of my hens and usually appears first thing when I let out the hens to forage.  He's a bright, perky chap and seems relatively unafraid of people so perhaps he is an escaped pet rather than a wild bird.

We had a sharp frost overnight and it's pretty cold here this morning with just occasional sunny breaks in the cloud.  The river looks in fine form, running strongly and clear.  The spate we had the day before yesterday has saved me a task.  Some bright spark obviously thought it a good idea to build a substantial dam just above New Inn bridge.  It must have taken hours of work and looked quite impressive, but it only served to deflect water away from the west arch of the bridge which lacks water at the best of times so I had planned to play the misery and dismantle it.  The flood has now done most of the job, but I see that the turbulence caused by the obstruction has gouged out a step in the bed below where the dam was situated.  It will be interesting to see how this develops in successive floods.

A few days ago I did a quick survey of all the signs the club has posted along the river and drew the conclusion that a lot of potential irritation can be saved by the judicious replacement of the lost and broken signs as well as the placement of one or two more at key access points.  These need to be subtle as there are already far too many intrusive notices posted in the countryside, but it's not always obvious to visitors just which stiles are private and that the river is a private fishery.  We will be inundated with visitors on 26 April when Horton plays host to the World Mountain Running Challenge and over 900 runners together with their supporters will be at Horton.  Our stiles leading out of the football field where the race begins look to offer an inviting walk up river for the hangers on, but this is all private farmland.  A couple of notices discouraging exploration will be put here before the day in question. I have now got some very professionally produced stencils that will do the job admirably.  If anyone is looking for bespoke stencils then I can highly recommend Laser Cutting Services who are based in Scotland.  They offer a fast, economic and very attentive service.

Members would be well advised to steer clear of Horton on 26 April if they are looking for a spot of quiet fishing.


13 April 2008

The combination of snow melt and the rain that fell during the day brought the river to near spate conditions by yesterday afternoon.  It was a pretty foul day until evening, but despite this I did see one intrepid (foolhardy) member returning from an assault on the Tarn.  I can't imagine that conditions were easy given the bitterly cold squally showers and biting north west wind.

It's a lot dryer and calmer this morning.  We have a lot of cloud cover, but it does not look like much rain will fall and the river is dropping back to give very fishable water.

Time marches on and it's time to begin planning the spring riverfly check which we will do at New Inn, Selside and Tay Bridge.  I have written to the main riverfly group to suggest that we set aside the morning of Saturday 17 May to do the check and with sufficient volunteers we should be through by lunch time.  All members of the MAA are very welcome to join in and learn more about this fascinating exercise.  What we usually do is to run a refresher to remind ourselves about sampling techniques, safety, identification, etc at New Inn before two groups depart for the further flung sites to collect samples.  Whist these two groups are away a third group sets up shop in the pavilion, sorts and records the catch from New Inn and awaits the return of the samples from the two other sites.  Sorting and identifying usually generates a lot of discussion and activity.  This time we have the benefit of a stereo microscope so we should be able to classify even the smallest individuals in the samples.

If you want to join in please ring or email me and I will add you to the list and remember that you can borrow from me a first rate DVD which explains in detail (with video clips) how the sampling and recording is done.


12 April 2008

We awoke this morning to a world turned white by overnight snow.  It's thawing fast, but the sky to the north looks as if it holds more to dump on us during the day.  Not good for all the young lambs now out in the pastures around the village and as I was milking this morning there was the constant buzz of quad bike activity as neighbours checked and fed their flocks.

There are now 4 eggs in the swan's nest up at the Tarn and the pen is sitting tight.  Let's hope this brood fare better than the first clutch laid last year.  Perhaps the presence of Simon will deter not only the cormorants, but whatever it is that takes the eggs and young cygnets.  Whilst he does not move (much) he must exude a human smell since he is wearing my old clothes and wellingtons.

I mentioned some time ago that the trout hatching box had been set up again at the school.  All has gone well over the winter and the fry have now reached swim up stage and are beginning to feed. If all continues to go this well there will be a further 200 or so young native fish to add to the river stock come the summer.


11 April 2008

It's not a great start to the day since I have come in from milking wet and a tad chilly since we have a strong south west wind blowing along frequent showers.  As I write this I can see patches of brighter weather to the north over Wernside so the day may not be a complete washout.  We had a fair bit of rain last evening so the river has risen a bit  and there should be good water on all the beats.

I was up at the Tarn yesterday morning checking around and chatting to the usual Thursday gang.  The fishing seemed to be going well with two good sized rainbows landed by 9am.  Simon seems to be doing the trick as there are no reports of the flock of pterodactyls that were plaguing the Tarn up to last week.  Of course, this may be nothing to do with Simon's presence, but more to do with the fact that the cormorants are now nesting and have naturally moved away to the coast.

I am grateful to Mike H for sending me an article written by Kevin Thornton and which appeared on the Fishing Magic website.  This presents a strong argument for all anglers to take a stand in combating the menace posed by red signal crayfish and is far more eloquent than my own scribblings.  I have attached the article as a Word file so that you can read it for yourself (Just click on the paperclip icon below this blog and you can either read the article on line or save it to your own hard disc).  It does support the findings of the species survey on Buckill Gill Beck – red signals will eventually wipe out even trout populations and leave a river sterile.  As Kevin says 'we have been warned'