31 May 2008

The cygnet murderer has been spotted.  On Thursday evening as Gavin P was locking the hut he had a confrontation with what appeared to be a large dark dog fox that was making its way along the bank of the Tarn from the direction of the river. I have alerted the farmer to the presence of this fox as Tarn pasture is full of young lambs so Reynard's days may be numbered and the next batch of cygnets may survive. It's all part of the natural cycle of life and death, but a bold dog fox in this pastoral economy is something we can do without.

Speaking of nature red in tooth and  claw there have been some amazing pictures on Springwatch of Ospreys catching trout at a fish farm in the Highlands.  These raptors put our own fishing efforts to shame.  They are incredible to watch especially as they are taking someone elses fish, I'm not sure how I would feel if they were fishing the Tarn.

Is it just my impression or has that bearded tit Bill Oddy toned down the stupid cuddly bunny routine a bit this season?  There seems to be more emphasis on discussion of animal behaviour and less on the cuteness of what we are watching.  And whilst on the subject of animal behaviour a report in the paper yesterday must take the prize for behaviour gone awry.  It seems that a Pacific hump backed salmon has been caught on the Tweed in Scotland.  This is clearly a case of the sat nav having gone completely haywire and one can only speculate as to how a salmon managed to migrate from the Pacific west coast of the USA to the east coast of Scotland.  One mightily confused fish (and one stunned angler, I should imagine)!

It's very warm and bright here this morning, sunny at first, but it's clouding over a bit now.  This is high altitude cloud so we will probably not get the rain that we so desperately need.  I was standing by New Inn Bridge at about 9.45 yesterday evening and fish were rising continuously to a fall of spinners so when we do get some rain there should be plenty of trout around.

Two final things.  I reported a pollution incident to the EA yesterday which I hope has been promptly dealt with by United Utilities.  The sewer pipe at Rowe End has been discharging into the river again and in this low water the effect could be fatal for the fish holed up in the shrinking pools below the spillage.  I am told by the EA that UU have cleaned the grease filters at the sewage works and that they are physically checking the pipe between the works and Rowe End so hopefully the blockage has been cleared.

And lastly the Crown Hotel has now changed hands.  After more years than I care to remember Richard Hargreaves has passed the hotel on to the care of Sandra and Thomas Millman.  I have spoken to Sandra and she is very happy to continue to host the Hot Pot Supper so I have reserved the evening of Friday 3 October the traditional first Friday in the month.

No blog tomorrow as we are off to Halifax for a Christening at first light.  Best bib and tucker unfortunately.

Ian

30 May 2008

It's been a very long time since so many members fished the Tarn in any one day as they did yesterday.  I know of at least eight who were up there at various times throughout the day and by all accounts the Tarn gave good sport with plenty of fish landed.

Peter M called by at lunchtime with an upwinged fly in a tin box which he thought I might identify.  Unfortunately, on opening the box the fly made a bid for freedom and was last seen heading for the river.  I did get a good glimpse though and my first thought was that by colour and conformity it looked like an iron blue.  On reflection it did seem rather large for what is usually a rather diminutive fly and it may be a large dark olive.  Anyway the fly had two tails, a dark claret body with olive banding, barrel shaped thorax and grey wings.  Peter tells me that they were hatching in large numbers on the Tarn during late morning.

The prize for persistence in the face of adversity yesterday must go to two members who came up from the west-country driven north by high water on the chalk streams only to find our northern spate rivers devoid of water.  They did seem to enjoy the Tarn though so all was not lost.

The mystery of the plastic coated bamboo is solved with the discovery of the head of a dipping net in the reeds by the tarn.  So we have amateur naturalists visiting the Tarn despite the signs indicating that this is private land.

The sad news this morning is that Reynard has been busy overnight, taken all the recently hatched cygnets and destroyed the remaining eggs.  I had hoped that last year's disaster was a one off, but it seems that Mr fox has other ideas.  The swans have mated again so let's hope that a late clutch fares better as they did in 2007.

Ian

29 May 2008

I had a fairly lengthy exchange of email correspondence yesterday evening with a member who fishes lower down the Ribble as well as at Horton.  We were musing about the causes of the persistent low water in the river, the algae at Settle and what might be done to mitigate this.  As I was writing another member called by to report on success at the Tarn and by chance this member is a senior academic specialising in river catchments.  The upshot is that we may well be able to test the water here for levels of nitrate and other potential pollutants and maybe see how this varies month by month and if we get any significant “spikes” after muck and slurry spreading.  My uninformed view is that nitrate pollution from farmyard muck is not a major problem up here as few fields bordering the river are treated this way and very little chemical nitrate is used to enhance pastures.  Evidence from our riverfly monitoring suggests that pollution is low if present at all, but as I have written before I have no real benchmark against which to compare our results.  It will be interesting to get a professional view when we do the refresher course with the entomologist here in August.

Pollution may be more of a problem around Settle.  We shall see.

The Tarn fished well late last evening and the weather is now set from the west for the first time for weeks, we had a little rain in the night so conditions are looking a little more hopeful.

Ian

28 May 2008

It's a windy and rather damp start to the morning here in the valley.  We have some real wet today rather than the desultory little shower that popped up first thing yesterday morning.  Judging by the clouds the rain will not last long so its impact on the river is likely to be minimal.  Still, every little helps (as the old woman said).

I don't know whether fly fishing simply attracts really nice people or the art of fly fishing turns otherwise miserable gits into really nice people, but I have to say that the vast majority of those who I have met who practise the art are engaging company, capable of greater than average acts of kindness.  My guest yesterday was no exception.  John L has recently rejoined the club after a prolonged absence.  It's good to welcome him back to an Association to which his father, uncle and brother all belonged.  He arrived with his wife and daughter and I thoroughly enjoyed their company for an hour whilst we discussed the fishery, it's key access points and other matters of interest. I look forward to meeting him again on the river over the coming months and years.

Don't forget the Horton Gala on June 7.  The wind may just have moderated by then, if not Michael will need to fit his ferrets with little lead boots to prevent them being blown out of their tubes like corks from a gun (see an earlier blog for an explanation).

Ian

27 May 2008

Guess what?  It's raining!!  Not a lot I grant you and the wind is still out of the east so we may not get much, but this is the first wet we have had since the end of April. 

I was up at the Tarn first thing just checking around and getting the catch figures for last week.  The stocking seems to have brought the catch to visit ratio back up to respectability and now that we are due a change in the weather the ratio should improve still further.  There have been one or two comments about fish with stumpy tails and missing pectorals so if you catch any of these a photo would be appreciated so that I can investigate further.  As far as I am aware all the fish we have stocked this season have been fully equipped with a full complement of fins and well developed tails.  Odd!

There are now three cygnets on the nest and with the pen still sitting tight there is every chance that a couple more eggs will hatch today or tomorrow.  The water is looking surprisingly clear given the lack of recent rain and the pH at 7.6 is well within the bounds of acceptability for rainbow trout.

This afternoon I am due to meet a past member who has rejoined the club after an absence of a few years. I am much looking forward to talking to him.

Ian

26 May 2008

I spent a hugely rewarding if rather expensive couple of hours at the Ingleton book fair yesterday afternoon and came away with three volumes which will provide some very pleasurable reading.  Firstly I found a copy of a 1912 edition of “The Natural Trout Fly and its Imitation” by Leonard West. This is a treatise in the same vein as Edmonds and Lee, Halford, Pritt et al. and covers the identification of natural insects of interest to the angler, the materials needed to tie the artificial imitations and how to tie them.  It's a well written book full of practical observation and tried and trusted methods.  West is not  a writer I had previously met, but on thumbing through my second purchase “Trout Fishing From All Angles” by Taverner I find that he is mentioned as an authority on angling entomology.  The Taverner book is one of the Lonsdale Library series and is an absolute cornucopia of fascinating information, well deserving of its title.  It covers every conceivable aspect of fishing for trout including scale reading, fish breeding, entomology, the list is almost endless.

Finally, I found a mint quality copy of a book that I have already read, but the copy I had was on loan and it struck me at the time that it should feature in my own collection.  “Fishing in Wild Places” by David Street is not only a masterfully written account of fishing off the beaten track, but the book itself is a delight to handle with its wonderful pencil illustrations by Terence Lambert and clean, simple publication.  This was the bargain of the day.  It seems never to have been opened and at

26 May 2008

I spent a hugely rewarding if rather expensive couple of hours at the Ingleton book fair yesterday afternoon and came away with three volumes which will provide some very pleasurable reading.  Firstly I found a copy of a 1912 edition of “The Natural Trout Fly and its Imitation” by Leonard West. This is a treatise in the same vein as Edmonds and Lee, Halford, Pritt et al. and covers the identification of natural insects of interest to the angler, the materials needed to tie the artificial imitations and how to tie them.  It's a well written book full of practical observation and tried and trusted methods.  West is not  a writer I had previously met, but on thumbing through my second purchase “Trout Fishing From All Angles” by Taverner I find that he is mentioned as an authority on angling entomology.  The Taverner book is one of the Lonsdale Library series and is an absolute cornucopia of fascinating information, well deserving of its title.  It covers every conceivable aspect of fishing for trout including scale reading, fish breeding, entomology, the list is almost endless.

Finally, I found a mint quality copy of a book that I have already read, but the copy I had was on loan and it struck me at the time that it should feature in my own collection.  “Fishing in Wild Places” by David Street is not only a masterfully written account of fishing off the beaten track, but the book itself is a delight to handle with its wonderful pencil illustrations by Terence Lambert and clean, simple publication.  This was the bargain of the day.  It seems never to have been opened and at

26 May 2008

I spent a hugely rewarding if rather expensive couple of hours at the Ingleton book fair yesterday afternoon and came away with three volumes which will provide some very pleasurable reading.  Firstly I found a copy of a 1912 edition of “The Natural Trout Fly and its Imitation” by Leonard West. This is a treatise in the same vein as Edmonds and Lee, Halford, Pritt et al. and covers the identification of natural insects of interest to the angler, the materials needed to tie the artificial imitations and how to tie them.  It's a well written book full of practical observation and tried and trusted methods.  West is not  a writer I had previously met, but on thumbing through my second purchase “Trout Fishing From All Angles” by Taverner I find that he is mentioned as an authority on angling entomology.  The Taverner book is one of the Lonsdale Library series and is an absolute cornucopia of fascinating information, well deserving of its title.  It covers every conceivable aspect of fishing for trout including scale reading, fish breeding, entomology, the list is almost endless.

Finally, I found a mint quality copy of a book that I have already read, but the copy I had was on loan and it struck me at the time that it should feature in my own collection.  “Fishing in Wild Places” by David Street is not only a masterfully written account of fishing off the beaten track, but the book itself is a delight to handle with its wonderful pencil illustrations by Terence Lambert and clean, simple publication.  This was the bargain of the day.  It seems never to have been opened and at

25 May 2008

The main feature here over the past few days has been the near gale force east wind that is becoming a real pest.  Like an unwanted guest who knows not when to leave it's trying the patience and making life just that little bit more difficult than it should be.  There is still no rain in prospect and whilst the gale keeps up from the east there won't be which means that the river is a sad reflection of what it should be at this time of year.  Even the Tarn is beginning to suffer with the water level now at least 3 inches below the norm.  Fortunately the temperature of the water is still fairly low and the wind is keeping the surface churning so algae is absent we we really could do with some RAIN!

There was an interesting article in yesterday's paper about the serious decline in the European eel population and the efforts that are being made to try to reverse this decline.  In all that I have read about the Ribble I have yet to find much mention of eels.  I suspect that the bouldery, high incline nature of the river does not offer ideal eel habitat, but since in past times there was a reasonable otter population on the Ribble and otters main diet is eels one might surmise that eels were once present.  I suspect that Stainforth Foss presented no barrier to a creature that can cross significant distance overland.  Perhaps there is just too little weed up here to sustain a health eel population?

I have been planning to do the riverfly check at Turn Dub all week, but it's proving difficult to find sufficient water to make the check viable.  I have analysed the results from the three sites we did last weekend and there is no significant variation from past checks in fact the results we got from Selside show a slight improvement from the previous check last September.  It's far too early in the process to draw any real conclusions.  We need a few years worth of data before a discernible picture emerges, but so far we can be confident that, on our waters at least, the pollution level is low.  The refresher training we are arranging for August will provide a valuable opportunity to discuss with an expert just how health our fly life levels are for this type of river and what we can do to maintain and improve populations.  I still harbour ambitions to breed snails and gammerid as these will provide sustaining food for larger trout especially during the early season when they are coming back into condition after spawning.  I will also try a fly board or two at the hatchery site to encourage baetis to lay eggs.  The boards might survive here as my last two in Turn Dub inlet got washed away in spates.

Ian

23 May 2008

We stocked the Tarn yesterday (eventually!) with some super looking rainbow trout.  These are fully finned and fighting fit specimens that left the stocking net like torpedoes.  There is a mix of weights with most coming in at around 2lb and a handful approaching 3lb.  Members may well find a few smaller (1.5lb) fish as these were already in the grading tank at the farm and we got them for nothing.  They do make a good individual serving for those with a smaller appetite.

Judging by the behaviour of the pen there will soon be cygnets at the
Tarn.  She is now refusing to leave the nest even for a slice of bread,
a sure sign that the eggs are about to hatch. The two survivors from
last year's clutch of eggs were last seen heading down river towards
Preston.

We need a rain dance.  The river is now looking as sad as it did back in the summer of 2006 with virtually no flow through many of the runs and riffles.  There is still water in the deeper pools, but the trout fry and salmon parr must be having a trying time with so much of the shallow margin cover denied to them.

Can I repeat the plea I made earlier in the week for the return of a landing net to the hut.  Please do check your gear carefully and if you find a net that you don't recognise bring it back.  You will find your net still hanging on the hook by the door.

Ian