31 July 2008

Switzerland is a strange country famous for cuckoo clocks, leather shorts, a knife that has destroyed more trouser pockets than any other and making money laundering an art form.  Now news reaches me of a potential threat to angling as we know it coming out of Switzerland and I don't mean a legion of redundant clock makers wearing cow hide trousers wielding spoons attached to small red pocket knives.  It would seem that there is currently legislation passing through the Swiss parliament that will have the effect of making it a criminal offence to practise catch and release on the Swiss rivers.  This is a clause buried away in a new animal welfare Bill which states that it will be an offence to fish with the intention of releasing a fish once caught.  The clause will make it mandatory to dispatch every fish with a sharp blow to the head from a blunt instrument.

Now I'm not aware that Switzerland is a must go destination for many UK anglers, but that's not the point.  The real threat here comes from our own animal welfare lobby who I'm sure are watching the passage of this legislation with interest and already drawing up plans to lobby for similar legislation in the UK.  The effect of such a law would be catastrophic for our conservation programmes.  Just imagine the impact on native fish stock on heavily fished rivers where every fertile hen fish is removed from the gene pool.  It will be short order before the only way to maintain an adequate fish stock will be by constant stocking with reared fish, course and game fish alike.

We need to watch this one and stay ahead of the game.

I was cheered up considerably yesterday morning by a conversation with a member who called to collect a guest ticket.  He had been a member of MAA for many years, but left when the fish cage at the Tarn took its toll on both water and fish quality.  He rejoined last year and now tells me that he had the best days dry fly fishing on the Tarn last week he has had in his entire life.  Thanks Peter, it's good to know that all our efforts are producing results that members appreciate.

It's not a bad morning.  It's warm with a light breeze, a lot of high cloud and some sunny breaks.  So a good day for wetting a fly.


30 July 2008

It's a change to much cooler weather this morning with a lot of cloud and the threat of rain to come.  However, there is little or no wind so fishing should be quite good on both a replenished river and restocked Tarn.

I finished reading “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” yesterday and what an absorbing book it turned out to be.  I suppose that the underlying message is the importance of belief and that it's quite possible to achieve the impossible against all received wisdom, common sense and the nay sayers if you simply have faith in your convictions and believe totally in ultimate success. 

I guess that there is a message here for fishermen.  One must go to the river in the firm belief that fish will be caught.  To do otherwise is to court failure even though the omens be not good.  When I taught management theory we called this the power of positive thought and impressed upon our students the importance of approaching any task or project with the firm belief that it would succeed totally.  We seem to be surrounded by negative influences and cynicism, its a national pastime to be cynical and it does prevent the rush to over exuberance that seems to engulf our transatlantic cousins far too often.  But being too cynical too often can rob us of that genuine childlike conviction that miracles are possible and success is ours to grasp.  So next time you stand by the river and it seems devoid of fish or you sit in the boat at the Tarn and all seems dead just believe that you will catch a fish and who knows?


29 July 2008

We have had a Yorkshire monsoon here since about half five this morning and it's still raining hard at eight thirty so the river will be high and coloured later today.  It's forecast to be an unsettled week so it's going to be a question of taking it day by day as far as river fishing is concerned.  The Tarn is fishing well since the last stocking, but not last night. 

I took the Romanian Chef from the Crown up to the Tarn last evening.  He is a nice chap and a keen angler, but never done any fly fishing and was anxious to have a go.  I saw him contemplating the river with a rod a few days ago and a supervised couple of hours at the Tarn when it was quiet seemed a good way of satisfying his curiosity and dissuading him from poaching.  Young Steven came up to give a few casting lessons as my casting is rubbish. The wind was a bit wicked so I had little hope of any success and his technique to begin with seemed to be more of the thrash the water to a foam rather than the gentle kiss of fly on meniscus.  After a bit of tuition he slowed things down a lot, but the fish were reluctant to rise in the choppy conditions.  Much to my surprise and that of Mike H who had arrived to fish he got into a decent sized rainbow which unfortunately he lost as a result of trying to haul it vertically from the water.  Fortunately the hook straightened and came out so no damage done and he now has a much better idea about the gentle art which he can apply down at the Helwith Bridge fishery.  So, a fairly happy Romanian and one less potential threat to the river trout I need to watch.


28 July 2008

Just back from a slightly delayed trip to the hatchery to install the new shrimp nursery.  As previously reported, this consists of a large onion net stuffed with barley straw and a few empty bottles to act as floats.  The idea is that the straw floods and sinks to the limit of the floats and as it begins to decompose slowly gammarus take up residence using the straw as a haven and source of food.  If this experiment works it can be repeated on both the river and the Tarn to increase the number of gammarus available to sustain large trout.

It was a delight to be down by the ponds in this glorious summer weather.  The song of the water babbling down the cascades in the spawning channel mixed with the song of birds and the contented munching of sheep in the nearby meadow combined to lift the soul.  I took the opportunity to clear some of the cress that is growing so strongly that the channel is becoming blocked.  There was no sign of any fish in the ponds, but the water is dark so visibility is limited.  Even in this hot weather the water is icy cold and seems to be very well oxygenated so if fish are present they should be thriving.

I will give the nursery a few days to sink and naturalise before attempting to introduce shrimp then check progress fortnightly so more on this later.


27 July 2008

Remarkably for this summer it's been a week now since we had any rain so the river is falling away now to normal summer levels.  It's still fishable on most runs and all the pools have good water, but it will obviously continue to drop now until we get another wet spell.

It's a cloudier day today, but still very warm with almost no breeze so there is a good chance of a fly hatch later on which may encourage both river and Tarn trout to surface feed.  The fish that were stocked into the Tarn on Thursday seem to have settled down well and dispersed so fishing here should now be less of a challenge than of late.  That's provided that the hatches of caenis drop off.  The hut is totally smothered in “anglers curse” and the fish have been cruising the shallows hoovering up the hatched fly.  OK if you dress flies under a microscope, but pretty useless otherwise.

I am going to try to install the gammarus nursery later today so that it can naturalise before we put in the shrimps so more on this tomorrow.


26 July 2008

After much hassle the fish finally went into the Tarn on Thursday afternoon.  Feedback so far suggests that these are good fish, well finned and tailed and are providing good sport.  They should certainly help to improve the visit to catch ratio which has been declining over the past couple of weeks with one or two nil returns creeping in which I hate to see.

Now a recommendation for a little light summer reading for all those of you about to head off for your annual summer slob out.  I was lent a book last week “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” by Paul Torday.  On turning to the first few pages I got a chill of a past life colliding with the present.  The book opens with an exchange of memo's between Civil Servants including some between the Private Offices of certain Government ministers.  Some of you may know that for 25 years I stalked the corridors of power in various Ministries and my formative years in the early 1970's were spent as a correspondence clerk to a  succession of Ministers. The book is hauntingly familiar and Paul Torday must know someone in Government circles to write with such wicked accuracy about the machinations of Whitehall.  Basically the book is about a project to introduce Atlantic salmon into the Wadi's of Yemen so that the calming and beneficial influence of salmon fishing can spread a balm of sang froid over the benighted region of the Middle East.  The wit and humour are sharp and Torday has certainly done his home work on the underlying science so that the whole plot becomes absorbing and realistic enough to become believable.  It's the ideal hammock companion (apart from Liz Hurley that is).  Go out and buy a copy and enter the bizarre world of Dr Alfred Jones and the National Centre for Fisheries Excellence.

It's a great summer day here in the valley all the more so as in the last half hour our water supply has been restored.  The pipe burst down by the Crown yesterday afternoon so we have been subsisting on bottled water for the past few hours.  Newhouses looks like a refugee camp with pallets of water bottles dumped on the verges by Yorkshire water.  I have just managed to get a shower much to Sheila's relief as I spent all day yesterday cleaning out the goat house and spreading the accumulated muck. It's surprising just how pervasive the smell can be and how well it sticks to people.  My goats are now busy arranging the fresh straw to their liking.  This mainly involves seeing just how much of it you can eat whist sitting on it and trying to prevent the hens from pitching it out into the yard.


24 July 2008

It's another grey and humid morning here in the valley with cloud well down blanketing the fells.  Sitting here writing this I am struck by just how many young sparrows are about now.  Looking out of the window I can see well over a dozen lined up along the gutter of the farmhouse opposite the widow all noisily waiting their turn at the nut feeders in the back garden.  It's becoming a challenge to keep these feeders topped up as in addition to the sparrows we are getting lots of blue tits, great tits, green finches, dunnock, gold finches, blackbirds and wrens.  All these birds seem to arrive with families in tow and it's heartening to watch so many  the youngsters demanding food.  They all seem to have got our four cats well sussed and so far this season I have only had to remove one corpse from the house, brought in as a toy that soon ceased to work.

The wet weather has meant that the hay meadows are being cut rather later than usual and little silage was got round here earlier in the year so the increased availability of seed and insects that inhabit the growing meadows must have helped to ensure that more young birds survived.

The Tarn fish should be here shortly so anticipate better returns per visit from tomorrow onwards.


23 July 2008

This is late today as I wanted to get the invertebrate check at Turn Dub done before Mr Sod managed to intervene again and prevent me doing so.  All seems well with good representations of most of the eight relevant families.  There were more gammarus this time and a very healthy crop of Baetis larvae.

I was struck by how well the herbage is growing along the banks here now that most of the woollies are kept out by the fence.  Not all though as I counted eight of the blighters on the far bank up to their ears in the tall grass. I shall have to investigate how they are getting in and block off the route.  It's a month since I was last at the Dub and I was surprised to see just how many of the broadleaved trees we planted a couple of years ago have failed.  I guess it's a combination of sheep and the spring drought.  Coincidentally, when I started up the PC a few minutes ago down came an email from Gavin P commenting on the same thing.  I will need to investigate further and try to find the cause before we try to plant here again.

Gavin also tells me that he has a source of gammarus that will serve well to kick start the nursery I have made so I will get the thing installed later so that it can stabilise before we put in the shrimps.

Stocking the Tarn at 10 am tomorrow so be warned.


22 July 2008

There is no doubting that trout like gammarus when they can get them.  I suppose a good belly full of gammarus is a bit like a prawn sandwich only more filling and large shrimps help to sustain large trout.  With this in mind and with an eye on sustainability I have been researching how best to boost the population of gammarus in the river.  I think I may have found the solution and it seems in theory to be simple.  All you need is a large mesh sack stuffed with barley straw and a few floats which you place in the water where you wish to aid the recruitment of gammarus.  The little beasties can't resist the security and food source that the straw provides and they go forth and multiply.

That's the theory!  I now have permission to run an experiment using this technique using the larger pond at the hatchery.  All the material is ready and, time permitting, I will set things up later today.  All we need do then is wait a few months to see what results we get.  If this works then I intend to repeat the experiment on quiet backwaters on the river and at the Tarn.  The bonus is that the gammarus will migrate out of the straw over time thus becoming available to the fish for food.  They will supplement the other invertebrates already in the fish pond and ensure that the young fish get a good start before they in turn migrate out into the beck.  A further benefit is the impact that the straw will have on water quality as it breaks down.  Due to the release of a cocktail of chemicals the straw will keep the pond free of algae as we know from past experience at the Tarn.

I did an invertebrate check at New Inn bridge yesterday and am pleased to report that all seems healthy.  There were no real variations from previous checks and it was pleasing to see a good crop of stoneflies in every sample I took.  I even found our friend  above in two of the 4 samples I kicked.  Being detritivores, gammarus are not common in this fast running water, but they were there yesterday.

Someone turned off summer again this morning.  It's currently very foggy and damp.  Potentially quite good fishing conditions if you can find your way to Horton.


21 July 2008

We awake here at Horton this morning to find that summer has returned after a long absence.  It's absolutely glorious out there at present with wall to wall blue sky a few wispy clouds and almost no breeze.  The temperature is also climbing back to somewhere near normal so it seems a perfect day to go monitoring invertebrates for the July check using the revised skills that I learnt from Dai on Saturday.

The river is just about perfect.  Well watered and clear and it would not surprise me if salmon were lurking in the usual lies below Horton bridge.

I have decided to begin experimenting with breeding gammarus.  There are a a few things to tie up first before I say much about this, but if all goes to plan I should have the first nursery set up by the weekend.

I will report later on the invertebrate results.

It really is a day to skip work and go fishing!