31 October 2008

Well, here we are, the last day of the season and we awake this morning to a covering of white on the fells.  There is a bitterly cold north wind blowing down the valley, but it's now bright and sunny with just a few clouds away over Ribblehead.

Time to think about shutting up for the winter, battening down the hatches to prepare for the winter storms and think about the season to come.

I suppose that this season will go down as the summer that never was, when the river ran full for most weeks and was fishable more often than not.  It will be interesting to see what the returns are like when they come in.  My real concern is the effect that the severe spates may have had on the viability of trout fry early on.  We won't know for some time, but the electro fishing planned for the main river next summer should tell us a little more about the numbers of young fish and give some indication as to the general level of recruitment.  There is certainly enough food to maintain a good population of wild fish over the winter so let's hope for a really successful breeding season and plenty of fry next spring.

As for the Tarn it's now really a case of watching and monitoring, keeping a check on cormorants and generally tidying up.  The main job this winter will be the refurbishment of the hut so that we can start the 2009 season in some style and comfort.

The next post will be on Sunday and each Sunday thereafter until March 2009.

29 October 2008

Another bitterly cold morning with a sharp frost and ice on the pond.  It's good to get some seasonally cod weather though rather than the persistent wet, mild and windy stuff that we got last winter.

I managed to get the Turn Dub invertebrate check done yesterday which showed a healthy population of most species and a better than average population of gammarus including some quite large specimens.  Good fodder for hungry trout over the winter.

I sat in the hut for a while chewing the fat with a couple of members.  Fishing was hard (and cold), but some success was had. 

The real reward of the day was the gift of a rabbit from a couple of members who went bunny hunting with ferrets on Monday.  A nice plump well grown rabbit which will casserole nicely.  Ideal grub in this cold weather.


28 October 2008

It's a tad parky this morning with a very sharp frost turning the fields and fells white and sparkly under the morning sun.  My hens are dancing around trying to keep their feet warm, hunting for insects in the leaf litter that is building up in the hollows in the croft.  All in all a perfect autumn day.

I managed at long last to get the October invertebrate check done at New Inn yesterday. No surprises, but it is good to see that both numbers and species compare well with last October.  More gammarus and stonefly this year and slightly fewer heptagenia, but overall the river looks to be healthy.

I will do the check at Turn Dub this morning once things warm up a little.  It's a cold spot at the best of times being tucked down in a fold in the hills that cuts off the sun at this time of year.  This morning it will be particularly cold even though there is no wind.

Only 4 days to go to the end of season and this blog will wind down to a weekly posting until next March.  Plans are already in hand though for 2009 with the refurbishment of the hut scheduled for the closed season and all the fish ordered for the Tarn.  We are using a new supplier next year and I have been invited to visit the farm to see our fish before they start arriving in March.  I am confident that we will get some real quality stock.


26 October 2008

We had a lot of rain yesterday and all the becks and springs are still gushing, putting a lot of water into the river which is very dark and in full spate.  It's a much better day today, plenty of cloud, but also some bright sunshine and a lessening wind so the salmon should be running well now.

It now looks as if the forest managers will begin moving timber out of Greenfield forest down Newhouses lane in the spring of next year.  This is bound to have an impact on parking at the Tarn and access to the lane will become more problematic with heavy timber trucks making 4 outward and 4 return journeys every day.  We have a meeting with the company on 7 November so more on this when I have spoken to their manager.  The impact on our lives here will be quite significant and it's bound to affect the value of all our properties.  Particularly galling at a time of falling prices and general economic decline.


24 October 2008

Oh well into the last week of the 2008 fishing season and the weather this morning seems to have relented at long last and has given us a bright start with the promise of much sun later.  The river has been far too high this week to safely do the invertebrate check, but with the threat of rain receding it may be possible for me to get onto the river later today.

I try to avoid fishing politics as much as possible, but there are two issues currently attracting attention.  Firstly the proposed hydro scheme at Settle weir has now gone before the planning committee at Craven District Council and has been turned down. At present I know not on what grounds although there was much opposition to the scheme from angling and conservation bodies who are concerned about the impact that the scheme will have on river habitat and migratory fish.  The point has been well made that no one is opposed to the scheme in principle.  However, there was far to little in the environmental impact assessment that addressed the impact that the scheme will have on water levels, the antiquated fish pass at Settle and the restrictions that abstraction at this point will have on salmon and sea trout.

Those of you who know Settle weir will appreciate that normal flows over the weir are pretty meagre and the availability of good water above and below the pass is vital for fish making their way up to Horton.  We shall see what transpires here.

The second issue is the long running debate concerning whether to stock the river with triploid or diploid trout.  This debate is fairly sterile and academic for us here at Horton as we no longer stock the river at all, but lower down knickers are getting fairly twisted and the EA who are imposing a ban on diploid stocking are getting quite a bit of stick.  My own simple take on this is that if you have to stock at all it's far better to stock with sterile fish as we know from our own observations that stock fish rarely survive their first winter probably because they lack river awareness possibly genetically induced due to the length of time that the strains have been captive bred.  If diploids in any way contributed to the recruitment of river trout stock we should be able to walk across the river on fish by now given the many thousands of fish that have gone into the Ribble from its source to the sea over the past one hundred years or so.  Far better to ensure that there can be no interbreeding between wild fish and farmed cousins to the genetic detriment of the former (and notice the use of the term 'wild' as opposed to 'native').  Even more to the point is the need for clubs on the river to move progressively away from stocking at all and adopt a strategy of proper river management that aims to encourage the natural recruitment of wild fish.  I fear that we are some way from that goal.


22 October 2008

We had a succession of very heavy hail showers yesterday which put paid to invertebrate sampling.  It looks as if it might be a more settled day today with much less wind and more open blue sky.  So we will try again this morning.

I was stood in the kitchen early yesterday afternoon watching the birds at the feeders on the bird table.  The usual visitors were present; blue tit, great tit, dunnock, sparrow and blackbird.  suddenly from round the substantial wooden post supporting the table a large black and white head with red markings and a long bill appeared closely followed by the rest of a greater spotted woodpecker.  He or she spent some considerable time circling the post working out the best way of getting to the nuts and fat ball suspended from the table.  Clearly a great deal of thought was going into this and a number of strategies were tried.  Clearly these are quite intelligent birds and seem capable of reasoning and assessment.  Eventually it seemed to consider the whole thing not worth the effort and flew off much to the relief of the usual visitors who, throughout this performance were lined up in the clematis shouting disapproval.

As we approach the end of this 2008 season I ave been looking back at records for the past few seasons on the Tarn and comparing them with this seasons results.  I'm pleased to say that it looks to have been a very good one with the number of visits up on last year and the ratio of catch to visits up also.  This despite a dismal summer that made fishing a challenge right through the peak season.

Time to start planning for even greater success in 2009.


21 October 2008

Today has dawned with some blue sky and a little autumn sunshine.  It's a little cold in the stiff westerly breeze, but on the whole a much better day than the washout we had yesterday.  The river is high and fishable with plenty of water to get the salmon running all the way up river.

If the rain keeps off then I plan to do the October riverfly check at New Inn bridge later this morning and perhaps go up to Turn Dub this afternoon.  So look out for the results on the spreadsheet later tomorrow.


20 October 2008

It's a truly foul morning with heavy rain and a brisk south west wind stripping the leaves from the trees and sending them swirling past my office window. 

My hens emerged from the warmth of the hen hut and immediately headed for the shelter of the goat house muttering and complaining about the weather.  Most have now moulted so now look sleek in new plumage and far less tatty than they did a couple of weeks ago. The same can't be said for the cockerel who always seems to moult last and is now minus most of his tail feathers and a fair few on his cape and wings.  This loss makes him a little unsteady and clearly dampens his ardour so that his first thought now is food rather than attempted rape.  The leghorns I bought back in the early summer have been a great success with almost an egg a day from each of them.  Mind you they do have  a down side which is a strong tendency to be somewhere else.  They are a light breed with fairly good flying ability for a hen so clearing a 5ft fence presents little problem.  One in particular has taken to foraging on the village green opposite the house and has made a nest in the front garden which has become the laying place of choice.  I should really clip a few wing feathers to stop the great escape, but at this time of year they do more good than harm in the garden so I will let them wander for the time being.

It's not a day for faint hearted fishermen and the river is rising fast so I will postpone my October invertebrate check until later in the week.


19 October 2008

It's a very dour start to the day here with heavy grey cloud and a light mizzle settling on the hills and fells.  The forecast is for more rain later which will run off the saturated ground quickly bringing the river into spate in short order.  We had a lot of rain yesterday which brought a spate by evening.  The salmon will be running, but in a very high and coloured water.

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words so what better way to sum up our Ribble salmon than this amazing photo of what looks to be a hen fish on Stainforth Foss on Thursday.  My grateful thanks to Andy Rushforth who took the shot for permission to post it.


18 October 2008

Now here's a subject that I have not mentioned for some time – the Pennine Bridleway.  You will recall that the plan is for this route to come down from Clapham by South House and Borrins Farms, go across Low Moor and cross the river between the Tarn and Drain Mires.  Then it follows Darin Mires lane up to High Birkwith and the Pennine Way.  Of course, a bridge is needed at the river crossing and we have been involved in the consultation about this to ensure that it's design in no way interferes with either the ecology of the river or our legal right of access and fishing rights. 

Things have been quiet for some months now, but this week has seen a flurry of activity on the ground with regular trips by  YDNP rangers and contractors to the river bank at the crossing point.  Apparently they are drilling to discover just how far down the abutments for the bridge will need to go in order to get a firm purchase.  Judging by the amount of drilling that has been going on the answer is – quite deep.  This result is pretty obvious even to a lay observer as the ground here is incredibly boggy even in very dry weather.  Be that as it may it now looks as though plans are moving ahead to construct this bridge and we will watch proceedings with concern and interest.

I had a phone call from (Crayfish) Paul on Thursday who rang to tell me that the results of the crayfish plague tests that he undertaken at the foot of Ling Gill falls were back and that they confirmed the presence of plague at this point.  However, all is not lost as regards the future re introduction of native crayfish to the river as Paul is confident that a way can be found to prevent the continued wash of crayfish over the falls which are feeding the plague spot at the foot.  He is working up ideas which we will discuss again in due course.

It's a rather showery day with bright patches and a fairly brisk westerly breeze.  The river is still quite high, just about enough to get salmon running and they are coming up the Foss in good numbers.  I got an amazing photo of a fish on the Foss from a village photographer yesterday.  This looked to be a hen fish, slightly coloured and about 7 or 8 lb in weight.

I will try to get permission to post this up here tomorrow.