30 November 2008

It's a very cold start to the morning here in the valley with a deep freeze covering the fells and the ground rock hard under an azure sky.  Like last Sunday the dales look stunning under this winter sun which really lifts the spirits and makes working outdoors a pleasure rather than a pain.  It's also good to come in to warm cold bones by a log fire which fills the house with that faint and evocative aroma of sweet wood smoke.

This cold bright weather will bring the trout on to spawn and their cousins the salmon have been very busy this past week with good numbers of pairs seen down by Studfold, along by the Pipe Pool and up towards Cragghill farm.  There are certainly plenty of spawning fish about now so let's hope for a winter with few damaging spates and a chance to really build good numbers of young fish next year.

In fact next year looks like being a fairly busy one on the river especially for the future success of our native crayfish.  Building on the success of the crayfish handling courses that he runs from Malham Tarn Field Centre, Paul Bradley has now set up a Crayfish Strategy Workshop which will run during July 2009.  This aims to bring together all those who share an interest in the conservation of native crayfish and encourage them to develop a coherent national strategy and action plan to ensure the long term survival of this fascinating crustacean.  I have been asked along to put a fisheries managers perspective on the proceedings based on experience of balancing the needs of both anglers and crayfish at the Tarn.  The programme will include lots of field visits including a chance for delegates to see our own population of austropotamobius.

Turning finally to the hut refurbishment, I plan to get all the material to line out the interior this week so that work can get under way next week end.  The first task to insulate and board out the inside is fairly simple and should be completed before Christmas.  Then we can turn our attention to fitting out to provide a more comfortable and usable space.  I will post up photos as the work progresses.


23 November 2008

A flurry of snow overnight and early this morning has reminded us that winter is just around the corner.  It's only a light coverlet, but the fells look stunning in the emerging sun and they stand out stark and white against a sky that's turning blue as I write this.

The months really seem to fly by now and it seems no time at all since I did the riverfly check for October. However, four weeks have gone by and Thursday morning found me up to my knees in the river at New Inn braving a bitterly cold north west wind to check on the health of our invertebrates yet again. I fought an even colder north wind yesterday to do the same at Turn Dub.  Both checks revealed no problems with very good numbers of Baetidae and all our usual families well represented.  You do live and learn though.  The second kick sample at New Inn threw up three rather puzzled looking bullheads which I retained in the sample tray to take a closer look at.  Big mistake!  I also noticed in the net a few gammarus which seemed to diminish in number as I counted them. I forgot that a bullheads favourite snack is a fat juicy shrimp and my three were making merry with the captive feast I had inadvertently provided.  Lesson, get the bullheads out quickly before they skew the results by eating the samples.

Crayfish Paul came to visit yesterday on his way to survey the site where it's planned next summer  to eradicate the remaining pocket of crayfish plague.  This is going to be a tremendous bonus for the crayfish, the fishery and the general health of the ecosystem of the river.  If all works then there will be little to stop the regeneration of the native crayfish population in the Ribble and we will gradually return to the way things were before plague struck eight years ago.

I sat for quite a while yesterday morning watching the small flock of goldeneye on the Tarn. These dapper little duck really appeal to me and it's a strange coincidence that my famous author namesake named his house in Jamaica Goldeneye. 

I have had one or two offers of fly tying equipment for the hut for which I am very grateful, but all further offers will be very welcome.  We are trying to build a fishing related library also so any books or videos that have ceased to earn their place on your bookshelf will also be welcome.

I have now worked up a detailed budget for the refurbishment and begun ordering materials to begin work on the internal dry lining.  If any member fancies a morning at the Tarn shifting stuff down to the hut do please give me a ring.  My number is on the newsletter.


16 November 2008

Well, here we are again and it's been a mixed week with some fairly mild, sunny days interspersed with a couple of absolutely foul days. The weather cleared up nicely yesterday morning whilst we were ensconced in the Crown busily attending to MAA Council business.  A very effective and efficient meeting I thought that has left me with a real impression of renewed vigour within the club and a determination to make it a vibrant and rewarding body to belong to.

Myself and the Hon Sec then walked the river down to the Tay Bridge really just to appreciate the fine condition of the river.  We saw no fish, but dippers were bobbing and weaving in the swift current and a woodpecker sat looking at us from a vantage point in Parker's wood.

Plans for the hut refurbishment were confirmed yesterday and work will start soon to transform the place into a real club venue properly equipped to enhance members fishing experience at the Tarn.  We have been donated some solar lights as well as a bookcase, wall and floor cupboards and sufficient laminate to line the new ply walls.  The old place will be unrecognisable when finished.

We plan to equip the hut with a fly tying vice and dressing tools so if any member has anything surplus to their own needs that they would like to donate then please do contact me.  As I have said before we will install a book case and spare fishing related works as well as back copies of fishing mags will be welcome.

Conservation work has also not been forgotten, but more on this when those landowners whose consent is needed for our plans have been consulted.

It looks like being a busy closed season.


9 November 2008

It's been a fairly dry, but cold week so by yesterday the river was quite low for this time of year.  All that changed late yesterday and we have had a lot of rain over night lifting the water considerably.  In fact it's rather wintry this morning with the fells standing out white against a clearing sky.  Most of the white stuff is hail rather than snow which has been drifted deeply by a bitterly cold east wind.

Despite the low water salmon are still moving up to Horton and our brown trout are making their way up to the spawning gravels in the upper river and side becks.  With the drop in temperature it will not be long now before they start to breed so let's hope for no sudden spates before the redds have time to compact down.

The goldeneye are back at the Tarn in fair numbers and when I was up there yesterday I saw a pair of dabchick scurrying for the shelter of the reed bed which was already occupied by the swans.  The water quality in the Tarn has been remarkably good this year with no evidence at all of algae and very little colour in the water.  It's crystal clear now and possible to see just how extensive the weed growth has become over the summer.  By my estimate there are about a hundred fish left in from the seasons stocking so it will be interesting to observe how many of these are caught next season as with a change of supplier next season and the guarantee of larger fish it should be possible to identify the 2008 stock.

That's always assuming that the cormorants don't feast on them over the winter.  The Tarn has been surprisingly devoid of cormorants this Autumn, but by past experience it's after Christmas that they seem to arrive in numbers.  Obviously some keepers have more success at obtaining licences to cull these pests as Warren Slaney posted a picture on his blog a couple of days ago showing one cormorant that has eaten its last trout.

Now that the season has ended I can get on with the work to transform the hut and plans for this are now well advanced.  We will begin by lining and insulating the place then move to installing the fittings.  If all goes well then the place should be finished well before the start of next season.