Some decent rain over the past 48 hours has given us a river that's fishable for the first time in weeks. A dry day yesterday and light drizzle this morning means that the colour has now dropped from the water whilst levels remain fairly good. It will take a further wet day or so to provide really decent conditions and since the forecast is for rain today fishing at the weekend should be OK.
I went up to the Tarn early yesterday following a phone call from a member the previous evening about a lose step on the high stile over the far cross wall near where the swans are nesting. I have made this step safe for the time being, but at least two steps on this stile are rotten at the ends and need replacing. This will be attended to at the weekend so until then please exercise caution when using the stile as a tumble from the top will hurt.
Whilst I worked here close to the swans nest I was watched with some concern by the cob. He knows me well by now and made no aggressive move merely keeping himself between me and the nest. The pen seem totally unconcerned and continued her nap with her head under her wing. The eggs must be close to hatching now as I have not seen the pen leave the nest for some days.
The promised rain has arrived this afternoon and it's now falling hard and steadily so we should have some better water in the river by tomorrow after this long spring drought.
Before the rain really set n I did manage to get up to Turn Dub and do the invertebrate check at this site for April. The results were OK considering the poor water conditions and the amount of filament weed and algae in the water. This made sampling very tedious as after each kick the net contained not only invertebrates but a fair ball of gunk which took time to sort through. As a result I think the numbers within each family are probably on the low side as it proved almost impossible to get everything out of the gunk. The detailed results are in the document library on the member's website for those of you who want to see them and have access to the site. Once again, if you are a member of the MAA and have not yet got a user name and password for the site just let me know.
The Tarn continues to fish quite well. Catch numbers are lower this week probably a reflection of the lower population density as we approach the next stocking on Saturday week. Numbers of fish taken as against those returned are slightly up this year and I guess that this is due to the better quality fish we have stocked. I had one of these on Sunday and was most impressed with the flavour and flesh density.
Paul B called by last night to tell me that he had turned off the pump at Ling Gill and returned the beck to water to see how well the dams performed. The good news is that they are all totally level and working exactly as planned by impounding 4 nice pools which will progressively capture any crayfish that wash down the beck. Today should see the installation of the angle irons to stop the creatures climbing over the dams in low water. Then it's a clear up at the site to return it to its former unspoilt condition.
When I was up there with the Hon Sec on Sunday we found a common lizard sunning itself on a rock at the top of the main falls. Local wisdom suggests that common lizards are not so around here so it was a rare sighting.
We also learn that the forestry company will try to get their harvesting equipment up to Greenfield Forest on Thursday. So expect some delay if you plan to fish the Tarn on Thursday and watch out for timber waggons on the lane from mid May.
The first real rain for some weeks fell last night and this morning. The river has lifted a bit, but we need considerably more rain over the next few days to make a significant difference to the flow and make fishing a viable consideration. Rain is forecast, but right now the clouds are melting away to give a rather pleasant evening with warm sunshine.
This year's edition of Salmo Trutta the Wild Trout Trust journal landed on my door mat last week. As usual this is packed with a mix of useful info, enjoyable articles and case studies that fire the enthusiasm to get out and do something practical. Of particular note is a study of a long term project on a chalk stream in the south. Just what you can get away with on a benign little spring fed river makes one quite jealous. Try some of habitat improvements on our river and all your hard work would be floating half a mile off Lytham after the first spate! However, there is some good stuff in the article about encouraging water plants and this we will follow up over the next few weeks.
I have delayed the Turn Dub invertebrate check in the hope that the recent rain will make sampling a little easier so the check will be done tomorrow morning.
Sorry for the silence over the past couple of days. I have been playing catch up with a number of tasks after a fairly busy week. The weather here continues dry and settled so the river still looks miserable and a mere shadow of what it should be at this time of year.
I went down to New Inn first thing this morning to do the monthly invertebrate check and had real difficulty sampling in such low water. The results are well down on last month especially baetis nymphs, but as it's almost impossible to kick amongst the boulders where the water is still flowing this result does not unduly concern me. The creatures will be buried well down amongst the rocks since the gravels at this site which usually contain the bulk of invertebrates, especially gammarus are now dry. The forecast is for a wet day tomorrow so maybe levels will rise a little. Still, we have been threatened with rain for some days now that has failed to materialise.
All the concrete dams at Ling Gill are now in place so the project can now move forward to the next phase which is to clear away all the remaining material, fix the irons to the dam edges,clean out the bed of the beck between the dams, remove the pump and restore the flow. Then it's a case of drawing down every couple of days to remove any crayfish that wash into the dam pools and monitor the site for the next couple of years.
I took the Hon Sec to the site this morning to see what had been done. He seemed quite impressed. We stood by the water gate for a while watching a pied wagtail that's nesting in the bank close by and were surprised to see a newt clinging to a rock that's being washed by the outflow from the pump. This was pale yellow, about 2 inches long and seemed not to have a crest.
The plan is to do the invertebrate check at Turn Dub late tomorrow morning provided that it's not too wet so I will post up the results of both sites during this coming week.
After working like Trojans over the past few days we now have two of the four concrete dams erected at Ling Gill and the shuttering in place for the remaining two. Tomorrow should see all the dams in place and work moving on to clearing the beck bed ready for the water to be returned during next week.
We had a visit from a world expert on crayfish this morning who expressed confidence that the plan will work. As I have said before nothing like this has ever been attempted anywhere so Paul is very much at the cutting edge of experiment and learning and the knowledge gained here will influence plague eradication projects all over the world.
I have a day off tomorrow, a chance for aching muscles to recover and my 54 years and 11 months old body to repair itself.
For some time now new members (and some longer standing ones) have been asking for a way of sharing information, knowledge their experience of fishing at Horton, in fact almost anything fishing related. Modern web technology combined with the generosity of Neil P and my own slow progress up a steep learning curve has resulted in a members only intranet which enables registered users to post content through any web browser.
The site launched today at www.angli-vespers.org and all those members whose email address I have are now registered as users and can access the site. If you haven't received an email from me with your log in details then I have not got an email address for you. If you are a member of the MAA and want access to the site then just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone me on the number on the last club Newsletter.
I have done my bit, it's up to you lot now to make the site a success.
A much colder, greyer and damp day. Not enough rain to have any impact
on the river, just enough to make fishing the Tarn a bit of a
challenge. Still, one member's guest seemed pleased with his day at
the Tarn. Three fish caught and returned.
Up at Ling Gill work
is progressing well. Fifteen minutes after arriving the breaches we
put in the dams to preserve their integrity overnight were repaired and
the beck drawn down. The 2ft diameter pipes to form the flumes which
will carry the beck through the dams arrived on site and by earl
afternoon we had the beck below the top dam empty of boulders and
gravel. We also had a haul of well on 300 native crayfish rescued from
the work area. All these were measured and sexed before being released
some distance further up Cam Beck. We had a good number of volunteers
from the Environment Agency with us today, all practical people well
able to crack on with a task and use initiative to get the jobs done
efficiently, safely and effectively.
Tomorrow we begin building
the semi permanent dams that will be in place all summer so the graft
will be shuttering, mixing and pouring bentonite and concrete and
setting the flume in place. By the end of the week I shall be a fully
It will be an evening posting here for the next few days whilst we are working at Ling Gill. Today was a great success. In glorious weather that is more like July than April we set up, built two temporary dams, drained down the beck and began clearing the bedrock substrate of boulders and gravel. All larger life is being moved above the dams and we found a few bullhead, their eggs, frogs and frog spawn and a good number of healthy crayfish.
Work was fortified by a generous supply of bacon butties and mid afternoon a trip down to Settle gave us a chance to fortify this unhealthy menu with ice creams.
Tomorrow we should begin building the semi permanent dams that will be in place until the completion of the project. We may also get in the flume pipes that will carry the beck past the dams and finish clearing down the substrate.
This really is a wonderful place to work and we seem to have already worked out a regime that makes the job not only rewarding, but also thoroughly enjoyable.
Turning to the fishery. The sun is tending to put the fish lower in the Tarn so early morning or late evening are probably the best times to fish until the weather breaks. The forecast is for cloudier weather moving in tomorrow night with rain on Thursday so it's just possible that the river will be fishable again by the weekend. I'll keep you posted.
This is a bit more like it, wall to wall sunshine and a much reduced easterly wind. Yesterday morning it was pretty miserable here in a very strong easterly blow that made fishing the Tarn well nigh impossible. One member and his guest did try, but spent an hour or so drinking coffee in the hut then gave up and went home without getting the rods out. It's not often that happens.
I spent a very enjoyable morning up at Ling Gill with Paul B setting up the pumps building dams and finally trying the pumps out to see how well they emptied the beck. Surprisingly well is the answer. In less than half an hour we had reduced the flow beyond the trial dam to a mere trickle so with a series of properly constructed dams we will be able to get the beck pretty well dry. This will enable volunteers to pick out every stone in the bed and remove any resident crayfish and other wildlife to a safe area. Then the main holding dams can be built which will prevent crayfish from washing over the Ling Gill falls and feeding the plague hot spot at the bottom of the falls. The main project starts on Monday so this normally peaceful spot will be a hive of activity all next week.
Turning back to the fishery, the river is now very low and not worth travelling to Horton to fish. There is little sign of any forecast rain so patience will be needed until we get some prolonged precipitation. The monthly invertebrate check which I plan to do tomorrow will be a challenge in this low water, but the results do contribute to a better understanding of invertebrate population distribution in all water conditions.
Its been blowing a veritable gale out of the east over the past few days which has made working out doors rather unpleasant. It's still very windy this morning, but the forecast is for calmer weather over the weekend, We could do with some rain as the river is now very low and pretty well unfishable on the shallower runs.
The pumps, pipes and other paraphernalia for the crayfish plague eradication project arrived here yesterday to join the container and clay for the dams that went up to High Birkwith. Paul is going up to Ling Gill this morning to try out the pumps and have a final think about strategy before work starts in earnest next week. Nothing quite like this has ever been attempted before so it will be a unique opportunity to record progress and learn as the project proceeds. I intend to record some of the action on video and if suitable will post short clips here on the blog.
We are going to take a thorough look at the fishery on 9 May and draw up a plan for work to be done over the summer. This will include stile repairs, habitat improvement, tree pruning and planting and establishment of native water plants in suitable areas.
If members have any thoughts about this work then please do comment on the blog or email me direct.
Our native wildlife can go about its business by the river at Selside a little safer this morning. After a six hour vigil which included narrowly avoiding being covered in clart by muck spreading operations as he was so well hidden the Hon sec caught his mink. This turned out to be a large, fit and very healthy female. Since she showed no sign of lactating it's hoped that she has been taken before breeding this season so a major threat to our wild trout and all the other small creatures that house by the water has been removed.
Predator control is always a balance between the interests of the predator and its prey, but mink are an alien species and like their American colleagues the red signal crayfish they simply should not be here and both have a devastating impact on native species if left uncontrolled.
Whilst on the river recently it is noticeable that there are a number of toothed duck (goosanders and mergansers) about. These fish eating duck do have an impact on fish recruitment as they take young trout and salmon as well as minnow and bullhead. Unlike mink they are protected by law so controlling their predation is more problematic and they are quite tolerant of human presence. However, regular visits to their favourite haunts can deter them from becoming too comfortably settled so we will have to step up these visits to sites where we know they are present.
Still no sign of rain so the river is well below its best for fishing. Its dawned a dull, but bright morning with a moderate easterly breeze keeping the temperature on the low side.