18 June 2009

It rained steadily all day yesterday and by evening the river was almost bank full and carrying quite a colour.  We have had no further rain since about tea time yesterday so the river is falling and dropping colour making for good fishing conditions later today if we get no further rain.  However, the sky looks dark and there is a stiff westerly breeze so rain is quite possible during the day.

It's amazing how different the veg plot looks after a decent spell of rain.  You can water all you like during a dry spell, but this seems to have far less beneficial impact than a few hours steady down pour.  This morning I can almost see the veg growing despite the fact that it's far from warm.  Everything looks fresher and greener.  Even the swallows have noticed the difference and squadrons of them are hawking flies over the croft across the lane from the kitchen window.  There are many youngsters about now feeding up and strengthening wings in readiness for the epic journey south that they will make in a couple of months time.  The parents are now on to their second brood and the nests around the house are alive with the squeaking of tiny swallows.

I sat in the 4×4 yesterday and watched a pair of gold finch feeding on the tasselled seeds of a willow about a foot from the windscreen.  Judging by their behaviour they have a nest close by that I have not yet discovered.  We get a lot of these exotic looking little birds in the gardens around the house and lo and behold as I write this one has just arrived on the nut feeder outside my window.  How about that for coincidence?

If any of you are planning to be in Horton tomorrow evening then why not drop in to the Terrier and Stick show at the Crown Hotel.  This annual event starts at about 6.30 and many of the terrier men from the north of England will be there showing their working dogs.  There are also classes for dressed sticks.  These works of art display the skills of the stick maker using wood and horn to create handle patterns that often include creatures as diverse as ferrets and trout.  It's always a convivial evening and a true country event.


17 June 2009

It looks like a wet day in prospect.  The clouds this morning are dark and heavy with rain which has just started falling.  Good news for a very depleted river, but it will take a few days of persistent precipitation to bring levels to a condition where fishing is at its best.  The river is really too low at present to do any serious kick sampling so the six monthly thorough check I had planned for Saturday is really a non starter.  I will do a bankside check at as many of the four locations that I can get to.  You can't fight nature.

I took a wander down the river last evening as far as the Tay bridge and was pleasantly surprised at the number of fish that I saw rising.  Looking over New Inn bridge I could see a few three inch trout close in to the bank busy feeding on midges that were falling on the water.  Further down at the Rock Pool was a very much larger fish stationed under an overhanging branch.  This is the first time that I have heard a fish slurp as it sucked in flies.  This sound is mentioned by many old writers and I had always assumed that the noise was quite gentle.  Not this one, it sounded more like your embarrassing toothless old aunt drinking soup!  All down the river to Tay bridge I saw rises, most small, but some large and quite violent.  What was bringing fish to the surface to feed I could not discover despite watching quietly for some time.  The weather was warm and sultry with not a breath of wind. The air was full of midges, but nothing obviously larger so like their tiny brethren at new Inn these fish may just have been taking midge, but that would not account for the slurping I think.


16 June 2009

The storms and thundery showers that plagued most of Yorkshire yesterday passed us by.  Despite some distant rumbles of thunder during the afternoon and a very threatening sky all we got was a little rain about tea time.  Consequently the river is still bare bones and hardly fishable on most beats.  The Hon Sec did bring a guest up on Sunday and had some success fishing from Tay Bridge up stream on dry fly, but it was meagre reward for four hours work.

Wednesday is forecast to see some more persistent precipitation so conditions may be better later this week.

The cygnets seem to be thriving at the Tarn and are growing fast.  It will be some considerable time yet before they are big enough to be safe from predators so we watch, wait and live in hope. 

The draw down up at Ling Ghyll went well yesterday with not a single crayfish found in the ponds once they were drained.  Clearly the dams are working as designed and preventing the creatures from migrating down to the falls.  The real test will come when we get a spate that over tops the dams with violent water.  The chance is that the crayfish will hunker down when a spate comes so it's likely that even after a flood few of them will be found in the ponds.  We shall see.

After re reading Frank Sawyer I'm going to experiment again with fly boards to see if I can increase the population of olives on the river.  Getting a good hatch of fly is clearly the key to encouraging brown trout to rise to a dry fly and those of you who fish the river regularly will know that our wild fish are rather desultory surface feeders.  My guess is that it's because we don't get big hatches of upwinged flies to tempt the fish to the surface that we so rarely get the chance to cast to a rising fish.  Fly boards together with the judicious planting of ranunculus in some of the sheltered reaches may help to increase the volume of fly hatch.  It seems that Sawyer adapted the original idea developed by Lunn and instead of using floating boards he placed stone slabs in shallow areas of his river with enough space under them to allow the female olive to lay her eggs.  These slabs may work better in this river prone as it is to spates which washed away my last experiments with floating fly boards.  We have slate aplenty kicking around Horton since the quarry at Helwith Bridge used to produce the stuff so a few pieces in likely spots are worth experimenting with.

Whilst on the subject of flies do take a look a the Riverfly category in the picture gallery on Angli Vespers where the Hon Sec has posted a photo he took on Sunday of what I believe are olive eggs.  We would like a second opinion.


13 June 2009

Despite the river being at least 6 inches below what I would consider decent water it seems to be fishing well. David R brought a guest up this morning who had not fished here before.  According to David the guest is a river expert and was looking forward to testing his skill against our shy wild brownies.

When David dropped off he ticket this afternoon I asked him how the day had been.  It seems that his guest was well pleased by his visit to Horton and had landed 7 fish around New Inn. One of these was a pound and a half which seemed to delight him.  Another was estimated to be around a pound with the remaining 5 all in the 6″ category.  Many more of these young fish were seen, but not caught.  So evidence continues to build that our wild brownies are recruiting well with plenty of small fish well dispersed throughout the fishery.  This bodes well for the future of angling on the upper Ribble for these small fish are now well past the most vulnerable stage of their development and most should mature into cracking trout that will make fishing here a real delight.

It's been a fine and warm afternoon with more good weather forecast for tomorrow.  The midges are out in force this evening making it virtually impossible to remain outdoors for any length of time.  It's at times like this that I regret giving up smoking a pipe 30 years ago for the only real way to combat the wee beasties is to get a good fug up going just under your nose.  Midges home in on carbon dioxide in exhaled breath so you either have the option of asphyxiation through holding your breath or contracting mouth cancer by pipe smoking if you wish to avoid being eaten alive up here.

Still, our Yorkshire midges are nothing compared to their Scottish cousins and my sympathies are with our club members who arrived on South Uist today.  if the weather is as warm and still in the Hebrides as it is at Horton they will be driven mad by the end of the week.


12 June 2009

I have spent much of the day at Bradford Royal Infirmary having a six month check on my eyes.  I know from long experience that this appointment can take the best part of 3 hours moving from test to test and today was no exception.  At first light I was casting around for a decent book slim enough to slip into a pocket and absorbing enough to while away the time spent waiting for various bits of kit to become available and for eye drops to work their magic.  I happened upon “Keeper of the Stream” by Frank Sawyer which I have not read for some time.  As soon as I sat down on the train and opened the book I was transported to the banks of the Hampshire Avon at a gentler time by Frank's lucid flowing prose which conjures clear mental images so vivid that you can almost believe that you are standing by his shoulder observing with him the scene he describes.  His wisdom is legendary and the book must be essential reading for any budding keeper. 

His observations are minutely detailed and he has a scientists method of testing his ideas and hypotheses yet he never evever loses sight of the big picture – the preservation of brown trout.  He was years ahead of the conservationists in taking what would now describe as an holistic aproach to fisheries management  So a potentially rather tedious day turned ito a delight thanks to one old time keeper.

Thanks to the generosity of members I now have the offer of an air rifle so this 21st Century keeper will attend to his duties and attempt to remove one threat to fish that Frank did not have to contend with, the North American mink. 

The river is once again on the low side, but with some rain forecast here for tomorrow conditions on Sunday may be rather better.  At theTarn the fish are feeding well at the surface.  So well in fact that I was accused this evening of slipping in an extra stocking.  Not guilty Guv!


11 June 2009

We had a fair drop of rain last night so the river is up a touch this morning and should be just about fishable on most beats.  The morning has dawned breezy with broken cloud and a fair bit of blue sky, but it looks showery and the persistent easterly breeze will complicate casting and make the Tarn choppy.  Still, At least the breeze is deterring the midges from becoming too much of a pest.  This past week has seen a fair few of the wee beasties beginning to feed as witnessed by the growing number of itchy bumps on my arms.

The Orvis Zero Gravity rod that I advertised for a member has now been sold.  It really is a beautiful piece of work and begs the question how our American cousins can craft something so perfectly designed and engineered yet their automotive industry turns out the most diabolical dogs on the planet.

Now a plea.  If anyone has a high powered air rifle or pistol (.22 calibre) that they wish to sell then I would like to hear from them.  My old .177 Webley is now too asthmatic to deal effectively with mink of which we seem to have a few at present that desperately need removing before they eat their way through our entire wild fish population.



9 June 2009

It's a bright and breezy start to Tuesday with a rather cold east wind keeping temperatures well down and suppressing the inclination of our trout to rise for the few flies that are brave enough to hatch.  The river level has fallen back again so there is little good water on the runs and riffles.

A kind soul has donated a large collection of videos to the club library which I have put into the book case.  Of course, it's impossible to watch these in situ so members are welcome to take these on long loan for perusal at leisure.

If only we could locate the solar panel that the club used to own it might be possible to rig up a 12volt system, but my guess is that the panel is long gone together with the tin box that housed the old club archive.

I have some bags of Bentonite clay going begging if anyone wants them.  This clay was to be used on the crayfish project, but plans changed so if anyone feels the need for a major skin detox, bowel detox or is thinking of relining their pond just let me know before Friday.


7 June 2009

Well, the Horton Gala seemed to go off well yesterday despite the rather damp and gloomy weather.  A lot of folk turned out and seemed to enjoy themselves.  We even had a glimmer of sun during the afternoon.  The Hon Sec brought along his ferrets to engage in ferret bingo and made a bit of money for the Gala fund.  The main attraction of the ferrets seemed to be in cuddling them so perhaps we should run a 'cuddle the ferret' stall next year it would probably make more money.  Two other ferrets were present and one of these charming young ladies decided to snack on my hand.  It's not easy removing a recalcitrant ferret from the back of your right hand when it's clearly disinclined to let go.

The rain over the past 24 hours has lifted the river a touch so it fished quite well yesterday evening.  The Hon Sec got 5 fish between Cragghill and the Pipe Pool, 4 at around 3/4 lb and one at 6inches.  He also spotted a mink down near the pipe so that will need to be dealt with this week.

I have just got back from the Tarn which looks good in the brighter weather we have here today. The swans and cygnets still seem OK, but the water was far too choppy to witness any rises. A look at the returns for last week shows that fishing was very rewarding with an average of 3.5 fish caught per member visit.  Full details on Angl Vespers.

After a brief lay off I will get the hut refurbishment finished this week.  The bench will be covered, the pump set working and various tidying jobs completed.  The next spell of settled weather should give me a chance to attend to the outside which needs cleaning down and painting.  Then it should last for a few years.


5 June 2009

It dawned bright and sunny after a brief shower of rain late last evening, but cloud is steadily building and we are forecast some more persistent rain by lunchtime.  The river is really desperate for a top up being just about at bare bones above Horton.

This lack of good water on the river has prompted most members to concentrate attention on the Tarn and at least 10 visited this water during the course of Wednesday.  I still think that the best time for fishing here is late evening.  The light is more diffused and fish are more ready to feed on the steady hatch of buzzers and sedge that are then present.  Besides, it's a stunning spot to be as the sun sinks behind Park Fell, the shadows lengthen and the birds begin heading for their night time roosts.

The dams at Ling Gill were drained down again yesterday to check for the presence of crayfish in the holding ponds.  Of course, without a good spate to provide a real trial of the setup it's too soon to draw conclusions, but the early indications are that the system is working better than anyone dared to hope.  Only two crayfish were found in the top pool yesterday, a juvenile and pregnant female.  The juvenile is so small that it was probably overlooked in the initial removal and the female will have also been missed as she was probably tucked away in a crack as is the inclination of crayfish in her condition.

We shall have to wait and see the results following a flood, but it's clear that in steady flow no creatures are managing to get past or over the dams.

Gavin P arrived last evening with new swivel seats for the boat.  These are very posh and once fitted will make fishing from the boat a much less painful experience for elderly joints and bones.  They should also make the boat that much safer as they will provide a waist high grab point when standing to move within the boat.  We will get these fitted as soon as practicable.

Finally, do take a look at the latest article on Angli Vespers.  This deals with the capture of the largest fish caught at the tarn some 17 years ago.  I'm confident that there are still some very large old brown trout lurking in the shake holes down towards the bottom end by the trees so who knows, this record may yet be beaten.


2 June 2009

This remarkable run of fine weather continues unabated, but the portents are not good.  It's the Horton Gala on Saturday and a perusal of the forecast for the weekend shows the inevitable threat of rain for the weekend.  In all the 12 years I have lived here and attended the Gala I can recall only one or two years when the sun has blessed the event with its presence.  Normally it rains fit to bust and blows a gale.  This can produce some indelible mental images such as the year that the WI float featured “Famous Women from History” in a howling gale and Marilyn Monro executed an involuntary recreation of the lifting skirt event to reveal a remarkable pair of knickers.  Then there was the WI's “Pirates of the Caribbean” float which due to torrential rain arrived at the playing field looking like the wreck of the Hesperus.

Mr Sod has a quirky sense of humour and so the year that the school decided to run a duck race on Gala day saw blazing hot sun and a river devoid of water.  The ducks were persuaded to the finish line by repeatedly flushing them down with buckets of water.

I have decided to give a rest to the “Guess the Weight of the Fish” for this year since it would be difficult to get a decent sized fish up from Dunsop Bridge on the day. 

Anyway, the river is again too low for decent fishing and will remain so until we get some prolonged rainfall.

I may see you at Horton on Saturday.