With March looming large tomorrow winter will soon be over and the balmy days of summer are not far off. It's still perishing cold here today though, but dry so far unlike the soft south.
I spent a very pleasant evening on Friday as a guest at the Settle Anglers' annual dinner. Plenty of good crack, good food and a highly convivial atmosphere. Once we had got the after dinner speaker wheeled down the room so that those on the cheap tables could hear we found that he was Hugh Falkus fly tier and had a wealth of anecdotes about the great man not all of them complementary. A late (very) malt in the bar rounded of a great night. Thanks Mike!
I did the Turn Dub invertebrate check on Tuesday and this turned in results very similar to the New Inn check a couple of days before. The river is teeming with small baetis nymphs as well as heptagenia and shrimp. I found no cased caddis on this check which was a surprise. Once again I turned up a couple of very large stoneflies that sat in the tray and glared at me. Alone on the river bank at this quiet spot these creatures can be quite intimidating, but they make a tasty meal for our larger wild trout.
Also on Tuesday the contractors turned up to begin planting a thousand trees between the Dub and the crossing point
for the new bridleway. After an hiatus on Wednesday due to heavy snow they were back on Thursday and Friday to complete the job. It all looks very professional and once these trees get established and grow away they will enhance the trout holding capacity of this beat very considerably. Thanks are due to the Woodland Trust and D & A Landscaping.
Don't forget the club AGM on Friday. See you there.
Just for a change it's snowing here this morning. Not heavily, but it is persistent and falling on a frozen ground so it's laying quite quickly. If this keeps up for any appreciable time as it looks as if it might it may well put paid to tree planting plans for tomorrow.
On Thursday I met the contractor who will plant the thousand tree slips above Turn Dub that have been very generously donated by the Woodland Trust. We looked at the site and agreed a detailed planting plan that will see the slips planted in pockets following the contours of the site to create a natural drift of trees with open areas where natural shrub regeneration can proceed unchecked. 4 yards above and below each weir will be left unplanted so that fishing the weir pools will be unhindered. The plan is to begin work tomorrow, but as I say we shall have to see how much snow we get today.
It was good to see members of Council at Horton yesterday for the pre season meeting. A constructive and convivial discussion resulted in a number of agreed actions principle of which is the agreement to accept the tender for re fencing the wildlife area at the tarn. This will secure the site from the predations of sheep and cattle and means that we can get some native hard woods planted here tomorrow. A gate will be installed in the fence to allow access for maintenance and Council has also instructed me to arrange for the replacement of the stiles on the cross walls at the tarn with self closing gates. This will make the circuit of the Tarn somewhat easier for less mobile members.
Once again we will try to get a more detailed knowledge of where fish are and where they are caught on the river. To enable this each member who fishes the river will receive a record book which they are encouraged to complete. There is an inducement to complete and return the records this season in the form of a prize draw. Each book will have a unique number and should that number be drawn out of a hat at the end of season the owner of the winning number will get a significant prize.
Last week the crayfish tank at the old hatchery was drawn down and the resident crayfish checked over. All are very healthy and the plan is to return these creatures to ark sites in south Yorkshire near to where they were rescued from. The draw down was not without incident. A pump was hired locally, set up and set running. A loud “pop” ensued followed by an invigorating shower of ice cold water as the cap on the filler chamber blew off sending a jet of water several feet into the air. The cap traced a perfect arc and descended into the crayfish tank well beyond reach. A trip to Settle secured another pump which behaved perfectly ensuring not only tat the residents could be checked over, but also that the wayward cap could be recovered.
A visit to the Tarn on a gloriously sunny, crisp and cold morning was an ideal way to ease into a Sunday morning. The ice is now receding and three swans are back; mum, dad and a cygnet. The youngster is now looking almost adult with almost a full complement of white feathers. Where its two siblings are I know not, but they are now well able to care for themselves so there is every chance that they too have survived the severe winter that we have had here and are somewhere down on the river.
As I approached the water a small flock of goldeneye scuttled away towards the wildlife area. These little black and white duck are regular visitors to the Tarn and it's good to see them as they are quite rare in the UK. I have a particular connection with goldeneye as my namesake called his house on Jamaica after this diminutive duck.
So the year turns and once again it's time for the annual Wild Trout Trust on line auction. There are 203 lots this year up for grabs so why not visit www.wildtrout.org and grab yourself a treat whilst contributing to a very worthy cause that has helped our fishery immensely in the past.
It was good to see two friends on TV last Sunday. I thought that the piece about Ribble crayfish came across rather well. It's unlikely to turn Paul and Neil into overnight celebrities, but they got a good message over in a very clear way and the crayfish performed well too.
A winter newsletter is now winging its way to members letterboxes. Do remember that I put this together twice a year and am always keen to get contributions from members. Articles in any format will do, even scribbled on the back of a sandwich wrapper whist contemplating the capriciousness of fish on a quiet day by the river.
A more immediate way of sharing your thoughts, questions and ponderings is to put them on the club website. Once again if you don't fancy getting your hands dirty with writing stuff directly on the site just send it to me and I will sort it for you.
It's been a quiet rather non descript week with not much happening. The Tarn is still frozen making this the longest period without open water that I can recall. It does have the benefit of deterring the cormorants which have been absent all winter so far, but it also prevents other more welcome wildlife from frequenting the area and visits to Tarn pasture are now typified by the almost total absence of anything living. The river on the other hand is alive with duck and gulls and the absence of spates so far this winter has resulted in a more settled population of creatures in the river and on the banks.
Once again it's a frosty start to the day with the ground giving off a “crunch” as you walk the pastures. The snowdrops here are now in full bud and should break within a week or so. These diminutive flowers are the first signs that spring is returning to the Dales and they seem to thrive here multiplying year on year to carpet any ground once a handful of bulbs are set.
Yesterday I was reading an article on a website that reported strong evidence of the complex relationship between what we call sea and brown trout. It would seem that observation is suggesting that there is regular switching by individuals between a migratory and non migratory state. So for example a male returning from the sea may for reasons that are as yet not understood “revert” (if that's the right word to use) to brown trout state as may a female. Clearly something triggers this action and my suspicion is that it's food related. Most creatures instinctively opt for a regime of minimal energy expenditure for maximum energy input so it makes no sense for a trout to migrate down river expending energy when there are plentiful food sources available close at fin. Anecdotal evidence suggests that there are now more sea trout in the upper Ribble than there were last century. What changed here at the millennium was the disappearance of the river's crayfish that provided a convenient food source for larger trout so it's likely that once they reached a given size more fish began migrating to seek better quality feeding. There is a PHD's worth of research here for someone.
On the subject of crayfish, don't forget to tune in to Countryfile at 6pm this evening to learn more about the project to get these creatures back into the upper Ribble.