It's been a wet couple of days so the river is high enough now to make fishing a challenge. This afternoon the precipitation turned to snow which has settled on the fells, but not so far down in the valley. Fingers crossed as the pastures round about are now full of lambs and cold wet weather is a real challenge to their survival.
I have not been out and about much this week due to a sever bought of man flu. This is unusual for me as I seem to mostly avoid the ague when all around me are dropping like flies.
Despite the weather the curlews are now calling almost every morning giving a real lift to the start of the day. Their call echoing across the valley to the house really adds a wonderful soundtrack to the visual splendour of upper Blessedly.
Once I get shot of this grotty cold the plan is to attend to the stiles down by Stud fold that have waited too long for some running repairs and replacement. We have some new signs thanks to a member that will go up at the pressure points below the village. Now that Settle Anglers are no longer issuing day tickets I am slightly concerned that we shall see an increase in speculative fishermen up at Horton keen to try their luck whilst no one is looking. so a few discretely placed warning signs should render the usual excuse of ignorance redundant.
Now back to a hot toddy.
Take away the bitterly cold north west wind that's blowing straight down the river this morning and conditions for fishing would be near perfect. The water is now the colour of champaign and falling back after the flood we had on Friday. I was up at Turn Dub a couple of hours ago doing the riverfly check watched by a very suspicious duck. The results are very good and continue to show plenty of olives and flat mayflies. I found more cased caddis than the last check at this point and the now usual saddleable stonefly.
There is some potentially good news for those of you who value sea trout. It would seem that this rather neglected fish is to be the subject of some very intensive and extensive research this year. Two main projects are planned for the north sea basin. Celtic Sea Trout and Living North Sea are aimed at establishing data on the population and distribution of this wandering brownie on rivers entering the Irish and North Sea basins. Find out more at www.celticseatrout.com and www.livingnorthsea.eu/ a further project will look at sea trout distribution in the south west of England and western approaches.
It will be interesting to see what emerges from these studies.
After a slow start last week saw a good number of members fishing the Tarn all with success. The river also has begun to deliver up decent brownies and I know of at least two caught last week below Studfold that were in super condition despite the predations of a cold winter.
We had a lot of rain here on Thursday so by yesterday morning the river was in full flood and as high as it's been all winter. The precipitation eased off last night and so this morning we have a falling river, but still very coloured water. with the forecast giving a bright and sunny day my guess is that by late this afternoon we should see almost perfect river fishing conditions with plenty of water, less colour and a good fly hatch.
I had one of those moments on Thursday afternoon that make all the effort I put into this fishery more than worth it. A long standing member and former Council member dropped by to say that he had just caught at the tarn the two finest brown trout he had ever seen. Coming from someone of very exacting standards this was indeed praise and fully justifies the little extra we are now paying for our Tarn fish. When I put them in at the beginning of March i was struck by how fit they looked. A few weeks in the caress of our perfect Tarn has improved them still further. Let's hope it all stays that way.
The swans are now nest building and mating so it won't be long before eggs are laid. They are a little early this year so maybe they anticipate a good spring and summer. The rookery in my giant sycamore is also in full belt and mornings are now a little fraught as letting out my ducks involves the risk of falling timber from frantic nest building as the duck house (not paid for by public money) is under the sycamore. It beats me how a rook can carry stuff as big as I find under the nests. It's not quite 4 by 2, but not far off. The nests are very high in the tree, another sign that we are in for a decent summer.
It's time to begin more regular postings about life on the river and the fishery now that the season is underway and more members are making their way to Horton.
It's been a slow start so far with only 3 members fishing last week, but a visit to the Tarn this afternoon in the company of a prospective member found two hardy souls braving the chill wind and cloudy sky. The forecast for the rest of the week suggests that we shall have a fair bit of rain with a slight rise in day time temperature. So expect to find the river in rather more water than it has been so far this year.
The Tarn trout are taking well and have already received compliments on their condition. I will now start posting up weekly stats on Tarn fishing on the club website.
This is something to watch. The Environment Agency are consulting on proposals to simplify the process of permitting hydro schemes. Now here I must confess to being a climate change sceptic as for my money there is still a proper debate to be had about the impact on climate of human generated carbon emissions, but what is clear is that unless these hydro schemes are properly evaluated for environmental impact then they will almost certainly risk damaging riverine ecology. The EA are coming under irresistible pressure from a blinkered warmist central government to facilitate these schemes and we must be vigilant in ensuring that they are not fast tracked through the planning process to the wider detriment of our rivers.
It was a fairly quiet first week with low water limiting the opportunity for decent river fishing. The few members who did journey up to Horton found the Tarn in good form and the recent stockies playing well. I came across one member trudging round the east end of the water with a good sized over wintered fish. She would have weighed in at well over 3lb, but was burdened with eggs that reduced her weight considerably once ejected.
The swans are now in courtship mood so the early days of the week saw a very dejected young pen mooching around the pasture by the lodge clearly confused as to why her parents had suddenly taken against her. By Thursday she had got the message that she was not wanted and had left to join her brothers somewhere along the river.
First thing this morning I went down to New Inn and did the monthly invertebrate check. This produced a very healthy crop of baetis nymphs as well as heptagenia, gammarus and another batch of massive stoneflies. No hatches were seen, but then it was pretty cold with a thick mist after a sharp frost over night. March browns usually appear on the wing around lunch time so a gentle jaunt down to the river a little later may find a few especially as it's now coming sunny.
Finally, we had a fair drop of rain yesterday that has lifted the river a good four inches. Once the colour begins to fall out fishing conditions will be quite good.
Those members hoping to wet a line tomorrow for the first time this season may find conditions a little trying. We have had little or no rain here for the past three weeks so the river is rather low. We also have a cold north west wind blowing straight down most of the beats. Casting will be a challenge and finding good water equally so.
There is better news at the Tarn where some shelter from the breeze can be found under the north west bank. We put 160 of the bonniest rainbows in yesterday most at around 2lb, but there are a few at about twice that weight. For the first time for a number of years a few brown trout have been stocked. Again these are about two pound in weight and are unmistakable with bright gold bellies and vivid spots.
All the doors are now sliding freely so no more near dislocated shoulders trying to get into the boathouse or lodge and getting into the boat is now much safer without the accumulated tot lining the walk way.
I was up by the Tarn first thing this morning having a pre season check round and to my surprise there were four swans milling about, two up by the reed bed and two down by the duck wall. The old cob clearly took exception to the presence of what I assume are two of last year's cygnets as he decided to put on a display of petulant aggression and charged off down the Tarn running on the water with beating wings and outstretched neck. The two interlopers kept moving just out of range which only increased the bad temper until the pen glided down to pour a little oil on troubled waters. It won't be long now before the resident pair begin nesting.
Maybe I shall see you at the Tarn tomorrow.
The AGM was a bit like a rerun of the last supper with only 13 members present and a candle lit top table. Despite the low turn out it was a convivial evening, good business was conducted and efforts made to clear a monumental buffet. Brian T is President for this year and the remaining Council members were re elected en bloc.
All members planning to fish the river this season are encouraged to get a record book from the Hon Sec. The purpose of these is to provide a fuller picture of the state of the fishery to assist future management plans. This season there is an incentive to complete them. Each book will contain a raffle ticket and if your number is pulled from the hat (creel) then you will get two days salmon fishing in Scotland with Neil H as a reward. This initiative is being run in conjunction with Settle Anglers who have a large membership so the more MAA members who return booklets the more chance the club has of securing the prize.
A working party at the Tarn on Sunday was well attended and all is now ready for the season start on 15th. The contents of B&Q has been removed from the boathouse, the boathouse doors rehung, the boat varnished and much tot removed from around the lodge. The keeper can vouch for the continued low temperature of the water having spent a good half hour immersed up the parting of the ways helping to rehang the door.
After last week's blog I got a message from a member who is about as far from Horton as is possible to get. Edward M left a message on the blog from the Falklands where he is currently carrying out a peat survey. It's a strange coincidence as the last time Ed was on the Falklands was in 1983 and at that time I was in daily contact by phone with the team down there who were overseeing the construction of the airfield after the Falklands conflict. Phoning the Falklands in those pre internet days was interesting. You could hear your own voice echoing back and after a few seconds delay you might if you were lucky hear a disembodied voice from the bottom of the planet. Since our staff were all housed in redundant shipping containers this only added to the echo effect. Chinese whispers wasn't in it!