29 April 2010

A dank, damp mizzely sort of morning with mist shrouding the fells.  I went up to the Tarn early on to look around and do the Turn Dub invertebrate check.

Wildlife abounded.  A pair of black and white duck that look like goldeneye from a distance have a chick.  If they are goldeneye then the fact that they are breeding is noteworthy as they do not normally nest in the UK.  The swans are still sitting and looking thoroughly bored with the process.  I almost stood on a curlew hidden in the sedge between the tarn and the river.  Its mate took off from deep cover a few feet away so I suspect that they have a nest in the sedge.  On approaching the rather stagnant looking ditch that passes for the river at present I disturbed a grey poacher that hauled itself into the air and flapped off down river.

The check was surprisingly fruitful given the dreadful conditions and I found  good numbers of baetis as well as most of the other key families.  Netting was a challenge and rather tedious as most of the flowing water is liberally dosed with algae and filament weed.

Most of the trees we planted here in February seem to be growing away well tucked down in their little micro climates within the tree guards.  Perhaps we won't have to wait a lifetime after all to see a good deal of cover on this beat.

The Tarn will be stocked on Saturday at about 9am.  This is the main season stocking that will see us through to July and I am promised 180 rainbows of the same quality as we got in March.

Finally, I got a call yesterday morning from a contact who offered me a supply of willow stakes and withies to use as willow spilling bank protection.  By chance the Hon Sec and I were looking at length of river opposite Studfold where the bank is being heavily eroded and we were contemplating doing a bit of work here.  After a couple of phone calls to check that landowners were OK with the work the willow was delivered to site yesterday and the plan is to get it put in on Saturday morning.  If any member fancies playing in the river for a couple of hours then meet at the bottom of the big field below Cragghill farm at 10.30 on Saturday.


26 April 2010

Despite a little rain early on Sunday morning the river remains at summer drought levels.  But with a series of low pressure systems scheduled to cross the country this week there is hope that by next weekend we should see a drop more water coming down through Horton.

For some time now I have searched the Internet and other likely places for an image of the old MAA hatchery that used to grace Douk Ghyll.  This was abandoned in about 1906 so I had pretty well given up hope of ever finding out what it looked like.  Folk round here may hang on a bit, but even at Horton 1906 is a bit beyond living memory.  Imagine my surprise and delight when late last week I was visited by one of my regular contacts who's wife has produced a wonderful painting from old and very indistinct photos that he has of the Douk Ghyll hatching house.  The image is so vivid hat I can almost see old walker going in through the door to tend to his ova and hatchlings.  rather than selfishly keep this to myself I will hang it in the lodge so that we can all appreciate this iconic piece of MAA history.

I have been holding off doing the April invertebrate check in the hope that some rain will give me a little more than a puddle to play in, but with the end of the month fast approaching I can't delay much longer so come rain, wind or continued drought tomorrow will have to be set aside to kick around at New Inn and Turn Dub.  At least the result should show what manages to ferret away in the boulders when the H2O is in short supply.


22 April 2010

Still no sign of an end to the current drought and the river is really not fishable now.  Unusual for so early in the season.

I went last night to a talk given by an entomologist on the subject of aquatic invertebrates and very interesting it was too.  I learnt that I know more about these creatures than I thought I did, but also had answered a few questions that nag away at the back of my mind when sampling the river here.  For example I have regularly turned up a creature very similar to a caseless caddis, but fatter and usually much larger.  I had been unable to positively identify this until last night when we looked at crane fly larvae and all was revealed.

I also learnt a good deal about the life cycle and morphology of the stone fly that this such a vital part of the trout diet on the upper Ribble.  Our experts are to run a practical session on the Wenning in July and I plan to use this opportunity to question them on steps we can take to raise the populations of our main invertebrate families on the Ribble.

Last evening a member dropped off a fish he had netted from the Tarn that appeared to be blind and showed some sign of trauma around the head.  I am getting an expert opinion on the state of this fish, but first inspection suggests that the trauma is the result of cormorant predation.  However, better to be safe than sorry so we will check for disease.  If any member sees any evidence of other distressed fish please try to net it out, knock it and give it to me.  Don't count this as one of your brace and a half.


20 April 2010

The Tarn looked stunning this morning bathed in early sunshine and if it were not for the chilly breeze blowing down river conditions here would be very pleasant.  A drop of rain overnight has freshened the grass, but made little difference to the river which remains very low.

Rather than me witter on today I thought that you might like to see the note I received yesterday from a brand new member recounting his experience of his first visit to the Ribble on Saturday.  Conditions were far from ideal, but Chris did not return a blank.

I had an extraordinary moment later in the day on
Saturday. As the river was so low I figured that I would target the of runs into
the heads of the pools and used that NZ technique of a dry, sight fly and a
nymph below it. At the head of that long slow pool that leads up to the farm
complex there is a run at the head with barely 2 feet of water. I worked up it
and just as I was about to call it a day had a big splashy rise to the
klinkhamer sight fly. A monster trout shot past me on its way downstream
and then proceeded to jump spectacularly over and over again. It looked like
a breeze block. Fortunately it didn't go too far and inspite of my questionable
knot tying skills, stayed attached. 
I got it to the net, and because I am not great at
guessing weights – part of that generation straddling imperial and metric and
so no sense of either  – but I have marked measurements on my rod and can report
that it was an impressive 17″, but with a deep body. It also had some
tell-tale wrap around leader scars from a previous battle or two, so I guess
other members have met with it from time to time. It also had the longest
adipose fin I have ever seen on a trout. I returned it quickly and despite a
long fight it shot off as soon as it was lowered back into the
So all in all a very good start to my membership,
but it also probably means that I have peaked too early. 😉
Best wishes
Chris S

Is this the same big brownie that Andrew caught in roughly the same place last season?


19 April 2010

It's a rather gloomy day with a chill breeze coming in from the north east, an ideal day for turning the sod which I have been doing all morning out in the veg plot.  There is little sign of fly life about and no sign of any rain either so fishing remains a challenge.

A short article in the paper yesterday caught my eye.  Research carried out by Cyril Bennet down on the Test and Avon suggests that the chalk stream trout are becoming less fussy when feeding.  It would seem that the dramatic fall in riverfly numbers down south has resulted in trout taking whatever they can get so the southern fluff tiers are not having to create such works of precision as in days of yore.  Our northern trout seem never to have been that bloody fussy.  Life in a freestone river is always at the margin so any trout that was too picky about its lunch would stay hungry.  Ransome once said that Horton trout had seen so many tied flies that they were in the habit of awarding points for style, colour and finish and would jeer anything that fell below a given standard, but he also reckoned that they were just as likely to take a rats nest of feather and silk as the highest work of the dressers art.

Feeling generous?  Then head here www.justgiving.com/monnow and help the boys on the Monnow to raise funds for the further conservation of their river.  The latest wheeze is a 40 mile fishathon were two members plan to fish the entire length of this ditch river in one go.

It's time to begin thinking about the main riverfly check that takes place next month.  An email will go out shortly to all those in the riverfly group, but all members are welcome to come along, help and learn about the invertebrates that sustain our wild brownies.  Just email or ring me to book a place.


17 April 2010

The Hon Sec called in this morning and as it is a cracking day with low water we decided to have a go at getting the old wire netting out of the river down opposite Studfold.  First though, we put in a stile on the east bank just above Penny bridge.  This will give access to the long run up to the right hand bend so that salmon fishers in particular can fish across to the deeper water under the west bank.  The stile is about 20 yards up from the bridge to discourage walkers on the footpath from using it as a hop over to pick nick on the river bank.

Then we turned our attention to the netting and after an hour of heaving, grunting and general assault with a pair of bolt cutters we got the whole lot out and heaved up onto the high bank well above flood level.  It's now accompanied by a Balfour Beattie road barrier that was festooned on a tree just up stream so if any one want a perfectly serviceable plastic barrier it's there waiting.  This beat now looks like nature intended once more and should present less hazard to those wading in high water.

Met one of our new members fishing up from Penny Bridge.  He had blanked so far, but since the Hon Sec had landed one and lost one by the pipe pool this morning and we had seen a good few young fish about on our wander up the river we raised his hopes for a take before long.


16 April 2010

The river is looking pretty miserable now with just a trickle going over Settle weir and a lot of exposed boulders up at Horton.  The forecast for the week ahead shows little sign of rain so the Tarn remains the only really viable venue for fishing at present.

There was quite a good clip about riverfly monitoring on TV last night in the programme on the Natural History Museum.  From what I could see of the invertebrates that came out of the River Monow which was featured our stocks of riverfly are pretty good.

A few days ago I mentioned the pending court case involving the native crayfish gourmet.  A report in the Telegraph yesterday tells me that this chap was fined

16 April 2010

The river is looking pretty miserable now with just a trickle going over Settle weir and a lot of exposed boulders up at Horton.  The forecast for the week ahead shows little sign of rain so the Tarn remains the only really viable venue for fishing at present.

There was quite a good clip about riverfly monitoring on TV last night in the programme on the Natural History Museum.  From what I could see of the invertebrates that came out of the River Monow which was featured our stocks of riverfly are pretty good.

A few days ago I mentioned the pending court case involving the native crayfish gourmet.  A report in the Telegraph yesterday tells me that this chap was fined

13 April 2010

This dry spring weather has rather curtailed good river fishing for the time being.  Whilst not yet down to bare bones there really isn't sufficient water to tempt our wild brownies out from the deeper pools into the depleted runs.  The warm sun is producing good fly hatches though and up at the Tarn the other evening I sat and watched a veritable feeding frenzy of rising trout.

The swans now have nine eggs and this must be a near record for this pair.  If they all hatch and survive we shall have a major flock of swans on the tarn come summer.  I think after all these years the cob is getting used to me as he made no attempt to see me off when I approached the nest to check on the eggs.  We still have a couple of golden eye on the Tarn and I can't remember seeing these birds here so late in the season.  Perhaps they will nest as they seem particularly attracted to the wildlife area at the Tarn foot that we will fence next month.

The latest edition of Salmo Trutta, magazine of the Wild Trout Trust is now out.  It's filled with good articles.  Tales of far places interspersed with sage advice about the care and maintenance of wild trout fisheries.  I shall come back to this over the next few days.

Finally, plans are afoot to try to provide some all weather parking down at the bottom gate.  Gavin P has been in earnest negotiation with the National Park planners with the aim of developing a hard standing here that will provide much needed safe parking.  There is a way to go yet before we know the outcome of the application, but fingers crossed.


9 April 2010

Conditions here are now fairly good with some promising weather over the coming weekend.  The river is a touch low, but should give few problems even high up by Lodge Hall.  There was a good hatch of dark olives this afternoon that got a few rises down by New Inn. 

I understand that the Environment Agency have at last got a case to court involving the taking of native crayfish.  There was an incident a while back over at Staveley on the river Kent where a couple of numb skulls had trapped a fair haul of native crayfish and filmed themselves having a gumbo.  When approached by an EA enforcement officer they departed quickly leaving behind the camera.  The film is such good evidence that they are pleading guilty to charges under the Wildlife and Countryside Act and the crayfish bylaws.  The maximum penalty is