Over the past couple of weeks I have been working on and off with our local crayfish expert helping him to establish a business in Settle. This will be an extension of the work that Paul has been doing for the past ten years supporting utility companies, construction companies, the Environment Agency and others who undertake works adjacent to water courses and who need to comply with the stringent regulations that govern their activities in these fragile environments.
PBA Applied Ecology has recently taken on two interns who will be working on the upper Ribble over the next two months carrying out a thorough crayfish survey to winkle out any residual populations that previous surveys may not have picked up. Since we don't expect to find much and spending two months turning stones may get a bit tedious for active scientific minds I have arranged with Paul for the interns to do a number of invertebrate checks on our waters. This should give us much more detailed data on what is living where at a number of sites between Helwith Bridge and Far Gearstones and complement the monthly checks that I do at New Inn and Turn Dub.
A base for the business has been found and No 11 Commercial Yard Settle will begin to hum with activity from the end of next week.
A fair drop of rain fell here yesterday afternoon so the river has lifted a touch and with just a light westerly breeze crossing the valley fishing should be OK this weekend.
The saga of the bridleway bridge is becoming almost Icelandic in epic terms as a result of the unfairness of the weather here. The latest estimate is that the bridge sections will arrive and be put in place next week. The foundations have just about surfaced above the river which is now back to usual summer levels so concreting should resume shortly.
It's unusual to awaken to the sound of traffic on this lane at six thirty. Not much travels up from Horton at that time of day and the sight of a car or waggon on the road is rare enough to be noticeable. But since the bridleway work started it's been like Piccadilly Circus with vans and 4×4's providing a base line to the normal treble of the dawn chorus.
Now here is a treat. A new Blog has appeared on the interweb that should appeal mightily to all you fishers of surface feeding fish. Take a look at http://www.dryflyexpert.blogspot.com/ and give yourself a treat.
They say that angling is a quiet commune with nature that strips away the cares of a troubled world and sends the angler back to his or her business refreshed and of tranquil mind. Yeah, right! that's fine if all goes well but three incidents over the past couple of days have shown that the baleful attention of Mr Sod and his well known law can turn to angling equally as to any other activity.
Take one (very) small boy, his grandfather and a three pound rainbow with attitude. Add a sedge on a light hook and the thrill of hooking the fish of his young life then cap it all with a broken hook just as the fish comes to the net. You can visualise the rest.
Then consider the scene last evening. Two members fresh from the river arrive at the Tarn, tackle up and begin fishing. Member number one eventually gets caught in weed and gives the rod a flick. A sickening crack and a rather expensive rod has a joint where a joint don't belong. Not to be outdone member number two does precisely the same thing about half an hour later. They do say that one of the key reasons why Homo sapiens dominate the earth is that the upright ape is able to learn from experience and adjust behaviour and actions accordingly. Perhaps evolution has some way to go yet when it comes to the pursuit of fish with a string on a stick.
It may just be that the extensive river survey work that was done a few weeks ago is about to lead to the first real improvement. Plans are being hatched that will see some modest habitat improvement taking place near Lodge Hall. This will take the form of in-stream works that should provide better cover for fish on this open beat. As ever the availability of money will be the factor that determines whether this goes ahead.
The river is low now, but just about fishable. We have a gloomy, overcast day with almost no breeze and the threat of some rain later so conditions are far from impossible.
For the first time since April there was enough water in the river to do an invertebrate sample at New Inn and Turn Dub. The results from Turn Dub showed that the prolonged drought seems to have had little or no impact on the populations of the seven invertebrate families that we regularly monitor. In fact I was staggered to find two E. danica in one kick sample. This “true” mayfly is not a common sight on the upper Ribble as the bouldery bed and spate nature of the river is far from their preferred habitat of muddy bedded sluggish chalk streams, but they do turn up very occasionally. I have never found more than one in a sample before though.
New Inn was slightly more disappointing. Plenty of stone flies and cadddis with good numbers of olives. What was lacking was a big population of flat bodied mayflies which normally turn up in high numbers. What was noticeable here is how cobbley the bed has become over the summer. Almost all the smaller stones and gravel has gone leaving a substrate that is almost impossible to kick in without breaking toes.
Friday's crayfish course went well and the students seemed mightily impressed with both the habitat at the Tarn and the chance to handle good numbers of native crayfish. All seems healthy and females have released young now so the population will be many times what it was a few weeks ago.
We had some rain yesterday afternoon and last night that has refreshed the river a bit. With the promise of more rain today conditions for fishing should remain good into the early part of the new week.
At long last it has stopped raining. It's not what you might call bright and sunny, but at least the monsoon that plagued us yesterday has abated. The river is very high and carrying quite a colour, but it is now beginning to fall back and if we get no more rain today it should be fishable tomorrow.
For the past few weeks I have been watching the antics of a pair of coots that have built a nest on the bank of the Tarn just below the cross wall on the south side. This nest is in full and glorious view of every predator in the area, but much to my surprise has survived. The rain that fell yesterday has lifted the level of the Tarn so much that not only is the boat now floating free for the first time in months, but so is the nest. On approaching this morning I thought that both eggs had been washed out of the half submerged nest as there were two in the water close by. Not so. As I bent down to retrieve the eggs an irate coot came rushing over scolding and clucking and retrieved a small bundle of black fluff from the sedge by my waders. So they have one chick and there must have been three eggs in the nest. One possibly hidden down deep. The pity is that the third egg was on the point of hatching, but must have rolled out of the nest as the chick struggled to break free.
Don't forget that the crayfish traps will be set on Thursday afternoon ready for the course on Friday so it will be a bit busy at the Tarn at the end of the week.
It's been raining stair rods most of the afternoon and the river is now in full spate with a dark torrent flowing over Settle weir. Even as I write this at 7.45 it's raining so levels will stay high for some time yet. By the way, whilst we work on getting our own webcams up and operational on the fishery you can get some idea of conditions on the upper river by visiting the webcam at Settle weir http://settlehydro.hubexpert.com:8080/shcamweir.php
I forgot to mention yesterday that last week's fishing returns from the Tarn showed the highest ratio of catch to visits for the last two years with an average of 4.5 fish caught per member visit. Either fishing skills are improving or the Tarn and its resident fish is in cracking form.
All this rain has put paid to any serious work on the bridleway bridge. At present the foundations are under water so it's unlikely that the bridge will be erected this week as planned.
Whilst on the topic of civil engineering I am aiming to visit the beat where we put in the willow spiling some time tomorrow to see how well it has stood up to the first flood since the withies were planted. The bend will have taken a real battering over the past few days so it will be a useful test for this experiment.
It's been raining here almost continuously for about 48 hours now and slowly the Tarn is beginning to fill. It was up about four inches this morning, still not enough to float the boat in the boat house, but it's getting there.
The river was in full spate yesterday afternoon and is still running very high and coloured. No sign yet of salmon or sea trout, but as I said yesterday it can only be a matter of time before they arrive at Horton if this rain keeps up.
My ducks look more cheerful than they have done for months and are busy turning their patch of garden into a mud wallow. Normally white, when I went out last night to lock them away I found four very happy and very khaki ducks wearing what looked like mud wellingtons. The pond looks like a vat of chocolate as they keep rushing to the water to rinse off after yet another plough through the swamp for worms. The eggs are good though.
Another wet morning in prospect here. It's been raining for some while so the river is nearly bank full with a fair bit of colour. The strong winds of the past few days have abated so casting will be less of a challenge, but there really is a drop too much water for decent fishing right now. Looking ahead tomorrow is forecast to be wet, but after that it should settle down again and the end of the week may be fine.
With all this cloud the battery running the tarn camera isn't getting enough sol to fully charge so the transmitter keeps logging off. That's why the pictures are only coming through in dribs and drabs. There is a cunning plan to fix this later in the week.
There will be a crayfish handling course running up at the Tarn on Thursday and Friday, so if you are planning to visit later in the week be warned that there will be traps set from Wednesday evening and students milling around on Thursday. And talking of invertebrates, it should be possible at long last to do a riverfly check this week. This will be the first since April due to the absence of any river to kick in. It will be interesting to see if the long drought has had any discernible impact on invertebrate larvae.
Its been raining cats and dogs here for a good few hours now so the river is in better shape than I have seen it for the past 5 months. It's carrying some colour at present, but when the rain eases it should begin to lose turbidity and become perfect for fishing. A quick look shows that it's teeming with young trout and salmon parr and on this current flood I would not be surprised to see a few salmon making a dash for the top end. We know that both they and a number of sea trout have been mooching around at Lytham so by Sunday they may reach Horton if the flood holds up.
There are continuing problems with the camera at the Tarn caused by a lack of power to the transmitter. This is being worked on, but it is proving to be an invaluable test which is exactly what the installation was intended to be. It's now known precisely what's needed to ensure that any river installation can be made to work straight out of the box.
All morning concrete waggons have been trundling through Newhouses taking up material for the footings for the Bridleway bridge. I was up there yesterday morning before breakfast and I have never seen such a tidy and compact civil engineering site. They really are making every effort to minimise the impact of the workings on the environment of the river. The concrete is being carried down to the site in dumpers because of the risk of the big waggons toppling on the gradients so this will minimise even further the potential damage to the river bank.
It's far from ideal weather to be pouring concrete and there is now a real risk that the workings will be inundated by a rising river. It really is foul outside at present.
A fair drop of rain fell here last night for a good few hours. The morning has dawned bright with almost no wind so fishing conditions on the river are better than they have been for some days.
Those of you who have visited the members site will have noticed that the Tarn webcam has been rather static. Neil spent most of yesterday afternoon making some adjustments and has now established a very strong connection with the receiver at Selside rather than the reflected signal that we got last week. Currently the battery is flat, but with sun now breaking through the cloud it should not be long before the panel pushes enough juice into the battery to fire up the camera and it will start broadcasting live images.
Work is steaming ahead with the Pennine Bridleway and the bridge footings should be excavated and concreted over the next couple of days. Next week the plan is to bring up the bridge sections so if you fancy watching some heavy engineering Tuesday or Wednesday should see the bridge being set in place. It's any ones guess how much impact this route will have on the river and the fishery. The hope is that it won't be too much as the whole route down Low Moor across the river and up Drain Mires will be fenced. If we can find a signal it may be worth putting one of the planned cameras here not just for security, but to keep a check on the spawning gravels on this beat.