River and weather conditions this morning are near perfect for fishing. After a damp night the cloud has lifted to let through bright sunshine and with a very light breeze from the west it's a cracking day.
The Tarn looked serene in early morning mist with the swans floating majestically on a near mirror surface and it was hard to drag oneself away to more mundane tasks at home. The cormorants that were busy honing their fishing skills a few weeks ago have been absent for some days now certainly not moved on by human presence as the Tarn has only had two visits with a total of four people this last week.
The large frog population around the tarn margins has caught the eye of a heron which has been standing morosely just beyond the cross wall. He is very wary and takes off towards the river as soon as I get half way down Tarn pasture.
A couple of days ago I took a look at the trees we planted up from Turn Dub. Most have survived the drought in spring and the occasional attention of invading sheep. A few of the stakes need replacing or re fixing, a task I shall attend to before winter sets in.
Despite a forecast that promised sunshine and showers its been raining her now for the best part of 36 hours. The river is in full spate and thundering down the valley. Its beginning to look a little brighter over to the west so the rain may well stop shortly and as the river falls off the flood expect good numbers of salmon to start running up through Horton. Fishing could be very rewarding tomorrow.
I have not yet been up to the Tarn so have no idea how the scaffold supporting the new bridge has fared in the flood. There is no sign of ironmongery down here so hopefully all is still in place.
I really should give up making weather predictions. After confidently assuring you that there was no chance of significant rain over the weekend we have just had a very wet night and with rain still falling the river is high and coloured. There is next to no breeze, a fair bit of fly on the wing judging by the antics of the remaining swallows so when the rain desists and the flood begins to fall back fishing on the river should be excellent.
Yesterday was spent in the delightful surroundings of Malham tarn House attending a first aid course courtesy of PBA – Applied Ecology. This was a very intensive seven hours which found 12 of us exploring the practicalities of Cardio pulmonary resuscitation following heart attack or drowning, wound dressing, river rescue and a host more. It's the first time I have ever been passionate with a rubber doll! I passed the final exam and so am now qualified to administer first aid should any member require assistance whilst at Horton. Thanks to Paul at PBA for so generously paying for this.
Most of the timber for the new bridge went up over the past couple of days. I gather that the load yesterday got wedged at Newhouses prompting a fair bit of flapping around. The transport company seemed to learn from this and sent a much smaller load up this morning that negotiated the narrows with no problem. The scaffold support is now an amazing structure and well worth a wander up from the Tarn for a look. I guess that the next few days will see the timbers being put in place so it should not be long before the bridge is in use.
Its been dry for a few a day or two now so the river level is falling off quickly and well below good salmon level. There is no really significant rain forecast before the weekend so expect low levels to persist into next week.
I spent all day yesterday at Ling Ghyll where we drew down the lower two ponds to thoroughly cleanse them of resident crayfish. Far fewer numbers were in residence compared to Friday and most of these were females who do have a tendency to hide away in any available substrate. We got a total of fifty creatures from the two ponds and then turned attention to an idea that one of our interns had on Friday. Just below the built dams is a fall into a natural pool which drains via a short underground passage to a lower pool. We lowered a pump down to the gravel bank between the pools and drained the upper pool.
As the water dropped there was a bit of a commotion and an eight inch trout went steaming up the pool. This was duly captured and deposited safely down stream whereupon a second, smaller trout emerged from under a boulder and was dealt with in like fashion. In total we removed five trout from a pool no more that eight feet long by four feet wide together with around forty crayfish. The assumption is that these will be carrying plague so they are now in a secure holding facility where they can be observed to see if they do indeed carry plague. If not then we will know that the highest plague spot is lower down Ling Ghyll.
The trout were all lovely little wild brownies with very vibrant spots and butter yellow bellies. Two were slightly deformed, one having what looked to be a hare lip and the other a large growth at the right corner of its mouth. Both these fish seemed none the worse for their condition and looked fat and healthy.
After a stormy night with an easterly blast that ravaged the trees and brought a fair bit of rain its turned into a fine warm and sunny day. The river is now in good water although this won't last too long as not enough rain fell last night to keep levels up beyond a day or two.
We put a hundred bonny rainbows into the Tarn this morning with a few blues to keep them company. They all shot off like rockets heading for the reed bed at the north of the water and could soon be seen heading and tailing. This is the last stocking of a season that has proved challenging for breeding trout. The long dry spell through the spring and early summer reduced the water flow at the farm to such an extent that keeping the fish growing proved almost impossible. This has had a knock on effect all season and fish are still below the 2lb weight we usually stock at. Still, the quality of the fish in my view more that makes up for their lack of size and hopefully conditions will be rather better next year.
The cygnets are now showing flight feathers on their wings so they may well depart from the Tarn in the autumn rather than next spring. It's been one of the more successful years for our resident swans as it's unusual for them to bring the first brood to maturity.
The new river bridge is beginning to resemble the Humber bridge. It's going to be far bigger than I visualised with a massive central arch and two smaller arches on either bank. It's a good fifteen feet above the water at the centre of the arch so it will make a good trout and salmon spotting vantage point.
It's another bright and sunny start with almost no cloud and a very light breeze. The river is fairly low now, but still worth a try on the deeper glides and pools as there is an abundance of fly on the wing and fish are surface feeding.
You may recall that a number of cages containing crayfish were put into Ling Ghyll a few weeks ago to try to determine whether plague had died out in the pools below the weirs. A thorough check yesterday showed that plague is still rampant so plans are afoot to draw down the weir pools tomorrow and also try to dewater the natural pool below the first fall in Ling Ghyll. Then it will be all hands to clearing the area of any resident crayfish to try once and for all to prevent the further propagation of plague. If you are coming up to Horton tomorrow why not take a trip up to Ling Ghyll bridge and take a look at what's going on. Who knows, you might even get roped in to help search the pools for crayfish.
It's always deeply satisfying when a member brings a guest to fish our waters and they enjoy themselves so much that they can't wait to come back. The main reason for issuing guest tickets is to try to encourage potential new members so I have high hopes that one particular guest who was a member some years ago will have found his past two visits so enjoyable that he can't resist the temptation to rejoin. There is still time to introduce a guest to the delights of Horton before the end of this month and with the weather set fairer than it has been all summer what's stopping you?
All the signs are that summer is almost over. For the past few mornings the local swallows have been arranged on the power and phone lines near the house like notes on a music stave. It won't be long now before a morning dawns and they are missing, set off on their long journey to Africa and the skies fall silent from the squeaks and chitters that have provided a sound track to the summer months around the house.
The dry weather of the past few days has prompted much late season grass cutting as farmers along the valley try to get a second cut from meadows that lay parched in spring and boggy for much of July and August. The river is lower now and whilst still fishable for trout salmon will have to wait for the next flush of water. Only four weeks of the trout season left now, but we shall keep the Tarn open until the end of October so that days when the salmon are uncooperative can still offer a rainbow or two.
It looks as though all the scaffolding for the bridleway bridge is now in place so the main structure should go up over the next few days. They will have to hurry as the arrangement is that all work should be finished by the end of September so that salmon and trout making for spawning gravels at the head of the river are not impeded.