28 November 2010

We seem to have missed the worst of the snow so far, but it's bitterly cold here in a light north breeze.  The Tarn is frozen as you can see from the pictures that are now being uploaded from the webcam.  Neil came up yesterday morning and spent a frozen hour fitting a timer that will conserve power by switching the equipment off during hours of darkness.  This seems to be working well as the camera went off air at about 4.30 yesterday and sprang into life again just after seven this morning.

Those of you who have followed these scribblings for a while will know that from time to time I have mentioned the fish breeding activities of the club back in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.  There is a wealth of written information about these activities and some diagrams and pictures have even come to light.  But it has always been a little difficult to really visualise what took place.  Until now.  There is a brilliant programme on TV at present which by itself is almost worth the licence fee.  The Edwardian Farm on BBC is not only informative, but rather refreshingly sets out to achieve its aims without recourse to the usual quasi soap opera gimmicks.

Last weeks instalment included a sequence about setting up a trout hatchery.  This was obviously very well researched and wonderfully executed.  Every aspect of this undertaking exactly mirrored the written description that we have for the MAA operation at Douk Ghyll even down to stirring the fertilised eggs with a feather to avoid bruising them.

What was interesting was the assertion that the original hatchery in Devon that the programme was replicating was described as one of the first in England.  Since this was thought to have been set up between 1900 and 1910 they had obviously not heard of our effort which was established in 1884.

If you didn't see the episode look it up on BBC iPlayer.  It's well worth watching.

We had a MAA Council meeting here yesterday morning which, amongst other stuff, decided on the stocking arrangements for the Tarn for the 2011 season.  I will put a report about this on the member's website later today.


21 November 2010

Its been a much quieter week on the weather front with less rain and wind than the start of the month.  In fact the last few days have given us some wonderful autumn starts with mist lying low in the valley lit by a gentle sun.

The river looks in good shape with plenty of water to lift the late running salmon up to the top end.  Our trout will be moving up to spawn now and I plan to take a walk up to Drain Mires later to look for paired brown trout.

I gave a long talk to the West Yorkshire group of the Salmon and Trout Assoc on Tuesday at Ilkley.  I felt very rusty having not spoken publicly for far too long, but the talk seemed to be well received by the 30 odd members present.  I tried to concentrate on the importance of conservation work to the health of rivers and wild fish stocks and invited members to come up and see the upper Ribble and the work that the MAA has been doing.  One has responded already with a request for membership.

Some exiting ideas came out of a business meeting I attended on Friday.  Both Cam Beck and Gayle Beck are regarded by the EA as failing water courses principally because of low fish stocks.  It's believed that the cause is to do with the very dramatic rise and fall in water levels during wet weather and the failure of the peat moorland in the catchment to act as a reservoir releasing water gradually to keep the becks (and the main river) at a good level during dryer conditions.  The main reason is the extensive gripping of the moorland that was carried out under Government schemes after WW2. 

It is just possible that something can be done about these grips.  Projects have been successfully completed elsewhere in the Dales and in Derbyshire and Wales to block up these often extensively eroded drainage channels with a marked improvement in reducing surface run off.

We are meeting on site at Cam Moor in a couple of weeks to scope and cost a project to restore the moorland.  If this can be funded then I have high hopes that we shall see a dramatic improvement in river behaviour in a few years time.


16 November 2010

Bit late with this post as I have been suffering with a pulled muscle just under my right shoulder that has made sitting at a desk surprisingly uncomfortable.  All due to heaving 25kilo bags of proven around on Wednesday for the benefit of my livestock.

We have had some appalling weather here over the past week or so.  It all began Thursday week with an absolute deluge that brought the river by late evening to within 6cm of its highest level recorded by the EA.  The flood was something to see and has done a fair bit of damage to our fish stocks as I have spotted quite a few salmon and trout parr washed up on the flood line.

I had planned to go to Skipton that day, but thought better of it.  Just as well as the main road south of Horton at Studfold became impassable.  A coach laid on to replace the rail service that had been suspended came to grief trying to pass through stranding 25 people until the emergency services arrived. 

The new bridleway bridge took a battering.  The scaffold armature on which it was constructed has moved best part of six feet downstream and only the fact that the uprights caught on the upstream abutment stopped about 50 tons of scaffolding from travelling down to Settle. 

Not to be outdone last Thursday threw a gale at us that I was sure would leave some damage in its wake.  Much to my surprise I found hardly a twig on the ground next morning.

The weather seems to have settled a bit now and we have had a bright and sunny day with a hint of mist down in the valley.  I just hope the mist does not develop into a full blown fog as I'm off tonight to talk to the North West area Salmon and Trout Association at Ilkley.


6 November 2010

You can guess what the story is this week.  Yep, rain.  We had a veritable monsoon here on Thursday.  I was going to Skipton, but as I watched the river rising all morning and no sign of a respite from the deluge I decided not to venture too far from home.  Very wise.  By mid afternoon the lane had become a beck with two feet of water on the ford and a good three feet at the New Inn turn.  Via the internet I watched the EA flow monitor at Locks weir down near Langcliffe as it registered the level rising hour by hour.  During the evening it peaked at eight centimetres below the maximum recorded and two centimetres below the recent high in 2008.  All the meadows below the house flooded and the river could be seen from my kitchen window as a foaming, rushing mass of water.

The railway was closed and the replacement bus service became marooned at Studfold blocking the road until mid day on Friday.  the only way of getting out of Newhouses was by tractor.

It's all quiet now, drying nicely in some welcome sunshine.  Just getting ready for the next deluge forecast for Monday. 

The flood should certainly have shifted some fish, but really what we need is a prolonged period of steady rain to keep the level up for a few days.  What we don't need are flash floods with a swift rise and fall.  All they do is damage the redds without providing time for fish to make it to the upper river and its tributary becks.

I will put a link through to the Locks weir monitor on the club website.  This should give a pretty accurate indicator of the river level below Horton and over time it should be possible to correlate the readings on the monitor with fishing conditions on the fishery.