A bitterly cold morning with a light dusting of snow overnight and yet again the Tarn is frozen over.
I managed at long last to get an invert check done this week. Results are interesting with the most olives I have ever had coming to the sample net. New Inn was done on Friday, a cracking morning with wall to wall sunshine and no breeze. The heptagenia count was down from last January, but the number of baetis (olives) was almost double. I got the same result at Turn Dub this morning. Fewer heptagenia, but over 200 olives. This was the first visit I have made to the Dub since the severe flood on 15th and the trees we planted last February have survived remarkably well. A few of the guards have been knocked in the direction of flow and will need restaking before the new growth gets away, but given the height that the water reached here and the speed of flow I am staggered that more damage has not been done.
The gravel and boulders here have been significantly redistributed and the fences are festooned with brash at least four feet above normal river level. I put up a heron as I walked down to the Dub. At first he didn't spot me intent as he was on catching breakfast and it was only when I surprised a small flock of goldeneye on Turn Dub leat that he finally woke up and with much flapping hauled himself into the air.
After eight years looking after this river and its fishery I still find that almost every day I learn something new of begin to chase a new thread of thought on something that puzzles me. Friday morning found three of us up at Gauber with Neil H intent on walking down to Horton to count salmon redds, Despite a glorious winter morning with full on sunshine and no breeze conditions were not ideal. We have had a few spate events since the salmon started spawning and these tend to mask the evidence we were looking for even though they have little impact on the survival of the ova.
What we sought is a scoop at the upstream end of a long linear mound of gravel showing where the fish have excavated the bed and then piled the excavated material over the deposited ova. Normally you can spot these once you get your eye in because the disturbed material tends to show a paler colour against the undisturbed bed. The spates tend to level the mounds and deposit sediment over the turned gravel.
Even with Neil's expert eye the evidence was tricky to read, but we arrived down at Turn Dub having seen at least 20 confirmed redds with as many suspected. There is also some evidence of a number of sea trout redds and it would be interesting to do more work on the distribution of these migratory trout which seem to be increasing in numbers on our waters.
We clearly have otters present as we found the footprints of a largish specimen in the muddy margin of the river above Selside. Apart from that and a few duck wildlife was pretty much absent during our walk. Even the Tarn was unusually quiet. Mind you, this beat of the river rarely if ever sees four people together so its not surprising that the residents made themselves scarce.
Finally, the Tarn webcam is back up and running again. It's looking out over a fairly frozen vista, but temperatures are a bit higher this morning so creatures should be back feeding on the water later today.
We had a good three inches of rain here yesterday and by late afternoon the river was in full flood backing up across the low lying meadows between us and the village and thundering under New Inn bridge. In this condition the river really is a spectacular sight, a brown foaming mass of water topped with white stopper waves that form and fall creating a real maelstrom of water. How the hell anything survives in those conditions beats me and just adds to the wonder of our trout and salmon.
It dried up a bit last night and the river fell by about a foot come this morning, but an early trip to the Tarn found me once again soaked by a downpour of monsoon proportions. The tarn is as full as I have seen it with a thundering beck passing under the duck wall. As I arrived two goldeneye departed swiftly, the only wildlife to be seen. Even the sheep were elsewhere trying to shelter from the wet.
Despite the severe winter we have had so far the lodge is bone dry inside. The boat is floating well above the level of the staging. a marked contrast to last summer when the water was so low that the boat was grounded.
I was going to check on the bridleway bridge which I haven't seen for a few weeks, but decided that a visit could wait until the weather is less like wading through a wall of water.
First post of the new year after a short break last Sunday. It's a bitterly cold morning after a snowy, sleety night that has left the lane like an ice rink. I had planned to go up to the Tarn first thing, but I think I will wait for things to thaw a bit first.
This is the time of year when I start work on getting the fishery ready for the new season. The Section 30 application for permission to stock the Tarn has gone to the EA. This always takes a while to process as Natural England need to be consulted about our plans because of the native crayfish that populate the Tarn. Anticipating a favourable response from the EA the order for fish has been sent to the farm. We will put in 600 rainbows this year as well as 50 brown trout. Most of the browns will go in early season so that they can grow on and over winter. They do surprisingly well producing specimens of 5 to 7 pounds after a few years. It can be quite a shock when one of these wily old fish decides to risk all and take a fly. They tend to go off like a torpedo which makes fishing from the boat a bit interesting.
The AGM has been booked for 4 March and you can find further details on the members website later today. It would be great to see more members attending this annual event. Business does not take long, the buffet is always magnificent and the company and conversation are first rate. With members spread wide across the north of England it's a rare chance to meet up and exchange ideas about fishing our challenging waters and for new members to meet old hands, perhaps discovering some of their secrets.
Some of you will know Paul Bradley who has monitored our crayfish population for the past 10 years. Paul has set up a local office in Settle and now has a website up and running. This is still in embryonic form, but is well worth a look at www.pba-ecology.co.uk. Do take a look. I guess that some of you will be surprised by the range of services that Paul's company provides having known him mainly for his crayfish work.