I went down to New Inn first thing this morning to do the monthly invert check. A rather cold and damp experience. I should have waited as it has cleared to give a springlike afternoon with some sunshine. No matter. The check produced some very good results with over 250 baetis from the three minute sample, a good haul of heptagenia and good numbers of the remaining 6 families I look for. The river seems to be in cracking condition. Plenty of food for emerging aelvins as well as our more mature trout.
With the new season almost upon us it will be interesting to see how well our fish have overwintered. It's been wetter than 2010 so the aquifer should be fuller giving better conditions going into spring. Let's hope that we don't suffer the same drought as we had through March and April last year.
I took some samples of the baetis that came to the net this morning to try to identify the species present. This job was made easier thanks to the generosity of the Riverfly Partnership who last week sent me a free copy of the latest mayfly keys published by the Field Studies Council. Using the guide it looks as though we are hosting good numbers of Iron Blue and Large Olive. What was a surprise was the number of tiny stoneflies in the water sample under the microscope that had escaped detection with the naked eye. Conclusion is that my invert data is going to be on the low side and the true number of creatures in each sample will be higher than my observation.
It's the AGM on Friday and it would be great to see as many members present as possible at Waddington. I shall bring along the copies of the manuscript books that Jean and David have laboured over. These really are worth seeing and give a unique insight into the early years of the club.
See you on Friday
We got away pretty lightly with the snow that fell yesterday morning. Just a covering that had largely melted by evening and a warmer and less windy day today.
I am beginning to wonder about the Tarn swans that have been absent now for a good few weeks. They normally wander off during winter, but usually just for a few days at a time. The long spell of bitter weather over Christmas meant that they had no access to food as the water was frozen for about six weeks. However, the Tarn has been largely ice free now for about three weeks and still no sign. This pair (or their successors – I am no swan expert) have been resident for at least the last ten years and are a welcoming sight on any visit to Tarn pasture. I guess that all we can do is wait and see if they turn up come nesting time in a couple of months.
After a long wait the Section 30 permission to stock the Tarn has finally arrived. This seems to take longer each year to come through due to the need for wide consultation on our plans because of the special nature of the water. Each S30 carries an ever longer list of conditions all of them eminently sensible and a minimum of what we should be doing to protect the unique ecology of this water that we are privileged to own. This season I see that I am to give the EA 48 hours notice of each stocking so it may be that we shall be visited by a fisheries officer. We must be on our best behaviour. The first stocking will be the morning after the AGM so the fish will have settled in nicely by the opening day of the season.
Those members who do fish early on should be aware that this initial stocking will be slightly below the normal 2lb per fish weight. This is because of the cold winter we have had. Rainbow trout will not feed when the water is near freezing so even with the skilled management exercised by our supplier our trout have not put on growth for long periods this winter. They should be in fighting fit condition though and raring to feed in our invert rich waters.
Never let it be said that vested interests should stand in the way of facts. I read this week that the EA are to carry out extensive bank protection work on the Kennet and Avon canal to try to discourage signal crayfish from undermining the banks. This has caused some controversy with local crayfish trappers complaining that the work is money wasted as their activities will control the signals at no cost. We know from extensive research that trapping signals has no material impact on reducing populations. In fact by removing the larger creatures populations tend to expand because reduced predation enables far more younger creatures to mature and breed.
It really is time that the EA and DEFRA finally bit the bullet and imposed a total ban on trapping and transportation of live signal crayfish. The numbers engaged in trapping in England is fairly small, but the continued risks to the ecology of our rivers and canals through the introduction of this alien pest cannot be over emphasised. It beats me why the Angling Trust and other fisheries bodies are not campaigning more actively for a ban since we know from research that large populations of signal crayfish have a devastating impact on fish recruitment both game and course.
The culture of the “celebrity” chef is largely to blame for the spread of alien crayfish. It seems to be fine to bleat on about bloody turkey twizzlers and healthy school meals, but none of these overhyped cooks gives a damn about the effect that their promotion of crayfish recipies has had on the ecology of our rivers and canals and on our native crayfish in particular.
I could take Hugh Fearlessly-Eatsitall and show him becks that are devoid of life thanks to the presence of the very signal crayfish that he promotes as a wild food. This promotion only serves to encourage cretins to introduce the creatures to water courses and so the pest spreads.
A ban on live transportation is the only answer.
A bit late with the posting this week so apologies first, but there is plenty of exciting news to report. We had a club Council meeting at Horton on Saturday principally to prepare for the AGM on 4 March at the Lower Buck. However, business rather took second place to an astounding discovery that came to light a couple of days previously. As most of you know the Club was founded as a literary as well as a fishing association and in the early years members were encouraged to present papers on their activities at regular club meetings. These papers were written up in manuscript journals and these journals covering the years 1879 to the start of the 1st world war have now come to light. The books are astonishing and contain not only written accounts of philosophical debates about angling, life in Horton in the closing years of the 19th Century and fishing expeditions, but also wonderful pen and ink illustrations, cartoons and photographs.
I will put a full report about this on the members website in due course, but thanks to the generosity, persistence and sheer hard work of the wife of a long standing member copies of the books have been made and will be placed in the lodge so that all members can see them. Digital copies will also be put on the members website.
The originals including a couple of cuttings books will go to a central Manchester archive to be held on behalf of the club. Here they can be accessed by members and researchers whilst being conserved and held safely in climate controlled conditions.
That's not all. Using this wealth of material a comprehensive history of the early years of the club has almost been completed by the same person. A truly remarkable piece of work.
Further good news is that the club will be supporting an MSc project that may lead to a better understanding of the value of the upper becks in contributing to trout recruitment.
Finally, at long last its stopped raining here. The river has been in spate since Friday and on Saturday morning the waters at Settle weir were almost level over the weir. It's the most prolonged flood we have had for a long time and I plan to take a wander later today to look for damage to fences and tree plantings.