31 March 2011

I spent an enjoyable couple of hours yesterday morning talking to a fisherman who has long known the Ribble about the changes to our fishery management that we have tried to bring about over the past few years.  It's encouraging that other clubs are now beginning to think deeply about adopting a more sustainable approach to the management of their waters and are coming to the conclusion that stocking a river with farmed trout is no longer a good strategy.

Club members pay a lot for their fishing and it's understandable that they are suspicious when changes to long standing practises are suggested especially when these changes seem at first sight to impact their chances of catching fish.  But there is strong evidence now that working with nature to encourage the recruitment of wild fish provides a far richer and more satisfying fishing experience with catches at least equal over time to those that were sustained by regular stocking.

It will always be somewhat of a leap of faith for clubs to make the change.  Sound advice, careful planning, a clear strategy and very good communication with members are all vital for success, but above all it takes enthusiasm, energy and the sustained commitment over time  from the fishing committee.  Without these the danger is that the impetus for change is lost, all that happens is that fish are no longer stocked and members see their catches decrease,  Making a river fit for wild trout is vital, but it does take time and investment.

This investment and its outcomes are something that we in the angling community don't shout about loudly enough.  All that Joe public sees of angling is either some morose sod sitting in the pouring rain on a canal bank with rod and keep net or a man in a river waving a stick.  What they don't see is the intense and sustained activity of many club members that keeps their rivers free from pollution, wildlife friendly and the envy of much of Europe.  The move to sustainably managed game fisheries is something we can all be proud of and should use to confound the arguments of the anti field sport lobby.  Here endeth the lesson!

It's another damp morning, again more pain than gain, but the sustained mizzle is beginning to raise the river a touch.

Ian

30 March 2011

It's a damp start, persistent drizzle rather than the rain that we so much need to fill the river and get our fish moving, but the forecast is for a spell of unsettled weather with frontal systems moving across the country so fingers crossed that we should have better fishing conditions by next week.

No problem with rain on Monday at Millom where we carried out a major fish rescue at a de commissioned reservoir.  If the trees had been in leaf it would have passed muster as a glorious early summer day rather than early spring.  I have done some filthy jobs in my time, but this one capped them all.  After draining down most of the remaining water in the basin to corral whatever was living there we were confronted with around an acre of ooze much of it 3 to 4 feet deep. 

There then followed the day's entertainment for the engineers working on the site as three grown men began chasing a host of eels through the biggest mud wrestling pit on the planet.  We captured and released over 50 together with over 70 toads, 10 brown trout and a large number of minnows.  The toads were like something from the black lagoon.  You thought you had cleared an area then stood back to check and were usually confronted by several pairs of eyes rising from the gloop as yet more toads surfaced to join the fun.

The miracle was that none of us fell over, a tribute to the safety regime we put in place and stuck to.  Rather like the mud that stuck to everything.  The best sight of the day was our environmental biologist who is over 6 and a half feet tall gingerly climbing up to the dam top looking like a mud monster from the chest down, the only clean part of him the top of his white hard hat and shoulders of his florescent jacket.

With the wildlife removed from the site the contractors can now proceed with the removal of the dam wall and the reinstatement of the area back to its natural state.  A very worthwhile day's work that will bank much Karma.

Ian

27 March 2011

Another early start on the river this morning.  As I drove up to Turn Dub the sky promised a grey day, but climbing into waders by the car in the lay by above the Tarn the cloud began melting away and by the time I reached the Dub there was lots of blue sky with warm sunshine breaking through.  I got an astonishing number of baetis in the samples despite the very low water.  We may not have much eau, but what eau we do have is clearly of good quality.  Very few caddis here like New Inn yesterday.

Wandering back up the hill towards the Tarn I noticed a strange noise like a high pitched hum.  This seemed to be coming from the wildlife area beyond the duck wall and a quick detour to investigate revealed the source.  Frogs, hundreds of them.  I have never seen so many gathered together anywhere and certainly not at the Tarn.  I was not alone in my discovery as two heron lifted lazily from the bank a few yards away and set off with a slow flap towards the river.

No posting tomorrow as I am off at the crack of dawn to Milnthorpe on a fish rescue mission.

Ian

26 March 2011

It's a much colder morning with a stiff south east breeze and more cloud than we have had of late.  Went down to New Inn first thing to do the monthly invert check.  This was a challenge in such low water, but the results are encouraging and show that we still have a very healthy population of olives.  I have been doing these checks nearly every month for four years and patterns are beginning to emerge that show how the populations of the eight families we look for change from month to month and season to season.  What remains a puzzle is why there are so few cased caddis compared to the baetis and heptagenia numbers.  It's clearly not pollution that suppresses their numbers because this would impact on the baetis population so some other factor must be looked for.  The cobble substrate with clinging weed at New Inn should provide good habitat.  Suggestions would be welcome.

The bullheads are nesting and unfortunately one of my sample kicks disturbed a nest leaving one disgruntled bullhead and a good few golden eggs in the sample net.  One thought, there are a lot of bullheads on this beat of the river.  Perhaps they are predating on the caddis?

Ian

25 March 2011

As dusk fell yesterday I put up the Tarn webcam for a quick check on the cormorant situation.  None were in view.  What was immediately noticeable was the incredible number of rises across the whole surface of the Tarn.  As the picture refreshed I sat fascinated by the constantly shifting patterns as fish after fish rose to take surface fly.  Some rises were quite violent with here and there a nose clearly visible at the centre of the concentric circles.  It's always struck me that the best time to fish this still water is to this late evening feeding frenzy and it's always been a puzzle that so many members arrive early, fish through the afternoon and depart just before the fish start to feed late on.

Of course, with so much natural fly about it may be that the fish will not give a second glance to an artificial and you get few still, warm evenings in March like last night, but who knows.

Same conditions here today as we have had all week.  It's bound to change though.  I am scheduled to help with a fish rescue at a civil engineering site in the Lake District on Monday so no doubt it will p*** down and blow a gale.

Ian

24 March 2011

I went along to Clitheroe last evening to see a presentation by the Ribble Catchment Conservation Trust on their work over the past year and future plans.  An interesting event that illustrated how active the Trust have been throughout the catchment.  The main focus has been on the removal of barriers to fish migration or installation of fish passes where these barriers cannot be removed.  There are around 67 man made barriers on the Ribble, Hodder and Calder and it's estimated that if all these were to go then migratory salmonids and brown trout would have access to an additional 51% of spawning territory.  So a good deal of work remains to be done with the priority now on tributary becks and feeders. 

I have mentioned before that the main Trust project for 2011 will be work on Gayle and Cam becks.  Decisions on the

24 March 2011

I went along to Clitheroe last evening to see a presentation by the Ribble Catchment Conservation Trust on their work over the past year and future plans.  An interesting event that illustrated how active the Trust have been throughout the catchment.  The main focus has been on the removal of barriers to fish migration or installation of fish passes where these barriers cannot be removed.  There are around 67 man made barriers on the Ribble, Hodder and Calder and it's estimated that if all these were to go then migratory salmonids and brown trout would have access to an additional 51% of spawning territory.  So a good deal of work remains to be done with the priority now on tributary becks and feeders. 

I have mentioned before that the main Trust project for 2011 will be work on Gayle and Cam becks.  Decisions on the

23 March 2011

I stood in my croft this morning and watched my hens and ducks scamper from their respective overnight roosts.  Like me they seem to respond to some decent weather and were positively skittish, rushing about and chattering away to each other before setting off to search for the early worm or slug. There can be few creatures other than pigs more capable of turning inoffensive ground into a bog than ducks.  The first drop of rain and we have a full scale re enactment of the battle of the Somme without the whizzbangs, but with all the mud.  I have five Indian runner ducks who patrol the bottom garden keeping the veg plot free of snails and slugs, but their main task seems to be to transfer as much soil from the veg  plot to the pond as ten feet and five beaks can carry.  I was out in the garden a few days ago in steady drizzle and watched a line of ducks run past all of which was carrying around half a pound of soil on its top bill.  Not this time with the small plant I saw one carrying a couple of weeks ago.

So, its another wonderful spring day here in the valley and as you will see from the Tarn webcam not a breath of breeze to shatter the mirror image of the fells on the water.  No sign of rain before the weekend so it will be some time yet before the river is worth a cast.

I had a message yesterday from the Secretary of a club a little further down the river to say that mink are on the move again.  I will increase the vigilance for this pest, but if you are on the river and see evidence of mink then please let me know so that that steps can be taken to protect our riverside wildlife.

Ian

22 March 2011

Sorry for the missed posting yesterday.  Time just seemed to ebb away.  We have an overcast day without the thick fog that blanketed the valley yesterday morning.  There is just a hint that the sun may break through later and if it does then the temperatures will climb quickly and we should get a good hatch of olives.  Water levels are still depressingly low so it's best to head for the deeper pools between Rowe end and Helwith Bridge rather than tickle the stones at the top end.

Tomorrow evening I am off to a meeting with the Ribble Catchment Conservation Trust to learn more about the Trusts plans for improving trout recruitment on the upper Ribble.  This may be the most significant work that the catchment has ever seen and may well have a profound effect on the future health of the ecology of the river and our fishery.  The challenge will be to ensure that the work is well thought through, that all risks are identified and mitigated and that the work is monitored over time to identify exactly what changes take place and how these benefit our wild trout.  I shall be asking questions!

Timber harvesting has now begun again at Greenfield so those of you visiting the Tarn should look out for waggons on the road up from New Inn.  They do run to a rough timetable and you are most likely to meet something coming down from High Birkwith at around 10.30, 13.00 and 15.30.  Leaving the Tarn you may meet a waggon coming up from New Inn at 11.30, 14.00 and 16.30.  Hope this helps, but it's a very rough guide.

Ian

20 March 2011

So much for doing the invert check today.  Despite a forecast that promised a fine, dry day it's what the Scots call dreich, a fine soaking mizzle that seems to penetrate every layer of waterproof clothing and leave one feeling chilled to the bone.

It's also all pain and no gain as the river level has barely shifted as can be seen on the Settle weir webcam.  Two intrepid members did try their luck down at Cragghill this morning.  Apart from a suicidal minnow that foul hooked itself on a Klinkhammer they only caught a soaking.  Both are now at the Tarn hoping for better luck, but no self respecting trout is going to rise in this weather.

Do you ever read something, intend to jot down a reference and then suffer one of those mental blank moments and not only forget to do the jotting, but also fail to find the passage you wanted to record even though you have thumbed through the book or journal page by page.  I was shown a quote about fishing in cold water by a member a couple of weeks ago and he sent me an email with the full text.  I then read the self same quote in Max Hastings book that I referred to a few blogs ago and was going to regale you with full story.  Can I find the damn quote in Max's book?  Can I hell!  You get to the point when you start to think that you either imagined the whole thing or dreamed it  I shall keep searching.

Ian