29 May 2014

Its been an autumnal sort of day; cold, a brisk easterly wind and overcast.  As we move towards evening there are signs that conditions are improving and tomorrow should be rather better.

Cold winds do tend to put Tarn fish down to lower horizons, but also have the benefit of dispersing algae and weed so as the winds decrease in strength and temperatures increase fishing the Tarn should become easier.

Its always puzzled me why more members don’t fish the Tarn during the long summer evenings.  Some come up early morning and get a lot of success with the mid morning rise.  Others try fishing during the languid heat of the afternoon and struggle.  I have very often stood by the Tarn at dusk and watched a veritable feeding frenzy as hungry trout make hay with hatching sedge.  It does not always follow that such conditions make for easy fishing, but It strikes me that one would stand more chance of a kill with a fly cast to rising fish than trolling around in the hope of attracting the attention of a sub-surface cruiser.  I’ll have to give it a try.


28 May 2014

Its been a miserable damp day with frequent showers that have been a nuisance for working outdoors rather than a real benefit to the river.  The level has risen a touch, but not enough to provide good fishing conditions.  The forecast is for drier weather towards the end of the week and into he weekend so I don’t anticipate things improving in the near future.

I was talking with a Horton resident a few days ago and he commented on the number of duck, ducklings and other waterfowl seen on the river below the village this year.  For me this is always a reassuring sign that we have no mink, or at least, no mink in large numbers.  It’s been a while since I have seen evidence of these non-native pests either on the river or at the Tarn where they have been known to use the boat house as a picnic site and latrine.  Mink spraint is recognisable by its acrid aroma.  Very different from the similar looking otter spraint that smells a little of camomile tea.

Earlier this year there was a fair pile of otter spraint on the rocks by the southern cross wall.  A sure sign that an otter regarded the Tarn as its territory.

We are in the process of putting together a mink raft to use as part of a research project at Malham  Tarn so when that’s over I shall have a decent raft available for use on the fishery as and when needed.  A much better way of establishing mink presence than watching for them and a good way of subsequently trapping the blighters.



26 May 2014

I have spent the afternoon helping to open up an excavation of a possible early mediaeval structure above Selside.  This is a dig run by Ingleborough Archaeology Group and funded by the National Lottery. It follows on from digs hat the group has completed over the past few years around upper Ribblesdale most of which have been carbon dated to the late 7th to late 8th Century.

It would seem that around this time the area was quite densely populated and these would have been British tribes rather than Viking (who arrived later) or Anglo Saxons (who may not have colonised north-west Yorkshire until just before the Viking insurgence.

The dig is open to the public so if you are around Selside over the next fortnight why not drop by and take a look.  Just turn up Alum Pot lane and then turn right at the sign-post.  Plenty of parking.

As for fishing, the Tarn continues to produce good results and these will improve still further afer the stocking next Saturday. The river has now fallen back to low water so only he deeper runs and pools are really worth a punt.


25 May 2014

In an arc that extends from the downlands of Hampshire to the Wolds of Yorkshire lie the chalk streams those almost uniquely English, languid, ribbons of willow fringed water that provide homes to salmo trutta.  These streams do not always flow through chalk, but invariably they are fed by chalk aquifers that act as natural reservoirs moderating both flow and temperature.  There was much concern earlier this year that the floods had wrecked havoc with these streams damaging both habitat and trout redds.  An article in today’s paper suggests that far from causing damage the floods and gales have brought many benefits including opening up over shaded bank sides, scouring spawning gravels and replenishing aquifers that had become depleted through past drought and over abstraction.

Reports are coming in from southern chalk fed rivers of spectacular hatches of mayfly making this one of the best “duffers fortnights” for quite some time.  Oh lucky souls who fish such streams and rivers.  Here as is usual we bounce between bare bones and flood with a few precious days when the river is in perfect condition.  As for spectacular mayfly hatches, in your dreams! I do find the occasional E danica when sampling for inverts, but so few that it’s a wonder they find each other to mate. There are sometimes good hatches of yellow may dun and large dark olive that encourage shy trout to rise, but ours is not a duffer’s river and never has been.

The cob on the Tarn is now becoming very protective and keeps all visitors under a very watchful eye.  I was treated this morning to a spectacular display of water walking as he came full pelt towards me with wings and neck outstretched giving as much voice as a mute swan ever does.  It’s all show of course as he pulls up just short and commences swimming up and down, posing and preening.  Just a big show off.



23 May 2014

Its been a cold, grey and blustery day as evidenced by the Tarn weather station (which suffered a slight glitch last night so is showing a time stamp on some data that may not be absolutely accurate.  This will be attended to in due course). Some rain has fallen and the river is borderline fishable, but with improving weather conditions this evening this situation will not last long.

I received an email this afternoon from the Riverfly Partnership.  The first such for a very long time.  I was beginning to wonder if the scheme was still alive.  It would seem that in collaboration with the FBA the Partnership is closing in on a national database into which monitoring groups can add their riverfly data.

I’m now sitting on seven years of (mostly) monthly check results for two sites on the fishery amounting to around 900 or so records.  It will be interesting to see how easy populating the database will be.  A task for long winter evenings I feel.

I have sometimes pondered how best to share the data that I collect and tinkered a while ago with putting it on the members’ website.  However, no member had ever asked for this info so I thought it probably a waste of my time.

It will be fascinating to see how the upper Ribble results compare with similar free stone spate rivers in the north of England.

I also have on my PC a list of riverfly seen at Horton in the very early 20th Century.  Some years ago I supplemented this list with species found now.  Far from scientific, but the original list does provide a baseline against which to monitor changes.


22 May 2014

The minnow debate continues with a very helpful comment on yesterday’s post from Frank whose observations must be the definitive version since he has fished the Tarn since Noah was a lad.

Its been a damp day that’s done the garden a power of good whilst adding little to the river so far.  The forecast is for unsettled conditions to continue so there may be some improvement to river fishing over the weekend.  The Tarn weather station has recorded half an inch of rain in the past 24 hours and we shall need at least 2 or 3 inches before things improve.

The swans continue to sit on the new nest so this time they may produce a brood.


21 May 2014

The Tarn weather station is now up and running thanks to Neil.  This facility provides a wealth of information about conditions at the Tarn and upper Ribblesdale generally that will inform decisions about the advisability of making a journey up to Horton. Not only does the station record current wind speed, gusting, precipitation and air temperature it also monitors water temperature (labeled internal temperature).  The facility also maintains a log of conditions that can help with our management of the fishery.

Members can access the data via the members’ website (find the menu links on the left of the home page under Resources) or you can access the summary page via this link http://www.weatherlink.com/user/manchesteraa/index.php?view=summary&headers=0

Please do let me know if you find this new facility helpful.

Also, there has been much email traffic today amongst some members about possible giant minnow in the tarn.  I wrote about this last year after noticing what I first thought were trout parr near the lodge.  On closer inspection these seemed to be minnows, but some were approaching 8 inches in length so I tucked this away for later investigation and never quite got round to it.  Members fishing last night got a further sighting of these mystery fish which were shoaled up and like me concluded that they looked like giant minnows.  I shall try to get a sample for positive identification.  If they do turn out to be minnow they are likely to set an English record.


19 May 2014

Despite the low water conditions I managed to get done the monthly invert check at Turn Dub yesterday morning.  The river had fallen considerably from the level that I found on Saturday and the flow was restricted to the middle.  I still managed to get some good results with high numbers of baetis reflecting the results at New Inn, a good few heptagenia including one I contemplated saddling and riding home it was so large.

The Tarn swans seem to be attempting a second effort at breeding.  A new nest has been built just beyond the far cross wall by the stile and the pen is sitting tight which suggests that she has eggs under her.  I know not what happened to the first clutch, but there is a fox about as evidenced by the number of lambs that have been taken at High Birkwith.  The hunt was due up a couple of weeks ago, But I have not yet had chance to find out if they were successful.

Until we get a lot of rain the river is not worth considering.  Wet weather is forecast for later in the week however, this seems to change each time I check so don’t bank on it.


17 May 2014

I was down at New Inn early this morning to do the monthly invert check.  It was a real delight standing in the river in warm sunshine listening to the water tumbling over the rocks and boulders.  There was a sponsored walk taking place with the departure point on New Inn Flatts so there were a good few people about even at 7.45.  My efforts were of great interest to the lambs in Brenda’s Meadow.  Several of these lined the bank and watched intently as a strange human danced around in the river then knelt in supplication before a plastic tray on the bank.

The health of the river is fine.  I got the largest haul of baetis nymphs ever for a May sample.  Heptagenia numbers  were average as were caddis and gammarus.  Bullhead fry were present in large numbers in each sample so it would seem to have been a very good bullhead breeding year. The upshot is that there is plenty of sustenance for the young trout fry that have survived thus far.

Has anyone else noticed that there are no waterhen on the Tarn this year.  I can’t recall a year when at least a couple of pair have not been present.  Even Geoffrey who owns Tarn pasture commented on not seeing them.


16 May 2014

The river is now far too low for decent fishing and this situation is unlikely to improve much before Monday when we are forecast some thunder storms.

The Tarn is fishing well and the boat has been taken out on the water a fair bit this week.  There are still plenty of fish resident and these will be supplemented by a stocking on 30 May.

I’m not the only one to have noticed that the swallows appear to be nesting under the lodge.  One member commented on this yesterday morning as he collected a guest ticket.  I just hope that the nests are well out over the water and not accessible by rats.  Mink are another matter as they can swim, but as I have seen no evidence of mink all winter and spring this may not be a problem.  The conventional wisdom is that mink are not present where there are otters, but I have never seen any scientific study to support this .  We certainly have  a visiting otter and where there is one often there are more.