30 June 2014

An obituary in the paper on Saturday set me thinking that fly fishing is not just about catching fish.  This particular chap discovered fairly late in life that he possessed the ability and skill to make the most beautiful split cane rods and proceeded to do so for the rest of his life.

I guess that many piscators come into the sport with the aim of outwitting trout, but many develop passionate interests that go far beyond the act of casting a fly.  Some turn their skills to dressing artificial flies a few to display-case standards, others make rods either in cane or from carbon fibre blanks and these too can approach the highest possible art form.

A few are drawn to entomology and devote hours to the study of river fly and other aquatic invertebrates often using the knowledge gained in the practical conservation of our fresh waters.  The more practically minded join with others in developing ind implementing measures to promote the well-being of our native trout.

I have seen the most stunning graphic representations of salmo trutta made by fishermen and women.  This calls for hours of patient study of the habits and form of the fish and its environment.  Writing too may be an outlet for internal passions about fish and fishing and I have read some books that transport you to a chalk stream or American mid-west river, bringing images before your eyes that seem almost real.

In fact the ancillary activities associated with fly fishing are almost endless and one does wonder why so few young people are engaged with the sport.


29 June 2014

Whilst I have bemoaning the state of the river others have been more proactive and tried their luck to see if the depleted water was indeed fishable.  It seems that, with perseverance, it is quite possible to enjoy a few hours tempting fish to take. Perhaps another matter to keep those so tempted actually on the hook.  However the following should give those members anxious for a spot of river sport some hope of success:-

We both fished the river Saturday for a couple of hours and it was not as bad as I expected. Fish were moving in the deeper pools with small sedge and stonefly along with the occasional olive keeping the fish looking up but very clear water. we started down at the railway bridge above Helwith bridge along and up to the pipe pool.

We actually ended up with about 8 fish between (the two of) us but lost many more having hooked but lost them all in all we had as many as 16 takes but we could not keep them on. It was hard going but the river is fishable with a bit of effort.

So, there you go.  Hard work, but rewarding.


26 June 2014

Just back from the Tarn after a visit to check that all is well and pay a first visit to the new cygnet.  This is out with the parents learning how to feed and generally getting a feel for home.  I managed to get one very poor, long-distance shot below and a couple of the solitary goldeneye that’s been around for a few days.  The latter are too poor to put up here so I’ll have to try sneaking up a bit closer and reduce the magnification on the telephoto.

The new webcam seems to be working well and it’s good to be able to see more of the top end of the water including he road in the distance.

Otherwise there is not much going on.  The river is almost non-existant and even the Tarn water temperature is warm enough to bath in.  We could do with a good downpour.


25 June 2014

The new Tarn webcam is now on-line providing a wide-angle, high definition view down the water.It has already captured a shot that makes my rather pessimistic prediction yesterday about the swans chances of hatching redundant.  When I got in from work I logged on to the camera and in shot was one swan.  A few minutes later I received an email from Gavin with a shot captured around a quarter to four showing both swans and one very small cygnet.

I’ll go up to the Tarn after supper and take a closer look.  It may be that more than one egg has hatched.  In past years its often been the case that not all cygnets have been on the water together especially in the first few hours after hatching.  We shall see.


24 June 2014

Those members who log onto the Tarn webcam this evening will see a different view of the familiar water.  Fear not.  Neil has been working hard this afternoon installing a second camera that will capture images in hi definition and this is pointed in the direction of the original camera.  All should be working tomorrow and then you will have a choice of views.

The new view includes the area presently occupied by the swan’s nest and this is now giving me some cause for concern as the pen is still resolutely stuck to the nest well beyond the time when her clutch of eggs should have hatched.

As if the new camera was not good news enough there is more to come, but details will have to wait until certain procedures have been concluded.


23 June 2014

Another hot and sunny day.  Really no good for fishing either on the mere trickle that now represents the river or the Tarn where shade is entirely absent.

I mentioned yesterday that Tarn pasture is now alive with damselflies.  It’s also beginning to come alive with big sedge.  These caddis flies are another feature of the Tarn and we get big hatches most years (along with caenis or angler’s curse which coat the outside walls of the lodge) and can measure several mm in length.  I guess that it’s these sedge that provide a lot of sustenance for hungry rainbow trout although the stomach content of those I have gutted include a lot of water snails and small black fly that may well be alder flies.

I’m not aware of anyone who has closely studied the fly life of the Tarn pursuant to tying imitative fly patterns.  Most members seem to do pretty well with standard sill water patterns, but it would be interesting to experiment with something that closely matches the Diptera genus that frequent the Tarn.

Perhaps someone does this.  Do let me know.


21 June 2014

This dry spell continues unabated.  I suppose one shouldn’t complain after all the wet we had over the winter, but the river is now in dire straights and some precipitation would be welcome.

Indeed, the river is so low that I have postponed the invert check that I had planned for this weekend in the hope that the coming week will provide enough “wet” to offer a river worth kicking in.

Still no sign of cygnets at the Tarn this morning.  The pen is still sitting although the cob seems to have become bored stiff with the process and has taken to sleeping on the far bank by the lodge.

I found a note at the lodge telling me that the electric outboard had stopped working.  On investigation I found that the shear pin behind the prop was bent almost double and had stripped the flanges on the back of the prop.  Also there was what seemed like a couple of miles of leader wrapped round the pro shaft. I have put a new pin and prop on the outboard, removed the leader and all is now working.  In fact the motor now goes better than i has done for months so the problem has obviously been developing for some time.  Do please try to avoid fouling the prop on the bed of the Tarn as this is the most likely cause of the stripped flanges.

Tarn pasture is alive with damsel flies.  These little electric blue darters are a real feature of the Tarn and its surroundings and each year in June and July any visit to the water sees swarms of these stunning insects.

The British Dragonfly Society tells us that the common blue damselfly:

Could be considered to be the most typical British damselfly. It shares its blue and black colouration with several other species. It can be distinguished from the others by its broad ante-humeral stripes. In the male, S2 has a characteristic mark of a spot linked to the inter segment suture by a short line. S8 and S9 are entirely blue.
The female occurs in two colour forms, one blue, as in the male, the other dull green. The mark on S2 is thistle shaped and there is a “Christmas tree” shaped stepped triangle on S8.
They often perch gregariously on emergent plant stems, all facing the same way.

There are nineteen other species of damselfly native to Britain, but the common blue is the one most likely to be our resident at the Tarn.


19 June 2014

Judging by the flurry of phone calls I have had this evening it looks as though the Tarn will be busy tomorrow.  I’ve also had a few emails pondering the nature of a waterfowl captured on the webcam bobbing on the water by the boathouse.  The best guess is that it’s the solitary coot thats been on the Tarn this last week, but in one shot it seemed to have a fairly pronounced tail.  I’ll take a look first thing tomorrow and check on the swans at the same time as hatching must be very imminent.

I’ve just spent the day in Leeds attending a contractors’ supply chain briefing for HS2.  All very interesting and enormous potential for small businesses starting next year.  However, it sobered me no end to realise that I shall be 79 by the time the line gets to Leeds in 2033 and probably past caring.


18 June 2014

After a few dry days and a scorcher today the river is now not worth a light.  However, all is not lost.  For those of you with deep pockets salvation beckons in the form of three miles of the Staffordshire Dove.  The Beresford fishery was the preserve of Izaak Walton and includes a temple erected to his memory.  This historic game fishery with its wild trout and grayling together with 33 acres of woodland can be yours for the paltry sum of £450,000.

Several weeks ago I mentioned that we had a UCL student visiting in June to study the bullhead population of Malham Tarn.  This work is now underway and an electric fishing exercise yesterday netted a shedload of Cottus gobio from the becks feeding the Tarn.  Some of these will be processed to discover their feeding habits and, whilst not directly transferable to the Ribble, the results should provide some useful information that will help to preserve our own bullheads.  This in turn should assist the preservation of our wild trout population, the larger characters of which are likely to predate on bullhead and their fry.


15 June 2014

A few wet hours have raised the river back to decent fishing conditions for a while.  I have been keeping an eye on the Locks Weir monitor and this suggests that the river is falling from good water a little more gradually than hitherto.  This may be due to the grip blocking thats been going on up on the moors for the past couple of years.  If so then this bodes well for the future when we should see conditions remain favourable for fishing for much longer after wet weather.

The swans have still not hatched their brood and the pen is still sitting tight.  I spent a while watching her this morning before the rain and midges made this a less than pleasurable occupation.  I also spent some time searching for the monster minnows without success although Mike H had better luck yesterday as he relates below.

While standing quietly in the water by the reeds to the right of the lodge, waiting patiently for a fish to rise within reach, I idly examined the bottom. As you do. A large crayfish emerged from under a stone and ignored me, and a couple of newts appeared (not seen any of those before), then out of the blue came those darned will o’ the wisp residents that I’ve not seen for two years! I watched them spawning, I think that’s what they were doing, Spring 2012, in front of the bench by the lodge, but couldn’t get close enough to study them properly on that occasion. Today I must have been so quiet and still that they didn’t spot me. About fifteen or twenty fish, all at least six inches long, in a very tight shoal (so definitely not young trout) and with mottled markings. Again I think they are minnows, but surely far too big to be so? They didn’t break surface, so I wouldn’t have seen them without my polaroids. Very very timid – I slowly and guardedly attempted to crouch for a closer and better look but they were away in a flash. Intriguing.