More fine weather at the start of the week and the May fly hatches are building up, most rods are taking between two and four fish, while it has not been necessary to stock any fish into our beat yet, I have been delivering fish to several other parts of the river. We have a small surplus of fish that we produce to sell off to a few regular customers. This week it was up to the top of the Test, where the water is gin clear and around the same size as the River Dever. I have taken fish to this particular stretch for the past six years, only around fifty of about a pound and a half. It is not heavily fished, the fish are mixed sex Brown Trout and on this occasion I was amazed at the number of one and two year old small Brown Trout in the river.
Stocking fish means jumping in the stew pond with a seine net dragging it around the whole pound, making sure to keep the lead line on the bottom of the pond and the float line on the surface, if the lead line lifts, the fish go under, if the float line sinks the fish go over. Once you have circumnavigated the pond with net you pull the float line and the lead line slowly in reducing in size the area of the net in which the fish are held. Once the fish are all into the side of the pond the float line is pegged and the lead line drawn up the side of the pond until it is completely out of the water, the fish are now held in the net, which forms a kind of submerged hammock. The fish are removed from the seine net with a dip net which is like a reinforced landing net, and tipped into a tin bath half full of water, where I will sort through them by hand, checking that the fish to be stocked do not have torn or rounded fins, no lesions or scars, both eyes are working and that they look in good shape. The fish are then put into a double skinned fibreglass tank on the back of my pick up. The tank is three quarters full with spring water and has an Oxygen bottle alongside linked to a diffuser in the tank that keeps the water in the tank well oxygenated. Full to the top and brim full of fish the load weighs around a tonne and a half, and makes for testing driving, braking or accelerating causing the water to slosh around. The stocking trips this week have been short trips of only twenty minutes, I have three trips a season into Sussex of around an hour, the furthest I have delivered, to The Duke of Westminster’s Eaton Estate in Cheshire, two trips of 75 3lb trout to stock into a lake on the estate; the fish in the tank for over six hours in the middle of the summer, swimming away perfectly happily on arrival. Fish kept in a tank for a reasonable length of time on highly oxygenated water, have to readjust their swim bladders when stocked into a lake or a river, they do this by porpoising, breaking the surface to burp off the excess gas, inexperienced fishermen on seeing this will often mistake the surface breaking for a rise or feeding fish, casting their fly at flatulent fish that have no intention of feeding.
Otis is settling in well and getting along with the other two dogs, although the fat idle cat is proving a tough nut to crack, no training yet, just shovelling the food in one end and clearing it up when it comes out the other.