Friday, October 17, 2008
A dry week, the river gin clear and sparkling, a steady stream of hatching fly with many fish showing more than a passing interest, and our Trout season has finished! The Grayling are in superb condition and will provide good sport over the next few weeks until we put an end to fishing altogether to let the Trout in the river get on with spawning. Between now and then I have to put the river to bed for the winter. I have knocked the fringe of this week and edged the sides in, maximising the width of the river channel and preventing any of the bankside vegetation falling into the water; I carry out both of these jobs with my long handled hedge cutter. Up until a few years ago I would have used my brushcutter to knock the fringe off and a slasher to edge the banks in. Pre Brushcutter it would all have been done with a scythe. I have knocked my fringe off with a scythe before now, and as long as the scythe is kept razor sharp and you cut with the correct action it is not as hard as you would think. Part of the middle Test that I worked at briefly around twenty years ago kept one of the prototype brushcutters on the wall of their workshop. A Leviathan in the world of garden cutting equipment, it weighed a ton, the cutting head was driven by a chain from the engine that was situated at the other end of a seven-foot shaft. It was enormous and with the unguarded chain drive along the main shaft bloody dangerous. If I had been presented with it as the future of grass cutting I would have found cause for it to break down and gone back to my scythe. Things have moved on a lot now, the long handled hedge cutter being one of my most useful tools.
With the fringe knocked off I have started to get the Flight Pond ready for shooting, cutting back the beds of Phragmites that provided safe cover for nesting waterfowl, and tidying up the hides. The number of ducks coming on to the pond continue to increase as do the numbers of Coots and Moorhens attracted to an easy meal. The White Cormorant continues to put in the occasional appearance, next week I shall be cutting the weed in the river, which will make his attempts at fishing even easier. His days may be numbered, although one keeper friend of mine prone to the melodramatic statement, mentioned in his drunken mutterings that the soul who dispatched a white cormorant would carry a curse from that day to the grave.
There are also a few Herons about. As many fish die slowly from a clumsy Heron stab as are taken away by the Heron. Like a big eyed Billy Bunter presented with an oversized birthday cake they will often try and take a portion that is far too big for them; stabbing away at a three pound hen fish that they struggle to lift from the water, the fish failing to spawn and dieing a slow death from the stab wound in her back. For the spawning trout we must address the increase in stab culture and deal with the Heron in a Hoody!
Continuing with the deathly theme, I learnt this week of the death of a fishermen who regularly fished this stretch of the river for Grayling. He and his friend would fish several times with some success through October and November. His fishing friend rang, as he had done at this time of the year for the past decade to say that he would be fishing alone this year, his fishing buddy had died aged seventy two while waiting to be picked up to go for a day’s fishing, they found all his kit ready in the hall and him dead in the chair with a cup of coffee. He had died very quickly, while anticipating a day out fishing with his mate – not a bad way to go!
It is always sad when one of your regulars passes on, although I have yet to have one go on the riverbank, although I have come close. One hot sunny Friday afternoon I was walking home with my strimmer across one of the paddocks, when I was stopped in my tracks by an elderly half-rod flat on his back in the long grass twenty yards in front of me. Throwing my strimmer to one side I sprinted, Baywatch style, to the prone gent and knelt down beside him. My extensive first aid training kicked in.
He looked a bit grey, his mouth was slightly open, one arm by his side one arm outstretched; from my extensive experience of cowboy films I would say he was a goner. I gently leant over and prodded his cheek…………..
He opened his eyes, sat up and asked me what the hell I was doing, I explained that I thought he had died, he explained that he was sleeping off a rather good lunch, we had a laugh and he went on fishing with his favourite Snipe and Purple and died a few months later.