Brown Trout still on the redds, undisturbed by coloured water and a river full of leaves after a hard blow early in the week; the oaks and a spectacularly coloured Amber the only trees still hanging on to their leaves.
The eggs in the hatchery have, to date, been one of the best batches I have ever had, with less than a dozen to pick out in each basket. The eggs are picked with a large pipette, one by one, or in my case a turkey baster from the kitchen shop in town. The dead eggs easily identified having turned from their normal orange colour to pearly white. It is important to regularly pick out the dead eggs as they can easily become infected by the saprolegnia fungus that will spread and kill the surrounding live eggs. Soon it will be possible to see the developing fish in the egg, the eyes in particular clearly visible. Once “eyed up” the eggs are past their most sensitive stage and are reasonably robust.
To ensure a ready supply of packet sized trout to supermarkets, the table trout industry required eggs to be laid down at different times of the year. Brown Trout spawn only once a year in early autumn so to ensure a ready supply, large hatcheries would import Trout eggs from around the world wherever it happened to be autumn and Brown Trout were spawning, importing eyed eggs from right across the globe at different times of the year. The eyed eggs transported in polystyrene boxes without water with a tray of ice on top trickling down through the eggs, disinfected and laid down on arrival to hatch several weeks later non the wiser.
Other ingenious methods of obtaining out of season eggs involved varying the day length of the fish from which the eggs are to be taken. Keeping the fish indoors in tanks in order to control the day and night length, shortening a fishes day to eighteen hours or lengthening it to thirty bringing forward or delaying spawning by a few months.
This week we I have been busy clearing out the millstream, the half-mile man made channel that was constructed hundreds of years ago in order to control the river flow and turn the wheel at the mill. Dead straight and fairly dour fishing, it is now used to take excess water away from the main river in time of flood or closed down completely in times of drought to maximise the flow in the river. Bordered on one side by a large hedge it is possible to drain it down to its bare bones and drive a tractor up the riverbed to keep the hedge trimmed back. This is done every year and is essential to maximise the amount of light getting down onto the millstream and its weed. To improve the fishing on the middle section I have each year been planting up the far bank by the hedge with sedge and Iris in order to naturally narrow the channel, increase the river’s velocity, aid the growth of the weed and thus improve the fishing. This has been a great success, weed has become established and less silt now accumulates in the central section. Narrowing the river naturally by planting takes a while to have any real effect when compared with an instant fix such as sheets of tin backfilled with chalk, but is worth persevering with as it is a soft bank as opposed to the hard bank of driven tin. It can be cut back in times of high water to maximise the width of the channel, and allowed to grow in during times of drought to squeeze what little flow may remain.
The flow down the Mill stream is controlled by a set of boards at the point at which it leaves the river, and a cast iron sluice/hatch that was installed when Queen Victoria was on the throne, the stream itself dug several hundred years earlier by hand and lined with clay. It also provides a head of water to run the two concrete fry stews and an old brick lined swimming pool that is now used to grow fish.
The clay may well have been obtained locally, within a hundred yards of our house I can dig a hole three feet deep and hit any combination of chalk, clay, peat, gravel, or water. The clay is bluey-grey and incredibly sticky, clinging to the bucket of the small mini digger in huge clumps and perfect for lining ponds.
The Pheasants are slowly returning to the drives, and the ducks on the pond getting through half a bag of “seconds” Barley a night. A forecast of cold weather could well bring a few more unusual ducks on to the pond.
Late in the week I took some Bantams up to a part of North Hampshire that is in complete contrast to the Test Valley; steep rolling wooded hills it could be Devon but for the colour of the soil. On the way I saw five Red Kites a bird that was in short supply ten years ago but is increasing in numbers after a spectacularly successful breeding programme.