I had only intended to do this for one year, but as the last twelve months have been exceptional in terms of weather and one of the poorest fishing seasons for many years I will try and do another year to see how it compares.
On some days of the year I will be carrying out exactly the same tasks as in previous years. For example weed cutting is carried out during the same weeks year in year out, I will always be tinning in January and February. The eggs laid down in the hatchery around bonfire night, Pheasants in the pen last week of July/first week of August, Hawthorn fishing in early May, Mayfly fishing the second half of May into early June with Trout fishing ending in the first week of October.
This week has been the coldest of the year so far, which it would have been whatever the weather it being the opening week of the New Year. Spectacularly cold with three nights of minus double figures degrees centigrade; two nights of minus ten followed by a minus twelve. After a thirty-six hour period of temperatures marginally above freezing the frost still hung in the ground.
The river is crystal clear and has dropped a little over the week. There is very little spare water pulling down the Millstream and we will need some steady rain in the months before the Trout season opens. The Pond completely froze over during the week, Otis ran around on the ice every day this week and on one day the ice was thick enough to take my substantial weight. The fish in the pond just shut down when temperatures get this low, choosing not to feed and lying hard on the bottom waiting for the sun to shine. The Ducks have been overnighting on the river and its banks all week it being the only water free of ice on the place. There are increasing numbers of Snipe around, I almost trod on one in my employers garden that sprang up vertically right in front of my face before skittering off up the water meadows, with their quick jagging flight it takes a fair shot to hit a flushed Snipe. A far better shot than I, who struggles to hit the most ponderous of pheasants flying in a straight line not very high over my head.
The few rows of Maize that I rolled flat last week have been hammered by all and sundry, so I have repeated the exercise this week. Feeding the chickens in the morning this week I have been surveyed by a covey of French Partridge numbering twenty or more and fifty odd Siskins chattering away in a big Field Maple, all rushing down to join the Chickens as soon as my back is turned to gobble up the corn. Another hungry bird: a Robin who joins me to feed the fish each morning, following me from pond to pond, over bridges and up the river in the hope that I will spill some of the pellets.
The fish in the hatchery are looking to the surface and are on the cusp of starting to take food. Only a few pinches to start with, a little and often by hand so as not to induce gill problems and to maintain water quality.
After taking down my employer’s Christmas tree, the remainder of the week was spent on the stew ponds. Cutting trees down and burning up the branches in order to make way for the new fence, picking up the eight foot posts from the fencing supplies place in town, ferrying them up the river in the truck. Before carrying them by hand the final fifty or so yards over to the stew ponds. The end of the week was spent hammering them into the frozen earth by hand with the mother of all post bumpers.
I have smelt a fox in one of the drives this week. Dog foxes start to roam a little in the early part of the year in search of Vixen to mate with, although I would have thought the cold weather would have put the kibosh on that kind of caper alfresco – Get a room!