Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Week 85


Week 85

Much of the week has been spent putting the river to bed, knocking off the fringe and edging in the bank, the blanket weed is rolling into balls and pulling out a lot of the good weed. Cutting back the banks has revealed just how little water there is in the river. After looking so promising in spring the speed at which the river flow ahs dwindled this summer is alarming.

The wind got up for a few days blowing many of the leaves down; the screens in the stew ponds are covered with leaves every morning. The fish in the ponds and river have finally started to put their minds to reproduction, starting to scrape their redds on the same shallows that they use year on year. I was kindly invited to fish a lake near the middle river on a keeper’s jolly, some of the big browns on that stretch seemed to be far more advanced in their spawning. It also came to light that an enormous Dog Otter had been found dead on the road. Over forty inches in length it was some distance from the river. The local Conservation Officer suggested that it must have been chasing Rabbits???? Which is not behaviour that I would associate with an Otter particularly one that would have trouble getting his head down a bunny hole let alone the rest of his body. After ticking various boxes and jumping through a number of hoops the Otter has now gone to the taxidermists where it is being set up, although tragically not with a Rabbit in his mouth as someone on the day suggested. An enjoyable and entertaining day, we all caught fish and were royally fed and watered, I can confidently say that I have never eaten as much Roast Pork in one bread roll.

The first Cormorants have arrived, three sitting in a tree looking down at the flight pond. The pond is shallow at the moment and coloured from feeding ducks so not ideal conditions for the Cormorant although the shallow water has attracted a couple of Herons who are stabbing away at whatever passes by.

The Pheasants still spend most of their day in the one block of Maize, returning to the water meadows mid afternoon before going up to roost. Walking up the river at dusk they make a right racket as they go up to bed at night.
We have had our first frosts and several days of rain are forecast, the water meadows are wrapped up in the throes of autumn and the local town are threatening to turn their Christmas Lights on. Is it me?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Week 84

Week 84

At last the rain came, an inch fell in one afternoon, the river coloured a little and fish started feeding on the steady trickle of flies that hatched throughout the afternoon. Fish were caught on the following three days and then the season ended. A season that initially promised much, delivered a superb Mayfly season and great early summer hatches of fly before an alarmingly speedy drop in river level resulted in two months of frustrating fishing, a fish caught in September worth four caught in June. Despite their confined quarters few Brown Trout are showing signs of irritability towards their fellow fish. There is a bit of jockeying for position in the crowded flow but little of the pre spawning aggression that is often seen at this time of the year.

On the neighbouring Itchen the local wildlife trust are having another go at eradicating man’s influence on the river in order to return to the days of The Plesiosaur. Stringent rules imposed by people in cutting edge walking boots who wear fleece rather well, have resulted in the Fishing Syndicate, who have managed the stretch of water for some years, turning down an offer of lease renewal. The rules imposed in the name of conservation have rendered the syndicated fishing unviable. Man has managed the stretch of river in question for millennia, early grazing on the water meadows, flood control, numerous water mills, a source of fish and fowl for food, all have left their imprint on the valley. Amid much crossing of fingers the trust would like the stretch of river left alone, unmanaged. Similar hair brained impositions on weed cutting by the Trust a few years ago caused chaos and were dropped. Some of this brow beating over what man has done to mother earth can have a detrimental effect. On the southern chalkstreams where man has had an influence for hundreds of years, we cannot absolve ourselves of all responsibility and just abandon the river channel to mother nature. There is a responsibility to maintain and manage the water meadows in a particular way in order that the level of Biodiversity that exists in the river valley is preserved. Abandoning the management practices may help certain species but may also have a detrimental effect on others. There are important issues that need addressing on the chalkstreams, like abstraction, pollution and stocking policies, crackpot thinking by wildlife trusts detracts from these key issues.

The Pheasants are spending much of their day in the acre and a half of Maize alongside one of the woods. I am not having to do as much dogging in as I have been doing, the Pheasants content with the maize and having no real cause to wonder. This week the dogs have put up several Snipe and Woodcock, the snipe from the water meadows where you would expect them to be, The Woodcock smack in the middle of a rock hard field of wheat stubble where you would not expect them to be.