The days have warmed up a little this past week, a trickle of Olives breaking surface, shaking the Brown Trout from their winter torpor to rise sporadically. The Grayling have other things on their minds; several hens of around two pound are shooed from the shallows on the ford each time I pass through on the tractor. No redds yet but undoubtedly frisky. The river is low and clear at the moment and they will soon draw the attention of the Little Egret and Heron that stab away at spawning fish on the shallows. I have seen fewer Cormorants this winter than recent years, although Otters are still rampaging up and down the valley. My son and his mate had quite a few Pike these past few weeks, nothing huge but numerous jacks to around six pound, good sport on a six foot spinning rod with a small mepps, but it requires a bit of local knowledge to avoid picking up the Browns. There is the odd Perch about, nothing like the two-pound fish he hauled out a few years ago, but none came to the mepps.
Officially I am still off lifting duties following a couple of hernias, so I have been on the digger much of the week, clearing out a couple of ditches that connect the mill stream to the main river and clearing up crack willow that I felled in a frenzy of cutting before the operation. I also had a go at some “multi tasking” by burning off a few reed beds while sitting on the digger clearing silt from a ditch. Following dry weather and a few frosts to draw the moisture from the ground, the reed bed burning had been going decidedly well, on this occasion things picked up further, half an acre of spearbed disappeared in a matter of moments, the wall of flame leapt the ditch I was clearing and, in a flash, a forty foot Christmas tree behind my head was full of flames. Ditch work was abandoned and a hasty retreat made through what remains of the Christmas tree plantation. It always looks a bit stark after reed beds have been burned, and it isn’t the best place to walk a liver and white spaniel with wobbly legs especially when your wife has cleaned the kitchen floor, but within weeks, verdant growth appears from charred ground thicker than ever, providing a haven for all manner of flora and fauna.
The Brown Trout Fry in the Hatchery are now up on the fin and feeding well. Currently in an oversized tank I hand feed sporadically and keep out of their way as much as I can.
The wood alongside the river is full of Pheasants, I came across nine hens scratching around one afternoon with a senior cock looking on, their plumage is as good as it gets at the moment, and boy don’t they know it, even our chickens swoon! Ducks are paired up, the group of Swans in the water meadow above have dissipated and the Hares in the field behind our house are bumbling about doing daft things in the middle of the day. Buds are swelling on the trees and there is a hint of blossom on the cherry tree that always goes too early. We could be on the cusp of spring, but then again it could snow. It would be great if we had weeks of cold rain before the trees wake up, but I fear that this is all the water we have for the coming season, and it ain’t very much!