Thursday, October 20, 2011

Putting the river to bed

Much of the past two weeks has been spent knocking the fringe off, edging in and cutting weed. The thin line of marginal reeds is key to effective management of the river channel. If water is low it can be allowed to encroach and squeeze the channel helping to maintain speed of flow which is vital for Ranunculus and all the bugs that live in her. If water is high the fringe can be edged in hard to maximise the channel weed and reduce water height. If the fringe is deprived of light by overhanging trees it thins or disappears and the bank is open to erosion, over-widening of the river can occur resulting in a slowing of the flow, silt deposition and dead Ranunculus. Cutting the fringe down to a height of around eight to ten inches and cutting it back to a foot or two thickness and a clean line between water’s edge and marginal reeds gives enough fringe for the coming season that can be edged in hard or allowed to grow out depending on water conditions as well as providing cover for the angler.

I am half way through stripping the weed right out of the river. The amount of blanket weed is causing problems as it rolls up into huge immovable balls that sit midstream despite the bombardment of flow; the river has dropped markedly on the stretches that I have already cut. And with the weed gone, all is revealed; loads of silt and loads of fish. Stretches that appeared barren through August and September housed a surprising number of fish, a lunker of around five or six pounds is holed up below the bridge over to the fishing hut and the pool below the weir is home to many Brown Trout from five ounces to five pounds, Grayling, Roach, Perch and a Pike. The silt poses problems that will be easily solved by a wet winter and increased flow. Olives continue to hatch throughout the afternoon with a trickle of Pale Wateries and BWOs hatching around me as I cut my way downstream.

The results of water samples taken following a slug of dirty water were returned, BOD and ammoniacal readings were a little higher than expected, but not too high as to cause concern all else was ok. Something went into the river, what it was, we shall never know.

The Ducks are proving to be as enigmatic as recent winters. Some nights they turn up, buckets of barley disappear and the pond is awash with feathers, other nights they don’t. There are a few flighting the millstream most nights, currently overgrown following a waterless summer the cover may be an important factor.

The Pheasants look fantastic and are currently enjoying some of the tallest maize this part of Hampshire has ever seen, bolting in the late summer rain to a height of 8ft. Otis and I spend an hour most mornings chasing back any birds that aren’t too keen on sweetcorn and are heading off to the Little Chef for an “early starter” but most make a beeline for the maize after falling from their roost when the sun comes up. We have some natty new Pheasant feeders made from lidded green buckets mounted on the unused laths from the mill house roof that are proving to be quite popular. I have cut down on the hand feeding as this current crop of Pheasants were starting to become a tad friendly.

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