Friday, December 16, 2011

It's about time the keeper got the hang of it

The opening skirmishes of our shooting season proved fruitful. The first drive down the water meadow put up a flurry of ducks and the first of a few Woodcock, the two blocks of Maize were full of Pheasant and Partridge and the three drives along the river put up further Woodcock. The guns shot well and one of our bigger bags resulted, all with a skeleton beating line and only three dogs. Otis excelled (for once) the weather behaved. Amongst the flushed game were several Muntjac, quite a few Hares (all in the woods) half a dozen Roe Deer but no Fox. The only blight on the day the freshly ploughed fields where acres of stubble stood the previous week, Oh for a jolly farmer! Everything shot had lived a happy, free range organic life and ended up in a pot or freezer a few days later. The late lunch for beaters and guns lasted for much of the afternoon and was, as always, entertaining, bacchanalian and great fun. It’s an enjoyable day to which all contribute and a great advert for game shooting, to quote one regular beater with paint on his shoes

“After twenty years it’s about time the keeper got the hang of it!”

I wouldn’t go that far and am wary of hubris, no doubt next time we will struggle for double figures.

We have had some high wind, but only twigs and branches have fallen down. The accompanying rain has been heavy and much has run off with the river rising and falling within the space of 24 hrs, the river remains low and we need two winter’s worth of rain over the coming months.

The stretch of upper Dever that I was asked to have a look at is a gem, but in desperate need of a management plan. Crystal clear with fine loose gravel, it sparkles where the light gets in. A few months going bananas with a chainsaw would provide some super toothpick fishing for small brownies. I remember stocking the water twenty odd years ago as a student with mixed sex fish, it had a little more flow then and an angling club leased the water, it was managed and fish thrived. Let go for a decade it has died, marginal growth has been starved of light, crack willow has conquered all, and few fish remain; a sad example of why chalk streams must be managed.

Habit management on the Chalkstreams is key and done properly is highly effective. The two pieces of water for which I am now responsible, although both are chalkstreams, pose different fishery management problems. The angling press in recent months has been full of “ Fishery management experts “ pushing the National Trout and Grayling Strategy that is to be enforced in 2015, several articles have promoted management practice for all rivers. Woody debris was the feature one month, an irresponsible article that promised thousands of new trout if you bolted big bits of wood to the river bed, the resulting riffle would be teeming with small trout. It works in some situations but not in others and when you get it wrong it can actually cause damage. Another article on a particular stretch of river in Sussex highlighted the thriving Wild Brown trout population that had appeared once the Wild Trout Trust wand had been waved, no mention was made of the fact that the water immediately below had been stocked for some years with mixed sex trout. I know this because I supplied the fish and carried out the stocking, all under licence from the EA.

Facts and figures have been cherry picked and goalposts moved miles (the WTT definition of a “wild” Brown Trout is now very different to what it was five years ago) to pedal this National Strategy that will do little but detract from important concerns over water quality and effective habitat management.

With effective Habitat management diploid brown trout introduced to a chalkstream at a young age will thrive and also be subject to sufficient natural selection to ensure that only the fit and able reach maturity and spawn. A stocking strategy such as this in rivers where there is no longer a clearly identifiable wild trout strain provides numbers of fish of all age classes and offers a more commercially viable and natural solution to the one currently being promoted. It would require an effective fishery management and predator control strategy where Mr and Mrs Brown Trout are put first and may also sit better in the public eye. The proposed strategy of “triploids only” may appear an obvious solution, but the media savvy in some quarters would have no trouble in painting them in a bad light and push for their use to be banned, and what are we left to stock with then? ...........Nothing

Which is what many believed The National Trout and Grayling strategy set out to do in the first place, a ban on stocking, although the Wild Trout Trust, Hampshire Wildlife Trust, EA and a host of others would have us believe otherwise,

Cherry anyone?

1 comment:

Martin M said...

Another thought provoking and interesting post. As someone who lives just up the road and fishes the upper Dever regularly I am praying daily to the rain gods.