Today, the first day of December, a drought warning was issued for the South east of England. We have had some rain, and good rain at that, nice and steady stuff that gets down into the ground, but we need a whole lot more if the river is anything like what it should be next season.
In the river there are redds in all the usual places with fish kicking up hard. The eggs in the hatchery are of mixed quality and I have been busy egg picking most days this past week. We have had a few Grayling fishermen recently, mostly French they have returned mixed results with plenty of small fish caught but the bigger fish have not played ball, Monsieur also presented me with a two pound Perch for tea and a few tips on preparation and the appropriate sauce.
We have our first day shooting next week and I have had a few days clearing up crack willow that has intruded on some of the rides. There appear to be plenty of birds about although the acres of stubble have been ripped up this week so the day may be less a maraud and more a trudge. Otis is currently the “goon in the room” following recent parades by a bitch in season, fingers crossed his thoughts return to emanating from his head and not his loins as he will have a part to play come shoot day.
Over on the Itchen I have been clearing back some bank. Some are critical of the wide swathes cut on some banks of the chalkstreams but it does spread the wear on the riverbank, paths don’t develop and pressure is relieved on the all important fringe. The water is not as clear on this stretch of the Itchen and the gravel not as clean, although cutting the weed has certainly shifted a lot of rubbish. There is also a small spring ditch that is running still, despite the current conditions. Overgrown and with no clear margin it is in desperate need of light and water but it has clean gravel and a few small Brown Trout and could be an ideal nursery stream to the main river. I have also been asked to have a look at a stretch of the Avon which is a very different river to what I am accustomed too and a bit of the Dever that should prove more familiar.
Back on the Dever I was walking up the river one morning to chase back some errant pheasants, when I spotted a Kingfisher on the pool below the weir, close by was a yellow wagtail that flicked and twitched as I approached before rising into the air. The altitude of ten feet was attained before bandits appeared at twelve o’clock, a Sparrowhawk that threatened to pluck him from the sky as the Wagtail would a midday Olive, whether by cunning plan or complete accident the wagtail set off towards the kingfisher who flushed and set off in the opposite direction, distracting the Sparrowhawk who switched quarry and set off in pursuit of the flashing bluebird whose local river knowledge saw him to safety.
When my daughter was small and going through her first “Snow White” phase we found a squab one summer that had flown into the wall of our house. Ten minutes of gentle nursing and a few rounds of “Hi Ho” seemed to have returned it to mid season form so we climbed the bank in order to launch it back to the skies from whence it came. Rusty wings took it slowly to the height of the roof when with a Poof! it was hit by a Sparrowhawk who had lain in white in a nearby field maple, feathers floated down on myself and my bemused daughter who shrugged her shoulders and pitched into “With a smile and a song” before heading back inside.