Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Kingfishers at 12 oclock!

Well we’ve had some rain, days of steady stuff, some of which will have got down into the ground. Numerous intense showers have flooded the road and run quickly off into the river adding a flush of colour and a brief lift before quickly returning to its current default level. The weed cut has now ended and nothing came down from up river, we sent our cut-weed on down the river with a day to spare, and what normally takes half a day took a little longer due to the reduced flow.
Fishing has become quite tricky. Fish have been caught, including several around the three pound mark but it has taken a lot of effort. Some who have camped on a midwater fish for an hour, have toured their fly box and been rewarded for their travels/travails.
There are few free-risers bar a brace of errant Rainbows, although many undersize fish have been spotting the surface on the shallows. Today an angler had his hook straightened on the middle bends by a fish he thought was around six pounds. There is a fish on that stretch that has been hooked and lost for the last three seasons, but it is considerably bigger than six pounds. Whichever fish it was, it will be another dark sulky lump on the bed of the river for the coming months.

The Millstream that was formed by man hundreds of years ago to turn the wheel at the Mill, is now a pond. As the river drops, water is diverted from the millstream to maintain the flow on the main channel; in times of flood, the mill stream carries extra water away from the main channel to prevent excessive flooding. In it’s current benign state, it is almost unfishable, bar the bit in front of the house and the top twenty yards where it first forms. Currently it is home to a huge shoal of Minnows. Mum and Dad must have thought it a good place to spawn when the water was flowing, but now the water is gone, things look bleak for their babies, Kingfishers congregate and war has broken out between a pair at the top of this stretch and a rival pair just below our bottom boundary. Both pairs appear to be feeding young, and continually chase the other pair up and down the narrow channel. One day this week, while making my stately passage through the ford with the trailer on the back, they passed, shrieking at low level, between trailer and vehicle. A walk along the road with the wobbly dog is often accompanied by the whine of Kingfishers dog-fighting over a plate of minnows; a plate of minnows that may not have been as accessible had the river not been managed by man.

The student from Sparsholt has returned north. A useful and entertaining addition for three weeks he should go far in the Fishery Management field, although the canny Carp in the pond defeated him. He did hook a couple fishing on the surface but both fish were lost. The few that remain are around fifty years old, double figures and pretty cute. The Perch, Roach and Rudd proved to be more obliging along with Brian the brainless Bream who, at this week's weigh in, clocked four pound. A few Tench have put in a an appearance around the Lillies and I hope to have a go myself sometime soon.

I was invited to fish a stretch of the Kennet by a friend who provides one of the premier country-store retail experiences in the area. Beer and an excellent lunch were taken and an enjoyable afternoon followed on plenty of water in Berkshire. The keeper was worried about water levels (obviously) but the fishing was good, with fish taking Olives from mid afternoon on. I had several fish on a Klinkhammer before thunder and lightning (not the fly) hove into view and I exited stage left. I have yet to fish the Kennet and not catch a trout, even when fishing for Barbeland Chub. A pretty and productive river it needs to be looked after, this stretch is obviously in good hands.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Just a bit off the fringe, and no gel!

Well we had some rain, a whole day of it, and a few showers to follow on, but I had cause to dig up some potatoes one day this week and the soil was like dust ten inches down and the potatoes the size of peas. No matter who you talk to up and down the river, the conversation inevitably turns to the lack of water. The current wet week does nothing for the aquifers, if it doesn’t rain from November to March the rivers that run through chalk are stuffed. With the June weed cut upon us, I had a quick scout up the valley to see what weed was likely to come our way, not much to speak of but the river at Western Colley, a mile and a bit below the point at which the river normally puts in an appearance was a foot below the measuring station and not far drying up. We are informed that the aquifers are marginally below average levels. A mile above Western Colley lie ponds that have been in regular use for Salmonid production, bar this year, they have they been unusable only once in recent memory due to lack of water and then towards the end of the Summer; we have a long way to go this season and the river will only get lower from here on.
I could go on, but my wife says I am getting obsessed with the water issue to the extent that I admonish her for bringing a glass of the stuff to bed.

Fishing picked up towards the end of this week, with several fish looking to the surface following a post mayfly nap to take medium Olives from midday through to mid evening, a few sedge are about along with the occasional Mayfly but most fish caught have been taken on Olive patterns or a Daddy Long Legs. We have cut some weed, the Ranunculus on the top shallows was of sufficient thickness to justify a bar cut along with some of the celery on the middle bit, the rest I will tittivate to a reasonable state of tidiness and leave to hold up the water, In Coiffure parlance, a trim of the fringe over a short back and sides. While we have blanket weed in the stew ponds there are no signs of it in the river, although this could change as the water temperature rises; the neighbouring “Big Fish” water has already recorded water temperatures above twenty degrees Celsius.

I am a week or two behind in topping the meadows. Diktat dictates that “thy meadow shalt remain unmowed until the first week of this month” For the mower’s absence, this year we have been rewarded with an even better display of Orchids than last year’s show. Numbers of phallic purple pretties must run into the hundreds, although the grass is a tad long, but I won’t mount the tractor until they have finished.

The home grown mixed sex brown trout fry are thriving on river water, although they draw the regular attention of a kingfisher with young to feed. There is a huge shoal of Grayling fry on the shallows by the ford and parts of the pond shimmer with Roach, Rudd and Perch fry. A brief trawl of the pond with a number one Mepps produced several Perch who will grow fat consuming silver fish fry in the coming months.

Monday, June 6, 2011

I don't believe it!

Today we have received a message from EA central, Airstrip One, Oceania. An old fashioned message sent with a stamp but containing a poster that we are to display in a prominent position and three hundred words of fishery management advice on signs of drought conditions, fish in distress and possible courses of action.
One of the principle signs of drought conditions according to the faceless “Inner Party” are ponds that are half full/empty and a sure sign of fish in distress is dead fish on the surface of the water.
Also in the envelope were two sides of doublespeak assuring the reader that aquifer levels were only marginally down on the seasonal averages and there really was very little to worry about.
Accuse me of “Facecrime” but I am incredulous at the claims made by the Government appointed agency. In “Oldspeak” It’s an absolute load of b******s The Aquifers in this part of the valley are the lowest I have seen in my twenty years on this stretch and I have not seen the spring ditches that feed this river rise such a short distance from the river. For the Environment Agency to peddle the lie to the general public that we have enough water in the ground for the coming summer is a disgrace. There are many others who hold this view and are concerned that the Governing body who could do something to protect the amount of water that we have in the ground are apparently blind to the problem.

Breathe, Breathe!

The Mayfly are still hatching but few fish show interest. After a couple of good weeks in which most fish gorged themselves, most are now sated. We have had some of the heaviest hatches for some years with plenty of Spinners getting back down on the water. The Yellow Sallies are hatching now, which is always an indication that Mayfly time is coming to a close. A few Blue Winged Olives have put in an appearance, and numbers of Sedge seem to be building a few weeks earlier than normal. Some big fish have been lost this week which means we will have a few sulky lumps in the deeper stretches throughout the Summer and several Grayling around the 2lb mark have also been caught.

Our gamecover was drilled several weeks ago, and after a shower of rain earlier in the week has put its nose above the soil, which has now returned to dust. In the water meadows we have another good show of Orchids with at least three different “pinky purple” types. Some of the weed in the river has now broken surface and it may be possible to hold a bit of water up after the weed cut that starts next week. A perennial passage to play cricket amongst the horses and cows of the New Forest takes us over the Avon at Braemore. Last year there was flowering Ranunculus as far downstream as the eye could see. This year the river was down to its bare bones with very little weed showing.

I have a Sparsholt student with me for three weeks on a work placement, embarking on his first year of a Bsc in Fishery Management. The course is similar to the one that I completed a long time ago, although the entry requirements seem to have changed. A Level requirements are similar but there is now no longer a requirement for at least twelve months experience in the industry to gain entry onto the course. This may be because of the difficulty in finding twelve-month placements for so many students. Fewer hours are spent at college and the amount of vocational placements during the course have also been cut, along with the hours spent in college. The Course tutor, who visited last week, was present during my time at the College. The number of courses offered has risen dramatically and large numbers of students now graduate each year looking for jobs in the Fish Farming and Fishery Management field. He explained that most want to work with Carp in France or chase Cats on the Ebro, areas of work that were unheard of when I completed my course. But there seems to be a lot of students leaving college each year, chasing a diminishing number of Fishery Management jobs.