Thursday, November 17, 2011

Keepering by Braille

Grayling fishing in recent weeks has been good, with Olives hatching off throughout the mild afternoons. Most anglers have caught a dozen or more fish, both on the surface and below, with a few fish caught just shy of two pounds. There are bigger fish present but all have so far proved wise to what has been put before them. One chap caught a decent Perch and several Roach have all fallen to a nymph. Many big Browns have emerged from their hidden summer lies and are kicking over the gravel on the shallows, there are at least four fish of five pound or more on the shallow by the fishing hut that have come from goodness knows where, they certainly didn’t make their presence known for much of the summer.

I have stripped a few hens and have a couple of baskets of eggs in the hatching trough; they look to be ok and should be hatching out around Christmas time. A few fish in the stew ponds are showing signs of a white fungal infection on their head, as are a few fish in the river. We have had a some relatively fungus free years of late, although a few fish with infections are to be expected around spawning time, especially Cocks that have been chasing about scrapping over the hens.

The Hedge alongside the Millstream has had its annual trim, with the hatch opened and the channel drained to allow the tractor to drive up the millstream bed and cut the side that borders the river.

Another Egret has turned up, but no sign yet of the Merlin who turns up most winters.

Mega myopic, I have worn spectacles full time for much of my life, for the past few years a pair crafted from cutting edge titanium and rimless; NASA specs for the short sighted spaceman that weigh a couple of drams. The one downfall with these superlight specs is that it takes the merest flick of a feather to send them flying from your nose. On one occasion I was tending to a branch over the river that required me to walk along another branch small chainsaw in one hand, holding on with the other fingers tightly crossed. I raised the chainsaw to deal with the branch that had captured several flies presented by anglers, flicking a small branch on the way up that subsequently sprung back and catapulted my glasses into six feet of water. I held the pose for a minute, before exiting stage left, throwing the running chainsaw over my shoulder onto the bank and finding my way back along the branch by braille. Several times on recent shoots I have burst through a bush, only for the fog to descend and the beating line pressing on regardless as I scrabbled around in the scrub for my specs. Today I have taken delivery of some Kevlar plated, super reinforced glasses, My wife suggests that they are a little more "Alan Carr" and a little less "Heinrich Himmler", whatever, I am of an age where I don’t care what they look like only that they are comfortable and it will take a blast from a tank to shift them from my head.

I was recently asked to take a look at a stretch of the Upper Itchen that an acquaintance of my employer had recently purchased with a view to mee keepering it in seasons to come, a pretty piece of single bank on the main river that had not been fished much for many years. On previous occasions when I have been asked if I would consider taking on some extra river work I have turned them down, once when the owner wanted a part time keeper for the best part of three miles of river. This time I have said yes. It is very different to the stretch of the Dever that I look after full time and poses a very different fishery management challenge. There is a week or two of work to get the place up together, and then the upkeep through the summer. It will not be stocked and lightly fished with catch and release very much to the fore.

I have found the time by standing down as Groundsman for Barton Stacey Football Club where I had somehow become Hampshire FA’s Groundsman of the year and was subsequently put up for the FA’s National Groundsman of the Year competition. Suits were dispatched from Wembley and we were eventually found out but were highly commended in the final scores. I thought it best to go out at the top and informed Mr Chairman who thought that it was probably for the best as the white lines had been getting a tad wonky of late.

With two teenage drivers and the insurance costs incurred, plus one at University and one hoping to go once the fees have been put up, the extra money will also be welcome.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

My long handled chainsaw

The weed is out and the fringe edged in, the river waits for rain. There is a lot of silt accumulated in places that will be easy to shift in the New Year provided we have some rain. The aquifers are at their lowest at this time of the year yet the stretch at Western Colley that was all but dry in July is now flowing suggesting that some supplementary pumping is going on, we certainly haven’t had enough rain to cause it to run and it may be to keep certain discharges into the Dever at the required dilution to avoid problems with weekly water quality sampling, I don’t know it’s just a guess we would be the last to be told if this kind of thing was going on.

There are a few Browns kicking up on the shallows although I have seen very few cock fish to date, they have normally had a month of charging and chasing each other around by now. The Browns in the stew ponds are showing little interest in spawning and it looks like I will be stripping eggs a little later than last year. A Little Egret has put in its first appearance of the Autumn no doubt attracted by lots of fish in clear shallow water, along with a couple of Heron who we chase up the river each morning. The few Grayling fisherman have found the fishing tough with small size 22 nymphs catching most fish, although I have seen fish on the surface in afternoon taking Olives. The Roach look to have fed hard this summer and although they are fewer in number than last year, there are several fish over the two pound mark just waiting for a stick float and a single pinkie on a sunny January afternoon.

I have a lot of chainsaw work this winter, both on and off the river and this past week I began by taking six foot from the top of the gargantuan hedge by the stable block. Each year it posed problems of how it must be cut, from wobbly ladders to a scaffold tower in the back of the pickup it was never easy and had become close to unmanageable, so this year it was forced to bow to the shock and awe of my new long handled chainsaw. I have had a long handled hedge cutter for some years and it is an invaluable tool on the river for doing all the jobs that used to be done with a slasher, but the chainsaw attachment with a couple of extensions although unwieldy, and quite dangerous in company, is very useful and will reduce the amount of time I spend up ladders with a bowsaw, or chainsaw if the health and safety man is not watching...........which he invariably isn’t, so chainsaw it is. It’s not top of the range, and is a 2 stroke which wouldn’t have been my first choice but so far it seems ok. I have had issues with some of the more expensive 2 stroke engines on strimmers, hedge cutters and chainsaws and have had several that claim to be for professional use, worn out in a couple of seasons. Some years ago I switched to a Honda 4 stroke strimmer that has proved to be far more reliable and robust than anything Sweden or Germany can proffer and starts after two or three pulls, it does not rev as high and I can hear the cricket in my headphones. The four stroke engine on my two inch pump that I use intermittently is as reliable and will start second or third pull no matter how long it has stood idle in the workshop.

The Pheasants are all were they should be bar a few errant birds heading for next door’s maize that we chase back over the road and river each day. I have rolled down a couple of rows of Maize which always helps hold birds and everything else besides, there are cobs strewn throughout the woods by creatures feasting on sweetcorn, and while cycling back at night from his shift polishing spoons at the local hotel and spa my son raced a badger down the road that had been munching on the flattened cobs.

I don’t know what is going on with the Ducks, early signs were good but now we have very few visiting the pond despite the offer of some of Hampshire’s finest barley tailings and the company of five plastic ducks to guide them in.