Friday, January 20, 2012

In the lands of the North

Talk of drought conditions continues in the south, still not enough rain and spring ditches that are currently dry. The river is very low, gin clear and the sole fisher who ventured out for Grayling and Roach found it tough going. We have had a few Olives put in an appearance early in the afternoon but even these have not been enough to get the fish moving. Fourteen months ago we fished a tributary of the Loire in France for the second time. A previous trip four years earlier had been very successful with plenty of Chub, Barbel, Bream, Carp and Roach so we travelled with high hopes. Following three dry winters in central France the river was unrecognisable from the river that we thought we were going to fish. Where I had set my Quivertip rods up four years earlier to fish a big back eddy that had yielded Chub after Chub, I had to turn through 180 degrees and fish the other way as the big back eddy had gone, along with all the Chub who had dropped down into deeper water for safety. We switched to a ten acre lake nearby that was down to four acres and caught a few fish. A third dry winter could have a similar effect in these parts. Bits of this river are now unrecognisable from previous winters with water taking a different path around pools and cutting across the inside of bends when it would normally be pushing around the outside, and a municipal lake not far from here is preparing to move fish because of low water. We need rain, rain and then some more rain and quick!

Our fry in the hatchery are now up in the water and feeding and look like a pretty good batch, they must be cleaned out every morning with a siphon to remove any waste food and morts. No sign of gas bubble problems that have killed a few in recent years. It is brought on by depleted oxygen levels in the spring water due to it being out of contact with the air for a significant length of time, Nitrogen replaces the oxygen which leads to bubbles forming in the fish, similar to the bends in humans. It can be avoided by bashing the incoming water around to mix it with the air. We have a few Egret on the river at the moment and many Swans lie in wait on the bends below, there is also a lone Cormorant making sorties,

but the current level of the river should be unfishable for Graculus who would be better off pushing off back to the land of Nog, “In the lands of the North where the black rocks stand guard against the cold sea”

We have one day shooting left, the beaters day at the end of the month. I’ve given up on the ducks as they no longer seem to like our pond, there are as many on the river as there are munching on my barley; don’t know where they all are and I don’t hear much shooting in the evening and there are plenty who flight duck in these parts. They are not dibbling in puddles on the meadow because there are no puddles on the meadow so I can only put it down to the vagaries of wild duck, they're there or they're not. We have a few Pheasant about but amongst those that remain are some of the cuter birds. On our last bumble through the valley there were a few birds that flipped from one side of the river to the other as the beaters came through without taking full flight, we even have one canny cock who feeds on our bird table most mornings and keeps his head down as the beating line of our neighbour’s shoot passes through the back field.

The Chainsaw is out and I have been preparing for battle with crack willow by duffing up a couple of hedges that have got out of hand near our bottom bends.

The Crack Willow (pictured) on the left hand bank are due their four yearly assault. Twenty years ago this lot were far more substantial and leaned half way over the river. There was no marginal growth and the river had been over widened as winter flows (we had them then) wore away at the exposed bank, consequently the river slowed and silt was deposited. This, along with the willows restricting the light, resulted in limited weed growth, a few blobs of starwort at best. Pollarding the willows let in light. The erosion had exposed some old wooden bank repairs that had been put in many years ago when this was the main fishing bank. Sedge was planted in amongst these repairs and topped off with some chalk and mud pulled out of the river. In new light the margins thrived and the original line of the bank was restored. The channel has been squeezed and in the slightly speedier flow, Ranunculus and Water Celery and all the bugs who thrive in them, now flourish. If I leave these willows to grow, the chalkstream will be starved of light and will return to its silted up state. To my mind they are placed somewhere between Wasps, burs, and Kerry Katona on the list of irritants that I could quite happily get through the day without and in some cases I would turn to chemicals to extinguish a few, but behind these crack willows is our Pheasant release pen and the willows afford the young birds fresh out of the pen some protection, they are pollarded every four or five years and the willow branches cut and laid where they provide good cover and hold birds on a shooting day, although it takes a good dog to get them out!

Our home that comes with the job is an easy cast with a four weight from the river, it used to be a two bedroom flat above four garages that my employer kindly converted to a four bedroom house on the arrival of our second child. The kitchen used to be where the tractor laid its weary head after a hard day mowing. Child B has just passed seventeen and following his first guided explorations of the open highway has twice tried to return our kitchen to its original status by parking the car in it!

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