Sunday, January 1, 2012

Nice reels, but 16 hours of dark is a long night in the rain

Since drought conditions were officially declared it hasn’t stopped raining, if a decree was all that was required I wish the River Gods had made their's a little earlier!

The rain we have had has been good steady stuff much of which should get down into the ground. During our pre Christmas shoot, discussion in the beating line hit a brief moment of clarity and centred on the current lack of water, a senior keeper from the middle river remarked that if you were unable to drive around the water meadows in spring then you had had a good enough load of rain for the winter. Currently you could bumble around our water meadows in a four ton Bentley with a caravan on the back so we need a good deal more yet! During a particularly wet winter we were driving Hares for a Coarsing Club meeting further up the valley. Post lunch the beating line, full of sandwiches and beer fanned out across a paddock in the meadows only for one old boy to disappear up to his waist in a spring popping up out of nowhere. There is a similar “pressure release spot” on the water meadow above us that must be avoided when the winter has been particularly wet as a brim full aquifer bursts at the seams creating a six feet square patch of grass that if walked upon is like trying to stand on an airbed in swimming pool, although it has not been in evidence for some years. Father Christmas delivered a new lens for my camera, and on a recent photographic plod around the Common I took in many Owls. Half a dozen Short Eared Owls hunting during the day
a grumpy Long Eared Owl who did not enjoy company,
a dopey Tawny Owl and a brief glimpse of a Barn Owl on exit. I also counted over twenty Swans on the half mile stretch of river below. There are several on the top water meadow and I wouldn’t be surprised if there are a few sick ones about in a few months as the river cannot naturally support this number of birds.
Child B got some nice distance casting reels for Christmas that are incredibly well made and promise fish to a great size, or so it says on the box. An overnight trip to Broadlands lake with his mate was planned for the first day of the new year but work, partying and weather have put the kaibosh on what could have been a very long night. I have only done two overnight fishing sessions in mid winter, both as a teenager. Sixteen hours of dark is a long night and all I can remember is running around the lake for several hours to keep warm in temperatures some way below zero. We did catch fish but not until the sun had come up. In our garden we have a bird table. Four feet from the kitchen window it is loaded with goodies for the twitterati that flit our way. Last winter and this we have had a weak and feeble Coal Tit and a Blue Tit visit the table on a regular basis,
whether they would have survived the winter without the sustenance provided is open to question; presumably they are fertile. By gently coaxing them through the winter is the "genetic strength" of my local Tit population being compromised by their being preserved and going on to breed? By feeding the Tits have I taken on a population management role and do I now have a responsibility to “take out" the poorer breeding stock as would be the case in deer management. Or should I stop feeding and leave well alone? I would like to think that Mother Nature steps in, the problem in either bird doesn’t appear to be cropping up in juveniles;
they may not be successful at breeding time or their young may be susceptible to predation. Domestication and human compassion are an added complication highlighting the fine line that man must tread at the top of the population pyramid. Foxes, Hedgehogs, Otters, Red Kites and much more besides are subject to rescue and release programmes that come with a high degree of human contact and supported living, some so successful that numbers are now becoming a problem. Is the "genetic strength" of these species being compromised by man's intervention? In the case of the Indigenous Brown Trout genetic purity must now be preserved mother nature is not to be trusted and man must stop and leave well alone. From 2015 stocking of diploid brown trout will be banned to preserve the genetic strength of the indigenous population; a fishy “final solution” that will do little to serve the Brown Trout fishing in these parts.


Regular Rod said...

Is it not better to serve the Brown Trout rather than the Brown Trout "fishing"?

The EA should have taken the opportunity to ban all stocking of rivers and streams but have typically fudged things again.

It is not easy certainly and requires that anglers actually recognise their role and place in the scheme of things, which is not at the top of the pyramid wearing a virtual "customer is always right" sticker on their kiss-me-quick hats.

Anglers hereabouts take a lower precedence than the rivers and their inhabitants do. As a result we have fantastic fishing, in beautiful rivers that are thriving with no stock fish at all.

It is much more labour intensive and in the event of a major pollution, there is no fall back position to quickly get the river full of fish for paying "always right" customers to fish for, but it has to be better in the long term than the damaging processes involved in using marine fish life to make trout.

Keep up the blogging please it's an excellent read.

Regular Rod

Test Valley River Keeper said...

Thank you for your kind words and for reading my addled prose.

If stocking were banned on this and many other parts of the Chalkstreams, they would become commercially unviable and would not be managed. Unmanaged Chalkstreams do not work, they are what they are because they have been managed by man for one reason or another for hundreds of years. This includes the fish stocks whose genetic purity has been compromised by a hundred and fifty years of stocking with mixed sex Brown Trout, some would argue that the original "Brown Trout" who swam the river when Victoria was on the throne no longer exists. Those who need to stock should be allowed to do so (be it with tripoids or diploids) with restriction should be put on numbers and size.

I agree with your comments about serving the fish and not the fisher, there is some pretty ropey practice in parts often carried out in the name of corporate entertainment or guided fishing. Many, and I include this stretch are not slaves to the fisher, All of our rods experience blank days, they do not expect a "four fish" day if they have stumped up the cash. The emphasis is always on maximising biodiversity and the best habitat management for the trout in the river. If the fly are hatching and fish are rising then with suitable proficiency they will catch.

With regard to your point about the use of fishmeal in pellets for raising trout, the table fish farm industry uses far more fish food than the restocking industry. Stocking smaller fish (1-2 year olds) would cut down on fish food use in the restocking industry but it would be a drop in the ocean compared to the vast quantities used Europe wide in table fish farming.

I am aware that the rivers in your area are very different to what we have down here. I have some knowledge of the Manifold and The Goyt plus many in the North West and Wales, all equally beautiful but all different, which brings me neatly round to my biggest beef about current fishery management policy: National Strategies do not work, regional strategies would far better serve the rivers of these isles, this river system would benfit from a regional approach as would others.

Thanks again for your comments and the photos on your own blog are stunning

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