Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Fuming over Foam

The first day of June and I've just come in from conditions outside that are more suited to Nanook of the North and not the middle of the mayfly. Fifty mile an hour winds and heavy rain are not ideal conditions for a mayfly to return to the river to lay its eggs, although we did experience several heavy falls of spinners towards the end of last week, so something should be about this time next year, but any fertilised females hanging around the branches this afternoon with a mind to settle on the water this evening will not have fared well, wind ( the meteorological kind) can be a bugger at this time of the year and can be devastating to all manner of flora and fauna.

A fair few fish have been caught and almost as many lost. Some are easily spooked in low clear weed free water but a hatch of fly soon sets them at ease and many settle down to become what some would describe as "regular risers"

Most fish last week fell to a Mayfly, from lunch time onwards, although a sharp drop in temperature has seen a cessation of activity. There are plenty of fish in the river at the moment and some hefty lumps at that, today one of our rods watched a Rainbow of six or seven pounds, that had obviously wintered well after escaping from stew ponds up stream last year, melt into the shadows twenty yards downstream from the fishing hut.

Last week I was whisked up to the far North of Scotland in an orange aeroplane for a few days fishing for salmon on the Carron. It's the third year I have been invited, which is a miracle in itself as I'm sure I have let myself down at some point on the previous two visits, but thank you very much for asking me, it is a real treat. Strathcarron is a spectacular place to fish for salmon and anglers went about their business throughout its length. Unfortunately this year's trip ended fishless for myself but that's how salmon fishing works, you don't buy a two fish ticket and there are many variables that must align for fish to be put on the bank. It was great fun, as always, and catching fish on three consecutive years may have been gilding the lily somewhat. Ronnie Ross, the ghillie expressed concern over the number of fish running the river, as for the first two days of my stay conditions were almost perfect but few fish were being seen, which is a bit of a worry and increasingly the case on many rivers.

On the final morning the river dropped eighteen inches and flicking a fly became a futile exercise, so we whizzed up to Croik Church a remote place of worship in Ardgay. Designed by Thomas Telford, it has many messages scratched into the windows at one end that serve as a memorial to the highland clearances in the area in 1845 when crofters in Glencalvie were forcibly displaced to make way for sheep farming,the inscriptions that they left on the church windows as they took shelter beneath the walls of the church affirm the brutality of the time. The most telling inscription on the glass - "Glencalvie, the wicked generation"

On our return through security at the airport that serves the capital of the highland's, I was once again singled out as a trouble maker and asked to empty my bag, as my much loved fishing utility tool was an obvious attempt to take out the crew, and the fishing rod, reel and fly box that accompanied it were merely props to cover for my ruse, and did I not know that nooobody goes fishing in Scotland. Little did they know that Plan B involved a size 8 Scandi monkey delivered via the medium of mediocre spey casting from a central position in the aisle in order to take control of the plane.

Oh yes, my travelling companion, who passed through unhindered, had some particularly pointy surgical scissors in her bag and three kilos of black pudding which, with a little knowledge and a knob of lard, can swiftly be converted into high explosive.

Why me? The face? The gait? The demeanour? ......So many question marks

Don't be so judgemental,

Let me put that another way,

Be judgemental,

We don't want crazy people on planes and if I happen to carry such an air I am happy to hand all my threatening objects over in order that all flights are completed safely. It's just I'm not sure your picking out the right guy and I'm running out of ideas as to what to give you next. It seems bad form to present the same gift twice.

The day after my return to this valley, it was off to Lords with Madam for a day at the Test match

To quote that dog who sells insurance on the TV...Oh yes,

this past week I have been livin the dream!

And at this point can we please pause to examine the decision to appoint the inventor of the wind up radio, as the new English cricket coach. An innovative choice without doubt, but when did the ability to take radio 2 to Timbuktu become a prerequisite for guiding the country's finest cricketers to ashes success?

A day out at Lords is always a great day with champagne and nibbles in the sunshine, but this year the cricket was breathtaking, one of the best I have been to since the West Indies were done for on the third day many years ago. Arriving early on a Sunday morning, we secured our seats in the top tier of the Warner stand, I took my ease in the loos with the small window that allows you to never miss a ball bowled, before tooling around to the Nursery Ground to watch the two teams prepare. Ben Stokes and Alistair Cook looked in great touch in the nets, and Stokes even tore in for ten minutes with the ball to pepper Ian Bell, who did not look in great touch. Midway through the afternoon and Bell had come and gone, Cook had got his hundred and Ben Stokes was walking to the crease to score the fastest ever hundred hit at the ground. Our enjoyment was briefly interrupted by some bloke from the burbs who proceeded to give a ball by ball commentary to his sons and his friends, who seemed fairly happy just to sit and watch. It all got too much for me, and I sat through one over with my fingers very obviously in my ears. Apologies Sir, if you were offended at the look I shot you as we left, it's great that you take your kids to the Test but have a mind to those around you, although I rather think it wasn't the first time you've cleared a room with your braying.

He may well have been an associate of our sometime neighbours who continue to flee a similar corner of the capital and don smocks and clogs to play the artisan and live life by the river, an experience which is offered for sale, plus accessories, for many pennies online, so good luck with that and, each to their own, but it's not quite the riverside life that I recognise after twenty nine years and counting tramping the banks in this valley.

There was a lovely lady who lived there for thirty years who is remembered by many across the county,

Oh yes, she was quite a gal Mary Gunn.

She was laid to rest a few years back with her Bob in Bullington church yard. Child A and Child B would pop down regularly to see her when they were small, punishing the squash and biscuits and playing with her son Robert's old toys and piano. She kindly gave us the piano when she eventually moved out and we caused a police incident shifting it up the road on a tractor and trailer, but that's for another day. Cutting weed in front of the river, she would invariably appear with a mug of steaming liquid laced with goodness knows what from the back of the liquor cupboard by way of a restorative, no matter the time of day, and I once had to dismantle half an oak door frame as she was convinced that a hissing snake lay behind when all we found was a small nest of wagtails. She was a lot of fun was Mary Gunn.

The family that followed on weren't half bad either and had children of a similar age to ours who played nicely with Child A & B at the weekend. But it's a bit different now. The current owners paid a lot of money for "chez nook" and seem keen to develop at quite a rate. The house is marketed for high end holiday lets as a "French style Farmhouse".

It is two cottages joined together. One was occupied by three generations who made cart wheels, the son of the third who lived in one half of the house in his formative years, was a wonderful wicket keeper with eight fingers and two thumbs that all point in different directions after fifty years behind the timbers. He regularly attends cricket matches in the neighbouring village to take in his equally talented grandson who plays in the same senior side as Child B. The other half of the house was once occupied by a widow who fell in the fire and suffered scarring to her face. The paddock at the back, that is currently planted with vines, lavender and olives, was a prime site for picking mushrooms in the autumn and played host to many hares in spring as they conducted their perennial parliament that may well have taken place for aeons.

Well done for being able to afford such a property as a country retreat, and good luck with your riverside lifestyle venture, but this valley has a rich enough heritage of its own,

French Farm house feel.... really?


Forgive me if I come off my long run.

The day of my departure for Scotland, I walked Otis up the river and was surprised to find several large blocks of foam below a small weir. Not enough to cover a nightclub banquette in the nineties, but a lot of foam for this river. I was already behind time and with the bewildering traffic system of central Bristol to be negotiated later that morning, I sent a few emails and photos to friendly people at the EA and set off for Scotland. Checking my mail at the airport I received a reply that suggested it could be a malfunctioning septic tank in the valley and he would pass the message on. Four days later I returned from Scotland to find further foam. Monday was a bank holiday so on Tuesday I again contacted the friendly chap at the EA who suggested I report it as an official pollution incident. So for the second time in as many weeks I found myself talking to Tony in Sheffield, who, as instructed, asked questions about how my day was panning out and current plans for the week, before passing me onto the Incident line. Details were taken, photos sent, and I awaited a response. After three days I rang back to find out what they thought. Tony put me through to the incident room, who then passed me on to Michael somewhere in the south east who hadn't heard of this river, but could I convey the job number, and he would look into it later in that day and call me back, as he was just about to attend a course on some vital process that will only help the wheels of Command Centre central to turn ever smoother.

Five days on Michael, and don't be a stranger, but I'm still waiting for your call.

With a mind to trespass, I conducted my own investigations, starting at the top of the Dever and checking hatch pools and weirs for any sign of foam or the whiff of a faulty septic tank. There was no seeping septic tank (the EA's, Europe's leading producer of bagged salad and local water companies, current scapegoat of first choice when it comes to poor water quality)

It didn't take long to find the foam, that was being formed by the outflow of the water treatment works half a mile upstream.

It wasn't difficult, and all I can do is get cross in words, don the loin cloth and retreat to the cave shaking my fist at the outside world. But water quality in chalk streams, remains an issue, and if a water treatment works is misfiring or intermittently sending out too many bubbles it is the duty of the EA to act.

It is what they were set up to do.

Apolgies, but expect further angry words on this matter in the weeks to come.

Oh yes,Sepp Blatter..... who'd a thought?

Jack Warner was a given, it was there for all to see when he was cast as the bad guy in Live and Let Die.

#gettingawaywithitforfaaartoolong - Kids, I believe this kind of thing is still current

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