Friday 5 September 2008


Week 35

Another tough week for fishing, and speaking to other keepers and rods who fish elsewhere the story is much the same up and down the river. The weather continues to be wet and windy with sporadic hatches of fly and fish feeding intermittently, if at all. There is a distinct autumnal feel in the air, with some trees starting to shed leaves, soon the Brown Trout in the river will be turning their minds to other things. We are around ten weeks off spawning although a fish caught this week contained some very well developed eggs. The urge to spawn in Trout is induced by decreasing day length, while the past few months have been particularly gloomy I can’t believe that the fish think it is November already. Hopefully they will have one last period of concerted feeding before committing themselves fully to the throes of spawning. The Grayling in the river are in superb condition, fatter than most years they will provide good sport once the trout season has finished. A fisherman reported seeing an Otter earlier in the week, hopefully it will have moved through and not got stuck in to one of the stew ponds.
Eels have been on the move and visible during the day. Mature Eels work their way downstream throughout late summer and autumn as they start their journey to the Sargasso Sea to spawn. Further down the river there are a number of large Eel sets used to catch the migrating Eels. The Eel set is a large cage mounted on one half of the back of a set of sluices that span the main river channel. During the day the river flows through the half of the sluices that do not have the Eel set mounted behind them, during the night these are closed and the sluices in front of the Eel set opened, the river flows through the Eel set and the Eels migrating downstream along with anything else that happens to be coming down river are caught in the set. The set must be cleaned and checked throughout the night by the keeper, the Eels removed and kept alive in a secure tank. Dark nights with no moon and wind and rain are the most productive nights, the catch can number many hundreds of Eels. The majority are between one and two pounds in weight, with the bigger Eels coming towards the end of the run; twenty years ago most of the Eels were picked up by a man who ran a famous Eel pie shop in London, today many are taken to the continent or are used for smoking. Occasionally at this time of the year I while come across a big Eel making its way across the meadow to the river, having grown fat in the pond and reached a great age, the urge to spawn leads it to cross dry land in an attempt to find flowing water that will take it to the sea. We are a little high up the river to justify running an Eel set, and lack a suitable set of sluices. I have used a Fyke Net to catch a few when conditions have been right my best catch being between thirty and forty some years ago.
We still have wheat waiting to be cut around the village, along with several fields of beans. Our cross eyed cat, that was sold to us a female killing machine but is in fact a fat male slug, has made great use of the open stubble field behind our house, moving on from terrorising frogs and dragonflies to the odd Rabbit. To achieve success the rabbits must be sat in pairs so that when he dives for the one on the right he catches the one on the left, he then leaves the bloody stump of the back end of the rabbit on the stairs. On one occasion my wife woke the house with her screams after putting her bare foot straight into the pile of blood and gore while seeking out a glass of water.The Pheasants are moving further and further away from the release pen each day. I feed them a bucket of wheat every morning and have feeders placed throughout the wood. Each day I feed a little further from the pen leading the birds to the game cover or the part of the wood where you would like them to be on a shooting day. It is important to get the amount of food right; too much food that is too easily available and the birds fill up quickly and then go for a walk, hopefully not off your land. Too little food and they will walk off looking for it. As the birds do get older they will inevitably wander. To counter this I will have to circumnavigate the boundary of the land with the dogs every morning, gently chasing the Pheasants back into the woods and the game covers. Some strains of Pheasant particularly Michigan Blues have a tendency to wander more than others, they are a smaller bird with a blue/grey back that fly particularly well, but cover a substantial acreage on their travels. For our relatively small area we require a big old Hampshire bird with short legs and strong wings that has no desire to see the world

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