Wednesday, 1 April 2009
More fine weather, and the river is starting to sparkle, green green weed, the colours on the Brown Trout intensifying as the water clears, buds breaking on the Weeping Willow, Cherry and Thorn bursting with blossom. The bloody Otter is still about and fishing the river at the moment, It will be necessary in the coming weeks to go through the stew ponds and calculate the bill for his winter feast.
This week I have attended a one day course on Invertebrate moitoring down on the middle river. Run by The RiverFly partnership, The Test and Itchen Association and The Environment Agency the main driving force a Dr Cyril Bennet. Dr Bennet lives and breathes riverine bugs and beetles and has monitored populations of Blue Winged Olive in many parts of the country. His main work on this river carried out at Leckford over a number of years marking a sharp decline in BWO. Entertaining, informative and with good sandwiches, the day instructed keepers on how to take a three minute kick sample and highlighted key species to count from each sample. The results collected monthly and collated by Cyril and the Test & Itchen Association to provide a clear picture of fly populations throughout the river. Few BWO showed up in the samples taken on the day, although as Dr Cyril pointed out it was a little early in the year, the BWO having a complicated phase in its lifecycle when the developing eggs go into a dormant phase, unlike many flies that hatch after a few weeks and bumble about the bottom as nymphs. A key indicator to the health of the river are the numbers of freshwater Shrimp Gammarus Pulex . Turn over a stone on this river and there would be a seething mass of shrimp of all different sizes. Breeding six times a year they are a huge source of food for all river life. A pollutant, insecticide and pesticide even at low level can wipe out the population of shrimp overnight, akin to a miner’s canary they are the first sign of a problem in the river. From now on I will be kicking over a few stones once or twice a week just to make sure that they are all still alive and kicking.
Fisherman’s day at the end of the week, same old merry bunch, come to lunch then walk the river to look at all the fish they missed last year. Trees that I have cut down have made it far too easy they say, until July when it will be “can you take a little bit from that branch please?” Four weeks to the new season although fish are already up on the fin most days.
I have had some bank repairs to do this week with chalk, along with picking up a load of wood from the sawmill for a table outside the fishing hut, and a sheltered seat halfway up the beat. The small fish in the hatchery are looking nice and chubby although I will hold on a little before getting them out on the river water.