Thursday 27 August 2009

Week 81

Week 81

The river is down to its bare bones, crystal clear and fishing is very hard work. Fish are not feeding hard with sporadic hatches of fly and evening sedge fishing poor. Most fish that have been caught have been taken on plain nymph patterns that do not splash or startle. There are plenty of fish in the river the low water has pushed several from the shallows to congregate in deeper holes. The blanket weed has smothered much of the ranunculus and Celery. In parts the blanket weed has rolled into a ball and ripped out the middle of a weed bar letting all the water go. Algal blooms in harbours and estuaries along the south coast featured in the newspapers this week and are an indicator of how nutrient rich the water is flowing down some of our rivers. Blanket Weed is a filamentous algae that thrives in warm nutrient rich water this year, the growth this year is particularly luxuriant. The water is not particularly warm although it is low and clear allowing light to penetrate. Nutrient levels cannot be assessed easily with the naked eye, although the amount of blanket weed would suggest it is high. High levels of nutrients get into rivers through direct run off from fields or from Sewage outfalls. Much of the Dever Valley is now direct drilled with a harder field surface than one that has been conventionally ploughed. The intense showers that we increasingly experience run off a direct-drilled field faster than one that has been conventionally ploughed, the sewage works half a mile upstream has, at vast expense, had its capacity increased over the past two years. Neither may be a direct cause of the nutrient rich water running down this river, but then again?

Most nights this week we have climbed the stairs at bed time to find our bedroom invaded by Hornets. An inch or more long, they bumble and crash around the room while my wife and I chase them with plastic cups in our pyjamas. I am not sure if they are our native hornets, or some of the advance force of Mediterranean Hornets sweeping northwards across Europe. Not as agile in flight as a Wasp or Bee they are not difficult to trap and release but they will insist on coming back again and again.

Swallows and Martins are still here although it will be difficult to assess when they are gathering to fly south as there are so few of them. The Pheasants are doing well packing on weight and half are flying in and out of the pen to feed. I have cut all of the rides through the wood, and am now starting to feed them away from the pen towards the drives where we need them to be on a shooting day. There is a Fox about and once the four fields of wheat are cut that we shoot over, we shall have a good crack at shooting it.
The grass has had a late season flush while the fringe is just past its best with many of the flowers starting to fade. The water meadows will require one last cut before falling temperatures steady the growth.

Friday 7 August 2009

Week 80

Week 80

Heavy showers throughout the week, Combines laid up and fasting, desperate for a fill of ripe corn. Fishing has picked up a little, with fish caught on the surface and beneath with the drabbest of pheasant tail nymphs. Two fish over four pounds have been caught this week along with some very chunky Grayling. One fish caught on an Olive Klinkhammer had a mouth and gullet full of Yew berries. Bright red, a quarter of an inch across and poisonous, they would have cashed in his chips in days if the angler hadn’t hauled him out. I am not sure how you would imitate a Yew berry and what he saw in a Klinkhammer that was remotely similar to what he was feeding on.
Trout eggs are around the same size, and fish will munch eggs washed out of a Redd but that delicacy is six months away. Brown Trout are reasonably discerning creatures when it comes to diet, opting for morsels that are in season. Chuck a Mayfly at a Brown trout outside May/June on this river and you will receive a two-finned salute. Sedge in winter, a Hawthorn in September all will receive the same response. So why this fish was feeding on little red ball shaped things, so far out of season, is a mystery. Anyway, maverick Trout is bagged and in the freezer - normal service resumed.

Conditions must be good for Butterflies as the water meadows are full of them, Painted ladies, Cabbage Whites and many more lifting from the Loostrife as the dogs crash about.

The first few Pheasants are finding their way out of the pen, the heavy showers have not affected them and they continue to be bombarded with Radio 4 to scare away the foxes, a high brow group congregate in the corner to contemplate Thought for the day, while several argue over selections for Desert Island Disks; all come together over The Archers and are disturbed that Tony Archer finds time to wash his Landrover in the middle of Harvest.

Showers at this time of the year provide little succour for the trees, some of which look decidedly sick. The Balsam Poplars remain at death’s door, while the Horse Chestnuts struggle on. On a day trip to London to visit urban relations we walked down an avenue of ten year old Horse Chestnuts that looked to be on their way out. Fifty yards on, a mature tree of a hundred years or more thrived, positively in the pink and occupying “position A” between the river, bandstand and ice cream van. Trees can be fickle things. Some will go tall, some will stay small, their condition heavily dependant on the site in which they are planted or the genetics of their parents.
The Chickens are looking to raise their game. Whisper it quietly, but these fortunate fowl who laid oversized eggs thus qualifying them for a first class ride in a Waitrose pie, are now laying smaller eggs. They rattle in our egg box in the fridge door (the eggs not the chickens) The Chooks only eat corn, household scraps and whatever falls into their pen, maybe the reduced intake of pellets that promote egg laying has had an effect.

Monday 3 August 2009

Week 79

Week 79

Heavy heavy showers, few fishermen on the bank and few fish coming out of the river; the majority of fish that have been caught, taken on small drab nymphs. Anything too flashy or splashy in the low clear water scaring more than it attracts. A few more big fish have been lost, in various parts of the river. Playing and landing the long established leviathan Browns difficult in a heavily weeded river and on fined down tackle. The Blanket Weed has really taken off and in some stretches has smothered the Water Celery and Ranunculus, it has bloomed very quickly this year which is surprising given the mixed weather of the past few weeks.

The Pheasants have arrived; the collection day put back several times after heavy showers were forecast. At eight weeks old they are fairly hardy but can still be susceptible to a heavy deluge that can leave them cold and wet and result in losses. The showery weather is also perfect conditions for the onset of Gapes in the young birds. A nematode worm that sits in the windpipe of the young bird it will eventually kill its host if left untreated. The infected Poult will make a coughing sound and gasp for air. Many treatments are available although most of the effective off the shelf treatments are now only available on prescription; today the easiest way to administer the treatment is to buy food with it already added.

Many of the surrounding fields are fit to cut, much of the Winter Barley and Rape has been cut, although with ninety percent of the harvest still to be carried out there must be some concern over the medium term weather forecast. The strips of Maize grown for gamecover are some of the best in years unlike much of the other maize grown in the valley for cattle feed. Once the fields have been cut these strips of Maize act like a magnet for all wildlife looking for shelter and food.

Some Ducks have found the small patch of Barley cut on the outskirts of the village and are choosing to pitch in there in the evening to fill up on spilt Barley rather than the safety of a sheet of water. A skein of Geese makes it’s way noisily up and down the valley looking for stubbles to feed on.

I have just completed the monthly invertebrate sample which threw up identical results to last month; there were large numbers of small Mayfly nymphs which bodes well for next year and thousands of Gammarus. Blue Winged Olives, however continue to be thin on the ground.