Monday 21 September 2009

Week 83

Week 83

The dry weather continues and the river continues to drop. I contacted the EA recently requesting some flow data from the main monitoring station for this river, which just happens to be at the bottom of this stretch. At huge expense and disruption the river was diverted and lots of fancy electrical equipment built into the bottom of the river bed under the bridge that measure the discharge of the river on a daily basis. Spikes appear in the graphs when I open the hatch on the mill house which caused some initial concern with EA boffins when they first started using their new equipment, the hatch in question was installed midway through the nineteenth century so it was not exactly something that was sprung on the them. The Data showed that over the last sixteen years this particular river has only been lower than its current level on two occasions. Tree roots and old riverbank repairs stick out of the bank like Dinosaur ribs, the fish have shoaled up in the deeper holes and several of the shallows that the fish will spawn on in just over a month’s time are close to breaking the surface of the river.

The grass growth is slowing up now and most trees bar the Oaks show signs of autumn. The temperature has dropped markedly in the evenings and, as is often the case during September, much of the fly hatch and most of the fish caught are in the afternoon. Several bigger fish have been caught,one rod had a brace of four pounders and a two pound fish which would have been a good bag in May. Most fish have been taken on a nymph although those skilful enough to fish a lot finer and lighter have managed to take fish on the surface.

Hedgehogs are on the move, the weakening sun instigating a last big feed before they settle down for the winter. My old Labrador doesn’t understand Hedgehogs, it is the only thing that will send him silly, he circles them with staccato barks nudging and flicking them with his nose before finally plucking up the courage to pick the spiky thing up and bring it to me to release unharmed some distance from the house. The Young Labrador has a very soft mouth, picking up a fragile Pheasant Poult and bringing it to me unharmed. I have been going over a few things with him with the dummy and it all seems to be in there, he just needs to steady up and grow up and stop going at everything at a hundred miles and hour. The Spaniel shows no sign of improvement and remains completely useless but highly entertaining.

All the corn is cut now and the Pheasants are finding their way up to some of the best Game cover we have had in years, seven foot high Maize adorned with some of the biggest cobs I have ever seen.
While marking out the local football pitch one evening this week, I saw a man in the corner of the field with what looked like a large net or coat. I assumed that it was the local ferret man who had been hired to tackle a burgeoning Rabbit problem along that side of the pitch. I carried on with my marking and two minutes later heard a series of squeaks and squawks, intrigued as to what he could be squeaking I stopped and watched him from eighteen yard box. He was firing up the mother of all sets bagpipes, Banned from the back bedroom at home, he had chosen this particular spot to go over his repertoire without complaint from family or neighbours. I carried on marking the pitch to the skirl of a lone Pipey marching up and down the touchline, and wondered if the Pipey may not be a better solution to the Rabbit problem.

Wednesday 9 September 2009

Week 82

Week 82

This is all getting a little repetitive; fishing remains difficult with poor hatches of fly, low clear water and a proliferation of blanket weed choking the river. A few fish have been caught, mostly on small brown nymphs or cdc emerger patterns. September normally sees fish hurling themselves at a Daddy Long Legs or a Terry’s Terror but with fish crammed into the deeper holes they are more concerned with maintaining their position than feeding. The bottom bend near the Mill House is one of the deeper stretches and it currently holds forty plus Brown Trout along with a hundred Roach and Grayling.

The Shallows are now smothered in blanket weed; any holes that do exist are shallow and a vulnerable spot for a Trout to lie. The Environment Agencies Catchment Management Strategy of 2006 that looked at the possibilities of extra abstraction from Hampshire’s aquifers, acknowledged that the Trout fisheries of the middle and Upper Test were amongst the most valuable in the country and concluded that there was no more water available and the catchment was over abstracted, they also highlighted concerns about high phosphate levels in the river. The river is currently low and blanket weed is thriving in nutrient rich water. Glossy brochures and fancy media campaigns give the public the impression that the EA are on the case. I would suggest that the problem highlighted by the EA in the 2006 report has got worse in the years that followed the report’s publication, and that money spent from a limited budget on glossy brochures and fancy magazines may have been better spent on tackling the problems the report highlighted.

This obsession with media image and public perception has crept into many sectors of public life. I would hazard a guess that the Police have more “media trained” officers than ever before. Our local paper devotes a page a week to Mr “Jolly Face” Community Officer who is no doubt backed by a cast of thousands to get his copy in on time. If we lose hundreds of pounds of fish from a pond, out comes a Constable, kicks over a few leaves then sends a letter two days later informing that they have looked into the matter and are unable to take it further, Oh, and if I hear anything more about who could have stolen the fish could I please let them know; I still have the letter. Our Council send out their Glossy Newspaper to tell us all how prudent they are being with our money, in the post; many must question why they do this, including those compiling and sending the damned thing, as must many police constables question the value of the amount of media/community based work they are required to carry out when they would rather be out smashing in drug dealer’s doors or cleaning the streets of crime.

Several fish in the river are looking a little thin; this month’s invertebrate sample revealed lower numbers of most invertebrates in the river. This may be normal for this time of the year or it may have something to do with the condition of the river. A keeper on the main river experienced similar results.

The Pheasants are moving further and further from the pen, the four fields of Spring Wheat that we shoot over have yet to be cut and must be some of the last fields to be combined in Hampshire. As a result I am feeding the Pheasants hard in the wood, and chasing back with the dogs any that look like they are heading off anywhere else. A few Ducks are coming in on the pond at night, although I have yet to start feeding the pond.
Some leaves are turning and some have fallen, the forecast for the coming week is dry and warm, although it is definitely starting to feel like autumn is on the way.