Wednesday 25 November 2009

Week 88

Week 88

What a wet couple of weeks, we have had our fair share but up in the Lake District they had over twelve inches in the space of 24 hours. This “one in a thousand” event washed away bridges and flooded the town of Cockermouth, which sits on the confluence of the rivers Derwent and Cocker. Historically prone to flooding the populace of this small medieval town, accustomed as they must be to donning waders and wellies, can only have been astonished at the scale of this recent flood. We attended a family wedding at a smart hotel on the banks of one of the rivers; our first floor room overlooked the river and must be high on the list for new carpets having seen it on the BBC news. At lunchtime on the day of the family wedding my son and I were chatting to another guest at a table in the bar and just about to take the first sip of the day, when the full glass of beer slid a few inches across the table and toppled over. The lady from behind the bar appeared with a cloth, promises of a fresh pint and cursed “that bloody ghost that’s costing this bar a fortune” It was not an uncommon occurrence for glasses to fall over unaided in this spot. I was knocked off my stride for a moment and looked for an explanation but could find none. She faced this bizarre moment with admirable stoicism and practical common sense, while I looked under the table for Derek Acorha. Her outlook will serve many well in the wake of the recent freak flood, while mine will herald calls an ark.

It will be interesting to see what effect the flood will have on fish populations and invertebrates. A wet winter on the Dever invariably results in a downstream drift of invertebrates that eventually work their way back upstream over subsequent seasons. It is my guess that the headwaters of the Derwent and Cocker will have suffered the greatest loss, but hatches of fly will increase over the following years as flies work their way back upriver. The fish will be ok, they always seem to find somewhere to tuck away, although many salmonid eggs in redds will have been washed away.

On the Dever the heavy rain has lifted the river and there is now enough water to run the streams through the garden plus some extra to send down the millstream. A chap popped round in a fancy car this week, although I’ve seen fancier, selling photos that he had taken from his helicopter. I wish he had let me know when he was taking the picture as the garden looked a bit of a mess, as did an area round the back where I store much of my stuff, as a result much of this week has been spent having a bit of a tidy. Hopefully the fancy man in his flying machine will email the picture to me so that I can Photoshop out the untidy bits.

One day this week was spent in the company of The Cefas man, establishing boxes that need a tick and records that have to kept, in order to keep the fishing world turning and the river Dever flowing. This was followed by a visual inspection of the site. It’s a regular event that all registered fish farms/fisheries have to go through. Our inspector is a nice chap, who recognises that as much can be achieved over an informal cup of coffee, as the stringent box ticking exercise that we are required to perform as formality. The introduction of non-native species and illegal fish movements are always on the agenda. Non-native species entered the public domain this week on an ITV Chinese cookery programme. Over the past few years, we have regularly been alerted to potential invasion by Chinese Mitten Crab. An invasive freshwater crustacean it is a Chinese delicacy that some enterprising Coolie has chucked in the Thames. As a result, a breeding colony of Mitten Crabs now inhabit central London. It is an offence to introduce a Mitten Crab to another waterway, but these critters are renowned for ignoring movement orders and hiking miles cross- country to pitch into another river. The colony in the Thames has been established for some time and their future has been the subject of much debate. Why not expose this urban Mitten Crab population to commercial exploitation? a ready supply of a “high end” food source in the middle of town, and if over exploited, as it is likely to be, everyone’s a winner. Non-native species eliminated, and a few years of top soup!

Is it me?

Friday 13 November 2009

Week 87

Week 87

A few inches of rain have added a little colour to the river but not raised it’s level. We really do need many weeks of prolonged rain to recharge the aquifers for next season. The fish in the river have all but done with spawning and many have returned to deeper water for some R & R and to regain condition. Any hatches of fly at this time of the year are welcome fodder for a post-natal Trout.

I have also stripped a few fish for eggs to lay down in the hatchery. Normal mixed sex eggs, nothing exotic. For the last few years I have taken the eggs from two-year-old Brown Trout, as opposed to fish of three years or more. The eggs are slightly smaller, more can be fitted into a basket and they are easier to pick. This year as always I went through the pond around Bonfire night for fish to strip, for some reason the two year old fish were not ready to strip, the eggs had not been released from the ovaries into the body cavity and as a result could not be expressed from the vent, the few three year old fish that I had left were ready and almost over ripe in one case. The two year old fish ready for stripping two weeks later than in previous years.

The weed has now been cut and the blanket weed almost all rolled away. Despite the hint of colour in the water the freshly turned gravels have a silt free sparkle, another welcome anomaly at this time of the year are the low numbers of fish in the river and stew ponds with fungal infections. A perennial problem when the river warms up or cools down, the fungal infection is clearly identified by white patches on the head and body of the trout. Some years losses in ponds and river can be devastating but so far this year we have lost none in the ponds and I have only seen one infected fish in the river. The Grayling are also in tip-top condition and will rise to a fly around midday.

The Pheasants area still scoffing maize and if we shot at them tomorrow we would have a good bag, fingers crossed they are still about in a couple of weeks time for our first day. A few ducks are pitching in on the pond but numbers are definitely down on previous years although there are twenty or thirty on the river when I walk up with the dogs first thing in the morning.
Most trees have now shed their leaves bar an Amber tree that has now turned a deep maroon and Winter feels like it is definitely here. We have had a few hard frosts but the stingers through the wood remain head high in some places and will need a bashing from further frosts if we are not to finish a shooting day covered in welts.

Tuesday 3 November 2009

Week 86

Week 86

Just back from a half term trip to France. Fishing on the Yonne near Auxerre, a new river for us it once held the French Carp record with an 80lb fish caught by Msr Rieves near the river’s confluence with the Seine. The much photographed fish ended up in the Rieves family freezer, its value today to a Commercial Carp fishery that have spread right across France would have run well into five figures. The Carp on the river are few and far between and the chances of dropping in on some of them in a week are pretty slim. We fished a feeder or float for much of the week, catching numerous Barbel, Chub, Bream, Roach, Perch, Gudgeon and a Bullhead on maize, meat and maggots Great sport on light tackle, the fish were caught in fast flowing water gin clear and about five foot deep the Barbel in particular were in superb condition, rod wrenching bites and a thumping scrap on four pound line. The river was low, clear and many of the fish were clumped together in the deeper holes and glides, a familiar picture to home. Midweek we took ourselves off to a lake nearby and fished for twenty-four hours for Carp. Around eight acres in size we had the place to ourselves, the overnight temperature dipped to minus three and we did not touch a fish, not even a liner. The Fishery Manager proudly informed us that he had tipped three quarters of a tonne of pellets into the lake in the preceding weeks in his efforts to get the fish to grow for next summer, with little sign of feeding fish and clear unmuddied water most of those pellets must still lie on the bed of the lake what chance did we have of a fish taking our meagre offerings?

At home my parents kindly stepped in to do dog, fish, pheasant and Chicken duties. My employer shot the ducks for the first time, with few birds around and a clear night they were not too successful. The Pheasants are still holed up in the Maize and will make good tasty eating if Maize has formed the main base of their diet; a side dish of acorns can make them taste a little funny although they don’t seem to have found these yet. Strong winds and heavy rain greeted our return and the river has lifted a little, many of the leaves were blown off over a weekend and the screens on the stew ponds need regular cleaning if they are not to become blocked. The fish are now moving into full spawning mode with some huge redds dug on the shallows, Herons have become increasingly bold with the temptation of easy stabbings in the shallows, while the low water has at least kept the incoming Cormorants off the river.