Monday 21 December 2009

Week 91

Week 91

A little more rain, followed by an icy blow from somewhere around Moscow bought the first heavy snowfall of the winter. The river has continued to clear throughout the week and the spring ditches have started to flow. It is about where it should be for the time of the year. Steady rain post Christmas and into the New Year will be “money in the bank” for next season. The eggs in the hatchery are now eyed up and are now reasonably robust, the basket of eggs from two year old fish have been more successful than the basket from older fish, as was the case last year. They should hatch sometime between Christmas and New Year.

We had another day shooting. After a heavy fall of snow the preceding night the birds where slow to come down from their roost and as a result had not moved far from the wood in the water meadow. The snow continued for much of the morning and we saw a fair number of birds, plenty of Pheasant, a few Partridge and Pigeon and, on the last drive, a lone Woodcock. The Snipe that were about a few weeks ago have moved on and the Geese have yet to take up residence on the upstream water meadows. For some reason, there seem to be fewer ducks flighting this valley than in previous years.

At the start of this week, I was summoned to retrieve my daughter from the bus stop. While returning down the lane in the dark at teatime, we were halted by a display of flashing lights blocking the road. After parking the car, and a cautious inspection it became apparent that, in its attempt to pass an Audi 4x4 from the local manor house, a brand new, and super low slung Mercedes sports car had backed into the ford across the river and become grounded. It’s mid section touched the ground and the left wheel hung in the air The brains trust initially assigned to the task where talking of Chinooks and Chains, I reckoned that if the Audi Pulled over, I had a rope at home that would pull them clear and the world could continue to turn. We edged past the incident, picked up the rope and returned to the fray. I approached the car where Toad of Hall and Nikki Lauda were searching for the manual for the brand the new vehicle. The two wives were behind me, and getting on famously, as I bent to attach the rope, one them exclaimed, “ I really must apologise for my husband, he has no idea what he is doing” A polite reply was called for, but what do you say? The truth? - He doesn’t know what he is doing and it would be really helpful if he just got back in the car, or a placatory, “ Oh I don’t know, at least he’s having a go” The rope was attached and the low slung Mercedes dragged out amid much scraping and not much of a thank you.

Two days later I nipped up to our top bit of game cover to flatten a row of Maize in an attempt to hold a few Partridge for the shoot on the Friday. Half way through the row a lorry burst through the hedge from the dual carriageway and became embedded in the sticky field. The driver replete in high viz attire set of across the plough before balled up feet halted his tracks and he sought an easier passage scuttling up and down the verge of the road. Wondering what he was about, I approached with caution. I repelled his initial charge and it became apparent that he was in a state of shock, Emergency services were summoned and I set myself to blocking the gap in the hedge to prevent him running in the road. After twenty minutes of me rejecting his advances, the Blue Lights appeared and took him to hospital, and then on to home where he is now ok.

Half of the Partridge, in the top drive on Friday made their escape through the gap in the hedge, that the Lorry had made.

Such is life!

I was a Riverkeeper once!

Thursday 17 December 2009

Week 90

Week 90

A lot less rain than in previous weeks and the river has fined down to a level that is now fishable for Grayling. One regular up from Dorset had a fish approaching 2lb, on a tiny pink nymph with a ton of weight to get it down in the flow. The fish was in peak condition and was not the biggest in the glide that he hauled it out of. A high proportion of the intense rain that we received in preceding weeks ran straight off the valley into the river, resulting in a quick rise in level and deepening of colour. Forty-eight hours after the last shower the river had cleared and has maintained a reasonable level at about what is expected at this time of year. The spring ditches on this stretch have started to flow, although the long ditch that leads up through the village and beyond is not flowing that high up it’s seasonal valley. Two days of this week were spent retrieving the tractor from a boggy morass in the wood. While ambitiously attempting to get close to a recently fallen Ash Tree, the tractor faltered and broke through the surface of the soggy water meadow. There is still a lot of water making its way down into the aquifers which bodes well for the coming months.

The Grayling Fisherman who fished this week has fished here for some time with a fishing friend of long standing. Sadly his friend died recently and the chap is now fishing alone. The impression that some non-fishers have of fishing is that of a solitary pursuit. In my experience the exact opposite is the truth. Most anglers have a friend, or friends, that they fish with on a regular basis. I have my own group of fishing friends, and the camaraderie and team play when fishing is as intense as it is when participating in team sports. Fishing alone has its rewards, but if a fishing pal should turn up unexpectedly then the banter and conversation rattles around like machine gun fire. The Grayling Fishermen had been left some tackle by his friend, which he used for much of the morning. I visited him on the bank in the afternoon, and noticed that he had reverted to his own tackle. I asked why he had made the change to which he replied, “ I always did catch more than he did when we came here, and now I know why!” instigating a clap of thunder and a bolt of lightening that sent the lone fisher scuttling rapidly to the hut.

The eggs in the baskets are now eyed up. The microscopic eggs that I took from the two-year-old fish have been far more successful than the eggs from the three-year-old fish. The Brown Trout in the river look to be recovering well from their recent spawning and as a result of the high water are occupying different lies than they would in the summer.

We have another shoot pending and, with luck, most of the Pheasants are back where they should be. Heavy snow is also forecast which will make the day a little different.

Friday 4 December 2009

Week 89

Week 89

We had our first shoot at the start of the week, a wet and wind blown affair. It stopped raining mid morning and the birds flew superbly on a variable wind. The final bag was between sixty and seventy, mostly Pheasants, with a dozen Partridge and a dozen pigeon. Surprisingly we saw very few Duck and no Geese. On the first drive we are required to bring in the water meadow above our top boundary. A broad expanse criss- crossed by spring ditches, it is normally a good place to put up some ducks and geese early in the day. This time we saw no duck and no geese, but did disturb a few Snipe that skewed away on the wind. After a very wet period there is a lot of standing water in the meadows so it may be that the Ducks are spoilt for choice for a place to splash and dibble. On our second drive, a brutal trek across saturated plough, we put up many Partridges, the first fifty of which eschewed an easy exit downwind to fly directly into a forty mile an hour wind and over a main road to safety. Fortunately we saw plenty in the top strip of Maize, but I reckon we could have surrounded that field with a cast of thousands and that first wave of Partridges would still have headed into the wind and away, so determined were they on their course of action we had no chance of driving them over the guns. Old Labrador Zebo, had a great day. After a couple of weeks banging his gums and surviving on basic rations while fretting over a bitch in season, he had lost a lot of weight. I was in two minds as to whether to take him shooting. He worked his way steadily through the day, picking up birds from every drive. Nephew Otis failed to impress. After giving everything for the first few drives, he was a spent force for the last two, and bumbled along behind me asking to go home.

The river has risen dramatically in a week, mainly due to surface run off. Much of the water sitting in the water meadows is working its way down into the aquifers, the spring ditches are not flowing yet, although it can only be a matter of weeks before they start to run. A large dead Ash tree has come down in the wind along with a few other limbs, although the Amber tree near the fishing hut clings on to its final few leaves. The flush of water is giving the river a good scour, gravels are cleaned and silt moved on. With the banks edged in and the weed cut out the channel is completely exposed to the flow and is currently getting a thorough makeover.

The Merlin is back. While driving up the lane earlier this week, it darted out from the hedgerow. Flying along in front of the car, rising and dipping in flight for sixty yards or more before banking left through a gap in the hedge. Incredibly agile in the air, they have been turning up here for some years now.

The week ended with Christmas tree duty. The School and Village Hall both required trees for Christmas Fairs pending. The Christmas trees down hear currently fall into three categories. Very small (less than 3ft), Bloody Huge (over 40ft) and a uniquely shaped mid range selection; The School got a mighty fine six foot Christmas Bush, and the Village hall a reasonable twelve footer replete with nest.