If witchcraft is your thing it’s going to be a wet summer, the buds on the ash trees around here are just breaking out, but the oaks look as dormant or as dead as dodos. The warm week sent the fish looking to the surface as Olives flurried skywards around midday, the Swallows also enjoyed the feasting although I have yet to see or hear any Martins or Swifts. Things are starting to green up although the weed in the river has yet to get going, the river is full of fish and with little cover from weed and the marginal fringe growth, Mr Stabby, the Grey Heron, is starting to inflict some damage.
There are a good number of Duck in the valley with several sitting on eggs, the pond has been invaded by twenty or so Tufted Duck, who have nested on there before. Ten years ago it would have been covered in Gadwall, but we rarely see these now. There are no signs of any Carp remaining in the pond. One winter’s work for an Otter who when presented with an extensive menu of Trout, Grayling, Roach, Eels and Pike in the river and a pond full of Carp Bream, Tench, Perch Roach Rudd and Eels. Stuck rigidly to the double figure Carp in the pond and killed the lot, all over forty years old and unlikely to be replaced. Mr Fine Fleece would have us believe that they eat only eels, which they undoubtedly enjoy, and wasn’t there some concern over their declining numbers a few years ago. This troublesome Tarka killed only the large Carp. Commercial coarse fisheries that are suffering similar losses to their stocks face bleak times. The budget for compensation from our overlords is a drop in the ocean when compared to the value of the stock lost so far. There has been some talk in the angling press of the problem and a couple of MPs have also raised the issue in the run up to the election. The response from conservation bodies and the EA who proudly display PowerPoint presentations showing “Otters are up” lends little succour to those living with the problem, and adds to the general air of “who gives a toss about fishing” which currently prevails.
More news from Bonkers Central, and the current partiality for woody debris; expect to hear a lot about this one, any trees down in the river then please leave them where they are, along with the idea of opening up all of the hatches in the valley just to see what happens. The woody debris idea is in complete contrast to advice from flood defence who are part of the same body, who may also have concerns about opening all of the hatches. If we were to leave open the sluice gate in the front of the Mill house on this stretch of river, fifty yards of slack water upstream from the gate would benefit. The house, which has stood with its gate for over five hundred years would have a drained channel above it, water would be taken away from the main river channel and a thousand yards of fishing would suffer for the benefit of fifty, but hey lets have a go and see what happens. An advocate of this idea was recently offered a stretch of river on which to conduct experiments. Bemoaning the fact that there was little water coming down the particular stretch on which he planned to tinker, he asked the Keeper if anything could be done, who led him two hundred yards upstream to a hatch that had been in place for hundreds of years and sent some water down the stream on which he was to play.
Woody debris in the wrong place can cause all sorts of problems. Narrowing down the millstream with faggots, willow and sedge many years ago, (before The Wild Trout Trust, and Mr Fine Fleece and clipboard were even conceived) I did make use of some woody debris, it remains in place and has benefited that stretch of stream. Woody debris in the wrong place for the shortest length of time can do immeasurable damage to bank, bed and marginal weed growth.