Tuesday 28 December 2010

Even more snow

It snowed again, six inches deep around here, other parts of the country had considerably more. It hung around for ten days or more, our second shoot was conducted in falling snow and a few days ago the dawn temperature was minus thirteen degrees. Ice has formed on the margins of the slower parts of the river and millstream and the fish have switched right off as their metabolism slows with the low water temperature.

Most of the Pheasants stayed down in the warmer meadow eschewing the draughty block of Maize on top of the hill, A few Partridge pitched off the top, but most of what was around lay in the valley bottom. A few Woodcock and Snipe got up, some funny ducks that looked like Widgeon got up in the distance and several Muntjac ran to and fro as we bumbled our way through the wood. We shot a few and missed a few, which was understandable in the conditions, and were glad to get back indoors following a bitterly cold morning. Otis did OK, picked up a couple of tricky pricked birds and quartered and flushed his way through most of the morning. Now he has worked out what his nose is for it would be great to get him out on some Ducks in the Dark, but there are still very few duck coming onto the pond let alone flying up and down the valley. With the woodburner on the go twenty four hours a day, we are getting through logs at an alarming rate, the senior ash tree that did for the bridge six weeks ago has now nearly all gone, along with another that came down near the millstream.

The Brown Trout eggs are now all eyed up and will soon be hatching, this years batch have been particularly good, especially when compared to last year’s batch when I used a couple of duff cockfish. In the river there are no fish on the gravels any more, most have retired to the deeper water to get over the rigours of spawning. The low water temperature may mean that they are slow to regain condition. The Grayling are in superb condition, the water remains relatively clear for the time of year and they are by far and away the most active of the fish in the river bar the Pike who sit motionless until hunger takes hold and a hundred mile an hour ambush secures them a meal. With a bit of colour in the water we could have some good pike fishing in the early months of next year.

Sunday 5 December 2010

Snow and stuff

Freezing temperatures didn’t deter a couple of Grayling fishermen last week who struggled on their first day in low clear water and biting wind but caught fish on the second when the Grayling decided to join in. There are a few big fish around at the moment, and on the odd occasion this week they have fed on the surface mid afternoon to the odd Olive that has broke cover.
Snow midweek covered everything up and made the place look neat and tidy, night time temperatures fell to around minus six, which is positively tropical compared to the minus twenty in Scotland. The snow also revealed that the Otters are back and filling their boots in the stew ponds, the electric fence became buried in the overnight snow and the Otters were quick to take the opportunity of an easy meal, they are becoming increasingly bold in their activities and are not the creature of twenty years ago that would shy away from the slightest hint of human activity. On one of our fishing trips to France we saw several soporific and decidedly rotund Otters that seemed to have taken up residence on a coarse fish farm. The owners had become exasperated at their ineffective efforts to keep the creatures out of the ponds, and were fast approaching the last resort of reaching for the recipe book.
The shallows are bright with the clean gravel of freshly cut redds, more than I have seen for some seasons, the Leviathan that inhabits the middle bends put in her annual appearance, close to double figures she has been around for at least the last four seasons. Rarely seen during the season, she crashed at a Fisherman’s fly during the hot weather of summer, and in January she swam into my legs while I was moving some tin, but most of the time she tucks herself away in the deeper water.
The Merlin hasn’t turned up yet, although a few funny things are cropping up around the place. A Marsh Harrier was flopping around when my wife and I took the dogs down to the Common last Sunday.
The sledging field behind our house, which also doubles as quite a senior Pheasant drive, was once again the centre of attention with the local youth flinging themselves downhill on plastic sheets, upturned roof boxes and the odd orthodox sledge. Many stuck to the same run for the first hour or two, before moving ten yards across the slope for some virgin snow, the first run down put up two hares who had sat tight within yards of the screaming and crashing for over an hour. During the days of open Coarsing I was constantly amazed at a Hare’s ability to conceal itself in an open patch of earth and avoid detection, as the beating line stepped over it in open country.

On a bitterly cold day, we had our first shoot. The Field magazine with photographer and assistant turned up to take some pictures for their February front cover. A photogenic beating line containing the usual suspects worked the camera and put up a considerable amount of birds, although Duck were conspicuous by the their absence during the opening skirmishes down the spring ditches of the water meadow. Pheasants flew well, although the drive with the new and improved Iron age defence ditch sans trees and cover, proved a little tricky. We also saw quite a few Muntjac, two or three Woodcock and some nice Partridge. Otis performed surprisingly well, with one tricky pick up of a pricked Partridge on the other side of the river, he did however run out of beans towards the end of the day and must learn to pace himself, In Len’s words I’d give him Sevuuurrnn!

Got a bit of a bashing on the letters page of Trout and Salmon magazine this month. I questioned an entertaining article about fishing the River Rother at Petersfield that claimed the fish caught were genuine wild Brown Trout. I wrote to the magazine asking how the fishery conservation expert who advised the author could be so sure that they were wild fish, particularly as I had stocked the stretch below with mixed sex Brown Trout for several years. Fishery Conservation expert replied in emotive terms invoking the spirit of grand children with a “concrete” case that included the use of the words “probably” and “we can assume” I have replied in person and do not wish to enter into a messy exchange of letters in the angling press.

Unfortunately we probably can’t assume, because the argument over stocking has become muddied by the extremes of view held by the wild fish brigade and the corporate and commercial boys, a sensible solution lies somewhere in between.