A warm week with the temperature consistently above twenty degrees has broken all buds bar the Oak, Ash and Mulberry. Last time we had an April such as this we had a pretty poor summer. Hawthorn are everywhere from mid morning on, and I wouldn’t mind betting that every fish caught next week, when we open, is on a Hawthorn imitation. Unfortunately the warm weather has brought on the filthy brown algae that rises in clumps from the slower moving reaches of the riverbed and breaks up as it passes through broken water, tainting the water. It’s the stuff that colours the water early season on the middle river and down and seems to get worse each year. A good scour through the winter normally helps but it is something that we all need to get a handle on if early season water quality is to return to what it was only a short time ago. I have said it before and I will say it again, I can clearly remember the first time I saw a Grayling, it was in late April twenty five years ago when I was being interviewed for work experience on the middle river, the fish was in six feet off water along with a bunch off Roach getting on for three pounds, If I looked off the same road bridge late in the past few Aprils, a Hippopotamus could have lain in the same hole undetected. Early season water quality remains a problem undressed throughout this river system.
We have our first ducklings and for much of the week the errant goose, who last year eloped for an exotic week with some Canadians, has looked to the skies in search of adventure but none have given her the call. Oedipus stands primed, the first deed done, waiting to make his move, while we anticipate a plague of infertility and crop failure. On the pond the warm shallow water has instigated some early spawning behaviour, with the Carp that the Otter left, heading for the tree roots to spawn. A group of tufted Duck are on the pond most mornings although the water level may be a little low for diving Ducks to feel comfortable for long. On the top shallows the Ranunculus is in fine form and drawing the attention of swans that drop down from the top water meadow. An established pair of swans that try to nest each year on the pond chase off the young pretenders, and generally leave the weed at the top alone, preserving the prolific growth for any prospective progeny.
Bank Holidays galore at the moment and for the first ones, wife and I headed north on family business. Junior was left in charge along with daughter, whenever she got back from the beach. First stop was Cheshire, where the rains broke and we had a terrific but brief thunderstorm. It was a flying visit, and not long since our last, but each time more and more buildings have been given the Farrow and Ball heritage treatment, brickwork cleaned up, and a smart white Audi plonked outside. It is a far more salubrious county than the one my wife and I grew up in, but signs of countryside activity still abound. Cows are in fields, where good grass maintains a long established dairy industry. Market gardening continues to thrive on the sandy soil, fields of potatoes lie ridged up, and pass any canal bridge on a weekend, and cars parked betray a host of anglers chasing Bleak, Roach and Bream. The high streets of the two villages that my wife and I grew up in now host wine bars, boutiques and salons to satisfy the most idle of footballer’s wives. The wooden DIY stores of Charlie Paraffin and Harold Hughes were done for by Homebase and Focus Do It All and their under the counter supply of hooks, maggots and Arlesey bombs, lost to a generation of local anglers. “Hair by Annette” is still there, although Mr Swaffield who also cut hair for less than a pound, at the back of his newsagents while watching the racing is no longer in operation. A hunt continues to thrive and marl pits full of Rudd, Crucians and Tench are dotted across the county, and a good friend currently farms dendrobaenas (www.vermisell.co.uk) so there is still a bit of bait around; look beyond the bling and brushed metal, and much still remains the same.
We moved further north for a family party in the lakes, it rained, and on Cockermouth high street the Farrow and Ball heritage range was, once again very much to the fore. Two years ago the town was devastated by floods, with the high street under six feet of water after the Derwent and Cocker burst their banks. Much of the town has undergone a facelift and vital bridges replaced and repaired. The river looked pretty benign on our brief visit, but a brief trawl of youtube revealed a video of our hotel under siege from water and a helicopter hovering overhead plucking people from the roof.
Bank holiday and the lakes were full of people. Dressed to the nines in the latest Gore-Tex, bearing collapsible walking sticks and donning shoes made from Kevlar, Like fishing, and so many other pursuits, Fell walking can look an expensive business, but I can remember popping up and down many a peak in jeans and Dr Martins with an ex army canvas rucksack containing twenty Bensons, a cagoule, pot noodle and map. We got up, took in the view, and got down, survival was never an issue, unless someone had forgotten the matches!