Friday 25 May 2012


Bitterly cold weather delayed the start of the Mayfly which is only now just starting to get going, and as I write the first dance is forming up above a hedge at the bottom our garden. Wind is lowering marks and not many are getting a “seven!” from Len. Many take respite in the pear tree before returning to the floor and several of the successful couples retire to my shed door for l’amore.
The dance is a dangerous one as squadrons of swallows fly through the mass of mayflies plucking them from the air as a shark would a herring from its swirling mass. Many of the fish still rise clumsily to both the natural and artificial but most now have their eye in and fill their boots at tea time.
The biggest fish so far are a four and a half pound lump taken on a Klinkhammer. It was in great condition and has been in the river for at least two seasons. Tucked away below a weir pool it was difficult to spot as it lay hard up against the bank, its safe haven betrayed by a flurry of olives that drew it from its lair. A fish just shy of five pounds topped it and must have been lost earlier in the season as it had a Greenwell’s Glory lodged in the roof of its mouth. Both fish were caught on a Friday, by different anglers.
A few overwintered fish have been take that have been a little on the skinny side, which is surprising as many fed steadily through February and March. The stream in the garden is full of minnows as is the Mill Stream which draws the attention of a pair of Kingfishers who have nested in the steep bank at the top of this beat. Last year there was a rival pair of Kingfishers on the beat below and several times there was the blue flash of a kingfisher dogfight as each staked its claim for the bounty of Minnows. The candles are out on the conker tree and each afternoon the slightest breeze sends clouds of willow blossom
dancing across the water confusing angler and fish alike as to what is a fly and what is not. The decline of the cuckoo has been lamented in the press of late although they obviously didn’t interview the poor bird detailed to bring up its ravenous young, we have a few around at the moment and if ever a bird warranted an ASBO for unsociable behaviour and neglecting its offspring then this is it. Another prime candidate for an avian ASBO is a brute of a Cob Swan who along with his Pen has been in this parish for a few years. They have set up shop in a spring hole below our bottom boundary with their sole offspring. They have made a couple of forays upstream and each time the void behind has been filled by up to a dozen or more swans who have deined to nibble the shoots of ranunculus on our bottom shallows.

The introduction of the world’s worst and wobbliest spaniel unsettles this alpha Cob (that dog doesn’t behave as other dogs should), and they gently drift back to their spring hole with the Cob raising merry hell with the interlopers who have dared to sally forth to his precious spring hole, where the happy threesome remain like a cork in a bottle protecting the precious ranunculus at the bottom of this beat. Recently the Cob has drifted north alone for a few hours for a break from the demands of fatherhood, but as long as he keeps the swans downstream at bay for the coming season he can be tolerated, although the world’s worst spaniel has other ideas.
A current warm spell has sent the few carp that remain in the flight pond frisky and the fiddling around in the roots of the willows has begun. There are some fry in the river which may be Roach or Grayling who could do with a little more weed cover for protection
The Section 30 application was successful and confirmation received by phone from our excellent fishery officer on Friday. I also received a disk through the post to guide me through future online applications, I will give it a go next time.
The relevant authorities have been busy with a diesel spill, the perpetrators purported to be the salad farmers on the Bourne. Sponges, booms, pumps have all swung into action along with blanket media coverage of the clean-up operation. I have not heard reports of any significant damage, no oiled seadbirds or dead dolphins have been seen, so I can only assume that the operation went to plan.

Tuesday 8 May 2012

Riddled with pox? chance!

The wettest April on record has caused flooding in parts and led to questioning of drought orders which is typical of the short term thinking that prevails in many parts of the media on a range of subjects. The rain has certainly had an effect on this chalk stream, the chronic conjuring trick where a river is made to vanish slowly before our very eyes has been halted and the level has even inched up a tad, one of our spring ditches that bowls out of the bottom of an iron age defence ditch has even started to flow again after drying up a few months ago and the prospect of a season

curtailed through lack of water looks to have been averted. If we experience the wettest and coldest May and June on record the river could even be in fairly fine fettle by September. We have had one wet month after twenty odd dry ones, in football parlance a consolation goal for a team six nil down, in the battle with Dr Evil and his drought ray that diverts the low pressure systems away from the south east a bloody nose and nothing more. It is steady rain over a prolongued period of time that recharges the aquifers.If this were “It's a knockout”t and a measuring cylinder had to be filled with water through a lid perforated with tiny holes, the team that poured their water the slowest would fill the cylinder quicker than the team who tipped the bucket straight over the top to the guffaws of Stuart Hall. Slow and steady over a pronlogued period of time fills the aquifers not a quick tip over the top.

Our Trout fishing season is now underway and the first day saw the first significant hatch of Hawthorn, plenty of fly were blown down onto the water on a zephyr that made fishing in some spots a bit tricky but the fish responded and quite a few have already been put on the bank. As is often the case during the Hawthorn several fish rise clumsily to the first significant surface food of the year missing both the natural and the carefully presented imitation. The slight lift in water has added a tinge of colour and stimulated weed growth and if the weather warms up the grass growth is going to go bananas. The first leaves are unfurling on the Field Maple next to our house and the first Ramsens are out adding to the valley's heady scent that is dominated by the whiff of balsam poplars. There are some beautiful Roach in the river, a few of which top two pounds drifting around fat with spawn in groups of around a dozen, there is a lone Chub on the middle bends and in the pond the carp have increased their activity but have not started fiddling around in the willow roots preparing to spawn.

Although we have plenty of Brown Trout in the river we will soon need to stock with fish reared from our own fish in our own stew ponds. The river water flows through the ponds and in effect all we are doing is moving them from one side of the inlet screen to the other. To do this we must apply to the EA for a section 30 movement order. To gain a section 30 movement order they must be passed fit and a sample of thirty fish culled and sampled for Parasites (CEFAS do the bacteria). Now if the fish were being moved from one river system to another it makes sense to undertake this health check particularly in these times of heightened Biosecurity (imagined or otherwise) But in this case the fish in the ponds have been subject to the same river water and all its bugs and beasties as the population of fish that they are about to join in the river. The screen is not parasite or bacteria proof yet we are required to fork out over £300 and sacrifice 30 fish for a health check. The fish in the ponds are subject to regular checks for bacteria by CEFAS the fish health inspectorate arm of DEFRA and a sensible bunch who keep an eye out for notifiable diseases and make sure we are all keeping our records up to date. This used to be good enough for a section 30 application, but a few years ago “ they who must not be named” deemed that an extra shufty for parasites would be a good idea. A chap at Sparsholt College briefly carried out this task before departing on the Wild Trout crusade washing his hands of stocked fish. His replacement carried out the service for a few years before departing last summer for antipodean shores. The check must be carried out by an approved “health checker” so a call was made to the call centre of “fisheries command centre central” and enquires made. They were not aware of any list of approved health checkers and suggested a call to DEFRA who at the slightest suggestion of a fin pushed it on to CEFAS....... who sighed a weary sigh and gave me the number of the relevant number at “fisheries command centre central”. The call was made, and a helpful cove accepted responsibility for the request and put me on to the IFM (Institute of Fishery Management) where there lay a link that would reveal a list of people approved to carry out this task. The link was pushed and bounced straight back as “page not found” Now at this point I stopped and thought:

Costs incurred: £300+ for health check value of fish
plus delivery to vet £250 of live samplet,
half an afternoon on the phone and website trying to locate someone to carry out the task,
several more grey hairs.

I have twenty five years experience looking at fish in ponds and rivers and would back myself to identify when they have are riddled with pox or parasites, why don’t I just take the risk and go ahead without the relevant licence?

I didn’t and continued to play the game,

A list of approved health checkers was eventually located/compiled and received the next day. The money was paid, the fish bonked on the head and the relevant box ticked stating that they were “good to go”

With the Health Check done by an approved health checker in the bag the next stage is to apply for the movement order that allows the fish to be moved from one side of the metal grill to the other, or from the pond to the river. Centralisation and the establishment of "fishery command and control centre central" promised to make the process a ruthlessly efficient one, but on registering I was informed that it could take ten days for the registartion to be approved before I could get anywhere near an online section 30 form.

In evolutionary terms several backward steps were then taken although thumbs were retained. An old application form was sourced, photocoiped and filled in with a pen, stickered with a stamp and delivered in a red van by a man in shorts.

I expect approval by phone by the end of the week.

Is it me?