Saturday 22 September 2012
Much of this week has been spent in palls of smoke as the neighbouring estate burns unharvested fields of linseed. It all went a bit flat in the early summer rain and would have been a slow job with the combine, but if they had needed it, they would have got it in somehow, Linseed fetches between £300 and £400 a tonne through the winter and up until a few years ago there was a substantial subsidy for growing the stuff. I guess the sums were done by a Barley Baron in a land far far away and an assessment made of the potential yield, the thumb pointed down and the field set alight, modern farming, it’s a funny old game! Linseed is an odd grain , pretty blue flowers on thin spindly stalks that occasionally catch fire during harvest turn into flat shiny grains that, sans spectacles, look like an undernourished tick. As a student I worked the corn cart for four summers on an estate on the middle river. For two summers they grew a few hundred acres of linseed that cut beautifully in the sunshine but was a bugger to cut on an overcast day. The trailer load of linseed acts more like water than wheat, slopping around on every corner and refusing to go up in a heap., jump in a bin full of wheat or barley and you will sink in to your ankle, jump in bin full of linseed and you just keep on going down.
On the river fishing has tailed off a tad, a few fish are entertaining carnal thoughts but a significant number give the impression that they may be vaguely interested in surface food. The influx of extra water early in the summer has kept the river in good condition for much of the season and the fish have responded accordingly, far fewer Brown Trout have sulked and skulked during recent weeks compared to the low flows of the last two seasons when most Browns in the river have tucked themselves away from mid July onwards, fewer fish have been caught on a nymph this season and most rods have found a rising fish somewhere, but many of these late season fish have been around the block and in cricketing terms with the end of season approaching are looking to protect their average with a few “not outs” . One fish, twenty yards below the fishing hut I have named Trott. An idiosyncratic fish she has remained on the same station since early April unfussed by the Grayling Roach, Pike and Perch that occupy the same hole. There is nothing flashy about her rise but it gets the job done, returning religiously to the same station, scratching her crease to prepare for the next fly that the river will deliver be it in one minute or one hour. She has had all manner of things thrown at her throughout the summer all of which have been met with a dead bat, she has got bigger and bigger and after a couple of seasons in the river is now around five pounds. Earlier in the season she had a partner of similar seniority on a neighbouring station who I shall call Kevin, after a promising start to the season in which he showed great discipline through a surfeit of Hawthorn and Mayfly he fell to the first flashy nymph that was twitched past his nose; Kevin is now exploring new career opportunities at the smoker. Barring injury during the close season Trott will be in the same spot next year, bigger wiser and a prize catch/wicket for someone cute enough to catch him out. There’s also a fish I call Ian who is the best looking fish in the river who plucks flies from the surface with perfect timing but has been hooked and lost a few times when concentration has been lost.
Chalk stream Brown Trout are batsmen and once their eye is in, they often stay in. The angler is the bowler, some days rewarded by a consistent line on off stump with the fiftieth ball/cast finding success, on other days variety is the key, mixing up deliveries or going through the fly box in order to achieve success. On other days the bowler is removed from the attack only for the next bowler/angler to reap the rewards, often with their first ball/cast.
Hatches of medium Olives from late morning on have been reasonable as have the numbers of Blue Winged Olive who continue to take five in various parts of our house. As is often the case at this time of year a cool zephyr results in a procession of micro flotsam and jetsam taking the racing line through the river, much of which has blown off fading bankside trees, caught in amongst are small terrestrial bugs and beasties that draw the interest of feeding trout, look in a Yankee fly box and there will be all manner of patterns to cover such a situation and much more besides, but here small and black normally suffice.
The two parliamentary figures enjoyed their day, the outgoing chairman of the cross party committee for angling was indeed a keen coarse angler and duly swooned at our Roach, the present incumbent of the position proved a more than competent fisher with oodles of fly fishing experience and will undoubtedly go far in the house.
The evenings are now turning cooler and one morning this week we had a few small patches of frost in pockets up the river.
I have had some very kind invitations to fish in various places, a weekend on the Wye, bothering Barbel with a twenty four hour bankside festival of meat was declined due to a University open day for child B, and work commitments prevented a trip with a fly rod to the Kennet. I am however looking forward to day on the lower Itchen in pursuit of autumn Salmon. I haven’t visited the stretch of river for many years but do remember seeing almost every freshwater fish under the sun bar a Salmon the last time I was down there.
Unfortunately, for reasons beyond our control we will not be having our usual shooting days this year. The “circumstances beyond our control” bit was a tad surprising as the whole shebang was always under threat from inept keepering. It’s been a bit like an episode of Dallas in tweed but following “circumstances etc” we no longer have the ground on which we used to shoot. We will still have a few bumbles up and down the valley with the usual suspects in line to worry the local wildlife, but the jolly days of driving Partridge and Pheasant from our strips of maize and an Iron Age defence ditch will not be happening this year, which is a shame.
Returning to cricket, the club with which I and other members of my family are involved received the most votes in the Lloyds Bank Community fund awards and the 1st prize of £5000 has been splurged on an artificial wicket, which will be installed at the end of the month. If you were able to cast a vote in our direction, thank you very much!
Friday 7 September 2012
A quick scan of the fishing records past and present reveal that August fishing on this river was the most productive for many years. Last year and the year before that, most Brown Trout took on a dark torpor and remained soporific, sulking on the bottom refusing to budge. This past month many fish have been up on the fin and fewer anglers have found it necessary to resort to a nymph. This week the evenings have a fresher feel and most fish have been caught during the afternoon when there has been a trickle of all sorts of Olives coming off the water with the number of sedges flittimg about increasing as the afternoon progresses. Lying in the bath the other night with the window open, as is my wont, I was joined by two types of voyeuristic sedge and a Blue Winged Olive, that took five on the wall by the loo.
The river has dropped a little during the past few weeks and there is very little water flowing down the Millstream, all the water is flowing down the main river in an attempt to limit the impact of the blanket weed that has bloomed in the past fortnight,
smothering water celery and ranunculus in some places. The water is crystal clear and the Grayling and Roach are fat and in peak condition, both have been feeding hard sub surface, the Roach in particular taking advantage of the cover of ribbon weed to pick dainties from the bed of the river. On the Itchen the weed growth is prolific and spikes of ribbon weed have once again broken the surface, fish have been caught throughout the month and seem to show at similar times of the day to the Dever, every month it has been necessary to hit the weed hard in an attempt to get the river back within its banks but there are still some squashy places on the fishing bank and wellies remain
the footwear of first choice for the September angler. While cutting weed in the top pool of the stretch of the Itchen I saw half a dozen enormous Grayling, long and chunky, they looked well over three pound and are possibly the big fish I saw spawning above the bridge earlier in the year. On the Dever we have few fish over two pound but nothing like these monsters in the Itchen. The Brown Trout are showing few signs of their minds turning to all things carnal and the majority continue to feed happily at some point or other during the day.
We have a few ducks coming in to the pond, but not huge numbers. The Phragmites in and around the pond has experienced a bumper year for growth, and is almost impenetrable, there could be anything lurking amongst the leggy stems and the Bittern will certainly enjoy the cover should he return this winter. Some of the Phragmites will have to be cut back early to aid picking up following duck flighting. Most of the reed beds that were burnt off in March are in a similar state of luxuriance following the summer rain and provide thick cover for the Pheasants along the river valley that will provide a stiff challenge for the best Spaniel on shoot day.
Fruit’s a bit of a worry and the neighbourhood is almost void of apples, plenty of pears and plums, but the apple trees around here are almost bare. Even the two megalithic Bramleys that could have tempted Eve aeons ago, that regularly yield trailer loads of big shiny apples have only a few dozen fruit. The vine in my garden is in a similar state and we shall miss a garden full of inebriated birds at the end of October. Drunk on over-ripe grapes,Blackbird wars have often broken out mid afternoon once the clocks have gone back, this year abstinence will probably do them good.
I have received several kind invitations to fish this past week and have a day on the lower Itchen and the Kennet lined up for later this month. I did have another offer of a day on the Kennet but had to decline as the arrival of the past and present chairman of the "all party parliamentary group for angling" is imminent plus I had a holiday’s worth of grass cutting and strimming to catch up on. The past Chairman purports to be a keen Coarse angler so it will be interesting to see if he has head turned by our Roach and Perch.
One invitation I did take up was a visit to some lakes on the middle river for some fishing with friends and fellow keepers. I completely forgot to take any tackle but remembered the all important beer. A jolly day, in great surroundings, food and company were excellent, even the rice, which chef worried over for hours.
The local village cricket club in the neighbouring village of Longparish with which most of my family seem to be involved, is one of four finalists in the Lloyds Bank Community Fund awards which, in the grand manner of all things “X Factor” is decided by public vote. The two causes who receive the most votes will each be awarded £5000. If successful the money will be used by the club to part fund the installation of an artificial wicket, and not needlessly squandered on a media centre with sky tv and a fridge full of cold cuts and beer. An artificial wicket will principally be used by the Junior sides, their season is short and for the past two years has been devastated by the weather. An artificial wicket would mean that fewer games and coaching sessions would be lost to the weather and provide a true, even and safe surface on which to learn the game. With just over 24 hours to go Longparish Cricket club lie third in the voting with around 800 votes which is 26% of the total. Second place and the award of £5000 could be decided by as few as a dozen votes, hence this begging appeal which I promise not to repeat.
Votes can be cast by texting voterg2 to 61119 and are charged at your local network rate
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Voting ends at midnight on Saturday 9th September
Tuesday 4 September 2012
Following recent concerns over Olympic legacy, We have just returned from a seven day fact finding mission to a far flung corner of Greece to see how things have progressed since they hosted the games in 2004. Well that’s what I put in the expenses claim that is currently winging its way to Lord Coe and his crew. Realistically it was the only place that could accommodate us for a seven day period sandwiched between the end of the cricket season, the start of the school and college year, the August weed cut and the onset of the duck shooting season. The Canary islands seemed to be on fire so we
opted for Lefkada an island up from Corfu and Kaphalonia that statistically is due some major seismic activity any minute now. We travelled with five teenagers which may
not quite equate to the impact of the 2003 earthquake that toppled most of the buildings in the island's capital Lefkas but threatened to come quite close. Unsure of the currency of first choice we left the currency exchange to the last minute opting for Euros but keeping a few pounds in reserve and a handful of drachma retained from a student trip to Crete many years ago when I had a fringe and before my chest had slipped.
Most places were booked up, beaches, bars and boats were all busy, business looked good , the favourable exchange rate with the pound to euro made living fairly cheap and easy with a half decent dinner with wine of sorts and beer costing around sixty pound. A seven seat dory could be hired for seventy five pound including a day’s fuel and a quad bike for a day whizzing around the mountains, thirty five pound.
Kafeneion culture was very much to the fore as it has been for centuries, discussion was often heated and one can only guess at the subjects, with tourist trade good and most in the town gainfully employed in one form or another, events at central command over the past decade must be high on the list for discussion. Why were the books cooked in 2001 to allow Greece into the European union and the subsequent over borrowing to fund massive infrastructure projects, services and public sector wages? The Greek government has a history of wanting to “treat its people well” and with good cause, the country took a bit of a hammering in the middle of the past century, the brutality of civil and world wars, famine and earthquake all live long in the memory of many Greeks, but the six year splurge on easy EU credit did the everyday Stavros a disservice
Following the election in 2009 it became clear that the Greek government had been a little lenient with the truth as to their true financial position on entry to the EU in 2001 and also during the years that followed and once a clearer picture of their financial position was established the roof fell in on the economy. A huge burden of debt must now be repaid by your average Costas and Sophie, and not by the third rate politicians who ran the country during the early part of this century that included the Olympic games of 2004. The games of 2004 are still seen as a positive thing by most Greeks but their legacy is a host of dilapidated stadia and a crumbling sporting infrastructure, crippling national debt and some pleasant accommodation for the third rate politicians in the cool of the hills.
But that’s enough politics. A fishing rod crept into the suitcase, a six piece eight foot spinning rod that was put to use in the harbour to winkle out small bass and bream on float fished bread on a size sixteen hook to four pound line; double maggot would have cleaned up as it does on the cob at Lyme Regis were the bites were also hard to hit. Many of the locals legered with smnall baits thirty yards from the shore but didn't seem to be faring any better, one chap fished every day with his pet cat.
Ten minutes spinning from the boat with a two inch toby while the youth of today snorkelled nearby produced a long beige coloured fish with paddles for pectorals that I have yet to identify, and a slow troll back to base, produced a bend in the rod and a snapped line a hundred yards from the shore. Next time I may sneak a fly rod in as I am sure I can get away with fewer clothes; extensive shufties with the snorkel suggested that some of the quieter coves that we visited in the boat may well have produced some decent sport.
In town the Yia Yia’s were out, black clothed matriarchs who sat in judgement in shops and cafes holding their own discussion on the state of play. One dispensed delicious home-made Feta and Tzatziki from buckets at the back of one shop with a scowl that should have been squeezed out of her at sales school.
Teenagers proved good company and provided humourous tales of their midnight adventures including being coaxed into a nightclub for a knock down fee of ten euro only to sit through two hours of Greek stand up comedy..............in greek,
the expensive drinks didn’t help the evening along but they remained in attendance for several hours in order to get full value for their entrance money even though they didn’t understand a word that was said throughout the show.
Aquaculture is huge in the region with cages full of farmed bass and bream in the sheltered coves around the island, 40% of the world’s farmed bass and bream are produced in Greece, with Italy and Spain the principle markets followed by the UK and Germany.
The islands lend themselves perfectly to the production of these two species and several techniques in their production have been pioneered in Greece. There may also be money to be made in medical tourism as we caught sight of two ladies studying the menu outside the medical centre although we couldn't pick out hip and knee replacements among the starters.
The big mystery for me is Mythos, the leading Hellenic beer, and why it is not a world-wide brand. Sustained consumption has failed to deter me from the view that Mythos is good stuff, I even snuck a bottle home to drink in the rain away from the golden glow of a greek holiday and it still tastes good. It may be a subsiduary of Carlsberg, but it’s brewed in Thessalonkia,
I have yet to hear a bad review and half of Europe associates the brand with Greece. A marketing campaign with Greece’s most famous son Homer should set the country back on it’s feet, that or change the brand name to Duffos and incorporate the second most famous Homer to push the product.
River stuff to follow, mentally I’m still on the beach..... it was that good!