Saturday, 16 March 2013

Hurry up...and wait.

I mentioned that it had been a long closed season, I am not sure I have awaited the start of the season with so much eagerness as I have this one. And so it was with some disappointment that I opened the curtains on the 15th, the first day of our trout season in Devon to be faced with grey skies, high winds and heavy rain. Washout.

That didn't stop me having a bit of a wander about though and for a while the sun even came out.

The river was high and in spate, but nowhere near as high as it had been that winter. My dogs are sat at least 6 feet higher than the flooded river and you can see that the floodwater had been over the top of the wire fence.

It is approaching that time of year when if you are a drake mallard it pays to be looking at your best.

The last of the snowdrops, those that hadn't been flattened by the wind and the rain.

So good as always to be out and about on the river, but for fishing I will just have to wait...


Warm and Tingly

It has been a long, long closed season, it is fair to say I haven't enjoyed it much. Now that the new fishing season approaches I thought I would write a few words about what I have been up to.

Since my last correspondence I am pleased to report that I have become a Westcountry Angling Passport Ambassador, I am proud to be associated with the Westcountry Rivers Trust, a charity close to my heart and over the coming months I will be writing more, helping with some of their excellent habitat work and generally doing all I can to cajole everybody to use the Angling Passport scheme to access some super fishing and support this excellent cause.

A perfect example of the sort of good that can be done through this scheme is the new beat on the River Mole. The Garramarsh Farm Beat of the river Mole has entered the scheme this year. I know the beat well, largely underfished, the stretch had been allowed to become overgrown. To fish the stream in the summer was to fish in almost complete darkness, the stretch was completely overgrown, the river shrouded in a dense cloak of  sycamore and hazel, largely impermeable to light or anglers. With no light there was very few insects and without insects there would be very few feeding fish.

And so two weeks ago, with the season approaching, a Westcountry Rivers Trust contractor backed up by a volunteer working party descended on the beat, tooled up with power tools, hand saws and stacks of enthusiasm (not to mention tea and cake). And this is the best bit, everything we needed to do to improve access to the beat for visiting anglers served also to improve the habitat for fish and fauna - let me show you:  

 You can see how overgrown the beat is, obviously it is the end of the winter, give it a few weeks and you would not be able to see the river through the leaves. Without light this bit of the river will be largely barren of insects and their larvae. And so Gerald the contractor (and expert fisherman himself) fires up the chainsaw.

   Aided by the volunteer working party (here Dave Chapman the WRT Angling Development Manager) huge amounts of hazel is coppiced and the debris removed from the river.

Let there be light.

Removing trees serves to open up access to the river for visiting anglers and also lets light in to the river to encourage a more diverse population of flora and fauna and hopefully some lovely insects for the trout to feast on. Of course it is important not to get carried away, tempting though it is to trim every possible fly snagging hazard, shade is vital. Current scientific advice is that approximately 60% shading is perfect to protect the river water from becoming too warm and so restraint is important.

But it is not just about cutting trees out, here you see Gerald has selected some overhanging branches and instead of cutting them out he makes a cut part of the way through each limb, bends and secures the limbs along the river bank.

The idea is that these limbs will continue to grow in much the same way as a traditionally laid hedge does to produce limbs and leaves from these stems. The result would be perfect habitat for fish fry and insects, a great addition which will also serve to add to the productivity of the beat. As if this is not enough of an incentive to take every opportunity to add this kind of feature there is another benefit. This bankside growth will act as a buffer during spates, reducing the energy with which the water hits the banks and so reduces riverbank erosion. Less erosion = less silting of the gravels = more habitat available for fish to make their redds.

And so a days work, some good company with likeminded people, a new beat to fish and the warm, smug satisfaction that you have managed to do some good for the habitat we treasure. Happy days.