Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Crayfish refuges

The long summers have almost done for our crayfish. The last two dry years have reduced the flow to a trickle but a real problem developed during the seemingly never ending summer holidays of youth. The local children lived in the river last summer, day after day and moved and removed all the crayfish stones. Any crayfish that were captured were collected up in buckets and moved around. We need a few permanent refuges that couldn’t be prised up and they have been provided with a few lengths of half log, with hollowed out centres and access notches.

The 16mm rebar needs to be long enough to resist little hands and fingers. I think it is.

The log sits flush to the bed leaving only the access gaps. It will be nice and dark in there, and they will be safe from fish and children.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Too good to be caught once

The above fish was caught today by a Gentleman guided by Jan

 The above fish was caught 19 months ago from the same spot. Same fish.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Found out by watching Sky News

I’d been round my traps first thing, and had been lucky. A magpie, in the larson, a mink in the tunnel and nothing whatsoever in the crayfish trap, set to investigate whether Signals had crossed our boundary from above. It wasn’t yet eight o’clock but I rushed to take my wellies off to get to the phone.
‘It’s been ringed all morning’, said Melissa who was catching up with the news in the sitting room.




‘Are you going to have any water for our fishing in June?’

‘Yes, plenty, why?’

‘The Environment Agency has just put your area on drought status, and imposed a hose-pipe ban’

‘I can’t guarantee anything but we have plenty of water now so you should be fine’

Being the only house at the end of a long and pot-holed track, we don’t get a paper delivered so it was a great surprise to see the ‘I’ come shooting through the letter box. It was the current issue and I saw the significance; it had on its front page a picture of my upper river, when a month ago one of its dams was down for maintenance and the river flowed through a channel in the dam bottom. Some well meaning local dog walker must have posted it knowing I would be interested.

By then April had given us twice the monthly rainfall expected and we were only halfway through the month, although March had been very dry.

I found my keys and headed out in the landrover, collecting my phone in my coat pocket, with 16 missed calls already that day, all of which came from concerned anglers responding to the EA draught status. One of these anglers couldn’t be placated and I had to hold the phone to the weir in order for him to be reassured by the roar of water. Fleet Street had done a proper job in passing on the EA’s bad news, so I figured they owed me one and rang up Sky News. They sent a cameraman to film us both; the river and me, and saw water almost overflowing into the fields.

It was the typical scenario of nature immediately countermanding a well meant announcement with her stark middle finger. I am happy to report that we are heading towards 6 inches of rainfall for the month and the river is assured its flow for the summer. The mayfly season is likely to be the best yet.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Mixed emotions

Don't you just hate those weirs!

There is no better time to assess external impacts on a watercourse than when it begins to be re-charged after a long period of drought. It is possible to wait in the dry river bed of the upper Lathkill, often aided by a head-torch in the middle of the night, and follow the thread of water as it slowly wets the dry bed like an eel, waiting to fill up holes and gaps under stones before racing on a little more. This is the time when you realise the bed is like a colander, with the water not only leaving, but coming back in an upwelling too. The ground is becoming drenched as the water table rises to meet the river.
The longest we have had to wait for this re-birth is December tenth. Today is the seventh, three days from the sad record and far, far too long for the rivers inhabitants to hold their breath, but the rivers are running again.

There is though, an imbalance.

The Lathkill is sprinting like a train and can be heard from the office window above the howling wind in wood beyond. It is cleaning itself, lifting the autumn leaves from its bed and shifting tons of silt making it run the colour of tea so thick that water shrews might dance upon it.

The Bradford though, is not.

The same rain fell on each rivers catchment. Sweeping out of Buxton across Longnor and Monyash the North West wind brought nearly 4 inches in as many days. Water stands in puddles and ground is drenched from Gratton to Over Haddon but the Bradford does not tell that story. Heading down past the Church and looking over the bridge this morning I expected to see a river returned but was disappointed.

One of the residents from nearby sums up my thoughts as he wanders past. ‘Not much watter Surrie; fit more in me holla tooth’.

The good old reliable stream from New Dam joins the Bradford a little way down. It has kept its flow through the summer and the crayfish are grateful being able still to scurry and scavenge through the night rather than the drought turning their shells to power. It runs with the more water than the main river, and yet all its catchment can be seen in these few fields and this Mitten Wood.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Donor meadow

What happens when farmers take a crop of hay from a field each year and yet aren’t able to spread manure and replenish the nutrients? Only those flowers and plants that are tolerant of poor soils can exist and it is these that have become synonymous with English country meadows; products of ancient farming practises.
In order for the soil to become poor it needs ridding of its enrichment and this is best achieved by falling back into ancient farming practises; summer hay, winter sheep, no muck. There are some shortcuts that come in the form of short, yellow flowered plants, whose seed heads dry to a crisp. Yellow rattle parasitises on the roots of vigorous grasses that would otherwise take the meadow over.

We are cutting for hay tomorrow and in order for other meadows to benefit from this useful ally the seed harvester is set to work. Brushes underneath the machine liberate the seed from the heads and with only a small amount of winnowing a large amount of seed can be taken. Along with the rattle seeds comes sorrel and plantain seeds as well which are greatly liked by short-tailed voles.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


Very sad that we have to play host, albeit for only a short length of time, to these disgusting creatures. They are stocked upstream by those who dont trust the Wye to produce fish of its own, in the name of people who use their catch to stay friendly with their neighbours. Thanks alot.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Good fishing

During one of todays patrols a familiar form of a regular visitor was spotted from the road, by the side of the river.
I heaved my bike over the gate into the field and rolled down the hill to see him, making sure to come up on the blind side so as not scare any fish. He gave a report of his day so far detailing his successes and failures, taking time to mention a 'family' of stoats hunting the riverbank and a very nice brown trout netted earlier on.
'I've scared these fish in front of us Warren'
During the course of the conversation, as is usual with this angler, neither of us took our eyes from the water for longer than two seconds, when he declared a subtle rise in a tiny pocket under the far bank. The spot seemed perfect; hidden under a small bush, well fed by a food lane, in-between two brown sticks under the bank. It was not possible to simply cast above and let the river take the fly into the hole, a small branch touching the water made that impossible.
I goaded him to have a go so he unshipped the fly from the keeper to oblige. After a single 'getting out cast', he dropped the fly on the water only a few inches from the previous rise form.
WHAM! A fantastic brown trout, with 'steel eyes' came quickly to the net.
There are five things that make this impressive;
  1. The rise was spotted in the first place
  2. The cast was attempted
  3. The cast was extremely accurate
  4. Trees had to be avoided on the back cast
  5. The leader was 15 foot long!

OK, I admit the angler was warmed up after four hours of fishing, very familiar with his kit, and tuned into the river despite me visiting, but there was no doubt I witnessed an expert piece of dry fly fishing today.

About Me

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Derby Uni LL.B.yr4 Birmingham Uni (field lecturer)