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.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Summers end

'We're only making plans and arranging things. Talking it over, you know-what route we are taking this year and where we'll stop, and so on. It's half the fun.'

Kenneth Grahames' wayerfarers now line the telephone wire outside the house. I can't look at them without imagining their chattering concerns over this years' route to Africa.

The first elm turned yellow prematurely over 3 weeks ago but now the sycamore is yellowing too and the trout are acting very strangely. Look into any crystal clear pool and you will see a dark, fish with mottled sides lying flat on the bottom. Her eggs are developing rapidly inside her and she has no wish to feed now until spring. Cock fish are all the time gesturing, with tails held high, sometimes breaking the surface, and swimming slowly alongside each other. If well matched in size all hell will break loose with each pair fighting it out every afternoon for a month. The season is changing.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Peacock Fly Fishing Club

We have been working hard in trying to find a better letting arrangement for the club. Many hours have been spent leaning on gates, working out how we can provide free access to members but still keep our 12 rods/day capacity, enjoyed by our anglers and wildlife and part of the secret of our success.

We've cracked it and I'm really chuffed. The only problem is we have a limited number of places to take the club numbers up to 42.

The Olive Membership is from April 1st through to Jan 1st with the grayling season starting on October 7th. In order to make it more affordable to our fans the 'silly season' is reserved for Mayfly members and day tickets. Those Mayfly Members will be able to fish from April 1st through to Jan 1st.

Olive - £550 inc VAT
Mayfly- £850 inc VAT
and come when you like.

Day tickets will continue as before.

Please ring the Peacock (01629 733518) to reserve your place for next season.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Running out on the tributaries

It's been November since we had two days together of rain and it really shows. That snow, still foot thick under the walls at the start of March, and melting slowly through the ides, was a God send. Thanks to the cold spring and good early ranunculus, the algae has kept off, helped in no small part to our catchment farmers reducing their dressings of beaded fertiliser.

The to-ing and fro-ing along the bank, usually such an uplifting experience, now gives rise to concern as each day a new half inch of shingle is left high and dry by the receding water. Relief is found in places that have been narrowed and shallowed; here at least can be found flow and fining fish.

There hasn't been a day in the last fourteen summers that I haven't wished for pelting rain against the windows at night, or stepping out into a flooded yard in the morning, but this year seems different. Our traditional October relief date is too far off, too long to wait.

Diaries are made for going back over and I'm sure I'll raise a smile at this short post when we are again in times of plenty, but right now I'll trade anything I own for a day and night together of stir rods.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Trouble on the Test

7th July programme

Mick Lunn and Clive Graham-Ranger talking about what's wrong with the Test and stuff. Mick blames new houses in Andover but calls the problem 'sediment'. CGR thinks very little of the 'nippers' straight out of Uni who are trying to find their own answers.

The Test is the ground fed canary, and those with similar rivers should take note. This river certainly doesn't need its supporting angler base to 'bagga ooofff' and take their fishing pounds with them. The problem needs solving, because the Test is too important and because the same will happen to our rivers soon.

My answer, for what it is worth? Eutrophication via intensive farming, fish farms and treated sewage discharge (CSO's included) is chronic pollution in the form of too much nitrates and phosphates. Algae uses these nutrients, smothering the ranunculus, reducing the flow and the habitat for inverts.

The EA give all of the River Test below the Anton confluence a good ecological status and a good chemical status. However the chemical status for the Test aquifer is poor. There seems to be very few biological monitoring sites on the Test (4) when compared to The Itchen (22).

When working on a paper labelled 'Coarse Fish Decline in the Hampshire Avon' [1991], and living on the largest trout farm in the UK, it was clear to me that the turbidity directly below, and for someway downstream of, the main outlets was having a major effect on the health of the river. I stumbled across a frightening statistic claiming the volume of the summer Test was being used over a dozen times for fish farming. I wouldn't want any of my rivers following through a fish farm 12 times and then expect the resulting 'water' to grow ranunculus and inverts and this without the other major effluents.

I'm hoping to fish the Test before the summer is out, not to gloat at its demise but to see for myself the changes that have taken since I was a 'nipper' on its banks in the late 80's and early 90's.

Doc Cohens' Brown

While mowing the lawn one evening at home a car came down the lane. I went to see who was calling and met a beaming smile from one of the Lathkill Syndicate members. Doc Cohen had been a member for years and held the river record.

'I've got something to show you Warren' and removed from the boot of his car this massive fish. He agreed to a photograph but at 8lbs the brown was still nearly 3lbs lighter than his record, incidently from the same pool.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

New Blog

Although the internet is littered with the remnants of various blogs, here is one that will be around for many years. Those familiar with Derbyshire rivers will already know the name 'Regular Rod'. Those coming to fish town for instance, in the evening, will often be lent an unhooking mat and be asked to hurl it back over RR's garden wall when darkness finally puts an end to proceedings. Anglers coming badly equipped or without the right flies are often fitted out as they pass his garden gate, at no charge of course. Now that generosity has extended to offering up his thoughts and ideas, anecdotes and experiences from 41 years of fishing Derbyshire and Yorkshire rivers. Specialising in surface feeding fish for most of that time surely makes him the

11lb Wye Brace

I watched them at 1am from only 10 yards away. The Police were being lined up and I was ready to cut them off when they ran. Then all of a sudden they grabbed their fish and walked off towards some visiting fairground caravans. I stood everyone down but followed them. We had no chance from here as they disppeared into the vans. I sat there listening to the generators as Jan quietly joined me under a hedge. We were both sure they would be back.

We spent the next day building observation hides ready for their return and on the stroke of midnight two men appeared amongst the fuzzy green glow of the nite-site. I clicked the radio twice and recieved the same reply confirming a red 4x4 would be racing to the Police Station to get help.

A third man appeared from town. He ran towards the poachers who already had two large fish on the bank. 'Baliff's getting the Police. Run!'. They had put a watch on the Police Station and now things were moving fast. Fortunately a Police car pulled up to the station and my colleauge followed the plan. Coming from below, at high speed the car tried to cut them off from their vans. They saw the lights, jumped a gate and hid behind a hedge. I followed and yelled at them to stay where they were.

As the racksack was opened a large toothy jaw appeared under the torch-light. I knew this was a big fish, but a brown, with scales later reading 13 years and 7lbs in weight. A fabulous rainbow followed. We searched the camp and found most of the fish from the previous night under a caravan. Our two poachers were Polish, working on the funfair. I understand they left the country soon after, under threat of imprisonment. The fish were compensated for with a large cheque.
Later the brown trout was confirmed as a fish of a lifetime for an angler who caught it last season. I'm sure it gave thousands of people a good deal of pleasure too, as they watched it beneath the bridge.

Mayfly 2010

The Mayfly period allows the riverkeepers little time for musing. We are busy with full allocations of anglers, night-time patrols and never ending bank maintenance. Corporate fishing offers a chance to really show our rivers off and to enjoy the hatch through anothers perspective when guiding.

May I extend a big thank you all our guests, our guides, our helpers, the Peacock staff, Ruth, Bakewell Police and those who telephoned at 2am to report poachers, but didn't leave their names.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Evolved from the fishes

It's not hard to see how reptiles evolved from fish when looking at a full finned wild trout, through the perfect clarity of the Lathkil. It isn't hard to imagine it scuttling away.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Thiz Lobsters!

'Thiz lobsters Mr Slaney'

'Pardon', I replied

Mother explains, 'We've been past your house a couple of times lately in the hope of catching you in, he wanted to tell you himself, he says he caught a small lobster in your river'.

The 7 year old boy, wearing wellies and holding Mothers hand insists once again, 'Thiz lobsters!'
'What colour were they?' I ask.
'Red and Pink and this big' as he shows a good 12 inches between his outstretched grubby hands.
His Mother says 'I think he's been watching too much Trawler Men on the tele, say good-bye Tom'.

He looks up at me leaning on the yard gate and he knows I don't believe him, 'and it swimmed off backwards' he says as the two turn and walk off up the hill to the village.
I put the story to the back of my mind, with the other sights and sounds, myths and legends that I hear over this gate and eventually forget it.

Waiting for His Lordship this afternoon I jump into the river and begin to shift stones so that the holding capacity of this length can be increased by one lie and one trout. I move a rock and as the water clears a crayfish claw appears on the river bed. Bear in mind that the white clawed crayfish were wiped out in the early 90's, when I tell you this was a white claw.

Meeting over and I'm off downstream at a lick to a small bridge with a cobbley bottom; a place where if 'thiz lobsters' they will be there. Under the second likely stone I turn a crayfish, as black as your hat, dashes out and I miss with my cupped hands. The next stone is lifted and there on the bottom is the first crayfish I've seen in this river for 20 years. Melissa is called and she captures us both.
I'm not the first to see this welcome relic. Young Tom, giving them the only name he has for them has made them fit that name in his mind; 'Red, pink and foot-long'. It is possible this creatures recent ancestors survived the sweeping outbreak by living in the small side stream a few yards from the little bridge. You can just make out the culvert to the left of centre in the photo below.

Thursday, April 29, 2010


We suspected a few rats were running the chicken shed. You know what they say; 'You keep chickens...' Melissa heard a squeak from behind a waste bag this morning and a scaley tail was seen disappearing into a crack in the wall. Webley was sent for...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Sponsored by Stihl

Before and after removal of trees. Looking to the south east.

With a stack of interesting, twisted, knarly timber on our hands further new banks were created. We used most of the wood for the fishing bank and added 100 feet of living willow faggots on the far side. Newly planted flag provides sanctuary for newly hatched fry, the product of the newly imported gravel and some Christmas spawning brownies.

'First understand nature, then copy it'

'Water in its natural state shows us how it wishes to flow, so we must follow its wishes'- Viktor Schauberger Backed up by the weir in the distance, running straight as an arrow and shaded from any light following the solar zenith, this river was in a sorry state. No ranunculus grew here, no trout swam. Think of a plan, then think of a better one. We finally decided upon a ruthless fell of those hefty shade trees and use that timber to create new banks. Backfill would be the dried out dredgings from a 1991 desilt of an upstream dam and the previous river long tufa removal.

As spring arrived and our newly planted flag rysomes stared to poke their lush green spikes through the backfill, we have a new river. This is no longer a place the keeper, or his rods hurry past. Those rods make special calls to report captures of trout from this place, it amazes me how quickly they respond. Dropping down from spawning and seeking suitable summer quarters; they must like it here. An atmosphere of expectation has returned, lost when those Victorians commanded this river into a walled channel; told it to behave, to get through as quickly as possible. Dippers love it here now, they can bob into the shallow water and collect caddis from the river bed, they squable for the best perches on the corners of those thick ash trees, now put to good use as 'undercut banks'. Encouraged by the new flow, ranunculus shoots promise summer trellises and tiny black flies feeding from the nectar of white buttercup flowers. All this before the end of the first spring olive hatch.

Meandering stimulates water to eddy, rush, twist, slow and sparkle.

About Me

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