Friday, 3 March 2017

Preparations are afoot

Meteorological spring is now officially upon us. Dog's Mercury and Purple Toothwort are in flower on the riverbank, and all thoughts are being concentrated on the season ahead. Some lovely and deadly flies are being tied in anticipation, quite how any fish could possibly resist them remains to be seen. The river trout season opens again on March 15th, and for some it cannot come soon enough.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Frogspawn in the ditches

Frogspawn in the ditches, snowdrops on the banks. A new sense of impending Spring is creeping through the woods and fields. A blush of bright fresh green is now showing as the new leaves are breaking on the hawthorn, and the wild honeysuckle is flushing a delicate sage-green as the life of another season starts to appear. The first Grannom were seen on the Tamar, and a fish was seen rising last Sunday. It took a dry grannom emerger on the very first cast, not the hoped-for grayling, but a brownie. A few more brownies, along with a peal kelt and a couple of very silver ( and quite early!) sea trout smolts, took the nymph intended for grayling. A brace of grayling did oblige, along with a better one which wriggled free of the barbless hook before the leader could be touched - under accepted rules of engagement, this fish definitely lost, not caught.

Can you see this man? If so, he would like his money back from the Army surplus store. Fortunately, the cormorants were lulled into a false sense of security.

Mankind may have thought himself very clever when he hit on the idea of using a hook to catch fish, but as ever, Mother Nature was there long before. This is the last thing many smolts and other fish see, prior to disappearing alive down the gullet of our least favourite waterside bird. Our licence from Natural England allows us to shoot one cormorant per calendar month, during the winter period only, so that is it for February. 

Thursday, 2 February 2017


It had to happen - after one of the driest winter periods on record, heavy rains have put all our rivers into bank-high spate. The Tamar reached 2.5 metres by mid-morning, with the Thrushel covering the fields on Beat 5. We can only hope and pray for the safety of all the eggs in the gravel, but with the potentially named storm 'Doris' due tomorrow with more heavy rain and 70m.p.h. gales, who knows how much damage could ensue.
The little gang of Tufted ducks on Tinhay Lake, varying almost daily in composition but up to 3 drakes and 3 ducks at times, have now disappeared. They have been around for a good couple of months, but have obviously been tempted elsewhere by the now prolific flashes. The level of the Lake is still well down, and hopefully should not cover the grass for the start of this season. Reservoir levels throughout the South west are also still remarkably low, no doubt South West Water are feeling slightly relieved by this rain.
Alex is at this moment on a plane somewhere this side of New Zealand, he has suffered from some severe gales out there in the past month, so the lad should feel quite at home when he returns to Lifton tomorrow.
Hazel catkins are well out, currently almost horizontal in the wind. Having caught a pilchard on a fly a couple of weeks ago, I feel very content to rest on my marine laurels for a while, the sea can wait for calmer times.
Cheers to all. David

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Slowly but surely, the World turns

Late January, still remarkably dry, and pretty cold. At last, the axis of our planet is tilting back towards summer, no longer is it pitch black at 8 in the morning, and the sun is now setting at 5 in the evening. Despite the cold (ice and frost most mornings) and the slow pace of change, Nature is beginning to acknowledge the encroaching new season. Mallard are all paired up, and woodpeckers are drumming in the Lyd valley, informing any other bird about who is nesting where, and with whom.
The midday sun now has a little more presence, enough to make yours truly strip down to shirt sleeves while wielding a post banger on Bottom Beat yesterday. The broken fence, maintaining shade and cover on Hairy Mary pool, is now back up after being demolished by a tree last season. Alexander Jones is still locked in mortal combat with some huge trout in New Zealand, he will need to re-adjust to our little brownies again soon.
So far the settled dry weather has kept the rivers nice and steady, great news for the salmon and sea trout eggs buried in the gravels, and the low temperatures are actually just what they need for correct incubation. It has been quite chilly when immersed to the groin in the Tamar trying to catch grayling, but a lot of fun, enlivened by a few out of season brownies and an odd peal kelt, along with a grayling or two. Bruno Vincent showed us all how to do it, with seven grayling to 12 inches from the Lyd last weekend. Memo to self; 'Must try harder'.
Tight Lines, David Pilkington

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

A very Happy New Year, and tight lines for the 2017 season.

Greeting for the new year to all our guests and readers of the blog. Alexander Jones ( who does all the clever stuff on the blog with photos, videos etc.)is just about to touch down in New Zealand for a month of trout fishing, so there will only be text in the next few weeks from the resident Luddite.
Minus 6 on the Tamar this morning, water splashing from the gauging weir has left a pendulum of ice the size of a rugby ball on the hanging brambles. Now that the main spawning season is over, I am delighted to report that we have seen more redds, of salmon, sea trout and brownies, than we have for several years. Although this may be in part to the fact that we have had relatively low water, making the redds more visible, it is still an excellent sign. We now pray for no devastating floods, as we have had so much of in recent winters, which must have done terrible damage to the slowly incubating ova.
Grayling fishing has been possible for most of the time, this again is due to the lowish river levels. Now that things have turned much colder, the fish have been harder to find, but can still be caught by searching the likely pools with deeply sunk nymphs.
Cormorants are about, and we are having no trouble filling our cull quota. Goosanders have also appeared on our rivers in the last month. The seemingly eternal debate with Natural England about a licence to control these serious salmonid predators goes on, with another meeting forthcoming. Maximising smolt output can only be beneficial to our salmon and sea trout, so fingers crossed for a sensible solution soon.
Meanwhile, from a Devonshire sparkling with frost in the low winter sun, all the very best for the season ahead. David Pilkington.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Salmon and sea trout assembling for spawning

Early December is the usual time for migratory fish to be spawning on the Tamar system, with the sea trout normally starting a few days ahead of the salmon. This video shows both salmon and sea trout in a tributary river, many of the salmon have actually paired up and are lying together. Some fish exhibits spots of white fungus, often on their heads or fins, and while a little distressing to see, this is quite normal on fish whose bodies are virtually exhausted. All the nourishment laid down in their tissue, which has sustained the fish during their long fast in fresh water, has now gone to the eggs and milt. Their reserves are at an all-time low, and many of these fish will be dead only a few days after laying their eggs. 
These fish are the few which have survived for three, four or five years to reach their natal spawning streams. A journey from a pea-sized egg buried in the gravels, two years as a small fish in the river, being preyed on by herons, cormorants, goosanders, not to mention trout, eels and other creatures, even insects such as dragonfly larvae. And then a trip across the Atlantic Ocean, with everything from bass and cod in the estuaries, to tope, sharks and who knows what other predators in the deeps. And this without mankind, whose nets and longlines await the fish in their Arctic feeding grounds. 
The journey back from the ocean is no less fraught with danger, culminating with dolphins and seals in the inshore waters, and yet more men with nets, legal and otherwise, in the estuaries. Within the river, rod fishermen are now more aware than ever before of the problems faced by this iconic fish, with rods at the Arundell Arms now releasing all of the salmon we catch.
 Which leaves these fish in the tributaries to fulfill their whole life's purpose. Note the large numbers of smaller brown trout, hugging the river-bed immediately downstream of the pairs of salmon. They too have to live, and a meal of salmon eggs, grabbed at the very moment of spawning, is a valuable source of nourishment for the trout in an otherwise frugal time of year. 
As a Buddhist, would you return to this life as a salmon?