The season has started slowly after what seemed to be such a long winter with low temperatures and a lot of rain. Opportunities to walk the river bank in the early part of the year confirmed that more trees had been lost and that the shape of the river had been altered at key points. We, the land owners and Environment Agency, will have to think about the implications of losing so many trees for the structure and stability of the river banks: careful management of dying alders by taking off the major part of both trunk and crown but leaving the root system is one response; judicious coppicing of some trees to stimulate fresh growth is another; but in the long term we may have to think about planting new trees. Trees are essential for a healthy river, giving a nurturing environment for fly life and birds, giving structure to river banks and helping to minimize ‘run-off’ and silting from surrounding fields.
The work party and stocking days are always enjoyable and the club is very fortunate in having a dedicated core of members who manage to come along to nearly all such activities. We did minimum pruning of trees this year concentrating instead on repairing and replacing ladders and other access points to the river; these will be maintained throughout the season. Supported by Jonny Grey of the Wild Trout Trust we also did some innovative work at The Kelds, weaving willow branches into natural barriers to improve water flow and thereby enhance the environment for young fish. We will be monitoring progress and will report back.
As you know we put 500 trout (11 – 13 inch and now legally required to be ‘triploid’ – ie infertile) into the river and will be stocking again with a further 500 trout later this week. The fish are distributed evenly over our beats (excepting Ness Beat 3) and as part of the next stocking – we will be including 6 ‘trophy’ fish, one for each beat and tagged for easy identification. Any member who catches one of these fish and can provide evidence (witness statement, photograph or tag) will be awarded a bottle of whisky at the AGM!
It is good to see that West Lilling Lake has been used and valued by members throughout the winter and spring. Although we have now put 450 trout (rainbows and blue trout – real beauties) into the lake the returns have been modest. It just goes to show that even though the lake is small and well stocked the fishing is challenging. I had a couple of hours at the lake on Sunday and I have to say that in the warm weather I thought the lake was ‘boiling’; there were trout everywhere though I can’t say what they were taking. I fished with a dry fly and was broken twice at the point of contact. I’ve come to the conclusion that 5X tippet is not strong enough for the bruisers of West Lilling – or it could be that my knots were not up to snuff! Just a little reminder – could members please book-on to fish before casting a line and not, if they remember, when they leave.
I fished Nunnington Top Water (Beat 1) yesterday afternoon. Warm but with a little breeze it was good to see (and for the first time this year) that fly life was returning to the river. I am told that a few mayflies were seen on Sunday but I certainly can’t say that ‘the hatch’ has started. I saw steady number of fish rising throughout the beat, nothing prolific but enough to give encouragement, and I did manage to get three to the net; two stockies and one a small wild trout. Joe Scott and Dave Owston were at the river on a ‘strimming’ rather than fishing afternoon: well done!
I received Salmon & Trout Conservation UK’s Annual Report the other day and found that it contained some fascinating articles. I was particularly interested in their reports about the quality of the country’s rivers – the overall picture is worrying. Kick sampling to record the range and numbers of invertebrates in the river, together with water quality samples, suggest that although the eU’s Water Directive is a force for the good there are major challenges facing the environment. We are lucky that the River Rye is in satisfactory to good order and we are especially fortunate in the one of our members, John Tharratt, conducts a regular kick sample, the results of which are to be found on the club website. The early returns for this year and not as good as at the same time last year but ‘point to point’ comparisons can be misleading. I encourage everyone to keep an eye on the data reports from John as they become available.
I am very fortunate in being to split my time between Yorkshire and the West of Ireland. There are early reports that the ‘mayfly is up’ on some of the Connaught lakes. I will be out on my boat next week, certainly on Lough O’Flynn being closest to home, but also (possibly) on one or other of Loughs Arrow, Carra and Corrib. I have never caught any of the really big fish you can read about in the classic histories of fishing in the west or, indeed, in the reports still carried in the Trout & Salmon magazine but there is still great fun in casting a hand-tied mayfly to a decent in trout in beautiful countryside. When I get back I’m sure that the mayfly season will be well advanced on the Rye. Bring it on… and tight lines to you all.