the years we have dragged many varied and different items from our rivers.
To date none of our 'finds' have been of any value, mostly resulting an
unwanted visit to the local tip. This latest crop, modelled by river keeper
Jonny Walker, is not a lot different. If you are thinking 'they look sort
of familiar' you'd be right should your mind be turning along the lines of
It transpires that my
predecessor at Nether Wallop Mill, the great Dermot Wilson, had an eye for
saving a few bob. Back in the 1970's the Norman churchyard that flanks The
Mill was finally running out of room, so, in an effort to free up more
burial plots the gravestones themselves were moved, whilst all the stone
surrounds and fancy pieces were deemed rubble. Parsimonious Dermot leapt in
with his wheelbarrow, using the debris to rebuild the mill pool bank.
Actually for years I
never knew we were treading on messages that read in loving memory .... will be sorely
missed .... a loving wife and so on. But the floods on 2014 exposed
this cache so since then it has been both an eyesore and nuisance. And as
churchyard marble doesn't make it into the Wild Trust Handbook as
recommended bank material, it was time for it all to go.
I can only add, if you
are up there Dermot looking down on us today, that I hope you suffered as
much putting the stones in as we did getting them out!
St Andrews, Nether
OF A LIFETIME
my old friend John Bailey down for a day on the River Frome at Ilsington
earlier this month. He announced, as if this was the easiest challenge in
the world, that he was in search of lifetime personal best grayling. This
struck me as a tall order as he has probably fished in more counties than
anyone alive and has over fifty books to his name. As they said in Wayne's
World, 'I am not worthy'.
That said I did have one
thing on my side: John lives in deepest Norfolk, a veritable desert as far
as grayling are concerned, where none have been spotted for twenty years or
more. In Dorset however, grayling positively thrive and for one slightly
Now grayling are not
natural denizens of the chalkstreams. They have all been stocked at one
time or another; the River Test in the early 19th century and
the Itchen much later in the 20th. It was the Victorians who
introduced them to the River Frome, bringing the brood stock from the
Derbyshire Dove, recent DNA testing conclusively proving the link.
Arriving from the
relatively food-sparse Dales to the insect-rich Frome soon turned these
northern arrivals into what we would now probably term super-grayling. They
positively thrived, though not everyone liked the outcome. As you probably
know Thymallus thymallus
occupies an odd dual niche in the fishing classification as a 'game' fish
in that it shares many of the characteristics of salmon and trout,
including that distinctive adipose fin. On the other hand it is 'coarse' in
its breeding habits, spawning in March, months after its game companions
and prefers to live in a shoal.
In most other respects
it is a game fish. Spawning takes place in the same gravelly river bed. The
fry eat the same miniature aquatic invertebrates. As adults they primarily
feed on shrimp, caddis larvae and mayfly nymphs. It is true that grayling
eat trout eggs, but trout equally repay the favour. In terms of age trout
have a slight edge on grayling. For the latter five is a ripe old age,
whereas it is more like eight for the former.
It is hard to say when
the grayling honeymoon ended, but it is well documented that in the
post-war era they were a chalkstream fish that was both persecuted and
derided. Shaun Leonard, in his excellent biography of this fish in Chalkstreams
recounts how thousands were netted and electro-fished each autumn to be
simply consigned to death in the lime pit. I have a feeling that this was a
practice that was largely confined to the more managed Hampshire and
Wiltshire rivers, so maybe this is why today, if you want to catch a record
grayling, the Frome is the place to head for.
John of course knows
this and I suspect the offer of a day at our Ilsington beat on the River
Frome, which has twice produced the British record (4b 4oz in case you
ask), was more than temptation could stand. As it turned out no record came
our way, but John achieved his personal best (I will take whatever credit
due ....) and we had between us five fish that would have easily tipped the
3lb mark on the scales.
MONSTER DERBYSHIRE BROWNS
might not know Andy Buckley by name but if you went into Farlows of Pall
Mall anytime between 2012 and 2015 you'd surely recognise him from behind
Andy left Farlows to
spend a while at a saltwater lodge in the Indian Ocean but I'm delighted to
say he is back in his native Derbyshire where he is guiding on a very
private and all wild stretch of the River Dove which has some monster
browns and grayling.
Now I could spend many
paragraphs extolling the virtues of both Andy and the fishing, but
frankly I am not going to bother. This video
(click on left photo) says it all. You will love it.
When you are done click here to see more details of his River Dove
admit in recent years I have rather mocked those people you see on the
beach spending hours trying to create the perfect selfie. Well, I will mock
Last week our Buff-style
snoods arrived, so who better to model them (shouts of derision I know) but
me? I'm certainly not coming back in a later life as a supermodel, though
I'm sure you'll agree I do make a rather fetching bank robber.
You will see the Guides
in these during the coming season and there will be a chance to win one of
your own should you complete a Feedback Form after your trip.
Three random teasers to
test your brain. It is just for fun and the answers are at the bottom of
game should be correctly known as sphairistike?
a character in which novel does Starbucks take its name?
3)You will find many
villages near rivers with a name that includes the word combe. What
does combe mean?