Goodbye Mr. Heron
A walk along a river after a fresh fall of snow is always a revealing thing. You really don't realise how much the banks are rural superhighways. By day most of the creatures stay away, but at night, and most especially in the hours immediately after dark and prior to dawn many are on the move.
Foxes track the river until a bridge affords them a crossing. Hares are clearly not evolved or trusting of human structure; arriving from the downs to turn back from the water at 45 degrees to head who knows where. Otters? Well, they don't care marking out territory with spraints that look like burnt cinders against the whiteness. Ducks, moorhens, water voles.... well, just anyone who is anybody in this riparian community leaves a trace.
I trundled down the Wallop Brook on one such morning last month. Somewhere in the distance a volley of shots had rang out. A slew of wood pigeons raced across the sky, dodging and weaving. Ahead, clear against the snow lay something grey, close to the water's edge. I hoped it was a pigeon but in my heart I knew it wasn't. It was too big and too grey. My first instinct was to assume that the cold had got him; the unseasonal frigid elements finally ending his life. But as I picked up Mr. Heron he was still warm and as his neck flopped over with his long yellow beak pointing groundward, a little trickle of fresh blood came from a small puncture in his neck.
In truth I didn't know what to do with him, so I held him for a while. Herons, for such apparently big birds, are surprisingly light and on close examination that beak is really quite the weapon. Mr. Heron had been a fixture at The Mill for years and this was the closest I had ever been to him. For the most part he patrolled the meadows alongside Brook; the number of frogs, toads, water voles, bullheads, rabbits, moles, fish, ducklings and insects pincered in that beak must run to ten of thousands for he seemed to be forever on the look-out for prey.
Most mornings I'd wake up to him patrolling the edge of the trout lake. He was never really that successful. I can't recall ever seeing him with a fish and only occasionally did we come across a corpse. I'm guessing he acknowledged that as he never put up much resistance, taking flight with that idiosyncratic little hop as soon as the first human of the day put in an appearance, languidly flying the fifty yards that took him over the fence.
Now he is gone I rather miss him. For the time being the white egret rules the roost but that is temporary. Herons are territorial so I'm sure a replacement will arrive soon but as for Mr. Heron I cast him adrift in the stream to let nature find his final resting place.
Who would you save: heron or duckling?
On the subject of herons there was a most bizarre incident reported in the national and local press last week when a man killed a heron to save the life of a duckling it had just eaten.
As The Times reported, 'For one man who saw a heron pluck a duckling from the water in front of him and swallow it whole, enough was enough. The man decided to intervene and save the life of the duckling, by killing the heron and pulling the baby bird still alive, from its stomach.'
The North Wales rural crime team who questioned then released the elderly man with a caution Tweeted, 'Strangely he actually did rescue the duckling alive from the dead heron's stomach. But obviously he was then left with a dead heron. You couldn't make this up!'
I think on that we'd all agree and the whole tale probably makes for a good morality question: heron or duckling? That said I do wonder who goes around equipped to kill, then eviscerate, as sturdy a bird as a heron. Very bizarre.
London Fly Fishing Fair
I can't be sure how the economics of the London Fly Fishing Fair will stack up for us but it was great fun and a pleasure to catch up with the many of you who dropped by to say hello.
I managed to persuade our cover girl Marina Gibson to pose with our new brochure (thank you Marina) and I had a fascinating chat with Ed Porter (he is the one with the beard....) who you may or may not recognise from his time in the Orvis Stockbridge store, though he hadn't gone 'native' at the time for he now runs Hidden Gem Fly Fishing in Fiji.
It is a hell of a place to get to. Prepare yourself for three connections, the thick end of 24 hours and goodness knows how many time zones. But it does look pretty amazing with big game fly fishing for yellow fin tuna and marlin, plus all the inshore species such as trevally. The gear guide for a 12 wt rod and tippet material of 30lb-130lb gives a clue to what might just be on the end of your line.
You can contact Ed at www.hiddengemfiji.com
Grayling feedback winner
I think we had one of our busiest ever grayling seasons, which went right down to the wire with some of you fishing on the very last day, not to mention others who headed out even in the snow. Now that shows dedication!
Well done to Kieron Harney who wins the new style Fishing Breaks snood fishing at Donnington Grove on the River Lambourn back in November. We are now officially back with the trout so I've picked as the grand draw prize for 2018 the rather cool Simms Guide pliers with the snoods the monthly prize.
Back to usual this time with a quiz purely dedicated to the pleasure of knowing you are right. Answers, as ever, at the bottom of the page.
1) Fiji, granted independence in 1970, was a colony of which country?
2) Who, in the bible, was swallowed by a whale for three days and nights?
3) What was the name of the whaling ship in the novel Moby Dick?
Hope you had a good Easter.
Simon Cooper email@example.com
Founder & Managing Director