Trout fishery versus working farm

January 24, 2017 at 7:25 pm

Following up on my recent syndicate trout stream working party, I travelled back to see for myself the improvements that the farmer had carried out during the close season, without consulting the anglers as to the effects on the fishing.

The fishing lease was signed many years ago, long before the current occupier took over the farm from his aging father, who had left the river management to the anglers, but in recent times the new broom has been working hard to maximise the financial return from the land. The lease allows for six feet from river to field, but barbed wire and electric fences have been placed on the very lip of the banks, preventing anglers from fishing these areas without waders. My first season was fished without waders, being able to cast and land fish from these same inaccessible banks.

With this in mind, I was worried as to what would be waiting, when I reached the new farm bridge.

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With farming equipment getting bigger every year, the old bridge was past it’s sell by date, being constructed of old railway lines and wooden sleepers. Now constructed of girders and steel plates, the bridge has grown in width, while it’s span has been stretched by about six feet, the old supporting banks replaced by large concrete blocks. To achieve this, the river upstream had been diverted down an old mill race, reducing the flow to a trickle, while the construction work was carried out, displacing many of the fish stocks. Always worried about flooding around the farm buildings, the river can now pass unrestricted downstream.

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A view of the old bridge showing the wide support buttresses, which restricted the flow, then accelerated it through the arch, creating a long deep pool at it’s exit and generous slacks  at the sides. This was one of the best holding areas on the fishery. With no change in the flow, the pool will soon silt up to be replaced by fishless shallows, as is the case just upstream of the current bridge.

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I wonder whether I will see a trout like the one above again, which took a fly from the surface, deep in the shadow of the old bridge, landing it a triumph during my first season on the water.

I now walked down to the old cattle drink, where using a mechanical digger the farmer had dug out gravel from the shallows at the tail of the upstream pool to make up the banks.

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Looking more like a canal, than a chalk stream, the once wide gravel run is now deep and slow moving,  in contrast to it’s previous form. Providing that these new banks do not sprout more electric fencing, this now extended pool could actually improve the fishing in time, although all the existing underwater fly life has been dug out and heaped upon the banks.

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These shallows tapering back into the pool above used to hold many trout, the wild brown below also taken during my first season on the river from this very spot.

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There are still two more working parties before the start of the season, when it is intended to work on a neglected stretch, where willows have grown out across the river, restricting the flow, while giving a safe haven for pike and mink. I don’t think that the river will return to the glory days overnight, but providing the farmer lets us get on with it, we can begin the recovery and in the words of the song, things can only get better. Can’t they?