The Suffering of the Winter Fisherman

Brilliant ! – a really hard frost last night, weather forecasters were spot on.  Cold air from Eastern Russia, a warm front coming in from the West. What a result, the UK night time temperatures were -9 at Yeovilton, whilst in Europe, its down to -35 !  Depending upon which weather front wins, we may be in for  lotsa snow in the next few  days.

A perfect morning for what I have to do.  I’m walking the river with a new member of the club, – not all of it of course, just a couple of hours, explaining parking and the Reach marking protocols, and some of the features of the river.  Then the rest of the day is mine so I’m doing some Grayling fishing.  We’re meeting at the River Keepers Cottage, which is situated about one third down the length of the river, firstly we’ll walk a few of the Reaches in that area, and then I’ll tantalise him with a view of the nearby Carriers.  

There’s nothing to fire the imagination for Summer fishing than a view of the Carriers and split second glimpses of fast moving bulky underwater shadows as they speed away upstream at first sight of your white face.  Carriers are man made, narrower than the main river, their original purpose was to irrigate the meadows, bringing in much wanted silt and nutrients, by managing the river in this way, controlled seepage into the watermeadows, it meant that grass roots were protected from frosts and snow, more winter cattle could be grazed, the big benefit was it enabled an extra hay cut being made in the summertime.  The very skilled job of organising and managing this process was carried out by men called ‘Drowners’.

It isn’t unusual, over a few hundred yards to have two or  three carriers each running off at a right angle and then parallel, before returning to the main river again.  The permanently flowing hatches creat exquisite havens for all forms of wildlife.   Shallower than the main river, generally a yard or two across, bankside vegetation varies, if its dense during the Summer it makes them very difficult to cast in, you have to be extremely cautious and very accurate with your casting, otherwise, its snagged flies and scared fish for quite some distance.  If there’s no cover, then you’re on your hands and knees crawling and casting from a crouched position.  Past observations confirms that the Carriers carry fewer Trout and Grayling, but those that inhabit them are usually well above average size.  Reach 16 is a picture book example, – even in Winter, so it should make interesting nymph fishing this afternoon.   

So that’s my afternoon planned – and when the cold has really bitten into me and the sun dropped behind the hill ? well, within a couple of hundred metres of the river, there is a superb Farm Shop, with comfy chairs, a log burning stove, and excellent Pork, Chicken, Beef and Ale pies that they make there in the kitchen;  the aroma of the pies and warm baking bread is so seductive, I’ll sink into the comfy chair by the fire with a strong pot of coffee and wonder if life get any better ?


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